I was offered a job, not given much time for an answer, and then things went south

A reader writes:

Last week I was offered a job at a big government agency after a six-week interview process. I’m coming out of grad school, the job was a perfect fit, and the offer came in high. I received it on Wednesday morning and responded within a few hours saying thank you, I would talk to my wife, and be in touch by the end of the week. I quickly received a response saying they needed a response by the next morning. I said I could possibly make that deadline but would be in touch as soon as possible.

The next morning (Thursday) at 8 am, I received an email saying they needed a decision. I responded that I was not prepared to accept the position under the timeline (my wife and I weren’t ready — other jobs were also coming online — and I hadn’t yet talked to my committee) and so if they needed an answer that day, the answer was no.

Within an hour I received a call (I was dealing with contractors at my house and missed the call so it went to voicemail) and text message from an upper manager in the organization that failed to acknowledge that I had declined the job and basically said, “I’m here to answer any questions you have” while simultaneously hard selling (city X is amazing, good schools, etc).

I returned the call a few hours later and basically said, “I resent the pressure campaign, go away” and got a little heated during the exchange. I admit this was unprofessional, but I felt wildly disrespected. After that, it was over.

There had been tells of pushiness throughout the interview process; they moved one interview without asking and simply announced a new time and had me do a challenge with very little notice or turnaround time. Plus, my meeting with the big boss was basically him trying to prove he knew my specialty more than me.

My question is simple: what is going on here? Was this just a bad culture, is this normal? I’m really having trouble processing the experience. One of my friends says this was insecurity playing out, but I am just so confused how this fell apart on me, although I think I’m glad that it did.

I’m dying to know more about what “I got a little heated” means and exactly what you said during that call — because it sounds like you might have reacted much more harshly than was warranted — but ultimately that doesn’t really impact the answer to your question. (But still — why so heated?)

I’d guess what happened is pretty much what it looks like on the surface: For whatever reason, they had a quick turnaround time and they needed an answer the next day. You declined to give them one, and that was that. The upper manager who called you either didn’t know you’d already declined and/or did know but still hoped to convince you to accept.

As for the tight turnaround time — it might be legitimate or it might not. It’s possible their second-choice candidate had a deadline of their own, and so if you weren’t going to accept they needed to know by Thursday so they could offer it to that person instead. There could be some other explanation too — other internal pieces being moved which had their own timelines and which this hiring decision would affect, or who knows what. Sometimes that stuff happens. A good employer will do what they can to avoid it — because they should want you to have at least a few days to think over the offer and make sure it’s right for you. But sometimes timing really does get tight … although when it does, they should explain that and acknowledge it’s not ideal (which they don’t seem to have done).

Other times the rush isn’t legitimate. Sometimes it’s just that they spent six weeks on the process and now that they’re done with their pieces of it, they want you to finish your piece of it instantly. That’s not reasonable. Sometimes they’re just not that invested in hiring you and so if you’re not going to be a quick yes, they’d rather move on to other candidates. That’t not a great sign either.

Also, am I understanding correctly that they did this all by email, including the initial offer? If so, that’s ridiculous — if they had that kind of tight timeline where they needed a response within 24 hours, they should have called you. What if you hadn’t even seen the offer email until the next day?

But I wouldn’t have called any of this “wildly disrespectful,” so I’m curious about why you felt that way. Sloppy, yes. Rushed, yes. But “we need an answer by tomorrow because Reasons” isn’t inherently disrespectful — even if it means you decide not to accept — and a call from a senior manager trying to sell you on the job isn’t disrespectful. The latter is pretty common. So I’m thinking you might have been bringing your own stuff to this too — maybe because you were already annoyed from the pushiness you mentioned earlier in the process.

I don’t agree with your friend that it’s insecurity from the employer. I don’t see any real signs of that, except maybe with that interviewer who wanted to show he knew more about your specialty than you do. It just sounds like a somewhat sloppy hiring process, but not outrageously or offensively so. Those are more normal than they should be, unfortunately.

{ 327 comments… read them below }

  1. Janet Pinkerton*

    One possibility is that the cert was expiring. My buddy got his job offer on the very last day the cert (essentially the hiring authority) was open—basically if they hadn’t been able to reach him that day they would have had to totally reannounce in order to select him (or anyone)! He accepted it on the spot, which he was always going to do for complex reasons.

    1. PollyQ*

      If that were the case, the employer would’ve done much better to tell OP if there was a deadline like that, along with a mild apology — “Sorry to give you so little time, but we need an answer today [because reasons].”

      1. Just no*

        I think this is definitely true for typical employers, but when it comes to fed gov agencies, they sometimes have reasons for needing immediate responses that they wouldn’t necessarily want to disclose to candidates.

        1. TootsNYC*

          But then you say, “We need a candidate in that slot by tomorrow, because of administrative reasons, so if you can’t say yes now, we’ll move on to someone else, no hard feelings. Sorry to apply that kind of pressure, but we need an answer.”

          1. Hi there*

            I totally agree that that is the ideal, but as you’ll see throughout the comments in this post, federal government employers often do exactly what the employer did here. They almost never give reasons.

    2. Bricolage on the Brink*

      Assuming this is federal government, as long as the selection was made on the cert before it expired, the hire would be valid (so, yes, maybe a second selection needed to be made before it expired). And, assuming this was federal government, the rush is ridiculous because this was all just the tentative job offer…it would have definitely been a hurry up and wait situation unless the OP already had a valid and appropriately leveled background/security check on hand. (Source: worked in a Chief Human Capital Officer immediate office of a large federal agency for many years, particularly focused on process improvements in these areas)

      1. this is another name*

        So, that mileage may vary. I am involved in hiring graduates for my office at a federal agency and we sometimes need to know fairly quickly because we don’t want to lose the other candidates if candidate #1 says no. The fact that the hiring process is so difficult exacerbates that rush. The fact that it may be a while before they’re onboarded doesn’t affect that. Also, not all agencies need the background process done before the start date.

        1. Tiger Snake*

          Agreed. Federal agencies are glaciers – but people forget that while a glacier is slow to start, once it gets going it must move very, very fast.

          Agencies know that the internal policies, which is why getting to the offer stage takes so long, loses them potential employees. They therefore know that they can’t afford to lose anymore of their ideal candidates whilst waiting for answers if they can at all help it.

          And then there’s one other point unique in a government agency: They don’t make money, they receive funding.
          Government and the big bosses are very reluctant to loosen the purse strings, because if they go over budget they get pulled up in front of the whole country. But if they don’t spend all their money, they get less the next year.

          Which means – both for projects and for new hires – they spend a lot of time trying to get to the point where they money has come through and then a very, very short time period that they will have that money to use it in – if they wait, the position simply no longer exists because the money was taken back.

        2. Chocolate carrot*

          So you’re willing to lose your first pick because you’re worried about losing the second or third?

          That seems silly.

          Unless you really don’t care who you hire you should be willing to let people read through and consider an offer, not just jump down the list to grab the first person willing to say yes without information. Also, if I know that’s the game I’ll say yes on the phone, then review the documents and if necessary withdraw my acceptance.

          This is unless they have all the information in advance and so the offer is the formality at the end of the negotiation/discussion.

          1. Tiger Snake*

            You’re assuming that the first pick will always accept the offer, which is really not what happens. If I need to make sure that one of picks 1-5 gets hired – well, #1 might be the most ideal, but you can’t risk having to hire #17 because #1 has cold feet.

            And in government, you do have all the information upfront. All salaries and conditions of employment are public record. They’re published online, in the news – you can even get them from a public library if you ask. All the information to check that is available in the hiring notice itself. Salary is broken down based on hierarchy, not your job duties – someone in HR, someone in finance and someone in legal all get paid the same amount, and that amount is publicly stated up front in the hiring notice itself.

      2. Hi there*

        Re: the hurry up and wait thing…not necessarily. There are many federal government positions that don’t require a security clearance. Mine didn’t.

        1. SentientAmoeba*

          Even if a security clearance isn’t required, you still have to pass a suitability background check.

        2. Jennifer in FL*

          My husband’s background check for his federal government job was completed before he was offered the job. They didn’t want to waste their time offering a job to someone who wouldn’t pass a background check and then re-open the cert.

      3. Fed Too*

        I agree that individual agency rules may also change this even through there’s a move for consistency. For us, if the original offeree rejects and we move to the second on the list, they would need to be the selectee before the cert expires and if we lose a cert we move down in HR priority. We also bring people on before their initial background clears.

        I think a lot of us are used to the fed hiring process and there’s a lot of internal agency transfers in my locality so I sometimes forget that I have to explain this process to outside hires and how for us we typically expect same day turnaround on offers (usually because you know the salary and benefits before the offer so there’s no much to think about).

        1. iliketoknit*

          This has been my experience with federal hiring, too – the salary and benefits pretty much are what they are, so especially after a long hiring process, you should know what you need to know to decide whether take the job, and the expectation is that you answer pretty much right away. I did ask for time to speak to my husband in one case – but for like 20 minutes.

          1. PrgrmMngr*

            This. I joined the federal workforce last year; some circumstances in our household changed and when I received an offer for one of the jobs I was most excited about, I had to ask for more details about travel expectations, and pretty much instantly knew I couldn’t commit to those. I was able to politely decline the offer after just a few minutes on the phone, and could see this consideration taking a little more time, but really all there was to consider was a specific aspect of the job in relation to what had changed in life at home.

      4. TardyTardis*

        Amazing how the company/employer gets to take all the time they want but the potential employees don’t…

    3. Fed-o*

      Was coming here to say just this. Hiring deadlines and the process in general are wonky in the government. In 15 years, I’ve never received a phone call for a job offer–only email.

    4. Prague*

      Yes, all of this. My organization has a non-waivable 48 hour timeline for the candidate to accept. Once the auto-generated email arrived on a federal holiday! That’s the only time I’ve seen a late response accepted. There’s usually a phone number in the email, but it’s for central hiring, not the actual supervisor.

      Gov is a bureaucratic culture, but the rules are there to support a fair, merit-based hiring process. The org’s culture overall can be very different from the hiring culture.

      Fed gov also sometimes has restrictions on what can be shared, and is used to questions about what life is like. The big boss may have been intended his words as helpful info, not condescending.

      A new student is still an entry-level hire, and there’s a lot of competition.

      1. The private sector does it better*

        And then folks wonder why no one wants to work for the federal government…

        1. SoloKid*

          USA gov’t jobs are extremely in demand. You may be confusing that with “no one wants to work WITH the federal government” judging by your username.

          1. ThatOnePlease*

            This. I used to work in DC, and federal jobs were the ultimate. Good pay, good benefits, job security, regular hours…all very hard to get in private sector government or political work.

      2. Librarian1*

        I fully support a fair hiring process, but I don’t see how having a 48-hour acceptance window helps with that. Can you explain?

    5. Economist*

      Yes, I’ve been involved in hiring decisions on a cert timeline. But, we told the candidates up front what our timeline was. We made a job offer on the last day of the cert, the candidate accepted, but he could have changed his mind later–we were bound to the offer but he wasn’t bound to the acceptance he gave on the spot.

      1. Anonymity*

        Plus if the person is interviewing I’d imagine the company assumed high interest in the position. I think a 24 hour turnaround is fine. If you really want this position and the money aspect is acceptable, why the delay? If you have your ducks in a row before you even interview, why get so upset? I think OP is fostering some hostility and I don’t see why. And I don’t think it comes solely from this employer.

          1. Edie W*

            I assumed the OP was currently in grad school and was referring to the thesis / dissertation committee. I think that might also explain some of the negative reaction to the short turnaround time — in higher ed it’s pretty typical for people to get a least a week to respond to an offer (partly because candidates are usually relocating and partly because that’s just the culture). I’m in higher ed and had less than 48 hours to decide about the job I have now and when I tell people that they’re often pretty surprised.

        1. Tiger Snake*

          Government agency payrates and hiring agreements are also public information; they’re on the websites. Personally, I prefer it that way; I know exactly up front what I’m getting into, rather than the rigmarole with both parties teasing what the payrate they really want vs. what they’ll accept is.

          So wanting more time to review negotiate phase that you get after an offer, which is really what the OP was talking about… well, it does raise a little bit of an eyebrow, if only from a ‘didn’t you do your research before going to the interview?’ way

    6. Tired of Covid-and People*

      Came here to say this. Federal employment is a hurry up and wait situation until they decide they want you. Not only can the cert expire, but hiring freezes can come out of the blue, and requisitions can be withdrawn. The Federal employment process is fraught and I can see someone who has no experience with it not knowing this. Six weeks actually isn’t that bad a timeline, but there are a lot of bureaucratic hoops to jump through so it is often not an intentional delay.

      That said, I can’t really see any excuse for behaving unprofessionally .

  2. Majnoona*

    Some years ago I had a job offer like this – we need an answer by tomorrow morning! Me – I need to talk to my husband. That afternoon I asked around in my field. Other people on the market had been told the same thing and declined because it wasn’t enough time. Also, I learned the place was a *nightmare* to work at and the chair, well, unethical at best. I think they wanted an answer before I had time to learn more about the job.

    1. A Reader*

      This was my gut: they wanted it before I could fully consider something; I just haven’t figured out what

    2. Allypopx*

      This is a common tactic in notoriously terrible jobs like political canvassing (the wave people down on the street flavor). They want you to start the next day so your family and friends don’t have a chance to talk you out of it. Seeing it at the professional level is…unnerving.

      1. Majnoona*

        In fairness, there were red flags. Only job interview I’ve ever been to where I thought I could silently hear people saying Run!

    3. The New Wanderer*

      Same situation for me a few years ago. They called with the offer the same day I had the final interview and wanted an answer by the next day. I asked for more time and grudgingly got an extra 24 hours, but they were clear that they wanted to be able to offer the job to the next candidate ASAP if I declined.

      I declined within the original timeline and made it clear that I felt the offer was fair but I was unwilling to accept under such a tight deadline. I didn’t mention that it left no opportunity to negotiate but the pressure to accept the offer as-is was definitely off-putting. Later I found out they didn’t get any candidates to accept and the job stayed unfilled for a while. If the first company had reached back out to see if I had reconsidered the offer after more time had passed, I probably would have accepted. That they didn’t is no big deal, but did make me feel like they just needed a warm body, not me and my specific skills.

    4. Aquawoman*

      But LW had a six week interview process, which seems like adequate time to have done research and had initial conversations with one’s spouse. He already knew everything he needed to know.

      1. JMR*

        Agreed. In the OP’s scenario, with a six-week interview process and the offer being received some time after the final interview, the only new information they receieved when the offer officially came in was the financial piece. And they should have already thought this through and decided what to do in different scenarios – I think fair market value is $X-15%, I’ll consider an offer as low as $X-10%, I might go below that if Y or Z (signing bonus, commission, incredible insurance, etc). I would think they would have already had conversations with the hiring manager and co-workers and had a chance to ask questions as part of the interview process, and discussed the various scenarios with their spouse, so I’m just not sure on what would take so long to decide. Having to do it overnight is a bit of a tighter timeline than usual, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable.

        1. JMR*

          Addendum: I jumped the gun a bit here, because I Just read below where the OP chimed in that he needed to discuss the timeline with his grad school committe first because the job would have required him to start before the end of the semester. I am sure the committee was aware of his job searching, but the specifics of the timeline relative to his dissertation might not have been discussed before an offer was made. Sorry! In that case, I understand why expecting a decision within 24 hours was not possible.

          1. A Reader*

            Definitely the case. they knew about the job an offer, but we literally had no time (22 hours from offer to “we need an answer now” despite pushback from me)

        2. Uranus Wars*

          I think what you are saying is a good consideration – in a non-toxic space. I had a 6-interview process once – was spared the 7th dinner interview due to being single. I had some things planned out in my head, but then at the offer they busted out the calculator, did their version of tax math to convince me their offer was what I wanted if I needed to make X (looking back WTF?!?) and if I didn’t accept before I left I was out of the running.

          I was certain wanted the job, but a lot of things factored in that after I was offered I wanted one more night to sleep on it. Scenarios in your head and different before they turn into a reality, and when confronted with a “now or never” scenario my brain kind of fizzled, I lost my planned “Well X if you can’t offer Y” and it was probably one of the worst career decisions I’ve made. All worked out 10 years later.

            1. EmKay*

              I think the other way around? There would have been a group dinner w/ spouses if OP were not single.

        3. GammaGirl1908*

          As with so many other things about government hiring (assuming this is the US federal government), the salary is not a surprise (or particularly negotiable). You know that you are interviewing for a GS-7, Step 1 from the beginning of the process, and there’s not usually negotiating about that or its salary. A GS-7/1 is what it is. Government benefits are what they are.

          Unless you have a more complicated situation (usually involving previous government service, like you have military time that can be considered to move you to a different step, or you’re coming from an agency that does pay bands instead of steps), you are expected to know the offer package when you apply.

          Government HR people are likely assuming that the candidate has that information. Now, a really green candidate may not know that there’s no negotiating with the government machine, but the HR person does.

          Note, this describes my first government hiring experience too. I got an offer, asked if anything was negotiable, was told no and that they needed an answer in 48 hours. I shut up and took it.

          1. SentientAmoeba*

            If you are brand new to the Federal government, there is a small amount of wiggle room for negotiation but you have to be an outstanding candidate. The Hiring manager would have to submit a request to bring you on at a higher step or offer incentives above and beyond what was in the announcement and it’s up to the Commander and RM (resource management) to approve the request. Thats why in Fed you get two offers, the Tentative to get things rolling and the Firm, which is the final official offer. Once you are a Fed employee, negotiation is out the window.

            1. GammaGirl1908*

              Then, not only is that wiggle room infinitesimal and only for a very rare candidate, but — exactly to the point being made in this thread — on those rare occasions it exists, there’s a very limited amount of time to make it happen before the hire has to get finalized. It’s less that there’s no wiggle room, and more that a) if there was wiggle room for you, you’d know it already, and b) even if there is wiggle room for you, we now don’t have time to make it happen before we have to start all over again with this 6 month hiring process.

              I’ve been a fed for 15 years, and from what I’ve heard and experienced? Most people apply, wait 2 months for an interview, finally assume they’re not being considered, then get a call or email out of the blue for an interview 2 days later. Then they wait 2 months to hear anything, finally assume nothing is coming, get a call or email practically out of the blue with an offer, and then have a couple of days to accept with no wiggle room or negotiating.

      2. TootsNYC*

        You don’t make a decision until you have the actual offer and actual numbers, true, but you can have a LOT of that decision-making done.

        You should be far enough along that all you’re evaluating now is the final number, if it is different. And maybe living with the decision overnight or so.

      3. Self Employed*

        Apparently LW wanted to balance this job vs the others where they were not as far along in the hiring process. I wish I’d been in that position when I was looking for work after grad school!

        1. Joan Rivers*

          I got the sense of over-confidence here, leading to some reckless rudeness.

          Why wouldn’t they have already decided by this time if they’re willing to take an offer or not? It’s OK to accept the offer if you want to and keep looking at other options.

          Too busy w/the “renovations”? Tossing that in as if the job was supposed to know that and give you more leeway, that sounds entitled. And scattered.

    5. Qwerty*

      This is where I land – the pressure sales tactic is so common with toxic workplaces and bad deals that I don’t trust it. If a company wants me to be prepared with a quick answer, then they need to send over all of the paperwork on benefits, company handbook, etc during the hiring process and be upfront about the salary range. If they wait to present all that until the offer stage, then they need to give the candidate time to review and consider all of the information.

      1. Self Employed*

        Well, for LW’s federal job, they had 6 weeks to research it because it’s publicly available.

    6. Rainbow Brite*

      I once had a friend who was offered a job she hadn’t even applied for, was grudgingly given 24 hours to think it over, and then had the offer pulled well before that deadline because she “wasn’t enthusiastic enough” and “should have been more grateful.” (This was a professional job and she was in her mid-20s.) Bullets dodged all around!

        1. Rainbow Brite*

          That was verbatim — this was around ten years ago, but that part was so egregious that it stuck.

  3. halfwolf*

    it’s hard to say from a distance if this really was a Bad Culture, but i think you should still feel confident in turning it down because it sounds like a bad cultural fit for you specifically. which is okay! you’re allowed to decide that you have dealbreakers that aren’t up-and-down, 110% Totally Rational And Justifiable As Fact. as for whether this will happen again – it could! or not! really no way to know. but you at least now have a piece of data about your job search (that you don’t like feeling pressured to make a decision) and can move forward better informed about what is important to you. and if it does happen again, i don’t think it would be outrageous to (politely) inquire as to the reason they need such a quick turnaround time.

  4. A Reader*

    Original author here:
    Thank you for the thoughts.
    I agree I was bringing my own stuff to it and had an uneasy feeling about the job after the earlier pushiness and interview. My wife and I were leaning towards no, but weren’t there yet; it’s hard to let go of what seemed like a good job on paper. As I’ve had time to process I’ve come to see that more clearly.
    Yep, initial offer was via email, which was odd.

    1. Allypopx*

      Sounds like you had a bad gut feeling to begin with. I’m a big proponent of trusting your gut.

      1. Bricolage on the Brink*

        The initial offer by email isn’t SO strange if it was federal government. Many fed HR offices are so used to hiring current federal employees (especially after the previous administration was trying to limit hiring/footprint increases across the board), they sometimes forget (or don’t know at all) that hiring looks really different outside the fed context. Literally, a hiring manager calling you to offer a job isn’t a job offer in the federal government – the written offer is the thing.

        1. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

          I way prefer a written offer! Otherwise I hang up the phone and then go “did I really just get the job? I didn’t mishear?”

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            A lot of government relies on clear paper trails. Even when I was offered my job (face to face – I had been a contractor), I got an official offer letter.

        2. ThatGirl*

          I have gotten all of my offers by phone but either asked for or been told I would get a follow up in writing. Because I want the details in writing, I want to look over benefits, all of that.

        3. Observer*

          It theory, it’s not strange at all. But it IS strange when you need that kind of turn around. In such a case you pick up the phone, in addition to the email.

        4. chewingle*

          I think the issue is less that it was sent via email and more that it was sent via email with such a tight timeline. If LW had taken the rest of the day off to go to a doctor appointment or something, the deadline could have passed before LW even knew there was one. A phone call with, “We’ll email you about the details” would have been more appropriate in this case. I wonder if their assumption that LW would be online to answer immediately also says something about the company’s work/life balance.

    2. Fed-o*

      At my cabinet-level agency, though, almost all initial offers are via email, as well as the formal offers once clearance is complete. So follow your gut, but remember government can be different.

      1. MechE*

        Another federal employee here. I’ve only ever had offers by email and anything else would strike me as strange. It is important to remember that our experiences are not everyone else’s experiences, nor are they the absolute truth or “one true way”.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But an emailed offer and an expectation of an answer in less than 24 hours is weird. If you’re going to email and have a tight timeline, follow it up with a call asking them to look at the offer so they don’t see it after your deadline is passed.

        1. Kevin Sours*

          The lesson here is the Federal hiring process is weird. The contractor end gets even weirder because stuff gets written into contracts, passed into subcontracts, proves to be impossible, then needs to get worked around because reopening the contract to change it is a nonstarter.

        2. LizM*

          Individual agencies have rules about who can discuss an offer, and some of the emails are generated automatically. HR may generate an email, but the individual HR analyst may not have time to follow up with a phone call until later in the day. If they got an email response before that acknowledging the deadline (which OP sent), they may not feel the need to follow up with a phone call.

          Honestly, there is a lot about federal HR that is wonky, and if a candidate isn’t able to accept that the process is less than ideal and roll with it, government employment may not be for them. I know so many people who get so worked up about bureaucracy, I have to remind them from time to time that they literally have the word “Bureau” on their business card.

        3. SentientAmoeba*

          So I’m Fed HR and when we sent a TJO (Tentative Job Offer) we give candidates 48 hours to accept. (In my agency, we give some flex for weekends and holidays). The TJO is us saying, this is the job and what it pays. Accepting the TJO means we can start any onboarding like requesting security checks, drug tests, physicals and anything else that needs to be done prior to the person starting. Once everything is good to go they get a Firm job offer and that’s the final word. They also have 48 hours to accept. There’s a lot of discussion that goes on between and by the time the person got their Firm offer, there shouldn’t be anymore questions about pay, benefits etc. because that is all provided during the TJO period. For a new to Federal gov employee, TJO period runs 6-8 weeks depending on how much needs to get done.

          1. Madeleine Matilda*

            I am guessing that the OP didn’t understand that there would be time between the tentative job offer and the final job offer. If I had been him, I would have accepted the TJO, taken the time before the FJO to figure out if I wanted to the job with my spouse, and then either accepted the FJO or withdrawn my acceptance.

            1. Librarian1*

              I would assume OP didn’t know this. I don’t work in the federal government and I wouldn’t know that. In the private sector you just get the one offer.

      3. Observer*

        Yes, but even in federal hiring, if you need that kind of turn around, you pick up the phone and call / text to say “We sent you the offer. We need a response ASAP. Please check your email.”

        1. Prague*

          A good hiring manager will do that, yes. But if the offer is controlled by central hiring, the hiring manger may have *no* idea the offer was even sent.

          Ask me how I know. :( And I was asking every day if they’d sent the offer to the candidates yet.

          The hiring process is one of the worst parts, but not necessarily representative of the culture overall.

          1. Anon Entity*

            Echoing this. When I was interviewing for the fed job I have now, the hiring manger gave me a call to tell me that I should be expecting an offer “soon.” I think it was two or three (slightly stressful) weeks later that I actually got the e-mail—at which point I called the hiring manager to let her know I’d received the offer. It was the first she knew about it.

            I’m still not sure if we were supposed to have been talking outside of HR.

    3. SomebodyElse*

      From your original letter I was leaning towards “Eh… you should probably have a pretty good idea if your going to take an offer as long as it falls under certain parameters” and your reaction to want several days might be a little odd.

      But with this update and feelings of uneasiness gives a bit more perspective. It also tells me that the wanted delay was more stall than logistics of deciding. That’s not bad, but it probably would have been better to not make a big deal over the tight timeline asked for a decision. Of course me being a Monday Morning QB, it’s easy to say that :)

      24 hours is not out of the norm for offer letter replies, like I said most people have a pretty good idea if they want the job before the offer is presented, and as long as there isn’t any big surprises in the offer it’s usually not a problem.

      1. Anon for this*

        I would need at least 12 hours to decide. Maybe not 24, but definitely several hours to process. My situation at work is pretty miserable, but at least I get interesting work handed to me, and am regarded as an expert, and I will have to think long and hard to be certain I’m accepting a new job for the right reasons and not just to get out out out and away from my manager. I’m fully aware that as bad as things are here, they could be worse elsewhere, and trading my lack of COL raises, miniscule PTO, and anxious stressing over trying to do 80 hours of work in 40 hours and inevitably failing, for a situation where promised raises never materialize unless you’re the boss’s favorite, or go to their church, or PTO is never approved, or any one of the nightmare boss scenarios that have been covered here, is not something I want to do.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          Oh for sure most people do need some time to make that final decision. Even if they’ve already made up their mind in theory.

          You always need to look at the actual offer and review the benefits package to make sure there aren’t any surprises and they fall in line with expectations. I mean, yes you can do that in 5 minutes but I don’t think anyone expects you to.

          I also think it’s prudent to step away from the decision for at least some time to give your brain time to noodle over it. But all that being said, that can usually be done in 24 to 48 hours.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            Yes, I remember once getting the offer and the headline was fantastic and the interviews had shown it was a great role with a great culture fit. But in the end the nitty gritty was tricky – the details of the precise working hours meant a huge proportion of the salary bump would disappear in tax and logistical costs including childcare and transportation, so instead of “should I take this good job with a pay bump” it became “should I take this good job with no more actual money” which is a totally different conversation.

      2. Observer*

        That may be true in Federal hiring, but it’s not true anywhere else. Especially, as the OP notes in the original letter that there were some other offers to look at as well.

    4. MechE*

      As someone who has been with the federal government for their career, an offer isn’t an offer unless it is by email or letter (for all the federal government positions of which I’m aware). Things have to be done in writing for the purpose of accountability, audit-ability, and in case there is a protest of the hiring action.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        That’s typical of private sector too, except the letter is usually preceded with a phone call.

        “Hi Wakeen, I’d like to offer you the position of Lead Paper Clip Sorter.”
        “Oh, that’s great”
        “I’ll be sending you the details in an offer letter along with information on our benefits package for your review, if it’s acceptable and you’re still interested we ask for you to return the signed letter as indicated within 24 hours. Please let me know if you have any questions about the offer or anything else. I’ll be sending as soon as we hang up so let me know if you don’t receive it”

        1. SentientAmoeba*

          The joys of 2021 is people never answer their phone when you call. So I usually call, leave a message asking for a call back and send the offer email. A LOT of people never bother to return the call.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        Same for the corporate jobs I’ve had. Offer isn’t an offer unless it’s written.

        1. Zzzzzzz*

          Not true, legally speaking. Contracts, offers, any of that can be verbal. If things go south later, it’s better if things were in writing. But an offer can absolutely be verbal.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            Offers of employment are not really contracts in the US either (they can be, but that is rare). But I agree with Jules, who I suspect was using this in the colloquial sense to a degree, until I see a paper with details and my name on it, I’m going to consider anything said as a hopeful thinking.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Also, ‘written’ can mean ‘it’s on paper only when the job seeker prints the soft-copy letter.’

          I’ve lost count of how many candidates have been/are unsettled by emailed offer letters: ‘When will I get the actual letter?!’ Some folks still expect a formal, hard copy letter or portfolio via FedEx or somesuch, and that’s just not the norm in most corporate settings. I can’t speak for jobs in the government, education, or other employers, though.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Don’t get me started on the rhubarb electronic signatures caused back in the day…

          1. The Rafters*

            State employee here. We email a signed letter to the candidates, so it’s not just an informal communication. Everything else LW said is typical of state gov as well. Hurry up and wait, then hurry up.

    5. FisherCat*

      Initial offer via email and shortish turnaround is normal for feds in my experience (I think they gave me 48 hrs?) but clearly something else about this position had you on high alert, so gold on you for turning down a bad fit.

      Best of luck with the rest of your applications!

    6. Jules the 3rd*

      Was there any realistic option to call the Upper Manager and say, “I’m getting a conflicting message here – I’ve been told I had to make the decision two hours ago, but now you’ve come back with more information. Can you clarify the real timeline, and any reasons behind a short deadline?”

      Your prior experience may have guided you towards perceiving ‘pressure’, but I’m wondering if there was an opportunity for negotiating for more time, since they clearly wanted you.

      1. A Reader*

        I think that would be the case except my only contact–all other contact info surpressed– was the hiring manager who was saying “we need an answer”.

    7. MissDisplaced*

      I think you were wise to trust your gut instinct.

      Even if there were entirely plausible reasons why they needed an answer within 12 hours (basically overnight) it still IS a little unreasonable that someone could just decide that about a job that also requires moving to a new city. Even assuming you knew about the move beforehand, there are still things to process and discuss you weren’t quite prepared to deal with that quickly. There is nothing wrong with wanting to do so! You should never feel that pressured to accept a big decision like that.

      1. Filosofickle*

        To me the city is what most jumped out. I’ve personally never needed more than overnight to decide on a position, but I was always either getting a job in the same city or a move to the new city was already in motion. If a move is involved, adequate to consider with your partner is vital.

    8. LCH*

      i think email offers must be normal in my area (library/archives, university/non-profit) since i’m pretty sure all my recent jobs have been offered by email. it’s nice to have it all in writing and not have to react on the phone immediately. same with interview scheduling.

    9. Too tired*

      Depends on the field. All of my job offers have been in writing since I graduated college. All of them. And I actually appreciate that because then I always have proof of exactly what was and wasn’t said.

  5. Patrick*

    I agree I find it pretty bizarre this person felt “wildly disrespected” and got into some kind of heated argument because they had the audacity to call you. OP seems like they are going to have issues with the next job offer as well…

    1. A Reader*

      This I admit. I think maybe it was one thing after another: two need answer emails, a call that seemed somewhat condescending in tone, a text, and repeated “I’ll get back to you when I can”. Plus I think the earlier stuff had left me sour and I hadn’t yet worked that out.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        When you said things got a little heated was it from your end or their end? What was said that was heated?

    2. DJ Abbott*

      Pushiness is inherently disrespectful. As the manager in my only sales job said, being pushy means you’re thinking all about your own needs and not at all about the customer’s needs. I also feel disrespected when people get pushy, and I usually walk away.

      I would have felt very disrespected in this situation. OP doesn’t give details, but if the employer had already been pushy to the point of rudeness and then tried to push OP into a job he wasn’t sure about, I think getting upset is understandable.
      I would have gotten upset too, but it’s more likely I would have walked away earlier in the process and not talked to them at all.

      IMHO this level of pushiness is a huge red flag. They were hiding something – that they’re such an awful place to work they can’t get or keep employees? – and wanted OP to commit before he found out. I think you dodged a dumpster fire, OP.

      1. Esmeralda*

        But how is it pushy? Calling to be sure, calling to see if there were any further questions…what’s the problem?

        Frankly, kind of flattering — they like me so much they’re following up!

        1. A Reader*

          I;ve been thinking a lot about this. If the timeline to accept were real, they would not have called to push me after the time I was required to respond by….the pressure was clearly artificial and therfore pushy

          1. MilitaryProf*

            This is not necessarily accurate. I’ve done a lot of federal hiring over the years. An earlier comment (the first one, I think) mentioned that if the certification was expiring, they were in a hurry. Here’s the thing, though–there are a lot of factors that can eat up the timeline for that certification. When my hiring committee makes a recommendation for a candidate, it has to go through a lot of layers of paperwork before the central personnel office can present that tentative offer. So, ideally, we try to make a selection a minimum of 30 days out, and prefer a lot longer lead times–because if a single link in the chain of approvals doesn’t respond, the whole thing stops until they do.

            Now, here’s another scenario to consider: They sent their selection on-time to central personnel, who contacted the top candidate, who jerked them around for a couple of weeks before declining the position. They then moved on to candidate number two, who refused to answer for another week. And suddenly, even though everybody had done their jobs in a timely fashion, they’re almost out of time and still don’t have a selection. Then, they called you–you have no way of knowing if you were the top candidate (no matter what they tell you on that front, because who wants to tell a candidate that they were third best, but still being offered the job?) When they shouldn’t have had external time constraints, suddenly, they did–and one thing to keep in mind, if you have a position opening, and you don’t fill it before the certification expires, not only do you have to start the entire process over, but there’s no guarantee you’ll actually get to keep the position for your organization–because every other, adjacent organization is likely to make a play for the billet, on the grounds that if you didn’t fill it, you must not really need it. For that reason, whenever we choose a candidate, we submit a list of rank-ordered candidates that are also acceptable (i.e. #2, #3, and so on). But, when the clock is running down, the amount of time that we can grant to candidates lower on the priority list declines, too–if there were 10 candidates considered qualified, and only marginally different in terms of suitability, you weren’t in the bargaining position that you thought you were in.

            It’s entirely plausible that one of the higher-ups saw you as significantly better than whoever was next on the list (or, for that matter, that you were the last person on the list of “also qualified” candidates), and they hoped to change your mind while there was still time left on the clock.

            At the risk of offering unsolicited advice, may I suggest that in the future, if you’re part of a six-week interview process, perhaps you go ahead and have a hypothetical discussion with your wife about whether you would want to take the job, and under what circumstances, rather than putting it off until you actually get an offer? I’m not saying you have to start looking at real estate, fantasizing about where you’re going to do your shopping and socializing, and the like–but at least having the “if they offer X, I think we should take it, if they offer Y, I think we should counter-offer, if they offer Z, I think we should decline” type conversation. That would allow you to make a more rational decision in the event of an offer, and you wouldn’t be going on emotions, which seemed to be the case here.

            1. A Reader*

              I think this is likely a valid point. But I do think you might be shorting me a little credit: we were pretty sure we were not going to take the position until it came in very high. The mix of an offer above our gaming out and the pressure left me flailing a bit more than I should have.

              1. Madeleine Matilda*

                A few of things to keep in mind if you apply for Fed jobs in the future. As many have said, the Fed hiring process is bureaucratic and wonky. Expect the unexpected and for timelines to be all over the place. The offer you received was a tentative job offer. The final job offer wouldn’t come for weeks until background checks and other tasks were complete. If you are on the fence, alway accept the tentative offer, take time to consider, and you can always withdraw your acceptance before or at the final job offer. Official tentative or final offers must be made by HR not the hiring manager and, in my 24 years of Fed experience, are always by email. Having the hiring manager call a top choice candidate who turns down a position happens as the hiring manager usually wants to take the effort to woo a strong candidate who said no. I did this once when I was hiring and was able to address the candidate’s concerns and they decided to change their mind and accept. I’m not sure why you reacted negatively and unprofessionally to that call when either the hiring manager really wanted you for the position and wanted to see if you might be persuaded to change your mind or hadn’t yet been updated by HR that you had declined the offer. Working for the Fed isn’t for everyone. You need to be flexible within a system that itself is often bureaucratic and unflexible. I think it is a good thing that you discovered that you and this agency might not be a good fit.

              2. allathian*

                I’m not in the US, but check the posts above about tentative and final job offers (TJO, FJO) for federal employees.

            2. Kevin Sours*

              On the flip side, if I’m pushing somebody out of need instead of jerking them around, it’s worth taking a moment to state that openly. It’s probably a matter of blind spots (they seem to be assuming a need to sell the job instead of resistance to the apparent hard sell probably because the deadlines are “normal” to them). I feel like “sorry were are up against regulatory deadlines and while we’d love to give you time we just can’t” coupled with a “we can give you x hours to talk to your spouse can you make that work” would have done a lot to defuse the situation.

          2. SimplyTheBest*

            Unless that phone call said we’ll give you more days to think about it, I don’t think this is an accurate assumption at all. They needed your answer right then, but you gave them the answer they didn’t want. So yeah, they’re going to take a minute or two to try and convince you to change your mind. That doesn’t mean their timeline isn’t still their timeline.

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          The LW had actually said no to the job before that call came — so they were responding *to a refusal* by calling with a hard sell. That’s the part which sounds like a red flag to me. If they called with a sales pitch while LW was still considering the offer, well, all right; they’re being a little pushy, but they’re enthusiastic about LW and want to try and tip the balance; that’s not inherently terrible and it’s not disrespectful per se. But refusing to recognize that their candidate has already turned them down is a problem.

          1. Fed-o*

            It is very likely that he said no to HR, and that the hiring manager didn’t know that yet. The lag between when HR knows something and they tell me can be significant.

    3. Smithy*

      For the earlier article today around whether or not to rescind the offer, I mentioned that the OP should feel good about giving themselves more time in considering their response as opposed to an immediate one on the phone.

      Just want to add, that having negative feelings towards being rushed, pressured, disrespected, etc. is totally normal – and that giving yourself time in those moments is something to applaud! Being angry, sad, disappointed, etc at work isn’t unprofessional, rather it’s how you respond in those moments. Just to say, here’s three cheers for taking the time to get back to someone – even if it’s just for a “bio break” or an hour – and not having the perfect comeback in the moment.

    4. Llama Llama*

      Here is what I think and it’s probably more about me than OP.

      It can be really hard for some people to say no. Even when the choice is yours and it doesn’t make sense to feel bad about it (like a job offer). And if you have a hard time saying no you have to psych yourself up for it and stress out over it and feel bad that you’re hurting someone’s feelings (even if you really aren’t and it doesn’t make any sense). And if someone bugs me about something after I have gone through the process of saying no (politely and probably also apologizing) and they come back at me to ask again I get…really mad. Like I already answered this question, I already did the hard thing and said no and stressed out about it and now you want to try and wear me down and ask again like my answer wasn’t final?

      This isn’t every one obviously and probably isn’t the OP but I have spent years working on this and it still frustrates and angers me when people don’t take my no answers as my final answer because they are so hard to give in the first place.

      1. A Reader*

        I think this is almost certainly part of the dynamic… on paper it was my dream job, but something was off throughout the process…turning it down once was hard, ignoring that no and making me turn it down a second time was…unfair

      2. Anima*

        Oh Llama Llama, I feel with you. I don’t get why my firm and decided no’s are almost always questioned. I made a decision, I told you, now accept it!
        OP, I get why it felt unfair to you. You said no and they pushed anyway.

  6. HiHello*

    OP, I see you said “other jobs were also coming online.” In hiring and job searching, jobs rarely come in the timeframe that is perfect for you. There will be plenty of situations where for one position you are in the final stages, whereas in another one in the very beginning. You will often have to make a decision whether to accept something/proceed with it further or to keep waiting for something else.

    1. Gingerblue*

      This seems like a weirdly condescending description of what the OP is… clearly aware of? Making calculations about?

      1. HiHello*

        I didn’t mean to be condescending. A lot of things sound terrible about the company. I just don’t want the OP to add even more stress to the job search thinking all companies wait. I know plenty of people who think or even sometimes expect the companies to wait on them for unreasonable amounts of time. But in this case few days is definitely a reasonable ask.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        OP has said he’s new to the job market, and maybe he could use this pointer. I appreciate it too as a reminder to be realistic in my expectations.

        1. Sly Sylvester*

          In that case, it’s a very valid point to remind them of- You can’t ‘collect’ job offers until they overlap, giving yourself a nice group of options to pick from. It’s often making a decision within a couple of days and hedging your bets on which pending applications might turn into offers later.

          Sometimes you can ask a company for more time to decide, maybe half a week if they’re generous but still eager to get the position filled. If they have a start-by date that’s still a while in the future, they might be more lenient, but that has to be agreed upon soon after the offer is given.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is mostly true, but in some academic fields, I get where the OP is coming from. My partner’s post-PhD job search had a weirdly (from my POV) regimented process, and at certain points taking a so-so job would have meant losing out on a great job that was just about to post. Very, very field-specific. One of his friends got a tenure track job, accepted it, then a job was posted for her preferred government agency. No guarantee she would have gotten the agency job, but she would have gotten an initial interview and it was too late.

      1. Sanders*

        Why was it too late? Why would accepting the tenure track position preclude her from applying to the government agency job? Other than “burning bridges” – but you are allowed to do that once in your career for the perfect job.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          She signed a contract and committed to the TT position, which is a very big deal. The community is small, word gets around. She wasn’t a superstar with enough weight to burn any bridges at that point.

          1. Self Employed*

            Tenure track positions are so incredibly rare compared to corporate or even government agency jobs! What other jobs are there that basically only open up when someone retires after 20-40+ years? Plus, the hiring process is arduous for both the applicants and the faculty on the hiring committee, and they need to complete the process in time to get the new faculty onboarded for the beginning of the academic term. If someone quits, they may end up having an empty position for the whole year, or at the very least, they have to scramble to find someone to teach the classes until they can restart the hiring process. That happened to my advisor after I graduated but while he was department chair (before retirement). The other candidates who might have been acceptable had already accepted offers elsewhere. Finding a post-doc who could teach on short notice in whatever subject it was, on short notice in the middle of nowhere was something of a miracle. I don’t remember if they applied for the tenure track position when it reopened or not–either my advisor had retired by then or we were out of touch.

  7. Spearmint*

    Personally I consider a rushed/disorganized hiring process to be a red flag, though I agree it’s not disrespectful per se.

    I once applied for a job at a certain state government agency, and when they contacted me for an interview they insisted it be scheduled first thing in the morning the next day because filling the position was an “urgent business need”. I saw that as a bright red flag and so turned down the interview. I later looked this agency up on Glassdoor and they had terrible reviews, confirming that I dodged a bullet.

    1. Madeleine Matilda*

      But there is nothing to say the hiring process was rushed or disorganized. OP said it was a six week process. There could be numerous reasons in Federal hiring why the agency needed a fast reply. And since in the Fed you first receive a tentative job offer and not the final, there was no reason not to say yes and later withdraw.

  8. CatCat*

    It sounds like they have some sort of normal there where things happen on tight timeframes and a communication style that doesn’t work for you If you felt disrespected as a candidate during a hiring process, I doubt things would have improved much once you were there if their normal does not mesh with your normal. So probably worked out for the best all around that you turned it down.

  9. Trout 'Waver*

    Rescheduling without notice, pushing an exercise last minute, artificial time pressure, and adversarial interviewing techniques are all major tells about how they view employees.

    And yes, they are disrespectful behaviors to someone who wants to be viewed as a professional.

    1. A Reader*

      I think I’ve had trouble articulating this to myself, but I agree. I’m not sure the offer condition itself was so much disrespectful, but the whole process seemed to just get to me. I’m sort of new to the job thing, but if id acted like that with students I’d be in front of a dean pretty quickly.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        With an advanced degree, you should be viewed as an expert and a professional. Yeah, you’ll be a little naive starting out. But trust your gut on these things. The interview process is when they’re on their best behavior. If they’re already making you uneasy, then imagine what they’ll be like when you work there.

        1. Esmeralda*

          Eh, don’t know what the earlier stuff was that made Reader uneasy, but needing to change interview times (I can think of a bunch of reasons why that might happen sub-optimally and only one of those reasons is “we disrespect you” — and it’s the least likely reason), quick turnaround, emails, calls — none of that necessarily = disrespect. Especially at an employer that may have various offices with a finger in the hiring, you’ve got to assume “weird mix-up” and be gracious. Because a lot of the time it has nothing at all to do with you, the people you’re feeling peeved at don’t have much or any control over the snafus, and you will just come across better and *more professional* if you are polite about it.

          And be ready for people to think they know more about your field than you do, and tell you so. Lots of people like that. Sometimes they’re right, too.

          1. MilitaryProf*

            And it’s worth noting–organizations as a whole neither respect nor disrespect you. Only individuals within them fall into those behaviors. Often, the person doing the scheduling has no connection to the candidate, and little connection to the hiring authority. They are a low-level admin assistant–some of whom can be incredibly officious about what power they do have. We had a secretary who was incredibly rude to all of the faculty, routinely demeaned the female faculty members, and was just generally mean-spirited. But, said secretary sure knew how to suck up to the big boss, and as a result, never faced any consequences. Because she firmly believed women should not be faculty members, she did everything in her power to disrupt the hiring of any potential female faculty members–and we didn’t know it (because candidates don’t exactly call you up to complain about a member of the staff) for years.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Well, organizations can have policies which require that their staff show respect to candidates, or not. If they don’t have such policies, they may have cultures which lead to them not hiring or retaining managers who are likely to be disrespectful to candidates — or not. If they don’t do either, it’s up to the individual managers.

              But in general, if you get overtly disrespectful treatment during the hiring process from more than one person in an organization, it is a relatively safe bet that the organization doesn’t make a point (either officially or culturally) of setting the expectation that its employees show respect to candidates. Usually, if the higher-ups have decided respect is important and implemented that decision like any other company policy, it shows in the way people behave throughout the organization.

    2. Allypopx*

      I don’t know that the time pressure was necessarily artificial. Especially for a government agency – stupid processes are kind of the norm.

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        A 6 week application process followed by less than a day to accept/reject an offer is either a gross mismanagement of time or artificial time pressure. It’s tough to discriminate between incompetence and malice without knowing intent, but neither is a great look.

        1. Someone On-Line*

          As someone who hires in state government, it is actually how things tend to work in my office. It takes forever to get approval and then they pressure me for an answer by the next day. I can usually push them off for a few days, but they don’t like it.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            You’re a good boss, then, because you push back against he bureaucracy to treat your applicants with respect!

        2. Colette*

          It’s not unusual for organizations (including private ones) to have things like hiring freezes – so if you know one is coming, you hire or you do without another person. Most people can decide within 24 hours; if not, that’s a disucssion worth having. I will note that based on the OP’s letter, she didn’t clearly say she needed more than 24 hours, just that she could possibly make that deadline.

          1. Colette*

            Not to mention scenarios like “we’ve been limping along, but now someone else has put in their notice/needs medical leave so we need to hire ASAP”, “our busy season starts next month, so we need to get someone onboard ASAP so that they can have some sort of training before everyone is too busy”, etc. A quick deadline is sometimes just a sign that you need a quick answer.

            1. Kevin Sours*

              It’s not worth losing a good candidate over a soft deadline like that. It *sucks* but you’re pretty much losing the same or more time if they turn you down over pushing them on the decision.

        3. MilitaryProf*

          This argument assumes the OP was the first choice of the hiring authority. My suspicion is that they were not–because the first choice usually gets a generous amount of time to decide, the second choice gets less, and by the time you reach the third choice or lower, you’re butting up against a federal hiring requirement deadline. Let’s not assume the OP was anything other than a candidate being offered a job–it makes a significant difference in how we perceive the story.

      2. Just no*

        Yeah, that has been my experience, Allypopx. I work for a fed agency, and so do many of my friends in my city. This sort of thing seems pretty common.

    3. Fed Too*

      I think this is a real inside federal government versus outside thing. The hiring process is so prescriptive (both for good and bad reasons) and there are usually several layers of approval and very prescribed hand offs (like if I get this to HR today I’m next on the list and this will move forward this week, if I miss today x and y are ahead of me and now it’s 3 weeks until I move forward). There’s also the usual hurry before a hiring freeze happening and occasionally change in administration rushes. Feds are very used to the process for better or worse.

      I think it’s one of those things you need to know and accept with federal hiring or it might not be a good fit (which understandable) but hiring managers have very little control as compare to private sector hiring.

      1. MechE*

        I’m rather enjoying the divide in the comments. People who work in the federal government don’t see the big deal, those outside are aghast.

        The federal government isn’t better or worse, just different. No free coffee in the break room, no bending on hours, but you get a pension. There is tons of bureaucracy, but there is (usually) job security.

        1. Vichyssuave*

          I’m local gov and have a very similar experience with hiring to the fed commenters. All sorts of red tape and approvals to get the hiring process moving, tons of steps to the hiring process and someone 8 layers removed from my agency gets to decide when our new hires start based on when they feel like running an HR presentation and aligning it with a pay period. When I was hired just barely was able to give my current employer 2 weeks. I’ve been here 10 years and for the most part love it. It’s not an indication of how my job actually functions day to day or how we value and treat our employees once hired.

          1. MechE*

            As a federal employee, I can tell you that I have a pension. You’re talking about CSRS vs. FERS. There used to be a better pension and we didn’t have to pay social security (but didn’t receive it). There still is a pension, but it is less. However, you also have a 401k and have to pay social security (but receive it).

            1. Fed Too*

              Agreed, while I’m in awe over the CSRS deal, FERS (especially if you’ve made gov a life long career) combined with a health TSP (401k like) and social security is an incredible retirement compared to the current private sector.

              And, while there is less bending of hours, being expected to work 40-45 hours versus the private sector hours for comparable jobs is worth waiving all he free coffee.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            There is a pension, and it’s a pretty sweet deal – minimum 1% of the average of your three highest years of salary for each year of service. (More if you’re an air traffic controller, member of Congress, LEO, or a few other categories.) Depending on how long my spouse decides to stay with the fed, that will be $25-35K/year in retirement, plus TSP (the weird government version of a 401K) and Social Security. I started retirement saving in my early 20s, he started in his mid-30s, and I think he’s going to come out ahead because of FERS.

    4. Willis*

      Yeah, I agree that developing a timelines for interviews, exercises, job acceptance, etc. without taking into account that those times may not work for the other person is pretty disrespectful. It would give me a bad feeling about the place and I can understand OP’s annoyance that after responding (with the ‘no’) within their timeline they then called back to try to convince. I probably wouldn’t have ‘gotten heated’ during the conversation but I would definitely be done with them at that point unless I was really desperate for a job.

      And even if none of this is the hiring manager’s fault because there’s some strict deadlines, there’s still no reason you can’t be polite about it!

      1. Madeleine Matilda*

        It is so interesting to me that so many people see a call by an employer to try to convince you to change your mind as annoying or disrespectful. Why not see it as an employer who was impressed enough with you that they want to make an extra effort to see if there is something that would change your mind?

        1. A Reader*

          Maybe. But it definitely didn’t read that way to me–although I admit I read everything by that point as pressuring. I think that call would have gone “I was sorry to see you decline, I’m hoping we can talk about if I can get you to reconsider….” That was not the call. Rather the call disregarded my no and went on about how great the city and schools were… it was selling not asking. They were only worried about getting the technical skillset, not about my needs or how I wanted to be talked to.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            I said above that I think their ignoring your ‘no’ wasn’t okay, and I still think that. But one thing did occur to me. If, as you framed it here, you told them not “No, I am declining the job,” but “IF you need an answer today, I am declining the job,” it is possible that they simply took this as meaning “I need more time to find out what I need to know about this situation; therefore, I will have to decline if and only if you insist on an answer before I can do my due diligence.” If that was what they heard, it’s not entirely unreasonable for them to see if they can find a way to make this work for everyone by helping you find out what you need to know quickly enough to get them an answer that day, rather than either having to decline *or* having to decide without sufficient data.

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think this is one spot where your expectations were not reasonable. That call doesn’t sound at all outside the norm. I suspect you were already annoyed and maybe seeing it through that lens, but this sounds pretty normal.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Out of curiosity, Alison, was it within the norm because Reader’s “soft refusal” made them think the offer was still under consideration? Or would it have been a reasonable response even to a hard “I’m sorry, but I have to decline this job?” Do companies usually respond by trying once more to sell candidates who have already told them that they are not accepting?

              I’ve never been in a position where I’ve turned down a job offer, except in telling them that I’m accepting a different offer, which may make it seem more clearly impossible to sell me. (I’ve definitely withdrawn from candidate processes, but always before the offer stage, so the dynamic was different.) So I honestly have no clue how the process normally goes.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                It depends, I’ve seen it happen in both. Often it’s like “My sense is you might have concerns about XYZ so I hoped I could tell you a little more about that” or “We really think you’d be great so any chance you’d be up for telling me what made you decline so I can see if it’s something we can address?” or so forth. But if during the call the candidate were like, “I’ve already made up my mind and my decision is final,” that would be that.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  (Personally I do not do this because I think it’s a good way to get a candidate who accepts against their better judgment and backs out later, but I’ve seen people wiser than me do it, so who knows.)

          3. Madeleine Matilda*

            You are also assuming that HR had told the person who called that you had declined. There is no way to know that. Often HR doesn’t communicate that quickly. The person who called may not have known you declined and likely knew there was a tight deadline so was trying to provide you information to help you make a decision. But even if the caller did know you declined, I still don’t understand why you framed it as a negative that the agency was willing to make a last attempt to woo you.

          4. Minion*

            Personally I totally get your perspective.

            I read it this way – they said we need an answer by time X. You said you needed longer than that. They said not possible. You said ok if I can’t have time to review the offer and discuss with my family (who I’m going to expect to either follow me or commit to a long distance relationship or decide to separate from) then the answer has to be no as that discussion is non-negotiable. They said – absolutely you can’t have that time. So you said no.

            Then, after the deadline they imposed as entirely non-negotiable has passed, they phoned you to try get you to say yes WITHOUT having that discussion with your family, because you’ve been told there’s no time for that, so therefore declined the position.

            This would feel incredibly rude to me.

            I totally get that it is probably poor hiring practices. But they choose to have those poor practices. They choose a lengthy application time and chose to leave themselves less than a day for a candidate to review an offer and make a decision, having chosen not to give candidates a heads up that things would work that way.

            The manager also choose to reach out after the deadline, rather than before. And choose not to focus on the concerns the op had but to speak of what they decided should be OPs concerns (did OP ask about schools?)

            FWIW I take the approach of having made my decision before hand. Unless offers are borderline acceptable or something has happened that throws things, I know if I want the job or not before offers are on the table. I’ve already decided if I want to move to the town, because I think it is harder to say no when an offer comes in than earlier when you might not get an offer anyway.

            It sounds like the high offer was what threw you, but then their inflexibility means that higher pay wasn’t enough to overcome the things that had you thinking no. You made the right choice.

        2. Willis*

          I don’t think the call itself is disrespectful or that odd. But I can see how it would be annoying on top of all the other stuff. My take on it is, if an employer didn’t seem to care about my needs throughout the application process (which is the sense I get from the OP) including when I asked for a day or two to respond to an offer, I’m not going to be impressed by them “making an extra effort” after I’ve turned the job down. I wouldn’t be rude on the phone, but I’d probably keep the call short and stay firm on my no, if I had other decent options.

  10. Courtney*

    IDK if this was for a federal position or not, but I’ve gone through that process a few times. In my experience they’ve always wanted a response within 24 hours. The federal government has a very bureaucratic hiring system to work within, and there’s little room for flexibility.

    If this was a contractor position, then it’s more likely the rush was because they need to fill that spot so they live up to the terms of the contract. That would be more indicative of the organization level and culture at the contracting company.

    I have to ask — if it was such a long interview process, why hadn’t LW discussed the pros and cons with their wife before the offer came in? By the time I get an offer for a job, I already know what sort of offer will make me take it and what won’t work. Particularly after a long process.

    1. A Reader*

      We had discussed at lenght and basically leaned towards no based on the earlier experience. What happened was the offer came in 20k over our expectations and really threw everything back into chaos

      1. Courtney*

        That makes sense. That would throw me off too!
        It sounds like you made the right decision. But if you go for more federal government jobs, be prepared for similar things to crop up. It’s not about you whatsoever; it’s just the labyrinthine system of nonsense that has to happen for someone to get the job.
        My hiring process was a complete disaster. Got the wrong job offer letter 4 or 5 times before they got all the details right. But it’s not really indicative of the culture at my agency, because the HR paperwork is all contracted out to private companies. So if you get an offer and you like the people you’d be working with, but are annoyed by the people processing the hiring paperwork, keep that in mind.

      2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        $20k? I find that really odd.

        Usually you know going in what the GS category is for a federal job. $20k is the difference between GS-11 and GS-13.

        1. MilitaryProf*

          Not every federal job is a GS position. I occupy an AD position, for example (“Administratively Determined” if you’re curious). Most DoD academic roles are AD, not GS (and there are literally thousands of federal academic positions, the DoD alone has dozens of universities and colleges providing advanced education for their personnel.) For example, my school has 500 students getting a master’s degree every year, and we employ about 60 civilian PhDs and about 60 active duty military personnel as faculty. As a result, we’ve got one of the highest concentrations of military historians anywhere in the world.

            1. MilitaryProf*

              It has its moments, to be sure. I was skeptical when I took my first PME job, and told myself I’d jump back into civilian academia at the first opportunity. There have been a lot of opportunities since then, and I haven’t felt the urge to jump in the slightest. Not all PME is the same when it comes to the quality of life issues, but I certainly was very lucky in where I wound up.

              1. TSP*

                I looked into it myself and sometimes wish I had followed through because I miss teaching. But I’m pleased with where I ended up. Not to many places to use a mil hist PhD these days.

    2. ABK*

      I agree with this. After 6 weeks, I’ve had a ton of time to think it over and know what I need from an offer.

    3. Governmint Condition*

      I agree with the statement that government jobs have very short turn-around times for a decision. This seems to be true for all levels of government (at least in the U.S.). In my case, I was called late on a Friday afternoon. They wanted an immediate answer. I asked for some time, and the person very reluctantly agreed to give me until 8 a.m. the following Monday, which was when their next business day began.

      One of the reasons for this is that if you decline, they must contact the next choice on the list immediately. And they usually have a very short window to fill the position before they have to start the process over again. These windows are often less than two weeks long.

  11. voyager1*

    Honestly I am on the side of the employer. You should have had a response at 8am. You wanted to wait on a bunch of maybes. You honestly need to be prepared to accept or decline an offer after an interview, or by the next day. Asking for a night to think about it is reasonable. Asking for longer, not so much.

    1. A Reader*

      I think this is a misread…I wasn’t so much waiting on other jobs as having to run it through my committee etc

        1. A Reader*

          Grad school. people that sign off on the doctorate at the end (It’s a bit complicated but mid-semester degree conferrals are generally when the committee sees a job it likes; this woudl ahve met it, but they needed the opportunity)

          1. kt*

            As someone who was in academia a long time, first, your school is not quite normal in this respect, and second, I understand your stress about this but it is not something employers will be set up to be understanding about. You’re presenting it here as if it’s a common thing, and it’s not, even in academia; in my field, your whole committee knows you’re looking for a job (or not) and the defense schedule/granting of PhD/taking of job are not tightly tied in time (you can take the job and defend in a few months, or defend but hang out for the revisions a bit, or a few other options, but the committee has no business evaluating the job you’ve accepted — you just accept it and they deal).

            My read on this is that the employer was not great and you might have dodged a trouble spot, but also you’re enculturated into academic norms that are not norms elsewhere and so you’re stressed about running a job by your committee and you let that stress get to you when things got “a little heated”. That’s not fair, and you will have to prepare to manage that part as you finish up this process.

            1. Kelaine*

              I’m a Ph.D. program director in academia and YES, a student absolutely DOES have to obtain formal approval from her dissertation committee as well as the program director and the graduate school in order to start the process of finishing up her thesis research, submitting her dissertation, scheduling her defense, and finally getting her degree conferred without issues. The committee and the grad school also has to approve the exact timing of these events in writing. Often, it can only be done at the end of an academic quarter or semester to make sure that the student doesn’t leave in the middle of a fellowship or drop teaching duties in the middle of a course. Most programs also require an inflexible number of weeks between submission of the completed dissertation and approval for defense (so the committee has time to read the dissertation before the defense). A student just going out and getting a job before obtaining these approvals will risk being seen as pushing the process and trying to remove or lessen the committee’s oversight of the degree work. While sometimes every effort is made to smooth a student’s ability to finish up and get employed, there are also many cases where students are asked to do another year of work before graduating.

              1. Reba*

                Well, ducking out of a teaching obligation or funding agreement mid-semester, yes, that would be an issue. But for all those other bureaucratic steps, completing the dissertation, submitting and scheduling the defense… it is more than possible to do those tasks and meet these deadlines from a distance and while working a job. Maybe in your institution it is really really rigid. Among PhD’s I know this was common! You get it done when you can get it done.

                I have heard, unfortunately, of overly rigid and punitive committee chairs who eff up their students’ progress when the students leave academia, but that has more to do with chairs who have too much power and prejudice than with the steps in the process themselves.

              2. please do not refer to me*

                But wouldn’t someone know about all of that when they decided to apply for jobs? If this had been a 4-day hiring process, or something where networking at a conference resulted in an on the spot job offer, it would make sense to respond that you needed to make sure the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed with your various grad school obligations. But it sounds like OP was job hunting and potentially anticipating an offer.

                None of this should have been a surprise, or a process that was only going to begin once the offer was received.

              3. iliketoknit*

                This doesn’t really describe how my PhD program worked at all (though admittedly it was a little while ago now). I finished my degree and submitted my dissertation all while working at another institution.

          2. Weekend Please*

            If you had actually wanted the job, you could have given a conditional yes and explained that your committee would have to approve an early defense. They probably would have accepted that. It doesn’t apply in this case since you didn’t want the job but there were work arounds available.

          3. Madeleine Matilda*

            Did you tell HR or the person who called you that you needed time to meet with your committee? If this was a Fed job offer then your committee would have had time to meet and make a decision between you accepting the tentative job offer and receiving the final job offer several weeks later. I think that the Federal hiring and job offer process may not have been clear to you and led to your negative reaction to the need for a quick response and to the follow up call.

        2. JSPA*

          academic committee / PhD committee. They’re advisors who approve your thesis and may also provide some general career guidance. Rarely relevant to consult them on a job offer, IMO unless the job is in academe (in which case you’re asking for their opinion of the institution and department (which is something one might more commonly do before applying, not after getting an offer) or a research institution that has inter-permeability with academe (NIH, NCI one of the Physics National Labs–Ames, Argonne, Brookhaven, Oak Ridge etc–and the like).

          IMO, the letter writer’s timeline and process may be part of what’s creating a problematic level of stress (and a pinch-point, timewise).

          If this is a post-doc at a government research institution, the committee should have been on board and aware weeks ago.

          If OP gave up an actual staff or researcher level position at a national lab, I’m quietly…a bit aghast. Those are not easy to come by. Unless, of course, for whatever reason, the region or role was intrinsically a non-starter. (But in that case, except as a learning experience, why go through with the process to this level?)

          1. A Reader*

            Committee was aware of job and offer. We were trying to schedule a meeting that afternoon to talk it through. Not national lab, just an agency

          2. Smithy*

            My father was a federal researcher – and this may just be my bias as hearing things through him, but six weeks seems short. It may have just been that I was most likely to hear about the worst case scenarios….but for the work I do at nonprofits, six weeks also sounds well within the norm. Particularly given the potential for interviewing timelines to hit up against 101 hiccups in the calendar (holidays, vacation schedules, major professional thing, etc.).

      1. MsClaw*

        What committee did you need to run it through?

        I’m not trying to be argumentative so much as just wondering since you separately mentioned running it by your spouse that you don’t have, like, 6 sister-wives you need to chat about it with.

        Also since you mentioned coming out of grad school, if this is your first post-grad job as several other folks are pointing out *most* employers are not going to wait for you to finish applying/interviewing at other places to make a decision. Expecting an answer within 24 hours *is* aggressive, but in general you may have to make a go/no-go decision on job B without knowing what’s going to happen with job C. ‘I am waiting to see if I get a better offer’ is not an excuse many employers are going to entertain.

        1. A Reader*

          Grad schools committee. Start date was before the end of the semester. It’s fine, but they have a veto I needed to get cleared separate and apart from my spouse

          1. kt*

            I just want you to check your assumptions. Maybe they really are holding you hostage, but maybe it’s not actually true that they have a vote. I had one hire last summer delay her start date 2 months to finish up the PhD, and another start and fly back to grad school to defend three months later. I don’t know your field and maybe the PhD is a true prerequisite and your committee truly would screw you over in a heartbeat, but you may also have more room to maneuver than that.

            1. A Reader*

              I dont think the committee would screw me, but taking a job in April while still a funded grad student is something they definitely have a say in….for one more month

              1. anonymouse*

                I am wishing a little that manager of Emily who would not work more hours than her scholarship/stipend permitted would read this and see it’s not as simple as working more hours if she’s available.
                Even if Emily is willing to lose money to help the manager, the school or whatever group oversees the funding may not approve of her going off script like that.

          2. JSPA*

            Ah, that makes sense.

            It’s dead normal for people to come back from a job to defend–either in a month or two, or even after a year or two. And again, this is something you can absolutely pre-clear with your committee. Plus of course you can say, “I can only accept on this timeline pending approval of my committee to defer my thesis defense, and then only if I’m still eligible for the job without having defended my thesis and been awarded the degree.” People say that! Sometimes, the job literally requires you to have the degree in hand. Sometimes, the good word from your chair is all they need.

            EXTREMELY common, especially if the skills are demonstrable separate from the PhD, or you already have some publications, or they already know your work from conferences.

            1. Antilles*

              Yeah, pre-clearing it with the committee ahead of time is definitely the way to go here. You don’t even need a specific job offer in hand, just a theoretical “as you know, I’m heading towards graduation and am applying for jobs; if someone offers me something and really needs me to start ASAP rather than waiting till end of semester a month from now, is there a way we could work something out?”

            2. Esmeralda*

              Yep, I was hired before I had finished my PhD; that was reflected in my title and my pay. Once I had the degree in hand, title and pay went up. Substantially. (Quite a good incentive to get it done, I wanted to kill my dissertation director who postponed returning for the defense = I lost several months of additonal $)

        2. please do not refer to me*

          I’ve had things go OK when I said something like “I’m expecting to hear back about another job within the next day or so. Would it be OK if I checked in with them and then got back to you by the end of the week?” or the like. Always an ask, always context provided, and always in situations where the timing was reasonable.

          But beyond that, it’s really not their problem.

          1. MilitaryProf*

            That’s kind of like saying “sure, I’ll think about dating you–but if you don’t mind, I’ve asked someone else out, do you mind waiting to see how that turns out and being my backup plan?” There’s nothing quite so off-putting to an employer as the notion of a reluctant employee, who sees you as a second choice. I know as a hiring authority, I’d be less than enthusiastic to get that particular commentary–I’d much rather hear “I don’t want to make a life-altering decision in less than 24 hours, can I have until Friday?”

        3. Baron*

          I agree with your last paragraph – but where are you getting “spouse that you don’t have”?

          1. Butter Makes Things Better*

            I think it was a punctuation issue and the “don’t have” was for the “sister wives” and not for the one spouse. I had to read it twice for that reason too!

      2. voyager1*

        I read this “other jobs were also coming online — and I hadn’t yet talked to my committee” you had applied for other jobs. If I am wrong then I am giving you too much benefit. I don’t know what a committee means, but if you needed a sign off then you probably should have had that set up before hand. If you were waiting for further job postings, then you look really bad. It isn’t on the employer to wait on you, they will just go on to the backup candidate.

        Honestly it sounds like they really wanted you, but you didn’t have your stuff in order. Also this sounds like some kinda of academic job or government job. I know those can be kinda weird, but if that is what you are going into you should know the process beforehand. It sounds like you didn’t.

        1. biobotb*

          How could the LW have had the committee ready to sign off if they didn’t know exactly when (or if) the job offer was coming through? Getting several academics together within a couple of hours is usually super difficult. They’re very busy and often have a lot of meetings they’re already committed to on any given day.

          1. voyager1*

            Honestly, after reading the comments the LW and other commenters more familiar with academia, it seems the LW should have said in their letter what was really going on. This really feels like the LW wrote a story that makes them look good and the employer bad. When in reality it seems the LW couldn’t make up his mind, hadn’t spoke to his advisor and the job needed an answer. Paraphrasing others here, LW should have communicated that he needed to get a sign off from his grad school and that the real world isn’t like the university.

            1. nom de plume*

              This is a weirdly negative and critical take – you’re weaving a narrative about the OP making up a story?? That’s such a bizarre and unkind interpretation. The OP was clear about the logistics, and could not have received a preemptive sign off for a job he didn’t yet have based on a starting date he didn’t know.

              OP did nothing wrong.

            2. A Reader*

              I don’t think this is right. I definitely made mistakes here, and I did act unprofessionally in getting heated (why include that if I want to ‘look good’?). I do think its true that I had misgivings that I hadn’t formalized yet, and my advisor was sent the offer letter as soon as I got it… We simply hadn’t had time to talk about it yet.

            3. biobotb*

              No idea what this response has to do with my question, but OK. If saying he needed to speak with his spouse wasn’t enough to get them to change the deadline, I doubt that mentioning a grad school committee would have magically made them more flexible (the timeline, as many in the federal realm have mentioned, may have been out of their hands). And why are you assuming the agency doesn’t have any PhDs, and doesn’t know anything about academia? Or why procedures in academia would change how things are done at a federal agency?

            4. Working Hypothesis*

              Just wanted to say I love your name! I use VoyagerII as a username elsewhere on the net. :)

    2. Delphine*

      OP was asking for less than 48 hours to think it over. Friday instead of Thursday. How is that unreasonable?

      1. Madeleine Matilda*

        There are strict deadlines in Federal hiring and it is possible that for a variety of reasons related to the complexity of Federal hiring that a quick answer was needed or the entire hiring process may have expired.

    3. Clemgo3165*

      I disagree. The hiring process was 6 weeks for this candidate, the organization took their time to carefully consider the applicants. The applicant should be given some time to weigh their own considerations prior to making a decision. It’s perfectly valid to ask for a couple of days to consult with your spouse and your committee, and figure out if the job is the right fit for you. I would have found their pushiness disrespectful too.

      1. Colette*

        Finding it disrespectful is making something that isn’t personal into a personal slight, which never works out well.

        And the OP had the same 6 weeks to consider the job. Yes, they got new information (i.e. salary) in the offer, but otherwise, she should have been considering whether she wanted the job all along.

        1. ceiswyn*

          And the OP has said that they considered and were leaning towards no; but that the unexpectedly high salary in the offer required a rethink.

          Seems entirely reasonable to me.

      2. please do not refer to me*

        You’re meant to be using those same 6 weeks to weigh your own considerations. There could potentially be extenuating circumstances, like finding out at the offer stage that relocating to an undesirable location or at short notice would be required. But aside from that, the hiring process is where you, the applicant, find out the things you need to know in order to make a decision, and ideally are prepared to do that roughly around the time that you receive an offer.

    4. in the air*

      Yikes, I think this is really off-base. Requiring a response within 24 hours (especially with just an email offer) is not something I’ve ever experienced whether as a candidate or on the hiring side. If completely new information is being sent out in the offer (ex. salary, benefits package) then it’s generally understood a candidate may need time to think it through, just as the company needed time to assess the candidate. And people who are hiring for higher-level positions are generally aware that their candidates may be entertaining multiple competing offers.

      1. Kiki*

        Yes! And the company doesn’t actually have insight as to what’s going on with the candidate’s life/current job on the day they make the offer. Maybe the employee has received other offers they’re considering, maybe they’re also working on a big project for work that’s due the next day, maybe they’re having a personal emergency of some kind, etc. If an employer needs to fill a role by a certain date, it’s not reasonable or fair to expect to have a 6-week process for themselves and leave only 12 hours for the candidate to respond. I know employers like this exist and it’s not unheard of to have turnaround times like this, but I think it is disrespectful of candidates’ time and should fall out of practice.

      2. Madeleine Matilda*

        Except this is completely normal in hiring for the Federal government which the OP may not have realized. Also the salary band and benefits are readily researchable online.

    5. vlookup*

      Is this a thing? From the other comments it sounds like having to decide within 24 hours might be normal in government, but it absolutely hasn’t been my experience in the private sector.

      People need time to review the details of the salary and benefits, maybe ask additional questions about the job, maybe discuss it with their partner. Even when I’ve been the hiring manager and needed a response ASAP, I’ve let the candidate know that but given them a few days to decide. In most cases I don’t think an employer’s urgency to fill the role should totally take precedence over a candidate’s need to think through a decision about their career.

      1. please do not refer to me*

        A couple of days would be normal in my field (private sector, corporate entertainment industry) barring any significant new information being disclosed at the offer stage. Maybe not at or above the VP level, but then this doesn’t sound like that situation.

    6. Firecat*

      Except OP did say no by that time for them? Then he got a lot of texts/calls afterwards.

      That combined with the other flags – last minute interview change without asking, an unplanned time consuming task/test, missing and/or ignoring OPs initial no, condescending interview with VP and the clarification that the call came off as condescending as well says to me this is a pushy rude employer.

  12. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    A government agency – any chance they needed you committed or onboarded before the start of the fiscal quarter or year?

    1. AnonFed*

      I’m a fed and we literally onboarded a ton of people the day before inauguration day 4 years back because we knew a hiring freeze was coming and needed the people.

  13. Lucette Kensack*

    It sounds like this involved relocation, so they really should have given you more time.

    But if it hadn’t? One day turnaround is short, but it’s only slightly outside the range of what’s normal. You’ve been engaged with them for six weeks; you should pretty much know by then whether you’re going to want to take the job (or, if you have unanswered questions, your response should be to ask those, not to generally ask for more time). Of course there are circumstances where you aren’t sure — you’re waiting on other offers, the offer was surprising in some way (bad benefits, lower salary, a different title than you expected, etc.)

    1. Jinni*

      That relocation component makes it a harder decision. When relocation is involved, in my experience, you always get more time. The one time my ex-husband had this kind of decision, we got a month maybe? They flew us to the two cities (SF and LA) and we chose from there and we didn’t even have kids – but some people do have other considerations – spouse, etc. and maybe another potential offer would have/could have been better family-wise.

      What if his wife couldn’t visit the new city (COVID), but then has to make a decision about uprooting their kids. The whole thing feels unreasonable.

      In that timeline, the LW didn’t even get the chance to maybe push for a decision (or clarity) on other potential jobs so he could weigh something that sounds like a bigger decision than going from Company A on first street to Company B on second street in the same downtown area.

      Now the heated exchange…that’s another story. My ex did that kind of thing which is why he’s my ex. His responses were outsized to the perceived offense.

      1. Madeleine Matilda*

        In the Fed you receive a tentative job offer after which background check, etc. happen. This can take weeks or months. If all of that goes well then you receive a final offer. The Fed can withdraw a tentative offer at anytime. So in reality, OP could have accepted the tentative offer, spent the interim time making a decision and then accepted the final offer or withdrawn. If you are ever on the fence about a Fed job accept the tentative offer and use the next several weeks to learn more and make a decision.

  14. AmosBurton*

    I’m interested in the “heated exchange” part too. While the agency’s behavior isn’t optimal, it’s not egregiously bad either, and not to be totally unexpected from a large government agency, or a bureaucracy-bound major company. As a hiring manager, I’ve had to tell candidates I needed an answer “tomorrow”, and that if I don’t have one, I have to take that as a “no”. I’ve had similar things happen to me as a job seeker: it happens.

    But getting into a “heated exchange” about this makes me wonder (no offense) if this might bot be tinted with some inexperience or immaturity on the part of the writer (coming right out of grad school). A job offer is simply a business proposal. Don’t want it? Say no. Need more time? Simply accept it, then back out before you start if you get something better…buy yourself some time. Again, it’s a business decision. But it’s rarely a good idea to let yourself get so emotionally invested in a job search.

    1. And they all rolled over*

      I wouldn’t accept a job with a 50/50 chance (made up numbers) that I would later rescind it. Maybe I am coming from a place of privilege, but I would tell them that I can’t meet their deadline, and offer a timeline that works for me instead. If they can’t wait then so be it.

      1. Colette*

        Yes, this is a much better approach. You’d have to be willing to let the job go, but accepting and then backing out will burn some bridges you may want in the future.

    2. Firecat*

      I find a last minute interview shuffle with just announcing a new time very egregious. Frankly I would probably decline to move forward if an employer did this without at least something like:

      “So sorry we have to shift last minute! Will X day and Y time work?”

      But just getting an email after scheduling that says “We are now interviewing on B day at C time” rude AF.

      1. iliketoknit*

        Depending on the specific agency and job, this can definitely happen – I’ve had it happen. Some hiring processes are very centralized and bureaucratic, and often you’ve given availability ahead of time anyway. I’m not saying it’s a great practice, but it’s also not really a red flag about what your on the ground experience will be like. Or at least, not in the same way it would be for a private employer.

    3. vlookup*

      Oof, definitely do not accept a job offer thinking you might back out before your start date! That’s going to cause the employer so much more difficulty than simply asking for more time to decide, and would seriously burn the bridge if it’s not due to some unforeseen circumstances (like a medical emergency).

    4. Half-Caf Latte*

      Ditto. As I was reading I got a “cheap rolls” vibe from the letter, and it sounds like a not-great fit on both sides. Glad the OP declined.

  15. Lizy*

    One thing that stuck out at me from OP’s behavior – it seems a little … odd that you told them you’d get back to them by the end of the week. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it seems a little disrespectful of their time/processes to give them a hard answer, instead of asking/confirming if your timeframe works. From the employers view, maybe they’re thinking “well sheesh how long does this person need??? It’s yes or no!”

    I’ve always asked if I could have a day or two and then get back with them, verses telling them “I’ll have an answer by X”. The latter feels more like a response I’d give to my boss if they were giving me a project, not a prospective employer.

    That being said – it definitely sounds like you were on the fence about it from the get-go, and this was just confirmation that you didn’t want the job. Bullet dodged. :)

    1. Deborah*

      It was a Wednesday, they wanted until Friday; the job wanted to know by Thursday AM. Not a huge reach.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      It was a six-week process, though, and you’re asking somebody to make a pretty serious commitment. Someone who has a spouse to consider, in this case.

      Wanting an answer by the next morning might not be considered inherently disrespectful but, yeah, I kinda feel like it should be. Putting the squeeze on somebody to make a final decision in 12-24 hours kinda feels like leveraging a power differential.

      1. AmosBurton*

        But the flip side is that it *was* a six-week process. Plenty of time to have talked to one’s spouse from the vantage point of “If BigAgency comes in at $75k? What do you think? I’m leaning towards them over SketchyUniversity if they can get to the same salary.”

        I honestly don’t see that request as “disrespectful”. Counterproductive? Perhaps. Indicative of organizational disorder? Quite possibly. But not “disrespectful”.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        I agree.

        Even after a six week process, if I got a job offer I’d want to discuss it with my spouse at the least. Maybe an offer included something we hadn’t considered (like OP said in another comment it was a different amount of money) that would sway our decision. And then we’d have to talk about things like the impact on our family the pros and cons, make sure we’re on the same page.

        Husband had a job offer, asked could he discuss it with me, manager insisted they needed to now right then, that second. Tell her! He declined.

    3. Antilles*

      From being on the employer side of the fence, I completely disagree.
      As a hiring manager, I would really prefer a specific answer rather than a vague “couple days to think about it”…primarily because “couple days” means different things to everybody whereas “by the end of the day on Friday” is an explicit timeline. If anything, providing a clear timeline is *more* respectful of their time and processes because they’re giving you a clear and definitive answer on moving forwards.
      Now, it’s possible that doesn’t work in my schedule and I reply back that “I understand but unfortunately I need a decision by mid-day Thursday due to Reasons”, but I certainly wouldn’t hold it against someone that they gave me a clear timeline.

    4. anonymouse*

      OP (posting as A Reader) speaks to this above. He was leaning away from it, but then the employer put $20k more on the table and, well, that was worth considering.

  16. JSPA*

    OP, after a long, drawn out interview process, it’s not terribly strange for any company outside of academe (where the “two body problem” is directly addressed) to assume that you and spouse might already have a planned response “in the can” (as it were).

    Granted, that mind-set commonly hurts a spouse who becomes the “trailing spouse.”

    But it’s still normal (as in, “well within the norm”) and thus, even if it’s systemically offensive, it’s really not appropriate to treat it as individually offensive.

    Furthermore, their perception that you and spouse operate as a naturally, perfectly coordinated unit is, if anything, less bizarre than your perception that the entire team at the company think with one mind. Chances are, the person who called you got a post-it-note or IM summarizing the situation as, “candidate X is iffy” and they not unreasonably jumped in to make sure you knew the good points of the job and the location.

    The idea that it’s disrespectful to recontact you during your consideration time–especially when the offer had come in without a call–isn’t a thing. I’m not sure why it would or could even be a thing.

    In very specific circumstances–if you had said, “my parent is dying, please do not call or make contact in any way, we will not be doing anything work related in the next two weeks”–then, yes, it would be a big screw-up or bad boundary pushing. In nearly every other circumstance, however, “I’m thrilled to think you’ll be joining us and here’s some more helpfulness” defaults to, “what on earth? Of course that’s not any sort of insult or disrespect!”

  17. Just no*

    I work for a federal contractor, and a lot of my friends work for federal agencies. This employer’s timeline and behavior don’t seem all that unusual for the federal hiring system, IMO. The interview processes tend to be pretty long and drawn-out — as it sounds like this one was — and I think there is an expectation that if you’ve been interviewing for a couple of months, you’ll know if you want the job or not by the time they extend the offer. In my case, I was prepared to accept my offer on the spot, and I did.

    If I had to guess what happened here, my guess would be that OP may have been their second-choice candidate. Their first-choice candidate turned them down, and they butted up against the deadline for filling the job. Sometimes those deadlines can trigger an entirely new hiring process, or even the loss of funds for the position altogether.

    Fed hiring is kind of its own beast, and I think that if OP applies for any more fed jobs, they will need to accept that the hiring process comes with a certain amount of weirdness.

    1. Grits McGee*

      Now that you mention it, OP being the second choice candidate makes a ton of sense. I’ve also had friends who were second choice candidates for federal positions (internal hiring w/in my agency, so we had a clearer idea of the behind-the-scenes drama than OP would) and had less than 24 hours to respond before they could no longer fill the position.

      1. A Reader*

        This was our guess too…10 days from final interview to offer. First guy probably took a week to turn it down.

        1. Colette*

          Or a key decision maker got sick, or they were interviewing other people after you and waited until they were done to pick their finalist, or they decided immediately but HR was backed up with other offers, or ….

        2. GigglyPuff*

          Actually as someone who works in government, this is super common for 1st pick. We have to submit paperwork on our pick, get it signed off by various levels and HR, contact references, then make the offer. Our HR is notoriously slow, even slower in the pandemic since every job has to be super justified, and it’s *even* slower now cause a few key people left. So I would actually put 10 days offer for a government job at pretty good timeline.

      2. Grits McGee*

        And it also makes sense why they wouldn’t want to give that context to OP as the reason why they had such a quick turnaround.

  18. Someone On-Line*

    I work in state government and this is frequently how hiring works. We interview someone. There is weeks of silence. And then I get approval to make an offer and they want me to have an answer within 24 hours. If I push back I can get a few days, but asking for a week would be outside the norm for our organization. I wouldn’t argue that it’s great, but it is standard.

  19. BlueBelle*

    Spring 2019 I interviewed for a job I was really excited about. The hiring manager and I really connected, she liked my 90 plan and presentation. I told her and the HR director that the following week I was leaving for a trip to Japan for my current job and because of the time difference and the amount of work I would be doing while there there would be delay in my responses. I told them if they gave me the offer I would accept. I was gung-ho and wanted to work for them. They rescinded their offer after not hearing back from me for 48 hours. I was really disappointed and didn’t really understand the overall issue. I told them I would be out of the country.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      So you told them you would accept in advance of you going out of town.
      But they didn’t send the offer until after you were away (and due to time differences you didn’t see the offer?) so weren’t able to respond within 48 hours?

      That’s pretty crappy. But probably bullet dodged.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I agree. They must not have been paying attention when you told them. Or they didn’t communicate this to the person who sent the offer. Either way a bad sign!

  20. Nicotene*

    Tragically, every job I’ve ever been offered has been a hurry-up-and-wait proposition. They drag their feet scheduling interviews and getting input from higher-ups, but then once they make up their mind they want you to start immediately. I’ve always had to fight even to get the two weeks’ notice I owe my current employer. My field is probably unique, but they also have a tendency to hire for “passion” so if you seem less than 100% enthusiastic they figure the next person is a better bet.

  21. Mary Anne*

    If they are so rushed and high-handed throughout the process, it’s not unreasonable to think that the culture there is hectic and high-handed, so count yourself lucky to not have ended up with the job. Jobs should be a good fit for both parties and it sounds like you had a narrow escape from being tempted to overlook things that felt like red flags for you in light of the money.

    1. A Reader*

      This is exactly the case. I would have figured that out after one more night of sleeping on it, I think

    2. biobotb*

      I don’t know if that’s necessarily the case. It seems like if it’s a federal agency, a lot of the hiring practices are not coming from the agency itself, so theoretically the culture of the agency itself could be very different.

  22. A Reader*

    Thanks All. I’ve got to get back to work.
    All in all I think a couple things happened here: I was unsure of the job anyway, the money came in high and swayed me back into it, then the pushiness got to me. I probably dodged a bad fit, at the very least; and actually accepted another job on Monday. It was definitely weird, I learned some about myself, and I’m still not sure what was happening behind the curtain but it certainly made me uncomfortable.

    1. viewfrmhere*

      Just wanted to say congrats on the new job and thank you for replying with introspection and openness in the comments.

    2. Darsynia*

      Congrats on the other job that you accepted! My instinct is that companies who should respect employees’ need to make joint decisions with the people they share their lives with… but I admittedly have no experience in the matter!

  23. Darsynia*

    I’m certainly not involved enough in job searching to know for sure, but expecting an answer within 24 hours when the job involves moving to a completely other city seems absolutely ridiculous. I would like to think that someone applying for a job in another city would be able to have thought about the move beforehand, but there’s a big difference between hoping for a job and certainly getting it, and making joint decisions with a spouse is a responsible thing to do. I think I’d be tempted to get heated if they have time to call and push the OP but not time to give them two or more days to decide.

    BUT! I am not in the job market and haven’t been for a while, so maybe this is normal?

  24. Quickbeam*

    I’ve worked for 4 state goverments in the US. All of the processes were as the OP described. Very tight inflexible timelines, no options for interview time choices. I once had to go straight to an interview after working a night shift because they refused to give me an afternoon slot. And when job offers were made it was “take it or leave it” with no time to deliberate.

    I’ve had soem amazing expereinces working in government in jobs that don’t exist in the private sector. But the processes can be brutal.

  25. hbc*

    “I responded that I was not prepared to accept the position under the timeline (my wife and I weren’t ready — other jobs were also coming online — and I hadn’t yet talked to my committee) and so if they needed an answer that day, the answer was no.”

    If I’m reading this right, the parenthetical is an explanation for us, but not one that was given to the potential employer. If they don’t have that context, all they’re hearing is “I won’t give you an answer in your desired timeframe,” which is a lot harder to accept. “I need to talk to my committee to make sure I still get my degree” would likely have generated less argument. (Or at least a specific type of argument where they knew they wouldn’t have to sell you on the city.)

    It sounds like they made the same mistake, by the way. “We need your answer by Tuesday or [we lose our budget/you won’t make the next round of trainings and will have to start in January/the offer turns into a pumpkin]” will help you figure out whether you should speed things up.

  26. Fed-o*

    My thoughts on this would have been completely different if the OP hadn’t indicated that this was for a government agency.

    I know it’s common and usually good advice to consider these types of hiring practices as red flags, but I’d encourage someone interested in government work to separate the hiring experience from the actual work/office. As a pretty senior person in my organization, I make selections off a cert by a deadline and from there it’s up to HR: the notification, the decision deadline, etc.

    As a hiring manager, I am also at the mercy of The Process. I can answer a candidate’s questions about the work, training, office culture, etc., but I can’t answer their questions about salary or deadlines. I don’t even know when the offer goes out and can’t give a candidate a heads up lest HR find them ineligible on a technicality. That’s all in HR’s court.

    Good news: it’s almost entirely unrelated to what we do on a daily basis and how we do it once you start in the role.
    Candidates should consider if they want to be a manager in that environment, but for non-supervisory jobs it’s almost always far in the background. If you think you’ll like the work or other government perks (the general you, as OP has another gig), consider gritting your teeth through the hiring. If it’s a dealbreaker, that’s completely legitimate, as we all have our own limits of what we can tolerate.

    1. LizM*

      I joke with my colleagues that getting through the federal hiring process is a screening process in and of itself. I love my job, I love my agency’s mission, I love that I get to do meaningful work in my field. All that said, the bureaucracy is maddening. I mentioned this elsewhere, but if you can’t accept that the federal hiring process is less than ideal, maybe federal employment isn’t for you, because that’s not the last process where you will have to grit your teeth and accept that you have to jump through hoops to get where you want to be.

      That’s not to say we shouldn’t strive to improve. I talk with the head of our regional HR and our regional director all the time about how to improve hiring. But there is only so much change an individual regional office can effect, and part of working in a massive bureaucracy is choosing your battles and focusing your energy where you can make a real difference in your agency’s mission.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        There are also laws and Rules (capital R because the Rulemaking process is almost as complicated as legislation itself!) that come into play here, that are not easy to change even if EVERYONE is in agreement.

        One scenario in particular comes to mind regarding a scoring and selection process we have that encompasses the vast majority of entry level professional titles in my State. What we (that is, the entirety of the HR community and the control agency governing the process) wanted done and was recommending, actually needed new legislation passed. The control agency’s council’s office drafted said legislation almost four years ago and it has died in committee in the legislature every year since. DIED IN COMMITTEE. Not even brought up for discussion.

        So it’s not just bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is actually far easier to change.

  27. David*

    One thing I’ve had some success with in similar cases (not *this* level of pressure, but “hey, what other interview loops are you in the middle of?”) is turning it back around as a bid. “How much is it worth to you for me to cancel my other interviews?”

    Last time I did that I got +$5/hr (USD) on a 1-year 40-hour contract. If anything, this’s gone to show the value of having something in the pipeline for me.

  28. 1qtkat*

    I work for a state agency and there’s a regulation that requires that the hiring process must span 50 days from the day the job posts to the day the job is offered to the candidate. And yeah interview dates are set in stone in advance to accommodate the time frame and the schedules of the panel members. And there’s lots of moving parts during the process. I remember my boss emailed to schedule my offer call. I had already talked about the position with my spouse and was pretty certain I was going to accept. The only thing I regret accepting on the spot is that I didn’t negotiate the salary (though their offer was in the range I was betting on)

  29. Database Developer Dude*

    It wasn’t for an agency of the federal government, but it was for someone who was a federal contractor (RGS Associates, since bought out by US Falcon – Yes, I do name and shame). I’m sure had I accepted, I would have been in some federal office.

    In any case, I had the interview, and as I was walking towards the Metro to leave, they called to offer me the position. I wanted 24 hours to think it over, they pushed back on that. I asked for at least the end of the workday, and cited that I needed to compare any written offer to what else I had going. They pushed back on that. I asked then for one hour’s time to consider the offer. They pushed back on that. I finally declined the offer, and cited the refusal to give me any time to consider it, and the guy says “We’re withdrawing the offer, because of your unreasonable demands.” WTAF?????

    1. Raine*

      Yeah, the “not even an hour’s time” would’ve been a dealbreaker for me, unless I desperately wanted/needed the job (and maybe not even then). Especially if I was in the grocery store/on the bus/halfway to Timbuktu when I got the call, I would want to have the time to sit down, review the offer, and think it through.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yeah- that would absolutely be a red flag to me.

      I always ask for a day to think it over as due diligence, even if I’m really sure I’ll accept. I usually say something enthusiastic then something like “I want to make sure I think this over before giving you a final decision” or even “I never give an answer right away, but so far that sounds good” and ask for a day or so to think it over and review the offer details. I’ve always had a positive response to that, since it shows I’m taking the decision and the job seriously. It’s also just a great go-to script because the instinct is often to say yes right away out of nerves, but this ensures I always give myself time to think and a chance to follow up with negotiations.

  30. LizM*

    I think other commenters have talked about why the timeline makes sense for an agency, but I guess I’m not sure why OP felt that the follow up was “pushy.” Maybe disorganized.

    But I could easily see the exchange from the agency’s side like this:

    HR Email: Here is an offer, we need a response by tomorrow morning for reasons.

    HR Analyst or Selecting Official: (I should probably call them, but I have 3 hours of meetings. I’ll follow up when they’re done).

    OP: Emails that she may need more time

    HR Analyst or Selecting Official: (Oh good, they got my email. I’m going to shift to my mountain of work).

    The next morning,

    HR Analyst or Selecting Official: (It’s 8 am, I need to know if this person will accept so I can move onto the next candidate before the cert expires), Sends email.

    OP: If you need an answer now, the answer is no.

    HR Analyst or Selecting Official to Senior Manager: OP turned the offer down, they said they didn’t have enough time to decide.

    Senior Manager: (Well, I really liked OP, they must still have questions which is why they couldn’t respond by the deadline, I should reach out to see if I can clarify anything before we make the denial official.)

    It sounds like OP was having a hectic day, but in general, job hunting will be more successful if you assume that people are acting with good intentions. That doesn’t mean you need to accept jobs that don’t feel like the right fit, this doesn’t sound like a good fit at all. But I also dont’ think it’s unreasonable to politely respond to the text by saying, “I’ve already declined the job. Best of luck finding a great candidate!”

  31. Rectilinear Propagation*

    I have had an interview with a government agency rescheduled. They went ahead and put me in a time slot but said to let them know if it didn’t work. They unfortunately only had a few available but the woman I spoke to scheduled me to make sure I had *something* in case this slots filled up, not because she assumed I should be able to drop everything to make the new time work.

    Given how had it is to schedule a meeting with more than two government employees at a time, I’m guessing that it is not uncommon. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t annoying, just that it seems to be A Thing.

  32. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    It sounds like most of you who have fed experience weighed in, and the OP didn’t specify what level of government (Fed, State, Local), but working on the State level myself (in HR, no less!), I can say the timeline they mentioned above is pretty typical. The rush for an answer is a bit off-putting and it would definitely depend on the role/agency but I could see that happening here for a variety of reasons ranging from acceptable to not. The fact that none of the reasons were clearly communicated definitely speaks to the agency’s culture. (I want to say, so does the last minute cancellation of the interview, but that could just as likely been above the hiring manager’s pay grade as well – unfortunately when Certain People call, it’s a drop-everything situation, and that doesn’t necessarily reflect specifically on the workplace, just the sometimes-political nature of working in government.)

  33. Esmeralda*

    Kind of wondering why OP felt disrespected. Why not assume good intentions unless you know otherwise? Even if you can’t figure out another reason, assume there is one? (Obviously bigotry is a different situation, but doesn’t seem to have been the issue here.)

    I also think that getting “heated” was not a good idea. People remember that kind of thing. People know each other and talk to each other. People are connected in ways you would never know — family friends, married to each other, went to high school together, used to work together, etc etc etc. So my suggestion for the future would be to always take a breath and smooth down your prickles — something I learned thru sad experience when I was very green.

    1. A Reader*

      I agree it was not a good idea.
      I felt like they wanted to push me around: moving the interview, short notice challenge (and not an easy one), strong arm tactics for accept….it made me very worried about their respect for boundaries and, perhaps more importantly, my field relies on judgements and I was worried that pressure strategy would carry over to my judgements. Perhaps there was an element of threat that i felt.

      1. Ted*

        You seem inclined to take the worst view of everything, react emotionally, and read an awful lot into perfectly commonplace actions. Maybe something to reflect on before you engage in the hiring process next time?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I agree that’s overly broad! But I will say … I do see a bit of that in some of your interpretations! Now, I wasn’t in these conversations, obviously, and maybe there was something about the tone of them that would rub an objective observer the wrong way. But the way you’re describing it here, it does sound like you’re reading more into some of this than you should!

            1. A Reader*

              Certainly a possibility. I think the smartest comment on here was the one that said something like “you were uncomfortable and looking for a reason to confirm no in your mind”. Reading their intentions as malicious or heavy-handed would certainly be a way to do that in my mind (like tricking myself)

              1. Kella*

                It sounds like there was *something* that was off to you or that didn’t work for you, you just don’t know what it was. It could’ve been problem behavior, bad culture, pushiness etc. or it could’ve just been an intangible incompatibility. You learned that their method of communication didn’t work for you and that’s a good reason to not take a job, regardless of whether their method of communication is inherently bad or disrespectful.

              2. Working Hypothesis*

                I don’t think you were necessarily tricking yourself exactly, Reader… but it does sound like you were taking as personal a lot of things which were probably not personal at all. It’s still fine that those things didn’t work for you, and it’s still totally reasonable of you to turn down the job because something felt off to you! But the *ways* they were off look more like general disorganization than deliberate attempts to push you around, and I do think that once you began to believe that they were purposely trying to push you around, you saw everything else they did through that lens of assumptions.

                It’s fine that the job wasn’t the right one for you and I wish you well finding the one that is! But none of what you’ve told us looks to me like deliberate attempts to mess with you… just a combination of disorganization, not very clueful enthusiasm about you, and the mildly obnoxious process of hiring from a government office.

  34. it_guy*

    This is very atypical for a government position. Was it a full time contracting position at the government agency?

      1. Vichyssuave*

        I can’t speak to other civil service positions, but this is how it plays out at my local level and may be part of what happened with your experience. After canvass, my agency’s hiring process is also 4-6 weeks. It requires multiple in person interviews, a background check, skills assessments, a psych eval, etc. We are one of very few agencies with such rigorous hiring processes under the umbrella of a much larger local government. Our actual hire date is determined by HR, based on the needs of the entire county and when they decide will be best to run an onboard and make it match up with pay periods. We have to work on the same schedule as agencies that have one interview after canvass. Essentially, my bosses get told:

        “This is when the county decided we’re onboarding people. Make it work or you’re waiting to hire until the next time we onboard. No, we don’t know when that is.”

        Often that date is soon, and there is enormous pressure to make the hire(s) quickly, or get a no so you can move on to the next candidate(s). This may not be at all what happened to you, but it’s a scenario that might explain it. You, I think, took this much too personally, when I would guess it was red tape and bureaucracy more than anything. However, it sounds like you found a much better fit anyway, so congrats and good luck on the new job, and this serves as a good reminder for us all that hiring is a two way street!

        1. A Reader*

          I definitely agree I took it too personally; perfect fit job on paper coupled with a process that cultivated misgivings let me way split. But yeah, I do think it all worked out for the best…even if getting there was ugly

  35. TWW*

    OP, it sounds like both you and this prospective employer dodged bullets. It wouldn’t have been a good fit for either party since you seem to have incompatible decision-making styles.

    I’m a little curious why you were caught off guard by the offer after six weeks of interviews. Shouldn’t you have already discussed the possibility with your wife and committee once you realized you were a serious contender? At that point it shouldn’t take more than a day to tell her the good news and confirm your ultimate yes/no answer.

    1. A Reader*

      caught off guard doesn’t sound quite right….I think we were a no and the money came in high and forced a reconsider. But yes, I agree it would have been a bad fit… This was so different than all other processes I went through that I just can’t quite figure it out…the job I ultimately took gave me up to two weeks to decide. It didn’t take that long, but they were cognizant of logistics and such on my end in a way that made me more comfortable

      1. Des*

        Oh, well, if you actually weren’t interested in the job than the behaviour in the letter makes more sense to me. Of course, if you’re looking for reasons to reject, then missing phone calls from perspective employer and scrutinizing their attitude is something we as humans tend to do to give us more of a certainty that rejection is right. It sounds to me like you wanted to feel certain that you didn’t want to work there and were testing them and they failed the test. Rightly or not, they are definitely not a good fit for your work style, so bullet dodged on both sides.

  36. Tiara Wearing Princess*

    I’m a bit confused but maybe this was addressed earlier

    – Alison: For whatever reason, they had a quick turnaround time and they needed an answer the next day. You declined to give them one, and that was that.

    but the OP said:

    -so if they needed an answer that day, the answer was no.

    it’s never a good idea to get ‘heated’ but it sounds like the call OP received had the caller acting like he didn’t know OP had already declined the offer. Disingenious, no?

    1. A Reader*

      This is correct. I had declined the job in writing. I believe the caller knew that but pretended it was not a thing. My wife said it was liek the pushy guy who wont take no for an answer on a date (obviously lower stakes, but you take the point)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not if they’re different people. If the offer was declined to HR, it’s totally feasible the manager didn’t know that yet. Or she did but wanted to try to woo him — that’s not weird, that happens a lot.

    3. LizM*

      “If you need an answer today, the answer is no” isn’t the same as “no, I don’t want this job.” Depending on how it got translated to the person who called, they may not have understood it to be a hard no, in which case, reaching out to see if the applicant is missing info that could help them decide isn’t unreasonable.

  37. Glitterati*

    Came to say it’s not just the USA that has crazy government hiring and work culture. I worked in the UK for local gov in my first job out of college and got a verbal warning for making phone calls in the office which “distracted others“…when my job was to cold call licensed venues to discuss anti drink driving provisions and get sponsorship and support for the gov campaign. One colleague slept at his desk, the others played video games on their work computers. It was horrendous. My next gov interview was at local council in Australia. Missed out only because I couldn’t explain the internal software system as well as the internal candidate. Duh. The next interview was with a State Dept and was hilarious. Numerous interviews each set up by email. The hiring manager didn’t respond to contact from me asking for times and location until the day of each interview so it was a total panic. She was rude to a colleague in front of me during the interview. Then she called my references without telling me and decided not to offer me the job because my CEO didn’t know I was looking and wasn’t prepared for her questions. Dodged a bullet there. The person they hired left after a couple of months.
    I still work for government but it’s slightly better. Slightly…

  38. Des*


    What’s going on here? You “felt wildly disrespected”. For some reason, unknown to me.
    Was it “nice” that they were pushy? Probably not. But instead of “getting heated” what you should have done is (a) left them a phone number that you were able to pick up, especially around the time of the deadline, and not something you could miss due to other priorities and (b) inquired as to their reasons for a short timeline. If you had asked, you would know now what their reasoning was (at least on its face) and you wouldn’t be wondering if the job is a good fit. It sounds to me personally like you blew it because you wanted some sort of ‘respect’, which a short deadline did not provide you with. In that case, you probably dodged a bullet since this org likely had other short deadlines for people already employed that would make you feel disrespected. But personally, I would seriously rethink what led you to be ‘heated’ about an inconvenient, yes, but not super unusual request to give your answer on a short time-frame. Especially after a SIX WEEK interview process where all your concerns except for the actual offer/salary should have been adequately addressed.

    1. Des*

      I’ve caught up with OP’s responses above — they did not particularly want this job. I still wouldn’t get into heated exchanges with anyone over a job offer, but otherwise it sounds like bullet dodged because of bad fit. (Kudos to OP for taking critical feedback in the thread with grace, btw!)

  39. Surprised*

    Wow, people were so quick to invalidate OPs feelings towards a situation they experienced. So many people offered excuses for other people’s behaviour and put it back on the OP for having a reaction to the situation. A reasonable reaction! While people have used the excuse of this being a normal govt practice, there isn’t a reasonable explanation for why the hiring manager couldn’t have said anything about how quickly they’d need a response if an offer was made at any stage of the interview process. I’m not sure anyone could convince me of a valid reason though.

    1. A Reader*

      I think this is a smart comment. Throughout the process it felt like they assumed I would do anything for the job and should be honored by the opportunity to be considered (moving the meeting, fast challenge, etc). The offer had a similar tone; how could anyone not want this. Then a no that felt ignored because it wasnt what they wanted to hear (and doing so in a “I’m talking to a child” tone on the phone).

      I maybe misread some of it and certainly regret some of my reaction… But at the end of the day it felt like they assumed a power disparity and were prepared to use it to bully me. Maybe that was an incorrect reading, but I have never felt that way professionally before and it felt like middle school or something again. I’m a bit of a nerd in a highly quantitative and specialized field, and I remember what it felt like to be bullied. For the first time in my professional life, I felt that again. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I’m too sensitive, but this is a whole thing felt wrong in that way.

      I honestly think they simply miscalculated the power dynamics… The nerds have inherited the earth and I expect to be treated like someone with choices and in a co-equal relationship with my employer. I don’t think I’m being too demanding, didn’t need the job, and while I want to learn from it… I’d rather be unemployed than feel that way again (if that’s the professional world, I guess I’ll end up a monk or something).

      1. iliketoknit*

        Depending on what the position was, their assumption may not have been unreasonable. A lot of entry-level positions are seen as an entree into the federal government and bit more like applying to something like a Fulbright scholarship than a regular job. For instance, something like the Presidential Management Fellowship would fall into this category. So there can be a “how could anyone not want this” kind of edge to things, but it’s genuine belief that the position is amazing, not a disparagement of your abilities/accomplishments. I also wanted to address the short-notice exercise – that’s the kind of thing that could appear in any interview process (it can be frustrating but it’s not uncommon or seen as disrespectful). In any case, I’m a former academic myself, and I do think there’s often quite a bit of adjustment needed to the non-academic world. Again, it sounds like it was a good thing in the end since you’ve accepted a different job you sound very happy about, but it’s worth keeping an open mind about some of these things for future job searching.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      This is a great comment- it’s clear something felt wrong, and even if the OP couldn’t articulate what, they should trust their gut here. It’s easy to say they weren’t perfect, but honestly OP, you stood up for yourself in an uncomfortable situation! I think you did fine.

      It’s perfectly possible to be polite and a little heated at the same time (depending on personal definitions but let’s not semantic rules-lawyer this), though since I wasn’t there I can’t say where the OP actually was along that spectrum.

      And hey, if their hands aren’t tied entirely by policy, the feedback you gave could even influence this one manager to rethink their hiring approach! Especially if they’re competing for good candidates with the private sector where this would absolutely read as disrespectful, and even more so if you’re not the only candidate they’ve lost like this.

    3. Fed-o*

      Hiring managers almost never know what the deadline needs to be or why. Eligibility expires, hiring authorities expire, etc. HR knows all that. I have hired over 20 people in the past few years and I never, not once, knew what decision deadline HR gave the candidate. We explain the process as “We make a selection and return to the cert to HR. HR contacts the selected candidates with a written tentative offer. If the candidate accepts, they’ll go through a clearance and if that is issued, HR will extend a final offer.” That’s about as specific as we can get. We cannot cannot cannot speak for HR. YMMV from agency to agency, but I’m at a large and prominent one, and HR only lets me know when someone has accepted or not, and then when we are ready with an EOD. I hear what you’re saying about invalidating OP’s response, but it’s really not in the control of the hiring manager.

  40. lost in space*

    Regarding the short time for acceptance. Not in the U.S. but Australian government agencies can have hiring freezes announced due to budget cuts or restructures with very short deadlines. It is possible they may have needed an acceptance very quickly to get the person hired before the freeze took place.

  41. judyjudyjudy*

    If it were me, I would have said “I’ve already declined the offer, thank you for the opportunity” and hung up the phone. I’m sure you gave the agency office a bit if excitement with your “heated exchange.” Congratulations on the new job.

  42. singlemaltgirl*

    no matter the role – entry level to senior – i have found the following tends to work best:
    1) during interview process, give a timeline for when i will get back to all candidates being interviewed (subject to reference checks)
    2) i turn down applicants interviewed with an email if i know i’m not going to pursue ref checks for them within the timeframe i gave
    3) give an update to any shortlisted candidates if the reference checks are taking longer than planned
    4) send offers via email and give them some time – usually about 3-4 days to think about with the invitation on the email to let me know if they might need more time and to let me know if that was the case

    i’m not subject to gov’t rigidity in this case but i find that if you’re fair and upfront with people and set expectations from the start and keep them informed, they can plan better and i’d rather they have the time to evaluate rather than jump on something that isn’t right and then not work out in the end.

    in this situation, i’d feel much like the op – why the rush and why the pushiness? i don’t know about the ‘hot headed part’ – i may have chosen to just send an email that i’d already declined given that i wasn’t comfortable with the timeline and thank them for the oppty. i’d prefer not to burn a bridge if i can avoid it. but agree – red flag central.

  43. Nathan*

    I don’t understand defending bad hiring practices simply because they’re too common. Racist, sexist, ableist, and other discriminatory hiring practices are also far too common, but I hope we’re not rushing in to defend those! A SIX-WEEK interview process, and then they need an answer by tomorrow morning?

    Even being charitable and assuming they’re just disorganized, companies are rarely disorganized in one aspect and not any of the others. I would not at all be surprised to learn that tasks which should be routine become emergencies inside this company because they got lost in bureaucracy for weeks when they could have been in progress.

    Life is stressful enough as it is. No need to invite more by allowing a high-pressure sell to coerce you into a decision you’re not comfortable with. While I would have liked it better if OP had kept his or her cool throughout the exchange, I don’t think it’s reasonable to so heavily defend the company just because they’re wrong in the same way a lot of other companies are!

  44. Hooray to the OP*

    I just came to show admiration to the OP for being so thoughtful and introspective in the comments. So many would be understandably defensive in that position.

  45. London Gal*

    I agree it’s not ideal to have such a short turnaround time to respond to the job offer and whilst the long interview process may be a red flag in some countries it’s normal in the UK to have a long hiring process for mid – senior roles and even junior roles in government agencies.

    If the company recruiting is using a recruitment agency then expect to get hounded by the agency until you have made a decision.

    I’m sure the OP would have had been given hints etc along the way that they were doing well in the process and have an indication as to the probability of them being hired.
    Why couldn’t the OP start discussions with their partner and committee during the process?

    I imagine the committee members are busy people and won’t be in a position to give you what you need immediately so giving them as much notice as possible can only work in your favour.

    It doesn’t sound like the OP and the agency was a good fit so it seems like all has worked out for the best.

    Good luck for the future OP.

  46. In my shell*

    I’ve read the post, comments, and additional comments by A Reader (OP) and I *still* don’t understand why there was a nuclear level bridge burning over a simple miscommunication / misunderstanding of expectations. Perhaps the agency dodged a bullet in a potential hire that would have been a mismatch?

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