my job offer got delayed because of COVID-19 — will it ever come back?

A reader writes:

I just graduated with my bachelor’s in May. Way back in January, I accepted a full-time job offer that was supposed to start on June 15. When the COVID-19 pandemic started, however, my employer informed me on April 8 that they are “delaying all start dates until it is clear that the contagion is over and our business is ramping up again.” They also told me that they would be “as transparent as possible as we navigate through the coming weeks and months ahead.” I had asked on April 8 if they could give a predicted start date, and they said they did not have any additional information at the time.

I had asked for and received an update on May 6, and they repeated the previous statements and stated that they have a hiring freeze. On May 18, I sent an email with my updated address when I moved back to my parents’ house, and I received a reply a few days later thanking me for the updated information. That reply also stated that they were unable to complete an employment verification form they received from an apartment complex I was applying to live at because they cannot provide a confirmed start date. On June 15, I sent an email simply stating my continued interest in the position, and I also asked if there was an appropriate date that they would prefer for me to check in with any estimations or updates about my start date. It’s only been a few days since I’ve sent the email, so I’m still waiting for a reply.

I’ve been trusting the company when they said that they’d be as transparent as possible about my position, but I’ve been hearing advice from everyone else in my life that’s been making me anxious. My boyfriend told me that their written statement on transparency is “HR bullshit,” and that I should start applying for other positions now. I understand re-touching my resume and keeping an eye out for other positions, but I don’t want to apply for other positions and risk burning the bridge with my current company down the road. On the other hand, he said that if I apply now, I would get a head start on the hiring process since the pandemic is slowing everyone’s hiring processes. So should I be applying for other positions now in case I lose my offer?

My mother has also been pressuring me for weeks to contact other people in the company who I interviewed with (who aren’t in HR) about my position, but I haven’t done that because I feel like that would be unprofessional. Even if they knew the status of my start date or position, what if they’re not permitted to disclose it? But am I wrong? Should I also do this?

I already feel like I’m being too pushy when emailing my company about updates. Have I been asking too often? How often should I ask? I don’t want to email or call them for a while since I asked for an update just yesterday. What about possibly looking for other positions? What should I do?

You should be job searching.

Your boyfriend is right when he says that you should be applying for other positions now. But he’s wrong when he says their statement is BS. They’ve actually been direct and transparent with you: they have a hiring freeze and they aren’t currently in a position to predict when that will change. What does he think is BS about that? I promise you they’re not just stringing you along while knowing they’ll never hire you; they’d have no reason to do that. But they’ve been clear that they have no idea when they will be able to hire you. It could be two weeks; it could be six months; it could be never. They don’t know. All they know is that right now they can’t bring on anyone new.

The issue, I think, is that you’re trying to get updates they just don’t have. It’s not that they’re not being transparent. They just have nothing they can tell you, and continually nudging them won’t change that. They don’t know.

You’re also putting too much weight on an offer that, for now, isn’t connected to a job that currently exists. It’s possible this job won’t ever materialize — the company could end up cutting half its staff or the whole team you would have been working in, or shutter completely, or realize in two months that they need to restructure in a way that means they need to hire people with a different background than you have. Or yes, they could bring you on board exactly as planned in X number of months. But there’s no guarantee, and so you have to proceed as if this may never come through.

That means actively job hunting. You said you’re worried that would burn the bridge with them, but it won’t. They assume you’re job searching right now! When a company has to put a job offer on hold, they are fully aware that that person will probably continue to interview and thus they may lose them. They know that because they assume you need a job and an income. It’s not weird or under-handed or unusual.

If you end up accepting another job before this one comes through, you’d just contact them and explain that, and they will accept it graciously because they’ve understood all along that was possible or even likely. They might even be relieved that you’ve taken care of yourself rather than waiting on the job with them to come through, since they know you need an income and they know they’re not providing it right now.

As for your mom’s suggestion that you contact other people you interviewed with to see if they can give you any update … that would have been fine to do earlier, but doing it now — after you’ve contacted HR for updates multiple times — would come across as pushy and not hearing the answers you’ve already been given.

The best thing you can do is to assume this job won’t come through for the foreseeable future and actively job search. If you haven’t heard from them in two months, you can check back in. But meanwhile, assume you’re not hearing anything because there’s nothing to hear. I’m sorry!

{ 162 comments… read them below }

    1. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      And a economic crisis, depending on where you live and your field of choice. The perfect storm.

    2. Tarantella*

      I’m so glad this person has Alison to talk to. People like the boyfriend sound so confident as they spout cynical ignorance, it’s easy to get sucked in. But he’s likely very young too, better to trust Alison.

  1. What's in a name?*

    Can anyone seriously imagine all the people at a company snickering to themselves in the lunch room about how they are punking a new team member by not telling them the start date?

    I know the LW is fresh from school, but seriously, no one has time for that.

    1. fposte*

      In a situation where you know you have none of the cards you tend to imagine the other side has more cards than they really do.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      They are not. Why would they? “We have a hiring freeze” is typically an indication that things aren’t going great for the current employees, either. It is not like they are laughing over champagne and coke lunches, Wolf of Wall Street-like, about the great new excuse they came up with to keep the new hires out.

      I worked with someone who, years before I’d started working there, hired a new person for their team; then, on Sunday night before the new hire’s start day, got a call on their home phone, from the upper management telling them to call the new hire and tell them that the position had been cancelled and not to come in tomorrow. This person did make the call, but instead of “snickering in the lunch room”, they’d been mad about it for years. (As it should be.)

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I think it was said tongue in cheek to indicate that the company is not doing this.

        But maybe I read the original post wrong.. or you are agreeing and I read your post wrong

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ohhh, you mean the implication is that OP is thinking that they are snickering around the lunch table? Yeah, no. I didn’t really see it in OP’s letter, other than something their BF said (that the OP doesn’t seem to necessarily agree with). And yes, I do agree that the company is not doing that.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Hell, I got mad and pushed back when someone tried to pull a job offer when someone needed to start a few days later than the hiring manager wanted. I cannot imagine having to pull a job offer, it must be absolutely torturous. I’m so sorry to hear that your former colleague had to deal with that.

        Only a true sociopath would take pleasure in harming a complete stranger like that!

    3. EBStarr*

      Did the LW imply they thought that was what was happening? All they said was that their boyfriend thinks HR is giving them the runaround, which is hardly something you’d only think when fresh from school, and it’s what the boyfriend thinks, anyway, not really the LW…

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      I don’t think it is called for to be ungracious to the OP. They are inexperienced and are getting conflicting information from people they trust. In fact, they don’t imagine people at the company are snickering, but do imagine that they would only be warranted in resuming active job search if the company was behaving in some way badly. Which of course is not the case – but it is hard to develop an intuition for workplace hiring norms when you’ve never experienced the inside.

      It’s great that Alison lays it out gently and clearly for anyone who is currently new to the job marked in difficult times like we experience right now.

    5. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “Can anyone seriously imagine all the people at a company snickering to themselves in the lunch room about how they are punking a new team member by not telling them the start date?”

      Where is this idea coming from? I don’t see anything like that in the letter.

        1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          It seems like the BF meant being strung along to keep the OP available or for another vague business reason or inability to tell the truth. Which is reasonable, though I don’t agree with him.

          Interpreting what the BF said as meaning they are actively punking someone for kicks? That’s a strange interpretation of what the OP wrote.

      1. bob*

        “Even if they knew… my start date…, what if they’re not permitted to disclose it?”

        1. EBStarr*

          That’s still extremely different than the OP thinking that everyone is snickering behind their back. The OP may be under the mistaken impression that the company has certainty that they’re not allowed to share, but is pretty clearly assuming good faith on the employer’s part–and showing respect for employees by not wanting to pressure them for info they may not be ready to share. There’s some misconceptions in the letter, maybe, but the OP hasn’t come up with an outlandish scenario where they’re being punked and made fun of by a real-life Regina George. And it seems kinda unfair to shame the OP for being young based on something that they never said.

    6. just a random teacher*

      I think it’s a misunderstanding of what “we can ‘t tell you a start date right now” means. The OP is hearing “you have a job, but we’re trying to get things scheduled on our end – hang on while we sort this out”, which is why they’re trying to get clarity on when the job will start. In a lot of other contexts, this would be a totally reasonably assumption! “We’re planning to have a yard sale this summer, but don’t know the date yet – you’re welcome to bring your stuff to sell too”, “The dates for my business trip keep getting re-shuffled, but we should get coffee once I know when I’ll be in town”, or many other similar statements actually do mean that. The fact that it’s work-world code for “your job offer is now in limbo, keep looking” is obvious to people who read this site or have been in the world world long enough to have seen it before, but it makes perfect sense to me that the OP would be confused.

      I was once in a similar situation with being waitlisted for my education grad program. I assumed it was a first-in-first-out capacity thing, like being waitlisted to get a camping pass at a festival or something, and kept wanting to know how many people were ahead of me and how quickly the list was moving so I could make plans, since I was in a terrible housing situation and needed to know if I was leaving town or could a lease someplace else that wouldn’t trigger my health problems. I called them for updates exactly as often as they said to and on my end it felt like that Calvin and Hobbes comic series where he’s waiting for a beanie to come in the mail. In the end, I got into the program, possibly because, since I was calling them repeatedly but politely, they knew I’d accept immediately and hadn’t already committed somewhere else (I’d only applied one place, because the previous times I’d applied to both undergrad and grad school in other fields I’d gotten in everywhere I applied so I just … hadn’t really considered that I might not get in this time?), but I didn’t realize until much later how higher ed actually used waitlists since I didn’t have anyone helping me navigate all of that. (I have my own theories about why I was waitlisted despite being a strong candidate by their official criteria, but that’s a whole different post about discriminatory things that education grad programs do to people with disabilities that they think will make you “not be a good teacher”.)

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        Undergraduate programs do function on a first-in-first-out waitlist capacity, I remember getting waitlisted when applying for undergrad and then receiving a postcard in the mail with my waitlist number on it.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh, you’re right. “we can ‘t tell you a start date right now” definitely means that they do not have a start date and do not know when they will. It does *not* mean “we have a super secret start date that we are not allowed to tell you”. I was reading their responses as they would love to have OP, but no longer can, because there’s an indefinite hiring freeze. They really are saying to keep looking. OP won’t throw them under the bridge by starting to look now.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Oops, I guess I was trying to simultaneously type “throw them under the bus” and “burn a bridge” and a new idiom was born (?) Apologies to everyone!

    7. suprisedcanuk*

      “Can anyone seriously imagine all the people at a company snickering to themselves in the lunch room about how they are punking a new team member by not telling them the start date?”

      What letter are you reading? The BF just feels like HR isn’t being that helpful and they’re giving a typical vague HR response. The truth the LW need to read between the lines. That this job is a big maybe. I don’t blame HR.

      1. Hiring Manager*

        I also don’t blame their HR, my workplace is in the same boat. I have an open headcount that I may or not be able to fill, and I had a candidate close to the offer point. When we went on the freeze, I told her about the freeze and said I had no idea what this would do to the possibility of ever filling the position and that nothing was certain if it would even exist when this is over. The company clearly expects the OP to be looking and doesn’t consider them an employee (they said something about “my current company”).

  2. Jack Be Nimble*

    I’ve been on the other end of OP’s scenario: I’m the HR person answering ‘I’m sorry, we don’t know’ when people ask for timeline updates. Definitely job search, and don’t worry about looking unprofessional or burning bridges–I’d be super relieved to hear that a candidate was actively pursuing other employment rather than waiting on us!

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      And I’m in the position the OP’s mother suggested contacting – non-HR person heavily involved in the interview process. (I’m a senior team member, so I tend to be involved in the technical side of our interview process.) I know we’re under a hiring freeze, and that it applies to both existing open positions and newly created positions. And that’s it.

      We had some promising candidates who were part way through our interview process when the hiring freeze was announced, and I assume they all went on to accept other jobs. If they’re as good as they seemed in the early interview rounds, I hope they apply to work here again at some point in the future when we’re able to hire again.

    2. InfoGal*

      I currently *AM* that hiring manager who is now in a hiring freeze– and I was at the very final stages of recruiting for two different positions! I’ve been trying for two months now to find out if I can finish my recruiting since we were so close to making offers to the candidates, but have been told “All new positions are on indefinite hold, but we haven’t made a determination yet about filling positions that were in play at the time of closure.” I’ve said as much to my two candidates, and advised them that for their own sakes they should absolutely continue their searches in the meantime, but it’s as frustrating to me as it is to them… sometimes even the hiring manager doesn’t have the complete picture or all the answers!

    3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Me, too. I’ve been pestering my budget contacts regarding offers we had to “temporarily” rescind a few weeks ago because I desperately want to give these people an answer one way or another! Echoing the advice to continue to job search, I wouldn’t blame anyone for doing so in this circumstance.

  3. AnotherAlison*

    I suggest the OP read some of the current COVID-related posts on here, too, just to wrap her head around what companies are dealing with. Based on end-of-May info, we were supposed to go back to the office today. We got a memo on Friday that said nope, hold off until you hear from your manager after 7/4*. My state and county are in the full reopening phase, after completing three limited reopening phases, and making a change from mandatory restrictions to voluntary compliance a couple phases ago, so this is strictly extra restrictions my company is imposing. We’re still continuing hiring as we haven’t had changes to workload, but some transfers have been put on hold, and I can’t tell you when I’ll see the inside of my office again. I think everyone at that company that hired you would understand if you take another job. You need a job and more certainty–find it however you can.

    *Reading between the lines of that memo, I don’t think we’re going back soon after 7/4, either. I think it will continue as-is for “a while”. I can take or leave both in-office and remote work, but I’d prefer they say October than push dates back every couple weeks. Uncertainty kills me for some reason.

    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      My office closed in mid-April, with plans to reopen in early May. In May, we said it’d be at least through the end of the month, which got pushed to “after the 4th of July.” The latest is that we’ll revisit the topic of reopening in September, but that feels very tentative, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was like this through the end of the year. It’s just hard to say for certain when things are going to be “normal” again.

    2. Veryanon*

      My company sent us all home (except for our manufacturing people) in mid-March. We are an essential business so have remained open for business throughout.
      The area where I live is just starting to re-open, and we are starting to plan for returning to the office, but right now we have no date. I’m hearing anecdotally that it may not be until well into the fall. :(

      1. Beth*

        My wife is waiting, week by week, to see if her job will re-open fully — she’s been working full-time all along, but since the lockdown started, her workplace has not been open to the public. (We’re in a US state with massively spiking caseloads.)

        Every week, she is unable to relax until 4 pm Friday has come and gone without an email announcement that EVERYTHING will be open the next Monday morning. The county administration has no idea how to communicate, and dropping the news at the last possible moment so that staff have the entire weekend to worry but no time at work to prepare for the heightened risk is SOP.

        So an already stressful situation is being managed in a way most likely to maximize the stress even more.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Urgh. This is pretty similar to my situation. It’s one thing to deal with the disruption caused by everyone working from how during a pandemic, but that no one seems willing to commit to “yes, we’ll be doing it for the following substantial amount of time under x conditions so you can plan, even if it seems like things are getting a little better before then” rather than stringing things along so you can “hopefully” re-open as soon as possible (rather than with a slower, deliberate plan announced further in advance, where you say things like “if things continue as they are by x criteria, in three weeks we’ll take y steps”) is exhausting.

          1. HB*

            Yes – my whole company is, of course, handling this terribly and seems to have no plan. But I’m fortunate enough that they’re encouraging work from home and my boss is letting us decide what we want to do. So I just decided in my head that I’m working at home until at least December, and then we’ll see how things look. It made me feel much better to just accept it and move forward with this as the new normal. Now, I don’t know if my job is at all secure…but I probably won’t know more until about September, so I figured I can’t really worry/do anything about that either. I can’t imagine nervously waiting each week to see what dangers your company wanted to put you into at the last minute…

          2. nerfherder*

            Same here. I said this below, but you can see a clear difference between handling this in way that prioritizes your employees, and handling it in a way that prioritizes the employer getting you back in the door on the first day possible.

            It’s a pandemic and a recession so I’m just going to sit in my corner and be happy to have a job for now. But going forward this is definitely going to be a factor in considering how long my future at this organization should be, you know? It would be such a small thing to say, “expect to be home until September.” It would mean a ton to me as an employee to have that certainty, and my organization would lose nothing. But because the remote possibility exists that they’ll be ready in July, they won’t say anything at all.

        2. WellRed*

          What her employer is doing is quite unreasonable, though. A good employer will understand people need to make arrangements, and will want advance notice of what steps the employer is taking in terms of safety. Is she sure they’d announce on Friday a Monday return?

        3. Thankful for AAM*

          @Beth, it sounds like your wife works for the county next to me! Its been constant pushing back dates, lots of complaints about last minute decisions, and Friday let’s drop a bomb emails.

          My own supervisor will tell us, what I know now (Wednesday) is x, but its not Friday yet, so who knows.

          And I’m doing a survey of my field to see if there are incidents surrounding re opening to the public. More than one person commented about frustrations surrounding last minute decisions.

    3. Anon Anon*

      I agree. We were told we were going to go back April 1, which turned into May 1, which turned into June 1, which turned into July 6, and now everyone is working at home until 2021. And one of the reasons my company announced the 2021 date was because they needed to give the staff some certainty. We won’t even try to hire anyone this year, and we had two open positions that we were advertising for (but luckily had not offered anyone a job yet).

    4. Rachel in NYC*

      We know nothing. There are rumors of September? December? January?

      Literally no one seems to know anything so we’re stuck making guesses based on the fact they just bought all of us office chairs for our home offices- well they gave us all budgets to do so, which probably cost $10k. So not a huge chunk but given that we’re on a hiring freeze and a pay freeze, I’ve read as we’re home for a long haul.

    5. Bostonian*

      Yeah, OP, it’s actually really good that they’re telling you they don’t know instead of trying to guess a date and have you get your hopes up, only to change the date on you later down the road when their guess turns out to be unrealistic. Then it would look like they were stringing you along!

    6. NW Mossy*

      My company’s being very conservative too – we just recently extended from 7/4 to Labor Day, with a sidecar of “and be prepared to have this go through the end of 2020.”

      There’s just a massive amount of uncertainty for most organizations to know what their plans can be, especially when they’re trying to balance so many fluctuating requirements. Being able to reopen doesn’t mean much if you can’t meet social distancing requirements in your workspaces or if half your staff is still at home anyway because schools have yet to reopen fully. Absent more certainty, most will hold off on any decision that is difficult to reverse – hiring is one of the biggest.

    7. Legally a Vacuum*

      In May, my company finally just said it will be after Labor Day. Just knowing for sure that my summer would be wfh helped a lot.

    8. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      My company stopped sending status updates altogether. The last one was sent a month ago, and basically said, “we will come back when local government says so”… which is not going to happen for the forseeable future. And that’s without considering all the modifications they’d need to make the building compliant (automatic doors, air filters, contactless soap and sanitizer dispensers, social distancing in common areas). It would be way cheaper if they made a third of the employees 100% remote.
      Also, say goodbye to townhalls, end of year party and team building activities.

    9. nerfherder*

      “I can take or leave both in-office and remote work, but I’d prefer they say October than push dates back every couple weeks. Uncertainty kills me for some reason.”

      YES. I know a few people who work at organizations that said to them, pretty early on, “don’t expect to go back to the office until September” or “until January.” I am quite envious of those people! Because even if those initial estimates end up being wrong and plans change, for now they do not have to open their work email literally every single day wondering if they’re going to be called back in a week or two. The uncertainty is this extra mental stress I really don’t appreciate with everything else going on.

      I get that there are many factors employers don’t know, and I’m not asking them to give me a guarantee carved in granite. Giving us a nice long period not to have to think about it is a really graceful thing an employer can do, and it doesn’t cost them anything. If things change down the road they can update the target date.

      It makes me cynically think that what they’re trying to do by not giving us any timeline is to avoid the situation where – gasp – it might be allowed and feasible for us to come in, but we continue working remotely for a while anyway because they already said “October” or whatever. Like their number one priority is getting us all back in the door on the earliest possible date. Since they can’t know the earliest possible date yet, we get strung along until they have that date in their sights. It seems to say something pretty crummy about their priorities.

  4. Buttons*

    In some states a signed offer that has been withdrawn is enough to be given unemployment. Apply for unemployment and stop job searching. Also, don’t take work advice from your mom. ;)

    1. Venus*

      Agreed about not listening to the mother. HR tends to be the best informed about hiring freezes and restrictions, so contacting anyone else in the company seems unhelpful. At first it probably wouldn’t hurt to contact them instead of HR, but there doesn’t seem to be any advantage.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        Honestly, the hiring managers are probably asking HR the same questions. There really isn’t anything to be gained at this point.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


          Everyone would always come back to me [HR] about this. “Dude called asking about his start date? Are we even hiring, WTF???”

          1. SomebodyElse*

            I shouldn’t laugh ( I did), but I’ve had that conversation as a hiring manager.

            Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen to the position I’m currently interviewing for… global hiring freeze and I got special permission to hire this one, but it will have to go to our global CEO for final approval at offer time.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I think it varies enough from company to company and job to job that I’d have made contact with the HM and HR, and then mentally let it go. (If they restarted hiring and I was available, great, but I wouldn’t exclusively wait for this.) My department can get immediate answers from the company decision makers (operational exec VPs). That answer may still be “no one knows”, but we can get info that isn’t published in the official memo for a few more days. The recruiter is several steps removed from the decision maker, and HR is a corporate function serving our office, rather than directly in our business lines. I can see where other companies and structures that HR would have more information, but you wouldn’t know that as a new grad hire.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      I get the winky face, but I’m taking slight offense at the “don’t take mom’s advice” advice! The mom’s advice was fine. She could have taken it earlier on, as Alison noted.

      I was a younger mother, but I’m a 20-year professional at the beginning of my career peak and acutely aware of professional norms. My son graduated this year, too. I’m not equivalent to MY mom – who is a recent retiree with 31 years in the same company/position and has never been involved in hiring or staffing discussions. Considering his professors, friends, or my self-employed spouse, I’m probably the best source of professional info for my son.

      1. Smithy*

        While parents can have a range of professionally appropriate and savvy experiences – I think part of the reasons why it’s not good to turn to parents/guardians is that when mixed with family dynamics it can often create more emotionally complicated advice. For those early in their career/recent grads who might still be financially dependent on their parents – this can be even more fraught and dent confidence in their own capabilities.

        Without the added baggage of a pandemic, when at one point in my early adulthood I was living at my parents place and job hunting, I actually found the best thing for me to work with a vocational counselor offered for free through a nonprofit. In that arrangement, I could tell my parents I was following their advice and while I’m sure they had opinions, my plan was to follow the program and then re-evaluate in a few months whether or not I was receiving productive advice for my professional ambitions.

        Lots of parents and university career counselors on AAM are full of terrible advice. And also plenty of families do actually work together. But I think there’s a huge benefit of not seeking family for career advice especially during times that include other high stressors – like say a global pandemic.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          I agree family dynamics can complicate things. I have some unhealthy family dynamics with my f.o.o., so I completely understand the point here, but I felt the off-the-cuff comment was a little marginalizing of working mothers and their experience. All moms aren’t just “gumption” with no understanding of the working world. My own mom does not have the relevant job searching or hiring experience, but OP didn’t say anything about her mom’s background. Young adults should watch where their advice is coming from because it may not be in their best interest, but as you say. . .career counselors also have terrible advice. Maybe everyone should just consult the fair and impartial AAM and that’s it?

          1. Georgina Fredrika*

            I think parents are often not great for advice because they’re, generally speaking, 20-30 years ahead in their careers… which is an incredibly long distance. I felt a little out-of-the-loop giving my little brother advice because we’re 8 years apart in our careers – and that’s pretty small! Especially because the added nuance is, the parent is rarely in the same field and there are different nuances there as well.

            Is the department head who’s been a dept head for the past 5 years really going to have a good feel of how to handle entry-level job searchers, in a different field? Norms move quickly and though, of course, there are well versed moms and dads, they’re almost the exception to the rule.

            1. Junior Assistant Peon*

              The “gumptiony” stuff works better for people with established careers. I’ve had great success job-hunting by cold-calling carefully chosen individuals in my niche field; a new grad doing that would come off as a PITA.

            2. Beth Jacobs*

              This is true on one hand, but if AnotherAlison is hiring entry level people, then maybe she does. Afterall, the AAM Alison is very senior but gives advice to people entering the workforce all the time and I’d argue she does so well.
              But yeah, I hear what you’re saying.

          2. Smithy*

            I truly had a fantastic vocational counselor – not connected with my university. Not perfect, but his only job was coaching people through the job application/interviewing process. I think sometimes ‘vocational services’ are perceived as supporting those with fewer qualifications/non-college graduates, but that wasn’t my experience.

            That all being said – in addition to 20 years potentially providing a large gap in experience of being new to the work world, I just think advice can often be received in a more adversarial manner. As you note, had the OP taken the mother’s advice months ago – it might not have been bad (industry/organization dependent). But often how advice is received from a parent around the job world feels very “top down” from a power dynamic, and then gets twisted or sat on until it’s not longer actually helpful or effective.

            I get your point about working mothers – but my mother last had to job hunt in 1991, has stayed hired and internally promoted at the same place until today… mom is a true professional, but her advice hasn’t been current decades. Add on top of that any parent/child issues – and decent advice can further devolve.

      2. fposte*

        The mom’s advice wasn’t fine, though, and she shouldn’t be “pressuring” her child with it. It’s feeding into the false narrative that somebody at the company has knowledge that they’re not sharing. It’s not likely in this case to wreck the OP, but it’s also not likely to get her more information and quite possibly won’t get answered.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Agree pressuring is not appropriate, but in my company it would absolutely be fine to contact interviewers outside of HR. We encourage it. I’ve had interviewees follow up with me as a hiring manager with hiring process questions. I can’t speak to the hiring freeze situation, and perhaps people the OP interviewed with aren’t accessible due to furlough or whatever other weird situations COVID has caused, but it’s not a big faux pas to contact a hiring manager in my industry.

        2. Contrarian*

          The mom’s advice wasn’t fine, though…

          I think her advice was perfectly sound. Hiring managers and actual teams are the people with real information and clout, not HR.

          1. LDF*

            There’s certainly not true at my company. My manager can make a case for why we need to hire for a role but he does not have the power to unfreeze hiring. He can only advocate to HR and C-levels.

          2. SomebodyElse*

            Oh goodness no. I thought the same thing right up until I became a manager. I am in the dark just as much as the candidates. The only thing I control is who I interview, when, and who I make an offer to. After that, it’s out of my hands.

            -I need a series of approvals to post the position.
            -Once I have a candidate, I can give a range of what I’d like to pay, but HR does their secret squirrel calculation and comes up with an offer salary.
            -Once that is determined, I need a series of approvals to make an offer
            -Once the offer has been extended then the candidate returns signed offer to HR, goes through background checks/drug testing -coordinated with HR, receives clearance to start by HR, confirms the start date (that was in offer that was decided by HR ), etc.

            Basically I choose who I want to hire and then see them on their start date… I send the offer and call them, but other than that, I don’t know anything until they are handed over to me after their orientation.

          3. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            “Hiring managers and actual teams are the people with real information and clout, not HR.”

            Not necessarily – particularly with information about a hiring freeze and other org-wide issues.

            1. Junior Assistant Peon*

              The amount of power and influence HR has varies wildly between companies.

          4. NotAnotherManager!*

            Really, really depends on your organization. If there is an organizational hiring freeze, ALL my stuff gets shut down with everyone else’s and there is nothing I, the hiring manager, can do about it other than make the case that I’m special and should be given an exception.

            I request/justify positions, I write job descriptions, I vet/interview candidates, I pick to whom offers are extended. I do not manage the hiring process or organization-level decisions. I want an exception to a freeze, I have to call HR and see what that takes.

      3. serenity*

        Contacting random people you interviewed with to inquire about the hiring timeline is generally not really *fine* though (whether or not you have already been in contact with HR, as OP was in this case)

    3. Anonymous Educator*

      Apply for unemployment and stop job searching

      Any reason these are mutually exclusive? Can’t you apply for unemployment and also keep job searching?

      1. QED*

        In fact, job searching is often a requirement for receiving unemployment, so always job search when on unemployment!

        1. H.C.*

          Some states (incl. mine) have suspended that requirement, aware that most employers aren’t in a position to hire staff during the emergency.

          That being said, it still makes sense to search or do search-related activities (networking, skills training, etc.) to help you get a headstart once hiring does resume.

      1. Budgie Buddy*

        This is what I guessed reading your first comment, Buttons. But when you type it in all caps it’s giving me Journey vibes XD

  5. Spek*

    Good advice here. Check in every couple months, but assume that this job may never pan out. If your job search is successful, you might be tempted to let Company A know you have an offer and ask for update; don’t do it. Doubtful it would motivate them and Company A’s pending job may be a great hole card to keep. Maybe you take a job with Company B next month and hate every minute of it – how great it would be in October if Company A contacts you finally and asks if you are ready to come work for them? Or if you are happy with Company B, you can make apologies to Company A and they really can’t fault you for finding another job.

  6. OP2*

    Do you think OP can contact the hiring manager and ask her for help finding a new job?
    I mean, on the one hand, obviously not.
    On the other — if I were the hiring manager, and I had been responsible for withdrawing an offer in this situation, I’d feel terrible about it, and I’d want to help the person whose job offer had been pulled through no fault of their own.

    1. LCH*

      i had to pull a job offer in mid-March because of Covid, felt really badly about it, argued with HR about it, and i don’t know how i would have been able to help the applicant find a new job since they had never worked with me. luckily we could reoffer it to them this past week.

    2. SomebodyElse*

      A new job at the same company? I’m not sure what you think the hiring manager could do for the OP.

      That request from the LW to the hiring manager would seem really out of place to me.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m with LCH on this. There’s no way I can help someone who’s never actually worked for me find a job? I cannot in good faith or ethically give them a reference.

      I supposed you could ask if they have anywhere they can refer you to, that’s at best what I would do if possible. If my resources allowed me to know that say XYZ Co was looking for a similar position. But it’s really just a job lead and not assistance.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I wouldn’t do that! Certainly not at this stage. If– only IF– the position is officially withdrawn, she can maaaaaaaybe say something like, “I’m disappointed but thank you for letting me know. And if you know of anyone hiring for someone like me, please feel free to pass along my resume!” But I would only use that if I had a really good rapport with the hiring manager.

      I got my start in my career when I was turned down for a job and the hiring manager’s boss called me and asked if he could send around my resume. I was not the right fit for the job for a bunch of reasons, but he was sufficiently impressed and willing to give an entry-level person some help. The important part, though, is that it came from him and not from me. So if the hiring manager were the one writing in, I would advise her to ask the LW if she can pass along the resume, but I wouldn’t highly recommend that for the LW herself.

    5. Colette*

      No. If the hiring manager were able to help her, she would probably offer, but right now there’s likely not much she can do for someone she’s never worked with.

      I worked for a company who sometimes pulled job offers. The company was not doing well, and when they were going through a round of layoffs, the first people on the list would be people who hadn’t started yet. And I’m sure it was awful for the people who thought they had a job but didn’t. (They got severance, but that’s not the same as a job.)

      But it wasn’t fun times for the employees, either. It’s likely this company has laid off people, or considered it. That means they don’t know when (or if) things will get better. The OP should work her network and try to find something else.

    6. Person from the Resume*

      No. It sucks that this happened, but what super secret trick do you think the hiring manager have to help anyone find a job at this moment in time?

      1. OP2 (not OP anymore)*

        I don’t think there’s a super secret trick, but I do think the hiring manager has a better network than the new college grad. If the hiring manager hears about an open position at a company that’s not in a hiring freeze, the hiring manager could pass along OP’s resume with a note, “we were really excited to hire this person but our budget for the position fell through; I haven’t worked with her yet but she interviewed well.” Just as AvonLady Barksdale described.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          The super secret trick would be for someone to say, “I’m sorry Tangerina. There’s a hiring freeze and we aren’t sure when it is going to lift. We’re really looking forward to bringing you on in this role, but unfortunately we don’t know when we’d be able to have you start. Off the record, it would probably be best for you to start applying to other jobs just in case, and we’ll keep in touch as we have more information. This must be a terrible introduction to the work world, graduating school in a pandemic! I’m so sorry.”

          Or something along those lines.

          1. goducks*

            They HR department has done all that other than the off the record part. Off the record and HR don’t generally go hand in hand.
            Also, the HR person is assuming that the OP will do whatever the OP needs to do with the information given.

          2. Yesplease*

            HR just cannot do that, but upon being told that there is a hiring freeze, one should know to start searching. OP may not have realized that, being a new grad. The freeze is essentially a revocation of the offer.

        2. Rose Tyler*

          My company is on a general hiring freeze right now but there are some positions that are getting pushed through. As a manager if I found out that someone I liked enough to make an offer to got help from *our own HR people* to find a job somewhere else and wasn’t available anymore when the hiring freeze lifted, it would…not go well.

          OP should absolutely job search and as a manager I wouldn’t begrudge them doing so, but our internal HR does not need to be helping them while an offer is on the table.

    7. Hillary*

      If this is a development program, there may not even be a hiring managers. Our new entrants into our programs sometimes don’t meet their manager until their second week.

      I’m very glad we didn’t pull those offers, they’re all starting on time next month. But I’m also glad that my team gets someone in their final year, I can’t imagine trying to onboard a new grad remotely. I’m already mentally rearranging our rotater’s projects because I haven’t figured out how to teach some stuff remotely.

  7. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I appreciate how mindful you are of this process, OP!

    Alison is right though. You will not be burning a bridge to continue to look for work.

    These folks won’t even give you a verification of employment, please refrain from having loyalty to them and thinking of them as your employer. They are simply someone who bid on you, you accepted and now they’re waiting to bring you on [with good cause, they aren’t bad, they aren’t dicking you around, they’re not feeding you BS] but they are indeed stalling the process and pulling their employment offer in terms of they are not bringing you on until further notice. The best thing is to look.

    If you find something, then you reach out and let them know the situation. At that time they get the choice of either fighting to keep you, lifting their hiring freeze and bringing you or saying “bummer, we missed out on a great candidate but such is life, such is business. Good luck to you.”

    Really, I think the problem here is that you’re looking at them as an employer, when they are simply not that. Have limited loyalty to an employer in the first place but have no loyalty what so ever to someone who is not paying your bills or even giving you an employment verification.

    1. foolofgrace*

      >If you find something, then you reach out and let them know the situation

      I agree with this advice except for this part. I wouldn’t tell them you accepted another job. As another poster said, keep it as a hole card in case a new job doesn’t work out. If you’ve already told them you were no longer available, you might be shooting yourself in the foot.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I wouldn’t tell them you accepted one but I would tell them after you started that job.

      2. beanie gee*

        I dunno, I would probably reach out to them at the point where I got an offer from another company. If the first company is the better position, it might be worth letting them know you have another offer on the table. It likely wouldn’t change anything, but it gives the first company the option of deciding definitively if they can bring the OP on sooner. (i.e. what if the first company was a day or two away from being able to hire the OP after all? Unlikely, but leaves the OP with options.)

    2. Half-Caf Latte*

      Yes! I picked up on the language “my company” and thought that OP was overly invested (reasonably, due to her inexperience), you lay out my thoughts eloquently!

      1. Anonymity*

        It’s really never been her company. Best to just accept reality and move on. I hope a good job comes up.

  8. Lovecraft Beauty*

    Yeah, this is pretty solid advice. From the other side of the table, so to speak: my team has an open position, we found a great candidate, made an offer, and the same day, HR announced a hiring freeze. We promptly told the candidate, who has been super professional and understanding and I’m extra mad we can’t add them to the team because we desperately need the kind of people skills they’ve been exhibiting — they’re still employed at their previous position, but we don’t know when the freeze will lift, we can’t give them updates because there’s been no change, but we don’t want to leave them out in the cold. There’s just nothing to say except “yep, hiring is still frozen, we still want you, this sucks all around.”

  9. TPS reporter*

    Employer perspective here. I want my frozen positions to be unfrozen so badly. But I have to wait on HR and leadership approval. They’re holding hundreds of positions while we wait on the financials each month. It’s agonizing on our end too. We’re in this together and definitely do not begrudge anyone looking. I wish you the best of luck!

      1. WellRed*

        Yep! They need the position or they don’t. Surely they have some financial projections to go by.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s really not weird to not have financial projections right now in some businesses given that we are in an unprecedented crisis.

        2. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          Not necessarily in this crisis. This is a once every 50 or 100 year event. Really.

          My org has good projections through the next 4-6 months. After that it’s very hard to say what will happen.

        3. goducks*

          My company had great financial projections. Covid shutting down most of our customers and causing us to run at a fraction of our normal operations was not anywhere in them. Nor was absolute uncertainty as to when or if whole segments of our customer base will ever come back, as many of them are losing their businesses. All we can do is take it bit by bit and be as nimble as we can in an constantly changing set of circumstances. I’d love to have projections that meant anything. Any projection at this point is a guess at best, and more likely a wish if it includes any positives at all.

        4. Anonymity*

          Did you hear something about a pandemic? Lol. Sorry. Many companies have no financial projections. No one in the world knows how this will eventually pan out. The businesses are not to blame.

        5. A*

          A large number of industries are dependent on consumer purchasing and consumption patterns – those are impossible to predict beyond a certain point right now. That whole pesky no-modern-precedent-on-a-global-scale thing.

          This hold true for organizations of many sizes.

      2. TPS reporter*

        That’s one way to look at it. We”re frozen but we’ve also avoided layoffs and salary cuts. You just have to be careful in a very large company because one policy shift can mean millions of dollars.

      3. beanie gee*

        Well, except that HR and leadership are probably making key business decisions like “are we financially going to make it this year based on our current staffing? Can we afford to hire more people?” Hiring freezes right now aren’t necessarily related to bureaucratic delays, they are related to financial uncertainty.

        Even smaller companies without bureaucracies and HR departments usually have to do some kind of financial analysis to make hiring decisions.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        Whereas I read the horror stories here about small companies with no HR person to deal with ADA compliance issues, willful ignorance if labor law violations, and someone hired for another function doing part-time benefits administration and thank the employment gods for my wonderful HR team. Or organizations so small they’re exempt from FMLA and other protections.

        I had two open, unoffered positions cancelled when we froze. (The executive board made that call, and HR got stuck being the face of it.) Because the projections we had were based on pre-COVID19 business, which no longer match reality. I’ll take closed positions over the layoffs, furloughs, and salary cuts peer organizations are implementing.

  10. kittymommy*

    My org is in this predicament too. The organization is essential, so other than a a couple of departments, we’ve been open this whole time. The department next door to me was set to start someone right at the beginning of April; we went on a hiring freeze at the end of March so that job start got halted. I feel bad for the person, of course, but the people in that department desperately need the extra person and it just ain’t happening any time soon.

    OP, this isn’t some big game to them, please don’t think that. They probably want you as much as you want them. Start job searching – no one is going to hold it against you.

  11. HR Exec Popping In*

    OP, I am sorry that you are in this position. But Alison is correct, the company is not stringing you on and is being fully transparent. No one knows what is going to happen, unfortunately. HR is often in a position where people expect them to be able to predict the future, but alas, they cannot. Of course, they want to hire you – they made you an offer after all. But many companies are struggling to figure out if they can keep their existing employees right now.

    Please restart you job search. You will not be burning any bridges by doing so. Everyone knows what is going on and individuals need to take steps to protect themselves. Good luck.

    1. Contrarian*

      “But Alison is correct, the company is not stringing you on and is being fully transparent.”

      How do you know this for a fact?

      1. goducks*

        How could it possibly benefit the company to tell OP that the position is on hold until “the contagion is over” and that they have no information on timelines? If a company were stringing someone along, you’d think they were trying to keep OP engaged with false promises. The company’s statements have been pretty clear that there’s no job here in the foreseeable future. They don’t appear to be dangling a single carrot for her.

      2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        If they were stringing her along, they’d say “Oh we’re pushing it back to June 20th now.” and then “oh nope, gonna make that July 15 instead.” and so on.

        They’re not putting a date on it and they’re not even allowing her to be confirmed as an employee there, therefore they aren’t stringing her along. There’s no false hope here to be had as far as their letter shows.

      3. LQ*

        How do you know for a fact that HR Exec Popping In isn’t the person who has this offer open and is answering from a position of knowledge?

        1. HR Exec Popping In*

          Seriously???? I am not the HR person the OP is writing about and no one knows the full impact of COVID on the staffing levels of companies. Some companies saw an increase in their business, most saw a decline and some had no change so far. The longer this goes on, the more pronounced this is. My company is still hiring some jobs while other parts of our business has experienced layoffs due to COVID. I hope that the economic slowdown will end soon, but I can’t say that it will. The point is, no one can. And there is no benefit to a company to hold back information on the offer.

          1. A*

            ….I think LQ’s comment was pointing out the absurdity of Contrarian’s comment. Tongue in cheek?

      4. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        We don’t know it’s a fact. It’s probably true, but not certain. The OP should assume it’s true.

      5. Phoebe*

        Maybe we don’t know for a fact, but does it really matter?? They need to continue their job search regardless.

  12. SomebodyElse*

    OP, I wanted this to be a stand alone comment.

    I’m really sorry you find yourself in this position. It’s not a great place for anyone to be in (company, HR, Hiring Mgr, you) but especially you. You’ve gotten a lot of great advice, and it’s going to be tough to job search right now with so much uncertainty. I think you just need to jump back into the search and if this company calls you back with a start date, you can decide what you want to do then.

    Good luck, I really mean it, and can’t wait to hear your update about the great job you started in the near future!

    1. Shirley Keeldar*

      So much agreed–OP, I just wanted to say how sorry I feel for you and all new grads, and to assure that this is not normal! You’re in a dreadful situation (through no one’s fault); it’s confusing and disheartening. Looking for your first job can be rough in normal times, and it’s dreadful now. But it’s not permanent. Things will get better.

  13. MistOrMister*

    It’s also worth noting that if you find another job and the current company gives you any grief over it, that they weren’t people you’d want to work eith anyway. No one in the world with any sense would tell you a position has been put on hold indefinitely and expect you to stay unemployed and wait around on the chance that it might, maybe, possibly come open. Unless they’re paying you to be on standby, you don’t owe them anything beyond the courtesy of letting them know once you have accepted another position.

  14. TC*

    I’ve been in the OP’s position–not during a pandemic, but caught with a job offer during a hiring freeze, during a recession. It was agonizing. Especially the timing for me, since it was a fantastic position moving into something I used to do and had strayed from a little bit and was finally getting my foot back in the door.

    You absolutely do worry that you’re being strung along, even if you rightfully should know better. It was something like 3 months for me from the date of the job offer to my start date. Everyone around me probably thought I was crazy to hold out for it, but I didn’t have any other offers or good prospects on the table, and even though I was so stressed out the entire time, I felt like I was doing the right thing by waiting just a littttle longer. For me, it was the right thing to do in the end, as I’ve been with the company over 10 years. (The one takeaway from the experience is boy, it fast tracked my trust in my boss–the hiring manager and my contact throughout the freeze–whether partially misguided or not.)

    OP, I’m NOT here to give advice. Just wanted to chime in as someone who has been there. It sucksssssss. I know full well how much it sucks. I’m sorry you’re having to go through it. I hope everything works out for you with this job, or another one soon!

  15. M2*

    I wish someone had told you to start job searching when they updated you April 8th! Apply for jobs normally, contact your career center at your college (if they are any good) and maybe see if your college has an alumni network that could maybe help you with networking and finding out who is anyone if hiring right now. Don’t delay!

    1. fposte*

      A prospective employer isn’t likely to ever instruct a candidate/hire to keep job searching, though; that would be odd and a touch presumptive. All they can do is share the information they have.

      1. goducks*

        I’ve certainly responded to delays in the hiring process by telling candidates that I can’t provide a solid timeline for a decision or change in circumstances and that I understand that they need to take care of themselves (i.e. continue their job search). I don’t think it’s terribly uncommon for companies to acknowledge that people will make decisions that are in their own best interest.

        1. LDF*

          I got an email that a position I was in the middle of interviewing for was being frozen due to covid, and the recruiter did mention they know I might find something else before they can continue the process.

          But also I assume the top level comment meant someone in general, not necessarily from the company.

      2. kz*

        I assumed that M2 meant “someone” like the OP’s mom or boyfriend, not necessarily the contact at the company.

  16. Lilyp*

    To be fair, there’s a spectrum of “transparency” between straight up lying and not giving someone 100% of the information you have. I could easily see a less-than-perfectly-ethical company knowing, say, there’s a 95% chance the job is going to end up getting cut telling people it’s “uncertain” because if that 5% chance comes through they still want their top candidates on the hook. If they inhabit this plane of reality they’d know that some people will be job searching anyway, but they’d prefer that chance to pulling offers and losing someone for sure. I’m sure someone at the company has a more nuanced picture of the likely outcomes and timelines and probabilities than the big question mark they’ve been giving you so far, they just don’t want to share it with people who aren’t actually employees. Which isn’t BS or lying or playing a game, and may or may not be completely “reasonable” or just or fair, but also isn’t 100% transparency.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      To be fair, it is very likely the company just doesn’t know right now. No one knows what’s going to happen with COVID-19. Certain restrictions are set by the city and state. Other hiring decisions are set by the company’s financials. They do not know. It sucks, but I’d bet that HR is telling you the truth.

      1. Lilyp*

        Sure, but I bet the company has plans and probabilities and dependencies that they’re considering internally that they’re not sharing with all their candidates, like knowing that XYZ would happen if their state reopens by mid-July or the job will definitely get cut if their revenue drops by more than 20% or that the OP’s role is behind 3 other departments in priority or something. I’m not saying they’re evil for not sharing that info outside the company, just pointing out that what they’re sharing probably isn’t everything they could possibly be sharing (it’s more possible that the HR person is sharing 100% of what they know however). It sounds like they are being reasonable transparent here, but “reasonable” transparency != 100% transparency != lying

    2. goducks*

      Unlike other business ups and downs, this situation has been dynamic and unprecedented for pretty much every employer. It’s likely that nobody exactly knows what’s likely to come next and each week brings different information to weigh. And that’s likely true all the way to the top of the org.

    3. Contrarian*

      There are plenty of times when companies have been dishonest with employees about restructurings and such. We have no idea whether (1) this company is genuinely uncertain about its future staffing needs, or (2) it has affirmatively decided not to hire for this position and is being coy about it so as not to alarm the market. Either scenario is plausible.

      Either way, OP should re-start her job search.

    4. LQ*

      Well the other thing is what even a company who is being ethical may know that it is fairly likely they are going to have to cut a few departments, and based on the past that’s usually training and marketing (or whatever) and so it’s likely that the jobs in those departments won’t go through, but that there are jobs in other areas and that those could, or they could end up doing additional hiring in some areas.

      If the company is putting a statement on their website, they aren’t talking to YOU. So they could know 99% that when they move foward that this one job in the training department will be canceled, but that doesn’t mean they are unethical if they have 500 other jobs of which they know like 10 of them for sure canceled, 100 likely, 300 go through, and entirely unsure on the rest. They are talking in generalaties, not to you so assuming that just because your experience isn’t what they are saying, doesn’t mean they are lying.

      Most people aren’t over 6 feet tall. That doesn’t mean I don’t exist. But we can’t talk to everyone personally all the time for everything (and people don’t want that, that’s really big brother) so sometimes you get humans are usually 5-6 feet tall. That’s not a lie just because I’m over 6 feet.

  17. hayling*

    If you find another job before this one becomes a reality, you’re not burning a bridge. If for some reason the *do* freak out, then they just taught you a lot about that company and you will have dodged a bullet.

  18. goducks*

    One thing I noticed, and the OP should consider is that they called this “my current company”. Without actually starting, this is neither her company nor current.
    I don’t point that out to nitpick language, but to help OP reframe this in her head. She’s already invested in this job, which is purely theoretical at this point. She should reset her thinking to one of this being a strong opportunity, but not a job that she has, and be looking in the same way she was when this came along.
    Good luck, OP, I hope you find something soon, or that this company is able to re-engage in the process with you.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Agree 100%, that jumped at me. Especially the part where she listed them on an apartment application and they did reach out to say “we can’t do that for you because you don’t actually work here yet.”

      It says a lot that they wouldn’t even verify employment to me. I needed to have a firm offer and letter in place to get my apartment locked down for my relocation. The employer had no problem saying “yep, we’re still on to hire her on that date!” but if there was some kind of hiring freeze and put that offer on hold, nope nope nope nope.

  19. WellRed*

    They are not your “current company” as you don’t in fact work for them and never have. Please stop wasting time and start looking. If and when your promised position becomes available, great! But they don’t expect you to wait for them, nor should you.

  20. MissDisplaced*

    I’m sorry this happened OP. It is frustrating!

    Unfortunately, I think it just IS what is is right now. And I don’t think this place is lying or doing it on purpose to string you along, they most likely really don’t know and/or can’t say because of the pandemic. My own company has jobs posted, but we’re in a hiring freeze and on and off short furloughs. I had a job interview back in March, that was abruptly derailed due to COVID shutdowns (they said they pickup the interviews but thus far they haven’t).

    I know it feels like you were hired. But honestly, you don’t work there yet. You really should have continued looking as soon as they informed you of the delay, but now you really need to be looking all over again! It sucks. Sometimes these things happen even without a pandemic, which is a lesson learned that you keep searching until you actually start the job. Heck, I’ve even kept searching until I got my first paycheck (depending on the place).

  21. Anne Elliot*

    OP, allow me to be the voice of pre-pandemic experience. I was offered a job several years ago that was “contingent on funding” but “absolutely, you are our preferred candidate and we want you to start as soon as the funding comes through” and “the funding is almost certainly guaranteed, it’s part of a budget package that is routinely approved” and “we should be hearing that the funding has been approved just any day now” and then . . . . the funding did not come through. I checked back with the company periodically for SIX MONTHS and got the same answer that they were still waiting and had no further information. I was not smart enough to see the writing on the wall and it was not until I called my HR contact and was told “he doesn’t work here anymore” (he had retired), that I thought, oh I see. This probably is never going to happen. Meanwhile, I had eaten significantly into my limited savings by pinning all my hopes on that almost-offer and not continuing to job hunt. Do not be like me. Anything short of a clear offer is NOT an offer, and to protect yourself you need to come looking.

    I got a job three months after this debacle, and three months after THAT (or one year after the job was virtually promised to me), the company called me back and said “Hey! We finally got the funding! When can you start???” To which I said Ha ha ha, thanks but no thanks.

    Don’t be like me. Start job searching now.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Please don’t diminish your intelligence because you fell into a very easy trap! It’s not that you weren’t smart enough, it’s that you were trusting and taken advantage of.

      It sounds like that HR guy was so checked out that he knew that he could just quietly slip into retirement without giving you the news that it was a long shot. Grrrrrr. Seen that happen before a few times over the years. Or just not having the kindness to not keep someone who is obviously eager to work there in that role on the hook with such wishy-washy language and false hopes.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had it happen – I loved the company, they really liked me, I still think we would’ve worked well together. They told me I was underqualified for the one senior position they were currently interviewing for, but that they had funding coming through in the next few months, would be hiring more people then, and would get in touch, because they would really like to have me on their team. Six month rolled around and no word from them. What was different in my situation was that I already had a job, that I wanted to move on from, but didn’t really need to. So I kept working at my old job and interviewing at other places, occasionally thinking “I can’t believe they ghosted me. They seemed so nice!” Fast forward several years, I got back in touch with the recruiter who’d sent me that opening years ago, and while we were chatting and catching up, I asked her how (company) was doing. “Oh, they went out of business. The funding never came through.” At least your company got the funding in the end. I don’t think this is something they could control. I’m impressed that they held afloat for a year without it.

  22. justabot*

    I can understand how disappointing it is to think you have gotten your first “real” job out of college, celebrate the offer, look for a new place to live…then watch it all snatched back, held just out of your grasp. It must feel like wait, what just happened??

    It sounds like the LW may be in a little bit of denial, clinging to the hope that this job WILL materialize, it’s just a matter of time and hanging on. The reality is this job may no longer be on the table, for all the reasons Alison described. No one knows. The LW keeps asking for status updates on an estimated start date. The problem is, the offer may not just be delayed – it may no longer exist. I’m not sure the LW fully grasps that? The boyfriend is saying “this is BS” likely because he’s thinking what many of us are – that this job offer may be more than delayed. But I don’t think anyone at the company is promising or indicating to LW that the offer will definitely still be there when a hiring freeze is lifted.

    I think that’s what the LW really, really wants to believe and is hanging on to the belief that “they are just delaying my start date.” The boyfriend is hearing this, warning alarms are going off in his head, and he’s saying… “That’s BS. You need to be job searching.” It’s not BS, or what the company has even promised — it’s just that the LW may be a bit naive on the reality of what a hiring freeze actually means, especially during these times, and face the reality that the offer they were so excited to get is currently off the table. Maybe it will come back, maybe it won’t, but no one knows, as companies continue to navigate circumstances that keep changing every day.

    1. justabot*

      ETA: And I know it sucks, but the fact that you DID get a job offer before all this hopefully made it much easier to qualify for unemployment under PUA, something you normally wouldn’t have qualified for without enough work history. The fact that you DID have a job lined up should have (hopefully) made it an easier process to get approved.

    2. ampersand*

      Yes, this was my take on it, too. LW is already invested and thinking of it as the company she works for, and, unfortunately, it’s not. And she’s therefore having trouble reconciling “I work for this company” and “they won’t tell me my start date.” From that perspective, I can see how it feels like LW is being strung along (“Why won’t they tell me when I can start? I signed a cover letter, I am their employee, and they must know!”).

      This is one of those cases where, as an outsider, it’s much easier to see and understand what’s happening. Reading her letter it’s so clear that LW needs to find a new job, because she doesn’t have a job with them. It’s also very easy to fall into thinking this way when you’re invested in something (a job, a relationship, anything).

    3. SomebodyElse*

      Very nicely said. I think this is probably a pretty good recap of what is going on.

  23. LQ*

    Entirely agree on the job search actively. This is a bird in the bush at this point.

    The good news is I think this is unlikely to burn a bridge and if it does, it was not a good bridge to start with. Every decent company will understand. It’s been months, they aren’t saying anything. All even mediocre employers will fully get why you want a bird in the hand. Good luck with your job search.

  24. nnn*

    Also, if you get another job and Current Company (I’m going to stick with that nomenclature for clarity) subsequently comes through with an offer and a start date, you can still leave Other Job and go over to Current Company. A short stint at a job right after graduation during a pandemic isn’t going to ruin your resume. (And could even be left off your resume – an employment gap right after graduation during a pandemic isn’t going to ruin your resume either)

  25. Anonymity*

    Sadly you do not have a job with this company and it does not look to be coming anytime soon. Dust off your resume. You’ve contacted them numerous times and they have nothing to offer you.

  26. Archaeopteryx*

    This company doesn’t know anymore than you do about how the pandemic’s going to go down in the next few months or years. We can’t really say to what extent the world is in the beginning, middle, or (not likely) end of this story, and it makes 100% sense that they need to hold off until the revenue starts picking up to bring more people on board. They’re being transparent with you about the fact that they don’t know when that’s going to happen but that will be the deciding factor.

  27. justabot*

    One of my friends had received a job offer for a high level executive position right before Covid-19 really hit in March. The company took a major hit with closures, furloughed thousands of employees, implemented a hiring freeze, and ended up rescinding her offer. It’s very possible that they will reach out to her again for this position in the future. But they did actually “rescind” the offer. Which in some ways may be kinder for someone like the LW because it leaves no ambiguity or impression that the start date is merely delayed for an unknown time.

    I feel for the LW – I think the initial language that the company was “delaying all start dates until it is clear…” set the belief that the job was simply postponed. And that very well could have been the genuine thought at the time. It was a different world back in March – in some states it was okay, 60 day stay in place orders, etc and then everything would open back up and go back to normal. That’s not how it played out in many places. The company’s May 6 update saying that there was a “hiring freeze” in place is much more clear and less ambiguous. The company isn’t hiring right now and it’s not just a postponed start date anymore – everything is TBD. The difference is subtle and I think LW may have missed it. LW is still clinging to her offer letter and that her start date is just being pushed back. Mom and boyfriend are getting doubtful and asking the hard questions.

    I can see how feeling left in a limbo state would be hard and cause anxiety and uncertainty. In my friend’s situation, rescinding her offer at least gave clarity. Luckily she had not yet given notice at her current job.

  28. Mel_05*

    My employer did a.chunk of lay offs and told us that they plan to hire us back, but also that they can’t predict what will happen, so they understood if we had to take a position elsewhere.

    I’m glad that I haven’t had to do that (I start back next week) but it wouldn’t have burned a bridge if I did. I actually expect they would have given me a nice recommendation – not that, that applies here, but just… that’s how expected it is.

  29. Lemon Meringue Pie*

    I’m so sorry but I think you sound a bit in denial right now – I was very surprised that you listed them on your apartment application when you don’t actually work for them.

    One very very hard lesson you’re unfortunately learning super early in your career is that a job offer doesn’t always mean you end up with a job. You really do need to start job searching again. I’m so sorry! Best of luck!

  30. Breckgirl*

    Way back when, I had interviewed for my very first real job which sounded like it was a given that I was going to get. I must have listed it on some form, before I ever had an offer. Um…. stupid? Don’t judge, it was 25 years ago and I was clueless. I don’t even remember where I listed it. I was just so excited that I was going to have my first job. I did get an offer eventually, but it was several weeks later, and I had ended up taking a different job in the mean time. Well a few years later, I saw a copy of my credit report and noticed this first company was listed on there as a place I had been employed. I was shocked. I took care of it immediately and it was my own stupidity for even listing it somewhere in the first place. I wasn’t trying to be deceitful, it just seemed like a given. It didn’t cause me any issues, but lesson learned, don’t do or assume anything, ever, until it’s official, official… So just be careful if you listed this company on any form, lease, opening a new bank account, car, etc.- it may show up on a credit report even if you never actually end up hired and employed there…. and it’s a pain (and ethical) to correct.

  31. LizM*

    OP, I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. I graduated from law school in 2009 at the height of the economic crisis. Classmates who had offers since the start of the academic year saw their start dates get pushed back further and further until the offers eventually disappeared.

    I would keep looking. If this job ends up coming through, then great! But it’s time to figure out your plan B.

  32. MCMonkeyBean*

    “delaying all start dates until it is clear that the contagion is over”

    That’s probably a long timeline. They’re not going to know any more now than they did last month, and you could easily be looking at a year or more before reaching “the contagion is over” status.

    I would consider this job gone and move on. If they end up reaching back out then you can reconsider, but definitely don’t wait around for it.

  33. Kella*

    Definitely not the same thing but in non-pandemic times, I host a weekly dance event, so I was in charge of deciding when to close the event when the pandemic got serious and I’m in charge of deciding when to start it up again.

    Being in a position of power like that, people seem to expect that you have information that they don’t about what’s going to happen with the virus or how things are going to play out. I just really want to emphasize how incredibly unprecedented this whole situation is. No one has a business plan for how to get through a pandemic or how it will impact your business or how long it will take to get back to normal. Literally no one knows what to expect even a month from now.

    Which means any decision that you make that impacts your business long term is 10 times harder to assess. Maybe they could afford to hire you in July but then things could tank in the fall and they’d have to lay you off again. No one knows. They are in a “wait and see” state just as much as you are, OP.

  34. NewJobSameStuff*

    If you end up accepting another job before this one comes through, you’d just contact them and explain that, and they will accept it graciously because they’ve understood all along that was possible or even likely.

    And if they don’t that’s a very good sign that this is an unhealthy work environment and I would assume you’d dodged a bullet

  35. Optimist*

    You qualify for pandemic unemployment assistance. File for unemployment in your state and they will divert you to the PUA. You will get back unemployment to the date the job offer was recalled.

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