I’m stuck in endless interviews with a company that can’t make up its mind

A reader writes:

I’ve been in an interview process for a job, but every time we reach the point where an offer should be made, the process is extended by yet another lengthy meeting with the senior staff.

To say this process has been long is an understatement. This began in October when I applied to a different position and was asked to interview for a new, full-time role with the organization. The first interview was relatively straightforward and lasted an hour. The second was somewhat non-traditional, included a lot of “getting to know you” questions, and lasted an hour and a half. The third included two managers and the head of the organization, was scheduled for 7 pm and began after 7:30 pm, and lasted 2.5 hours.

Despite these quirks, I have continued with their process because they have repeatedly expressed their intention to hire me and have confirmed they are not interviewing other candidates for the position. Furthermore, I am desperate to escape the industry in which I currently work and have zero other prospects for achieving that right now.

Following the long evening interview, I was brought on for a paid trial work day (which actually went fine). After that, they schedule another long evening interview to discuss revisions to the original job description. That interview began 45 minutes late and ended at 11 pm with questions about when I can start and promises to send me the official job offer the following day.

Just when I thought I had FINALLY reached the end of this process, I instead received a request from them for ONE MORE meeting, again slotted for two hours! I have agreed to it, but expressed that I was surprised this was necessary based on our last meeting, and that I am anxious to get this show on the road.

At this point, I am pretty frustrated. I’m excited to take on the work they say they want me to do, and having that work on my resume would almost certainly allow me to find a good job more directly related to my chosen field in the future.

They are a very small organization, so it’s not corporate bureaucracy holding things up … so what is going on? I’m starting to feel like there is no finish line here and I’m just wasting my time. If this latest two-hour meeting isn’t also a job offer, what do you suggest I say? What do I do? I’m sure I should have walked away long ago, but I really can’t keep working in my current industry any longer, and outside of this my years-long job search has been fruitless.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. Veronica Mars*

    Ugh, I so feel for LW. I’d so love to pretend that if I were in their shoes, I’d turn down the job on account of red flags. But, the reality is, I wouldn’t. And then I’d stay there, repeatedly ramming into the dysfunction iceberg, until my tolerance Titanic was completely sunk.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      I would have said this nine or 10 years ago when I was at the start of my post-grad career and was in desperate need of a job, any job, to begin paying off my school loans. But now? Nah. I’m too old with too little patience for nonsense these days, and I’ve been fortunate enough to have scraped and clawed my way up to a decent way of life with a very impressive resume to boot (thanks to all the horror show positions I took in notoriously soul-killing industries over the years), so I don’t have to take the first thing offered anymore.

      I know everyone isn’t in that position – OP makes it seem like she isn’t – but there’s something to be said for sticking it out just a tad bit longer in a place you’re already familiar with, with all its faults, rather than jumping into something new that’s already proving to be a problem before you even get hired on. OP needs to be careful that she doesn’t wind up in an even bigger dumpster fire than the one she’s already in by being impatient.

      1. Veronica Mars*

        I agree – the grass is rarely, rarely greener. I mean, think back, you hate your current job, but did they show this many red flags just in the interview phase??
        Also, just because you have 0 prospects right now, does not mean there will be 0 prospects in the future.

        1. Retro*

          In the cases where you’re running into a wall, I would take some real time to go over my resume and cover letters to make sure they are conveying the message I want to convey. And perhaps take a small break from job searching if you have the luxury to do so. Sometimes we all need to take a breather and remind ourselves to love ourselves enough not to compromise for a bad situation

    2. Sparrow*

      I feel for them, too. I’ve been in this position before – I was desperate to move to a new city but needed a job lined up first. I had an offer for what was, on paper, my ideal job at that stage in my career, but the organization kept giving me red flags. Fortunately, the process dragged on long enough that my frustration with them had time to really sink in and beat out my “must take the job and escape!” urges. Telling them no was extremely scary because it felt like I was voluntarily walking away from the ONE opportunity I had to make the life changes I dearly needed to make at that time. In fact, I had a panic attack after turning it down.

      Long story short, I frantically applied for positions that would be lateral moves, at best, accepted a position I wouldn’t have considered at the start of my search because of the salary (but in the city I’d been aiming for!), spent one year there before an opportunity for an internal promotion came up and launched my career in an unexpected but very satisfying direction. It really, really worked out for the best, and I’m so glad I listened to my gut and walked away.

    3. AnonANon*

      ” repeatedly ramming into the dysfunction iceberg, until my tolerance Titanic was completely sunk.”

      This is the best sentence ever and sadly I have a lot of use for it. Thank you :)

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I’m picturing a cartoon in 19th century style with iceberg labeled dysfunction, ship labeled tolerance, and Kate on the bow to get the point across.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Or, if you desperately need to get out of where you are, take the job and keep looking. But these are not your people.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Nah, I would tell OP to quit her current place and temp while still job searching before telling her to take this one – places like this can suck you dry to the point where you’ll be too exhausted to job search. Then she’ll run the risk of being stuck in that place for years with even worse prospects for leaving than she has now.

        1. prismo*

          Yes! This, a thousand times. I stayed at my last dysfunctional workplace far too long mostly because I was too mentally exhausted to get myself to apply for jobs. A lot of my coworkers were in the same boat.

          Also, a bad workplace can really wear on your confidence. I really thought no one else would hire me, and it took taking a temp job to get me to a place where I could job search again.

    2. Kaaaaaren*

      YES! My fear is that since the OP investing so much time in this process, she will want to “see it through” — giving into the sunk cost fallacy. OP: RUUUUUUN!!!!!!!

  2. The Original K.*

    I’d drop out. OP was there until 10 and 11 PM? Yikes.

    My friend dropped out of a hiring process after five interviews. He said at that point he felt like he should have been paid for his time.

    1. Veronica Mars*

      If it takes them that long to hire someone they could literally turn around and fire the next day if they wanted…. imagine the horror of trying to make actual hard decisions, like where to allocate budget?

      All the best bosses I’ve ever had told me I was hired after a single ~30 minute interview and a 5 minute private consult with their team. Of course, I very much value decisiveness in my bosses.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        The two jobs I stayed at the longest were like that – single interview, a follow up phone call, then the offer. New job was like that too even though I didn’t think it went well (not a bombed interview but got the feeling I wasn’t what they were looking for…my feeling was wrong!).

      2. Ra94*

        A long interview process isn’t necessarily a reg flag, but I think PROCESS is the key word- there has to be a system behind it, or else it’s just months of dysfunction. I actually think a short interview with no system in place can be dysfunctional, too, because the interviewer is making decisions based on gut feeling and often personal bias.

        In my industry, graduate recruitment takes months: an application with long-form questions, a video interview, an assessment day, and then a 2-week paid summer internship are standard. But that’s because a) we’re hiring students who are untested in the work sphere; and b) we get a solid 5,000 applications for 50 open spots, and want to narrow the field in a systematic and unbiased way.

        1. Metadata Dance*

          Agreed with long interviews are okay as long as there is a process. I’m an archivist in an academic institution and the interviewing process involves an hour phone call and an in-person that starts with dinner the night before a full day interview with multiple committees. It’s never taken less than 3 months, but I’ve gotten really good jobs at the end of the tunnel.

        2. Mints*

          Yeah the hiring for my boss’s boss has been (I think) two phone calls and four sets of in person interviews, all with different people, because it’s a high level job that needs to be excellent with a big variety of teams.

          I am also entirely certain that they laid out the process for candidates from the very beginning. The red flags in OP are everything else

    2. Adlib*

      Yep. They clearly don’t respect their own employee’s time if they were interviewing until that late! Run far and fast, OP. They’ve already said goodbye to work/life balance, but you don’t have to.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      They think nothing of holding meetings until after I’d want to be in bed. Nope!

  3. Health Insurance Nerd*

    That is madness- interviewing until 11pm? You do not want this job, LW; please run, don’t walk, as fast as you can away from this “opportunity”.

    1. ampersand*

      Exactly. If they expect you to stay until 11pm when you’re not being paid, what will their expectations be when you ARE paid? Yikes. Run.

      1. Autumnheart*

        At the very least, it means their idea of working hours goes up to 11pm. That’s pretty crazy. Unless the OP specifically requested an interview time slot after traditional working hours (which wouldn’t be a terrible idea), then being expected to interview candidates until late in the evening seems excessive.

  4. Nonprofit Nancy*

    It sounds like OP really wants this job, and I respect that; I’ve taken jobs that I knew probably weren’t going to be great because I was *sure* they’d build my resume for the next step (or because I really needed the pay). So if OP won’t drop out for similar reasons, they can at least hold firm: they need to make you an offer before you’re willing to come in again. You can say it pleasantly but firmly. It’s likely the company just isn’t think about this from your perspective, or if they drop you it’s because they were never going to make you an offer.

    Sidenote: I’ve never heard of continuing to interview the same candidate after a paid test day. What on earth.

    1. Bostonian*

      Yeah, I think you’re sidenote is the fishiest thing about this. They’ve seen OP’s work- what else is there to talk about? The next meeting was supposedly to talk about changes to the JD; couldn’t that be a phone call at that point?

      1. Nonprofit Nancy*

        Also at that point, can’t you discuss the changes as you move forward with the offer. We’d like to pay you X and we’d like to discuss this element of the role; would that work for you? Here is our benefits package. Let’s discuss the shifting element before your start date of Two Weeks From Now.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Also at that point, can’t you discuss the changes as you move forward with the offer.

          You absolutely can if it’s not compensation/benefits related.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      I suspect one person gumming up the works–OP seems like the answer to the position, but… gosh, it’s so hard to know… maybe one more interview?

    3. LadyCop*

      I will say that sometimes taking resume building jobs or pays the bills jobs can have unexpected benefits and end up really paying off, even if they’re tedious or below your skill level…

      This however, is a whole different level of crazy!

  5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    This sounds like a case where nobody on the interview panel/management team wants to be the first to say “Yes, definitely hire OP” or “No, definitely do not hire OP.”

    It’s not just groupthink, it’s cowardly groupthink.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      OP. Please read Alton’s comment. This is exactly what the “what potential problems is this process indicating?” question is asking. If they can’t decide to hire you to do the work, they can’t decide what you should focus on and what you should not work on. You can take this to get your foot into the door in a new industry, but if these people can’t decide to stop a meeting that is dragging on until 11 PM and covering things they either previously covered or won’t talk about, you aren’t going to achieve a damn thing there.

    2. Threeve*

      Or it’s the opposite, and there are some messed up internal politics going on and people are fighting for control of the decision.

      “How DARE you try to hire someone without MY input, I’m not giving approval until I meet them, so schedule another meeting. Also, the way I screen applicants is BETTER so we’re going to add this weird time of day and/or format to the next interview.”

      Either way: they suck.

    3. RC Rascal*

      It’s possible there is disagreement over the scope of the role. It may be driven by political agenda between different groups. For example, the Llama Herders might think it’s really important you can ride a llama, while the Llama Groomers just care if you can clip and style the llama.

      Or, they are all just crazy.

  6. A Simple Narwhal*

    Oh heavens this sounds like a nightmare. Unless they give a really good reason for why they need yet another interview, or if somehow the hiring process was completely separate from the job (ie it’s the hr person bungling things and the team you work with is fine), or this job is a million dollars to sit in a room of puppies all day, this feels like a parade of red flags I’d walk away from.

      1. Junger*

        Every single one is incontinent, has serious attachment issues, and they’re on a constant sugar rush.

    1. Zephy*

      Is that million dollars an annual salary or an hourly rate?

      A previous job was sitting in a room of puppies all day, and while the pay wasn’t amazing, I don’t really know how much more it would have needed to be to make that job as enjoyable as it sounds like it should be. You’re not “playing with pubbies!!” as much as you are “constantly cleaning up puppy waste, which they step in and then jump up onto your lap for kissies,” so you finish your shift covered in a fantastic array of stains and fur.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      or this job is a million dollars to sit in a room of puppies all day

      I would take this job.

  7. Rexasaurus Tea*

    The evening interviews seem odd, unless that’s a typical time schedule for LW’s industry. Different time zone?

    1. Ama*

      7 pm as a start time wouldn’t bother me that much if it were a standard interview that only lasted an hour or two (I’d actually like an interview that wouldn’t require me to take time off work). It is the starting 30 and 45 minutes late AND then running over 2 hours that gives me pause.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I’ve had 2 companies offer after hours interview to make it easier on candidates (but yes…there were the standard hour or so interviews)

    3. CaliUKExpat*

      The only time I’ve ever been called for an evening interview, it was for an evening-hours-only position. And even that wrapped up within an hour! But several interviews and THEN a 7pm multi-hour one? Nope. Buhbye.

    4. Jennifer Thneed*

      Are you thinking that LW was flying to interviews? Could be, but I think they would have mentioned it in the general litany of crap the company has pulled.

  8. Workfromhome*

    At the very least I’d probably say: I am unable to schedule anymore evening interviews. Since you have expressed the intent to make me an offer please send me the job offer I’ll review it and if I feel we need a meeting to discuss my questions I’ll reach out to you.

    Basically S*** or get off the pot. If they are going to make an offer there is no need to have a meeting. They should already have the offer in writing and be prepared to send it to you for review. IF they say no then you have your answer. No more talking. Make the offer or don’t .

    1. KHB*

      This, basically. If despite all the red flags you still want this job (and maybe you do, depending on how bad your situation is currently), it’s time to recognize that you have more power in this situation than you’ve realized. They’ve said they want to make you an offer, so that at least sounds like they don’t want to lose you.

      If their chronic indecision is just a matter of happenstance – i.e., no one person on the team wants to be the first to make a decision – then you might be able to push them into making a decision, both as a candidate and in similar situations as an employee, so if you can learn to stand up for yourself, it might not be such a bad place to work. But if they’re being actively chronically indecisive on purpose – e.g., if the big boss won’t make a decision and won’t let anyone else make a decision either – that’s much worse. Their reaction to your pushback on the interview process should help give you an idea of which one it is.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      Agree with this tack…

      At this point it sounds like the OP is willing and able to walk away, so in essence there’s nothing to lose. I’d probably agree to one last meeting with the caveat that I’d like to see the offer before the meeting, but I think I’d turn the tables a bit. I’d ask why this decision has been so long in the making, is this normal in decision making process for the company, are there other areas outside of hiring that require an unusually long decision making process.

      I feel like my curiosity would be outweighing my annoyance at this point and would like to see it through just to see how they react to being challenged a bit.

    3. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I had success with this approach once – my interview process wasn’t nearly as insane as OP’s, but they were really dragging out a decision. I had an onsite interview at the end of April, then I was told in early May it would be a few weeks because they needed to schedule the onsite with their other candidate but they wanted to go ahead with reference checks. Then the manager wanted to schedule another call to go over some questions he had. Then it was a few more weeks while they were still figuring things out on their end. Finally, in early June I reached out to let them know I was coming up on a decision deadline for something in my current job and if I didn’t have an answer by June 15 I would need to respectfully withdraw from consideration. I got my offer on June 14.

      I’m still in that job and, while I don’t know all the details that occurred during the interview process, my manager is so indecisive that I would bet money the decision wouldn’t have been made on that timeframe had I not respectfully and professionally given my deadline.

  9. Dr.Mrs.C*

    I interviewed a couple of years ago for a director level position in a healthcare organization. I had some peripheral knowledge about the team I would be taking on and knew they were likely to have some hostility regardless of the candidate. (They met that expectation and then some in my meeting with them!). My big red flag though was when the VP who would have been MY boss introduced me by the wrong name… 3 separate times…

    Thanks to similar things I’ve read here over the years, I knew when I left that I wouldn’t have accepted the job even if they offered it. It helped to remember that 1) They were showing who they were as an organization, and 2) the interview process really is a 2 way street.

  10. Nydia*

    Nothing to add to all of the excellent advice; I really really hope we get an update from OP at the end of this, especially if they take the job.

  11. Mockingjay*

    Definitely walk away.

    (Although I just wonder, for the heck of it, if OP keeps accepting interviews, just how long the process would go on…Place your bets, people! Closest number wins!)

    1. Granny K*

      I’m betting another 5 interviews before the company realizes they can’t afford this position.

        1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

          I was thinking that it will be rewritten so much as to be unrecognizable, but since they’ve invested so much time in OP, they want to give first shot at it. “So let’s just meet one more time to go over the details.” aaaaand repeat.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Walk away, but perhaps accept a couple interviews, reschedule and ultimately cancel first. Or accept and never show up for your first day. Or, show up the first day, tell them it’s a trial for THEM and never go back.

      I’m joking, but I think the OP deserves to jerk them around.

    3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      I have to comment on the phrase walk away. That’s spot on. The “run,” “scream” etc we read here sometimes is over the top. This isn’t a place of danger or imminent harm – it’s just a non-opportunity. Maybe if someone was already in a dysfunctional job then running is the best metaphor, but this is a situation fairly in the OP’s control.

      1. Granny K*

        How about walking away but grumbling in frustration. And then treating oneself to a nice beverage?

      2. Pomona Sprout*

        Dude, it’s called a figure of speech! ;-)

        I’d bet money no one here thinks the LW *literally* run or scream, just using obvious hyperbole to inject a bit of humor into a situation that you have to admit is pretty darned silly.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          I’m not taking it literally, but talking about the sense of energy and emotion evoked. Are we calm and in control- walking away? Or is it a scary thing to flee while upset?

          Walk away. That’s the attitude. And hyperbole is, generally, weak in a rhetorical sense. “Walk away” is plenty evocative.

  12. Diahann Carroll*

    I know you want this job to work out — you’ve had a long job search, and you want to get out of your current industry. But don’t let that eagerness blind you to what it will be like to work there if you’re hired.

    This was running through my head the entire time I was reading the letter – I know things are bad for you right now, OP, in your current job, but they can’t be that bad to put up with this nonsense, can it?! I would have bailed after the second after hours interview that started late and ended around midnight – this is a hot mess of a hiring process. Not only will you be pulled into late night meetings that run extraordinarily long for no real reason, but then whatever info they gathered during said meeting won’t even be used to make a decision!

    Keep looking, OP. This company is not it.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Not only will you be pulled into late night meetings that run extraordinarily long for no real reason, but then whatever info they gathered during said meeting won’t even be used to make a decision!

      This. Read this sentence again, OP, and then read it several more times. This is how they operate. And it’s a regular thing for them – they’ve already shown you that this is not a one-off. If you take this job, please go into it knowing that this is what your work life will be like, and that meetings like this are going to happen all the time.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        Yes, that’s the crucial piece- it’s not late night meetings to solve problems, it’s late night meetings to discuss problems and then schedule a follow-up meeting to talk about it again in the morning.

      2. Leisel*

        My thoughts while reading that were “why oh why would the people who work there even agree to meet that late?!” It seems like they have no work/life balance or their sense of boundaries is completely skewed. Even if a candidate requested an after-hours meeting because of schedule, why would they make that meeting 2-3 hours long??? You would think the interviewers would want to make it short and sweet – then call it a night!

        The OP needs to consider if leaving their current industry is so time-sensitive that they would put themselves in a position where this kind of behavior seems normal to the company.

        1. Ama*

          This. I once agreed to interview a job candidate at 6 pm because they were unable to get off work before then, and I was hoping to fill the position asap. But I made sure that interview was wrapped up well before 7:30 and I also mentioned to her in the interview that we generally only worked evenings a few times a year, and it would be for an event scheduled months in advance, not staying late at the office because I didn’t want her to think this was a normal expectation (although she could probably tell from the fact that we were the only ones there by the time we wrapped up).

        2. Antilles*

          *Especially* since the interview didn’t start on time. If this was truly a one-off “we never work late hours, but we make exceptions for candidates’ busy schedules”, there’s no way those interviewers would have been tied up in other things for 30+ minutes; instead they’d likely be sitting in the lobby early just to make sure they’re ready to start the instant you ring the doorbell.
          The fact they weren’t in any hurry to get the interview started on time is a pretty clear sign that for them, being at work at 7:00 pm is not out of the ordinary.

      3. Mama Bear*

        Work life balance is so important and this right here would be a dealbreaker for me for this company. I work an occasional weekend or night to get something done, but if it was frequent or people called me in and then were 45 minutes late, that wouldn’t be sustainable. OP may have no other concerns on their time right now (no pets, elderly parents, spouse, kids….) but that can change at any time. Can they – WILL they – pivot for you? My guess here is no. Your time doesn’t matter. I’d throw this fish back and keep looking.

        1. Oscar Goldman*

          “Work life balance is so important”

          I think you meant “work life balance is so important to some people.” I look for intense experiences, which are much more important to me than work-life balance. Of course, I realize that YMMV, but this is ultimately up to OP to resolve.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            Alternatively your work-life balance is skewed towards work. Balance differs for different people.

            In any case, the company does not seem to value any sort of decision making nor anyone’s time (starting 45 minutes late and running until 10 or 11PM?? What???), so this is still a messy bin of red flags.

  13. Mrs_helm*

    I immediately wondered if these “interviews” were actually unpaid consultations. (They are asking what she’d do with X, then doing it themselves.)

    1. Mama Bear*

      I had this thought, too. Even though the trial day was paid, what about the rest of the discussion?

    2. vballrocker*

      That is a really good point! Although kinda malicious.

      I thought my previous interviewing situation was bad, I got asked to interview 3x with the same company but they kept asking me to consider a different job with a different team each time. So on and so on…I finally said no thanks to further communication with the albeit pleasant recruiter until they had an offer letter. I was lucky that I wasn’t desperate to get out and had a steady job.

  14. Amber Rose*

    This red flag is so huge it’s blocking out the sun. Which is why they keep you there until well after dark I guess.

    Good grief. This is not gonna be a fun place to work.

  15. Hiya*

    I would use this next interview to address the situation. Express you concerns about how this is making the company seem and if it is an indicator of disorganization and indecisiveness in the company. Remember job interviews go both ways. You have been interviewed enough. It’s time to turn the tables and interview THEM

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I really like this – see if you can find out a good reason, or if they have additional red flag avoiding the subject reasons for dithering.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        It’s a new position, so there probably isn’t a person who held the position previously.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Knowing that, I’d think they really have no idea what the position will or should entail. But it’s not up to candidates to define that.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      Agreeing with this. When I was interviewing for one role, I had five interviews and they were talking about a sixth. At that point, I asked if there was a concern and what it would take for them to decide I was the right candidate.

      Turned out, they thought they were selling me on the organization and the role, and weren’t sure I was ready to accept their offer yet! I rapidly assured them that I was absolutely interested, and I ended up getting the job.

      Of course, it could also be that there are some residual questions or stakeholders whose opinions need to be heard, or any number of other things in the background – but it wouldn’t hurt to ask what the plan is and let the company know that you’re ready to make a decision yourself (whether that decision is to accept an offer, or walk away).

  16. Not really a waitress*

    I clicked on the link to the article expecting it to just read “RUN” in large blinking letters…..

  17. Jean*

    This is so…. I don’t even know how to describe this. “Alarmingly shady” doesn’t do it justice but yeah, this is not a company you want to work for. Keep looking.

  18. Leela*

    OP I’ve been in your position and let me just say…it’s terrible to be job seeking when you’re so desperate. I’ve been there. But you’re very easy to exploit in this case! In fact it’s possible (but by no means certain) that part of this drawn-out process is to see exactly how exploitable you are (but they’re probably phrasing it something like “committed” or a “go-getter” or “can hack it” to themselves if that’s how they’re going).

    If it’s truly the only way to bail on the industry by all means take it, just be very aware that this is probably going to be an unpleasant experience all around and you should go into it while looking for exit strategies wherever possible! But this process they’re putting you through makes me very skeptical that this will be a good place to work

  19. Myrin*

    “This is always the way to look at aggravations in an interview process: What do they reveal about the employer and what it might be like to work for them?”
    It’s by far not the first time this has been said on this blog but for some reason, it really stuck with me this time – the wording is just so concise and straight-to-the-point, I feel like it’s something all of us should remember at all times.

    1. Zephy*

      Right? If they’re interviewing you, it’s because they think they might want to hire you. So, they’re going to be putting their best possible foot forward, on their best behavior, to woo you. OP, this is them at their best and most enticing.

      1. KHB*

        I don’t know that that’s necessarily true. As we see a lot on this blog, employers (and candidates too) often forget that interviews are supposed to be a two-way street – that the candidates should be evaluating the employers, as well as the employers evaluating the candidates. They shouldn’t forget that, of course, but many do. So I don’t think we can necessarily assume that this is the employer’s very, very best, and that everything else about them is even worse.

  20. Allypopx*

    I would wonder if they were just trying to see how much of this you were willing to take, if not for the fact this company sounds too disorganized for that kind of plot.

  21. Molly M*

    I’ve had this happen to me before. It was a pretty big organization that you’ve probably heard of. The job would require me to relocate to another state so I was very much in limbo. The whole thing went on for 8 MONTHS. To the point where the HR manager had connected with me on Linkedin; we emailed so much we had inside jokes. And then, after 8 months, I got a form rejection letter and that was that. It weirdly felt like the company had broken up with me??

    So I feel for you, letter writer. Get out of there.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      8 months?! Good lord – the pay better have been in the high six figures for that, lol.

      1. Molly M*

        Oh, it was just a step above entry level. I was still pretty young and really wanted the job so it took me awhile to realize that this was not a normal thing.

        1. Retro*

          What really gets to me is that they do this ridiculous stuff with people early in their career. I was lucky to have been on AMA for long enough to understand the norms, but it’s difficult for a young professional to be able to realize when a hiring process is unreasonable if they’ve not been through many of them. Or are hanging on for dear life because they feel they need to prove to the organization that they are serious about the role.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yup – I probably would have been stuck it out early in my career as well because it was the recession, so god only knew when another job would come along, and I needed to be able to pay my student loans. These companies are shameful.

          2. Ranon*

            It’s such a waste of time for the company doing the hiring too! They could use all that time for something productive!

  22. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

    They don’t know what they need/want for the position, and they probably don’t have a budget for the position either. It’s a trap. This is not a good opportunity, not only because of how bad this hiring process is, but also because IF you were to take this job, they can and will change the job description or main project at any time and not only will the job suck but that resume building experience you hope to gain will never materialize.

    1. Enough*

      I felt that at least some of the issue is that it is a new position and they aren’t really clear on what they want and need and if OP would be a good fit. That said it would be better if they were upfront about this and it’s effect on the interview process.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        If they aren’t really clear on what they want or need since this is a new position, then they need to suspend the search and go back to the drawing board as a group to hash the details out before dragging unsuspecting job seekers into their web of dysfunction and indecision. It’s rude and obnoxious.

        1. TCO*

          Yep, I once took a job with an organization who didn’t seem to have a firm grasp on what it wanted from the new position, nor what its long-term strategy was. Success was impossible because I reported to multiple people with wildly different expectations for the rule that hadn’t been reconciled before hiring. The dysfunction eventually led to my job being eliminated and me being laid off, but not before I had gone through a lot of stress trying to make it work.

        2. TootsNYC*

          I agree–but it’s also possible that the OP’s qualifications/experience are the thing that made them think they WANT this role/position.
          And maybe they’re hoping she will help them shape it because they don’t really know what they’re doing with that role (or else they’d have had someone doing it sooner)

          Still, they should do their thinking without her.

          1. Tidewater 4-1009*

            If this is the case and OP is comfortable taking charge and (diplomatically) directing them, it could work.
            My former boss liked his reports to express our thoughts and make suggestions, and sometimes it was necessary to be firm with him when he was distracted, and he didn’t mind.

          2. Diahann Carroll*

            it’s also possible that the OP’s qualifications/experience are the thing that made them think they WANT this role/position.
            And maybe they’re hoping she will help them shape it because they don’t really know what they’re doing with that role (or else they’d have had someone doing it sooner)

            Even if this were true, they should then hire her with a placeholder title and onboard her to begin the process of allowing OP to help shape her role. My current company did something similar with me. My role was brand new to the company – they had a general idea of what they wanted me to accomplish overall, but the day-to-day tasks would be determined by whoever was the successful candidate and what that person chose to do once they were in the position. I only went through a 30 minute HR phone screen, a 20 minute phone call with the guy who’s now my boss (he was my dotted line manager when I started), an hour and a half phone call with my former manager (who’s now in another role and department entirely), and an hour phone call with my grandboss – this all took place over two and a half weeks. I was given a writing assessment at the end of grandboss’s call on a Thursday, I completed the assignment and turned it in Friday morning, and by the following Monday, they offered me the job.

            That’s it. There was no long, drawn out, late night process – my former manager was five hours ahead of me, so she ended up interviewing me at 3pm my time and 8pm her time; however, she called at 3/8pm right on the dot and promptly sent her recommendation for hire over to grandboss and HR after our one conversation. It doesn’t take the same people fifty times to figure out whether they want to hire you unless they don’t have the funds to onboard someone new in the first place or they’re just phishing for information/free consulting work.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                It is a pretty great company so far, and I love that I literally make my job up as I go, lol.

    2. Willis*

      This. If they were ambivalent about the OP, then they would be looking at other candidates too. If you’re this undecided about a candidate, you don’t interview them exclusively. They’re ambivalent about the position – what they want out of it, if they need it, the budget, etc. and are stringing the OP along while they contemplate these decisions.

      Also, this whole interview process is showing how they don’t have much regard for business norms. Late meetings, a trial day, disorganized process, etc. It’s a small org that seems to be marching to the beat of its own drum at the expense of your convenience. I’d expect that to continue if you’re working there. It may not be the same things, but they will definitely prioritize doing what “works” for them over business norms and/or you.

      1. StellaBella*

        “…this whole interview process is showing how they don’t have much regard for business norms. ”

        OP – this is a key point. This indicates dysfunction, indecisiveness, etc – but. it also indicates that they have a dysfunctional management team who are out of touch with norms.

  23. NYCHR*

    I am going through something similar for a role I would love.

    ~11/6/19 – 11/8/19 – applied for role
    11/13/19 – Chief Growth Officer reaches out to schedule a phone screen – role reports to this person
    11/14/19 – phone screen – asked to speak with a co-founder via phone the following day – changed to in-person
    11/15/19 – short in-person meeting with cofounder – did not seem prepared
    11/26/19 – follow up meeting with cofounder – only slightly better prepared
    o Brought notes and information to help the company – asks if I could send him notes – I send after the meeting and receive no response
    12/6/19 – I email the Chief Growth Officer to ask for an update on my status – no response
    1/14/20 – Emailed the co-founder to ask if I am still being considered
    1/14/20 – received a response and was told that I am still under consideration and that they were slowed by the holidays. Told they would get back to me soon
    1/24/20 – emailed and asked for a status update

    1. Leslie Knope*

      I went through something similar, but for a volunteer position with an animal shelter. I ended up removing myself from the process because I was annoyed at their time management, lack of communication with me and with each other, and their inconsiderate waste of my time. I wanted to give my time to the animals because I couldn’t donate much monetarily, but an organization that asks you for your time and then can’t respect that time is a huge red flag.

    2. Sherm*

      So they gave you no response to your December email, and not even a quick response to your email a few days ago. And this is at the stage when people are at their best behavior. It’s time to move on. You would not love, or like, working with them.

    3. KHB*

      My totally baseless guess at what might be going on here:

      The employer thought you were good but not great – not their first choice, but good enough that they don’t want to dismiss you from the running while they haven’t yet filled the role. So they’re stalling you, either while they wait for their first choice candidate(s) to make a decision, or while they see if they can attract any new candidates. They’ve been slow to get back to you because that’s kind of an awkward “status update” to report. They should have a nice polite canned reply for situations like this (like the “…you’re still under consideration…”), but it doesn’t make them irredeemably awful that they don’t.

      As Alison has said, if they want to hire you, they’re not going to just forget to make you an offer. And if they don’t want to hire you, no amount of nudging them now is going to change their minds. I’d write this one off as a loss for now, and move on. You may still hear back from them, and you may be pleasantly surprised, but you don’t want to be hanging all your hopes on this one job.

    4. Zena*

      My company does this. They are just keeping you warm, on a back burner, because you are not their first choice. They don’t want to lose you in case that their first choice pulls out.

      1. NYCHR*

        The irony of the situation is the fact that it is an alternative data (think investing) firm and scraping glassdoor to make predictions about companies is something they do. They currently have no reviews, but my bullets are the template for my review of their process.

  24. NW Mossy*

    I’ll add that when you’re looking at a role for its resume-building potential, remember Alison’s maxim about resumes: accomplishments, not duties/responsibilities.

    In this case, that means asking yourself if the role is really going to yield the opportunity to accomplish tangible results that you’d be proud to talk about. Based on the indecisiveness described here, I think it’s a lot more likely that this job will yield a lot of pinballing between ever-shifting priorities with minimal forward progress on any one thing. It’s also not likely that you’ll see the kind of measures that allow you to clearly articulate achievements.

    If anything, your biggest accomplishments are likely to be “survived constant chaos,” “learned coping mechanisms for organizational indecision,” and “developed a high tolerance for intrusions into my non-work hours.” None of that is stuff you’d want to talk about with another potential employer!

    Frying pan and fire – know which you’re in.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      Yep. These people are terrible at making decisions. Which means they will also be terrible at at least some of the following:
      *Deciding on the scope of your work (likely to be too much, too little, or constantly shifting)
      *Approving a budget
      *Finding time to provide training and answer your questions
      *Providing feedback on your work
      *Coordinating with external stakeholders (meeting times for sure, but also bigger things like goals and messaging)
      *Meeting deadlines
      *Interpersonal relationships, respect for W/L balance

      It’s very difficult to achieve anything in an environment like that. Which in turn makes it difficult to leave, because you don’t want to leave until you have a couple of solid accomplishments for your resume…which you can’t get because of the dysfunctional environment. If you decide to continue with this interview process, at least make sure you get some solid answers to the “What’s In It For Me” part of the equation. Good luck, and please keep us posted!

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Add to this list that once they’ve jerked the OP around enough with moving goal posts, shifting deadlines and lack of resources, not only will she have no achievements to show for her time, but the reference she’ll likely get from them is that she couldn’t meet goals, lacked focus in her work, and couldn’t communicate effectively with stakeholders. They’re never going to own their failures. It won’t matter if you have the documentation to back up what really occurred — those responsible won’t care to look at it, and you’d sound like a loon taking it on job interviews to show why your previous job was such a cluster.

    2. TootsNYC*

      if the role is really going to yield the opportunity to accomplish tangible results that you’d be proud to talk about. Based on the indecisiveness described here, I think it’s a lot more likely that this job will yield a lot of pinballing between ever-shifting priorities with minimal forward progress on any one thing.

      Every job I have teaches me something important.

      One of the things I learned at my current job is that your success is determined by your boss.

      I was able to cut my freelance budget by a lot–but only because my boss changed her expectations about how many late-nights we would do and when. (We were discussing resumes, and I told her she needed to put MY budget-cutting success on HER resume.)

      Conversely, SHE (as project manager type) wasn’t able to put some achievements on her resume because she didn’t achieve them–HER BOSS wouldn’t follow my boss’s guidance about meeting the smaller deadlines.

  25. TypityTypeType*

    At *best* this is an organization that is terrified to make a decision, and that alone itself will make it a difficult place to work.

    I hope you find something better, LW, but I’d chime in with those who say to keep looking.

  26. Phony Genius*

    Based on these red flags, if you take this job to escape your previous industry, you’ll quickly become even more desperate to escape whatever industry this job is in.

    1. Retro*

      Yes, the goal should be to leave for a better opportunity, not just to leave your current situation.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, the thing I thought was, does this place sound better or worse than the job OP is dying to leave? Because even with all this shit, if this is still better than the current place, I guess you might as well stick it out…. But if not, then don’t.

  27. AKchic*

    I think that after this many interviews (and a paid work day?!) it’s time for them to make their decision, otherwise you should make it for them. No more interviews (informal, group, individual, or otherwise). They’ve had enough interviews. Now it’s just dragging their feet. This is the height of dysfunction and they are already dragging you into their dysfunction.

    You have given them 14+ hours of face time (with 8 of those hours paid work). If they can’t figure out whether not you are a good fit by now, then chances are, you aren’t. And that’s okay. It’s not a you problem, it’s a *them* problem. Or, most likely, a *one* of them problem. Most likely, this has to be a unanimous decision and there is one person holding out, and they just keep bringing you in hoping that this one person hears some magic phrase or keyword that they have been longing to hear in order to decide that you are The One. This person, should you actually be hired, will be a nightmare.

    I think you should be frank with them and total out the number of hours you have already spent with people at the company and say they have had plenty of time over the last X number of meetings/work experiences with you, and if they cannot decide after that, then this is not the job for you, thankyouforyourtime and good luck in your hiring endeavors. Then, hang up the phone. Don’t bother with any further pleasantries. You are a busy person who is both working and looking for a new job that won’t waste your time with drawn-out-going-nowhere interviews.

    That company is not only full of bees, it is the epitome of a spaghetti western quick sand trap. The people are not only the bees, but the whole culture is a trap. The interview process is telling everyone that. It will suck you in and trap you.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      This is a bit of a random addendum to your comment, but I recently listened to a podcast that talked about a study done on people pursuing roles in the special forces. I won’t get this exactly right, but they had some of the superior officers provide feedback on the candidates and what they thought their chances of success were. They followed up several years later and the first impressions were almost spot on with how the candidates had turned out.

      I think you do have to talk to people and spend a little one-on-one time, but I think beyond that, you’re just trying to confirm or refute a first impression that is probably accurate enough. If they don’t know if you’re a fit, there is a problem on their end.

      5 interviews is not necessarily, probably detrimental, and it wastes everyone’s time.

  28. Jaybeetee*

    Yikes LW, DO NOT. There have been a few letters here about crazy-long interview processes, and it always sounds both disorganized and disrespectful – they’re expecting you to jump through all these hoops and wait on them, after all.

    I haven’t seen Alison or the other commenters address this, but it sounds like you’re in a dysfunctional job now, have been trying to leave for years, and this other dysfunctional-sounding place is the only one to take an interest. This suggests there’s something up with your search or with your applications/resumes. I remember being young and inexperienced (during a recession, no less) and job searching was so hard – but it sounds like it shouldn’t be quite *this* hard.

    Is there anyone you trust who you could talk to about the types of jobs you’re looking at, or your application materials? It might be with a small tweak or two, you could find yourself in a better position, and not feeling compelled to choose between “frying pan” and “fire”.

    1. Tidewater 4-1009*

      I was wondering, are you playing to your strengths?
      I never got anywhere until I realized I should look for jobs doing things I’m good at. When I did that I got a job that was two levels above anything I’d had before.
      Also, can you get a recruiter or HR person to look over your resume? One of my relatives put me in touch with a recruiter who went over my resume line by line and made it three times better.
      Also be sure to look at the materials on this site if you haven’t.

  29. ThatGirl*

    I’ve been through long, drawn-out processes, but nothing quite this ridiculous. I agree that this is a big bunch of red flags – OP, no matter how badly you want out, are you sure this is where you want to go?

    1. MistOrMister*

      This is my thought. I understand OP’s frustration because trying to change fields can seem utterly impossible at times. But going somewhere that looks like every day will be one clusterf*ck of a problem after anothet just really doesn’t seem worth it to me. This is beyond taking an unglamoroud job and paying your dues to work your way up. It seems like at this place there will be less than zero work-life balance. Who the heck not only starts interviewd late, but keeps them going until 10 and 11 o’clock?!?!? I would have fallen onto the table asleep at an interview that late!

      I also am with the people saying this might be a test to see what OP will put up with. I MIGHT have stuck around half an hour for the 1st late starting interview, but I don’t think I’d have stayed for the 2nd one, not given the previous one. But, this process reminds me of the OP who said they deliberately go into interviews late b/c it lets them see how the place reacts. Or, maybe this whole thing is some sort of social experiment, because at this point it’s gone beyond bonkers and into the realm of the ludicrous.

  30. Kona*

    I wonder if there is disagreement among the team of whether to hire the OP? That is, some want to hire OP and one or more do not? Or some budgetary issues unresolved that are driving this hesitancy? Agree that you definitely want to interview the team and get a sense of what you may be getting into.

    1. Old Lady*

      Is it possible they are not really interviewing but wanting free advice and ideas? Maybe it is their way of getting free and cheap consulting.

  31. XtinaLyn*

    I’m wondering if there is a cultural chasm between OP and the company. I worked for an India-based tech company, and they had ZERO work-life balance. You were expected to be available at any time, day or night, and the team in Bangladesh was working 15-hour days. It was insane.
    Unless they’re hiring you to be President of All The Things, there’s no need for this many interviews, meetings, work days, etc. They sound like they’re a hot mess. Get out.

    1. US expat in Asia*

      “I’m wondering if there is a cultural chasm between OP and the company. I worked for an India-based tech company, and they had ZERO work-life balance. You were expected to be available at any time, day or night, and the team in Bangladesh was working 15-hour days. It was insane.”

      Get used to it. This is the work culture in Asia. This is why Asians are out-hustling us. It is why talented Americans hungry to make their mark/start their own companies are moving to Asia. Americans are going to have to decide whether to match the hustle, or accept becoming a second-rate economy.

      1. Tidewater 4-1009*

        But that’s not sustainable, is it? Eventually these Asians will burn out or rebel, won’t they?

      2. Alice Ulf*

        Ooooh, I choose second-rate economy! …with the possibility of NOT suffering from a complete nervous breakdown before age 50.

      3. Nephron*

        And how goes the population crashes when the no work-life balance means no kids? That model is not sustainable, our current US-model is not either but no Asia does not have this worked out either.

          1. Grace*

            I’d like to go for second-rate too and maybe bump up the vacation time to be closer to those second (or third?) rate EU countries.

  32. TootsNYC*

    I went through nine interviews for my current position.
    It’s more than I’ve EVER had in my industry. And it was totally indicative of what the place would be like to work for: lots of corporate layers; a certain amount of dithering; a desire of higher-ups to have their finger in everything; some instability in mid-level staffing.

    However, none of those things were unexpected (I knew this place’s reputation before I even applied), and none of them made the job unpleasant.

    1. TootsNYC*

      came back to say–most of them were with different people. And one was a follow-up on a very specific topic (why are you not pursuing the job one level up from this one? I thought they were worried I’d quit, and it was only when I started on the same day as the new person in that role that I thought they might have been thinking, “Maybe we should hire her for that other job”)

      Also–my role was pre-existing, things were clearly defined, etc.

      The “new role” aspect of the OP’s situation is what would make me want out (especially as it seems to be a new industry and a bit of a stretch–if the OP were strong in skills or personality, or experienced in that industry, it could be a good place for her to CREATE the job, and to bring the company along with her into utilizing that role. But I don’t get that impression)

    2. Goldfinch*

      My company functions (er, doesn’t) exactly like yours and the LWs…and we constantly lose good candidates because the interview process drags out for months. I would not be here if I hadn’t been unemployed when I interviewed.

      It’s so bad that even the son of a director, recently graduated from a top engineering school and a total shoe-in for an entry-level role, got fed up with the endless BS and accepted a competitor’s offer.

  33. Mrs B*

    My (cynical) gut feeling is that this is a stall tactic. Either they want to hire you, but something else needs to happen before they can (someone leaving, money that’s currently held up becoming available) or they don’t want to hire you, but don’t see a good reason to reject you and they’re hoping to get their unicorn candidate while they go through this drawn out process. Either way, it seems like they’re stringing you along.

  34. Sunflower Sea Star*

    I would have given up by now, and would ask “Is this kind of indecision, late starts, and long drawn out meetings indicative of how things work at your company? If so I am out.”

    It sounds like you don’t even want this job. You want this job because you THINK it will help you get to a job you really do want.

    This isn’t a good stepping stone. It’s a constantly shifting, moving, directionless mirage of a stone that isn’t going to get you anywhere.

  35. bluephone*

    “They are a very small organization…”
    Heh, up until this line, I was going to ask if the company was Merck because that is apparently par for the course with them. I wonder what the OP wound up doing, in the end!

  36. the_scientist*

    Nope. Nope nope nope.
    Nope.
    Nope.
    Nope.

    This is an organization that can’t make decisions, can’t prioritize effectively, doesn’t respect your time (as a candidate), doesn’t know what they want from this role, doesn’t value work/life balance (yours or theirs). Working for them is going to be a nightmare of constantly shifting priorities where no decisions are ever made and projects never make it to completion.

  37. Wasted Years*

    I sympathize because when you need a job, you need a job. It’s especially tempting to stick around for this interview process because you’re trying to leave your current industry and bad job situation. However, I recently left a bad job after three years and I never should’ve taken it in the first place. There were so many red flags. The interview process was hurried and disorganized. Staff turnover was high. When I started training, I learned there were job responsibilities that were not brought up in the interview and I wouldn’t have expected based on my previous experience in similar roles at other companies. As time wore on there was little respect given for my schedule or work boundaries (e.g. I can’t cover someone else’s shift on weekends, please stop asking!!!), but when I consistently went above and beyond my job duties there was no recognition, pay raise, or clear path to promotion.

    When I finally made some noise about it, I WAS promoted, but again (much like the interview years before) I thought I knew what my role was and yet everyday, surprise! There was a new job responsibility I didn’t know I was supposed to have.

    I now have a similar job in the same industry and I’m so much happier. My role is clear. My schedule is predictable. Management foresees issues and proactively works for solutions. I’ve already been able to negotiate a title bump and pay raise based on some additional responsibility they offered me.

    All this is to say Allison is correct. They’ve shown you who they are up front. Believe them. They’re wasting your time. You can find something better and don’t leave a bad situation for something just as bad or worse.

    1. RC Rascal*

      This is great advice. OP, since you have a job, albeit one that makes you miserable, you have more leverage than you think. As difficult as it is to job search when you are unhappily employed, you need to put more opportunities in your interviewing pipeline. How would you feel about this organization and their hiring process if you were also interviewing another company that was moving before in a more direct fashion and clearly communicating their decision process?

      If you do decide to continue with the interview process, start asking them some more difficult questions. Right now it sounds like you are following their lead, and they are merrily leading you in circles. Interviewing should be a two way street. Try this instead: Ahead of the interview, find out what the goals are for the interview. Why are they asking you back and what are they hoping to learn? Consider asking these questions as well:

      Are there things that need to be done that are outside the current job description?
      How does the scope of the job description compare to how the role is being done today?
      What is their management style?
      How does the organization make business decisions? (pay a lot of attention to how they answer the last two).
      What kind of hours do you normally work? (ask this to anyone and everyone you meet).

      My hunch is these questions will give you the information to decide whether or not you want to work there.

  38. Ancient Alien*

    Your mileage may vary, of course, but I’ve lived this. An interview process that stretched out for months, but i was eventually offered, and accepted, the position. Turned out they really had only the vaguest idea what they even wanted out of the role, the goalposts kept moving, and nothing i could do was ever good enough. Looking back on it, there were plenty of red flags, but i was too young and inexperienced at the time to recognize them.
    Just my speculation, of course, but it sounds as if they are using the interview process not to determine if you are the right candidate for the role, but to figure out what they want the role to be.

    1. Eleanor Pigby*

      “…but it sounds as if they are using the interview process not to determine if you are the right candidate for the role, but to figure out what they want the role to be.”

      Yes, this. 100%.

      1. Whew boy*

        Yup. And they are dragging along someone who is new to the industry to take this new strange position on (skilled as OP may be, it sounds like they’ve for some reason already nailed down a willing candidate and are just now trying to figure out the role, but for some reason are not shifting gears in the hiring process to look for more or different kinds of experience. WHYYY??)

    2. RC Rascal*

      Organization may not have a clear idea of their Must Haves and Wants. This is especially an issue if the scope and duties of the role do not neatly align with a common job description. (Example: Marketing Coordinator, Teapot Flavors vs Senior Accountant)

  39. Eleanor Pigby*

    I was this person in 2018 when I moved back to the city I currently live in after my divorce. I took the job despite all the red flags because I needed a full time position in order to start my life here. Not surprisingly, it was a completely dysfunctional and toxic workplace. I joked at the time that my therapy appointments went from 100% discussing my recent divorce to 100% discussing my workplace. Despite being anxious about looking like a “job-hopper” I started job hunting in earnest about six months in, and got an offer within about six weeks of starting my search. Ironically, the offer came to be because I bonded with another new hire at toxic job who bailed sooner than I did, and she connected me to a former colleague at her pre-toxic job company. I’ve been in this better role, in a normal environment, with great people, etc. for about ten months now and it’s great. Also, my desire to get out of toxic job made me reevaluate my career goals and I applied, and was accepted, to grad school which I am now completing part-time (in my field of choice, in which I’ve had a successful career in but not in my current city).

    So, you never know. In some ways my instinct (with hindsight) would say run, but I also credit that absolutely bizarre and crushing environment with motivating me towards better things, long term goals, and also teaching me a lot about my own resilience. And I wouldn’t be where I am now without it. So, I think if OP knows what they want out of this, and they’re willing to go in with eyes open, it could be worth it. Bonus: I have some pretty hilarious (again, in hindsight) stories that keep my friends and family entertained on pretty much a weekly basis.

    Good luck with whatever you decide, OP. And hopefully we’ll get an update!

  40. Anon for this*

    I’m going to offer a dissenting opinion here. Or rather partially dissenting – I think Alison et al are absolutely correct that this org is a mess and your daily life there would likely be hell. But, OP says they have been trying to switch INDUSTRIES (not jobs, industries) for years. I would tell OP to seriously consider taking the job if offered it, with the caveat that they plan to go into it with eyes wide open as to what their daily work life will likely be like and to have a very clear plan for themselves in leveraging this job to get them to their next career step. Good luck OP!

    1. SW*

      I’m actually going to take the opposite approach: in many industries the org you work for is a big part of what people see on the resume. If everyone else in the field knows that this org only gets bottom of the barrel candidates and then spits them out a wreck a year later, they don’t have an incentive to hire you. What use is experience if it’s bad experience? Easier to train a newbie than to undo mistakes. Or maybe this org *is* an example of what the field is like. Or even worse: the OP gets stuck in this job, unable to get a better job elsewhere in their field despite their newly-earned experience.
      All this to say that maybe the OP should stop looking in this field if this is the best they can do.
      I’m reminded of a person I met who had volunteered for years at a museum but had been passed on promotion after promotion internally and had failed to get a job elsewhere in the field despite sending out lots of resumes. And it was like, I’ve known you for 10 minutes and I already dislike you, and I 100% understand why you haven’t gotten any traction in this tiny, elite field. And maybe you should try for something else. But of course free labor is free labor, especially if you can keep dangling that carrot in front of the person.
      I suspect that the org the OP is interviewing with similarly knows that they hold all the cards to getting into this field. I don’t think they’re going to stop dangling that carrot on a string even if the OP is hired.

  41. emmelemm*

    “When small organizations go wrong, they tend to go very wrong.”

    This is so, so true. Beware, run, etc.

  42. Whew boy*

    OP, please also know that small organizations with this level of dysfunction are also *incredibly hard to leave* once you’re there. Please consider that when and if this job offer ever materializes.

    Unless of course, you can afford to up and quit when it finally gets to be too much, but we can’t all do that. When you’re ready to leave this poorly-managed organization, and if you do find the time to secure another job and get out (hard to do because they will keep working you until late at night so you can’t trust your own schedule anymore), they aren’t going to hire your replacement in any reasonable amount of time. You know this from your own experience. Then they’ll plead and guilt you to stay longer until they find the time and are able to make that decision, which will also remind you of your own hiring experience, and when you push back trying to set some boundaries around what you can stay on to do and what you can’t, they will ignore those boundaries because they never respected your time in the first place so why start when you’re leaving? That’s the best case scenario. Another is that you will one day resign and your manager will freak out on you, tell you to just leave that day out of anger, then call you for the next couple weeks with questions. You won’t be able to use them as a reference and even if you did everything right, you will end up feeling like YOU burned the bridge.

    Not trying to be alarming, just going on experience here. Each of the times I ignored red flags like these when I interviewed and ended up taking the job, (twice! ugh), and even when I liked the actual work itself, I had an incredibly hard time finally leaving. Once because I was being worked to death and couldn’t find the time or emotional energy to focus on a job search, another because my manager refused to acknowledge that I was leaving and didn’t bother to even start hiring a replacement until my last couple days because he thought he could guilt me into changing my mind. In both situations I had pushed off resigning for far too long because I wanted to wait until it was “a better time”, since everything was already so dysfunctional I feared how bad it would get during my last couple weeks. Please learn from others’ mistakes and Alison’s right-on advice. They are telling you now what it’s going to be like in the future and this future might not be worth the risk.

    1. DyneinWalking*

      Another thing that will likely make it hard leave is the simple everyday disorganization of this company (I really can’t imagine that a company that conducts interview like that is not going to to be disorganized). With meetings dragging on until late in the night, indecisive managers and no clear expectations, I doubt OP is going to have a lot of free time. The company sounds exhausting and there probably wont even be any achievements to lift OP’s spirits. How well are you going to interview under those conditions?

  43. agnes*

    Today it’s a zillion interviews and still no action. tomorrow it will be a zillion meetings and still no action. This is the way they do business. Pay attention.

  44. CW*

    I would have walked away from this a long time ago. Since October, and it’s already late January. This is not normal. I take it you are still employed, which is why you had the stamina to tolerate this. Any unemployed candidate would have dropped out already, because they do not have the time or the money for this. Run for the hills and don’t look back. There are plenty of other employers who will come for you.

  45. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    I get that you’re desperate to leave your current job, but it sounds like you’d just be jumping into a dumpster fire. I would reach back and tell them you’ve changed your mind about the most recent meeting and if they’re unable to make a decision after 5 interviews and a trial work day that you’re withdrawing from consideration. And then even if they offer you the job, I’d still be very skeptical about taking it.

  46. Elizabeth West*

    This situation lends itself to a dating metaphor. The company is a taker. You spent a lot of time courting it, but marrying it will not change the fact that it’s a taker. When you finally divorce it (and you will), the alimony you’ll pay in the form of lost opportunities, fruitless effort,and maybe even health issues isn’t worth it.

  47. Umpaid consultant*

    LW, Are you actually givning them tips and advice during these calls? Something along the lines of “if I got the position, I would use my expertise X to do Y, which in my past position increased production by 45%”.
    You must be saying something they are interested in hearing.

  48. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    No, no, no and nope. If they made a movie called “The Office Omen,” this company would be the subject. Run away, fast.

  49. Noah*

    I’d really re-consider whether or not you want this job. I went through a similar process. The cofounders of a company reached out to me on LinkedIn and wanted to hire me. I met with them 1-2 times a week for about two months. The interviews were very unstructured and always either early morning before work or in the evening after work. After an additional personality interview an hour’s drive away, they made me an offer and I accepted. Before my start date they adjusted the job they wanted me to do and changed who I’d be reporting to. On my first day the CEO told me they weren’t sure what to do with me but to be patient and they’d figure something out. They never did. After having me set up a bunch of processes, they decided they were spending too much on my job and laid me off in October.

  50. Marie*

    I’ve been on that interview process and accepted the job anyway — I was desperate and so were they. The maternity leave was pretty good, by US standards, so when I had been there 3-4 months I got pregnant and left six months or so after the baby was born. More than one colleague commented on the toxic work environment and congratulated me on leaving (one apologized that he wasn’t more honest in the interview). It was wild. It did however enable me to get into my dream job, so in my view the whole thing was a fantastic stepping stone.

    My advice to OP: take the job, but keep one foot out the door, stay aloof when drama arises, only take on projects that boost your resume, and generally look out for your interests first and foremost.

  51. Random IT Guy*

    OP,

    after reading your question i am frustrated on your behalf.
    While they might be ‘playing nice’ – the actually are not.

    Besides the ridiculous time, and disregard for you by being late twice at least – the fact that they keep yanking the pot of gold (the offer) away to ‘have one more meeting’ – all that screams to channel my inner Rincewind and RUN. Don`t care to where, as long as it`s away from those people.

    Do yourself a favor – and look elsewhere. If due to a miracle you`d get an offer – well, triple check all the ‘fine print’ and investigate ANYTHING you can find about them – as this tale has more red flags than China.

  52. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    I once took two days off work for two full days of working interview (common in my industry to do one day). The owner wanted me to take off ANOTHER two days after that which I declined. He hired me anyway at a horrible salary and I was desperate so I accepted despite seeing some red flags during the interview.
    It was an absolute nightmare job. Ethical and legal violations, guy had a huge temper and the red flags I saw on the interview were actually the tip of the iceberg.
    Next job I did a 13 hour working interview and then another 6 hours the next day. I was fed exactly once the first day. Again desperate and took the job. Guy expected no later than 50 hours a week and was furious if we left before he was done with his work for the day. Bonuses were promised without the clarification that there was no way to earn them the first year. Ended up with a $15k pay cut due to this.
    Take them wasting your time before you even work for them seriously. It burned me twice.

  53. From That Guy*

    Man oh man, the second I hit their front door and was out on the street I’d be pulling an O.J. (think taking off at lightening speed hurtling everything in sight!) brogues and all and be gone so fast they would just see dust.

    Good luck on the rest of your job search!

  54. Katertot*

    I feel for LW! The same thing happened to my boyfriend (now husband) when we were long distance and he was trying to find a job near me. He interviewed- multiple, multiple times- with a company in his field. For MONTHS they would update him regularly to say “we’re putting together an offer! Finalizing details!” or have him interview with another person in the organization “as a formality”- until finally they admitted they were going with an internal person. It was extremely frustrating and I wish they’d been more honest and hadn’t kept him thinking he would get an offer. Looking back- definitely glad he wasn’t with that organization, it wasn’t meant to be, but in the moment it was very frustrating for both of us.

  55. Katniss Evergreen*

    I had an interview process once that went a little like this. I was working in a hospital system in a purely admin role, hoping to move into something more research-related since I was pursuing my MPH at the time. I applied for a research position at the same hospital I worked for, and wasn’t surprised when they wanted to talk to me on my lunch breaks or immediately after my day was through at the hospital with very little notice (sometimes 1-2 hour notice by email or phone call). Ultimately, I had four interviews over the course of which I met 9 people; they were so excited about introducing me to the team and getting me a good idea of the job that I was crushed when they went radio silent.

    After sending a follow-up email to the hiring manager (and 8 weeks had gone by), I reached out again to say I figured they’d made another selection by that point and asked for feedback. I got 2 sentences from the hiring manager about how I was nice, but nothing constructive or specific about experience they needed.

    I had no idea the red flags this meant about working there at the time. Now I get that working there meant I’d have been receiving direction/tasks from several different people who didn’t talk to each other enough to know they were overdoing it with the workload, and that apparently the team doesn’t remember people who they’ve spent 4 hours of time meeting with enough to make polite eye contact. The person they did hire left after 9 months.

  56. Kitty Harington*

    When I was fresh out of grad school, I applied for a job I really wanted and ended up stuck in an endless interview cycle. It wasn’t as bad as what you describe but I finally asked how many more interviews were left. In my situation, I had the impression the manager didn’t want to cut me as a candidate because she wanted to unload some of her work (I was more experienced than a typical applicant) but it seemed like nobody else was really that interested in me as a candidate. I never heard back from her after that and while it was upsetting initially, I regret I didn’t ask for clarification in the beginning when I first had a feeling something was off.

  57. Nathan*

    I was in a very similar situation. I got strung along for MONTHS. It was ridiculous.

    When I joined the organization, it was exactly like Alison said in her response. They had shown me what it would be like to work for them. The environment was chaotic and promises they made to me kept getting pushed back and delayed…never truly broken, but “any day now”. I ended up leaving after 18 months when they had strung me along on a promise they made 9 months ago never ended up materializing but was always “in the works”.

    But at the time, that was the job that I needed, and I could afford to take the time to wait for them to get their ducks in a row.

    What I took from this is that a situation like yours — which is unarguably a bad situation — can still be worked to your advantage with enough patience and flexibility. Now I’m in a great job that I enjoy, working for an employer I respect and who respects me.

    If this bad employer can be a gateway into a new industry, it might be worth the frustration and hair-pulling you’re going through right now (and the continued frustration you’d feel as their employee).

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