interviewer wants my current employer to say they know I’m looking, friend asking for free work, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Interviewer wants an approval letter from my current job, saying they know I’m interviewing

I’ve had a few interviews with a company, I like them, they like me, they want to make an offer. But my current employer uses their products (think software). Because of this, the company wants a letter from my current employer’s HR stating that HR is aware I’m looking at a job with this company and that it’s okay. Oh, and they haven’t actually given me the offer yet, I don’t even know how much I’d be making, just an idea from a range that I mentioned in the first interview.

Does this sound strange to you, or have I just been lucky to never run across this before? Is this due to some potential conflict? Even though we use their software, my current employer and this company are not at all in the same line of work, so I feel like that doesn’t work well as an explanation. I emailed the hiring contact looking for more clarification, but they just reiterated what they originally asked for (that it needs to be on company letterhead, signed by HR, and needs to have what I mentioned above). I’m afraid that it would somehow get out at my current job or that HR would need to speak to my manager and then they’d know I was looking for another job but I wouldn’t have this new actual offer as back up.

What on earth! No, this is not reasonable. It sounds like they’re concerned that your company will feel like they “poached” you (a highly problematic concept, but a thing none the less) and be upset about it, so they want your company’s blessing first. But that’s very much not in your interests — you don’t have a firm offer from them yet and it could fall through, or the offer could be for less than you’d accept, or there could be some other reason things don’t work out. And if that happens, you’ll have essentially announced to your employer that you’re job searching, and while that might not be an issue, most people have good reason to worry about it — you can end up being pushed out earlier than you’d otherwise want to leave, or sidelined from projects, or on the top of layoff lists since they assume you’re on your way out anyway. It’s a bad deal for you.

You can try saying, “My employer doesn’t know I’m looking and it could jeopardize my job to inform them at this stage. If you offer me the job and I accept, I’ll certainly make sure at that point that it doesn’t affect their relationship with you, but I’m not able to give them a heads-up at this stage.” If they won’t budge, you’re better off walking away from the prospective job than letting them push you into something so risky for you.

2. I backed out of a job offer — can I ask if they’ll still hire me now?

I recently went on a job interview. I loved the position and I loved the people. After a month of waiting, I accepted their offer. During my waiting to hear back from them, I went on an interview with another company and the day before I was scheduled to start with the first company, the second company offered me the role. They offered me a higher salary and a higher position. So I accepted that offer and apologetically rescinded the offer with the first company.

Now a month into my new job, I am not happy. It really isn’t a good fit for me and I wish I didn’t take it. Clearly, all that glitters isn’t gold. I see that the first position is still available. Do you think I can reach out to the first company and possibly ask if I can take the job or should I just move on?

Well … they’re likely to be very cautious. You’d committed to their offer and then backed out the day before they thought you were starting, which means they’re likely to be wary of counting on you again (especially if they had cut loose other candidates and had to start their process all over). It’s not that you did something horrible by looking out for your own interests. But they have to look out for theirs too, and at this point they’d need to wonder if you’re going to leave for something better again right after they invest in training you.

That said, if they really liked you and you hit just the right tone in approaching them now, they might consider it — but that tone needs to include a lot of “I know this inconvenienced you and I completely understand if this doesn’t make sense on your end.” Even then, a lot of hiring managers would be a hard no (I probably would be). But I don’t think you have anything to lose by explaining what happened and seeing if they’re up for talking again.

3. Friend/client asking for free work

A few months ago, I reached out to a friend (and former colleague) who runs their own business, to offer my services freelance should they and their business partner need it. They took me up on it and I prepared some written materials for them, which they said they were pleased with (I was paid for these projects). They indicated they really needed my help and would have more work for me shortly.

That was several months ago and I had not heard from them since. Today, my friend reached out to me to essentially ask for free advice to help them build their business further. They didn’t directly say they wanted free advice, but it was pretty clear from the tone of the message that’s what they meant. There was no mention of payment for my time and effort. Is there a diplomatic way to tell them that if they want my advice it is not available for free?

The easiest way to handle it is to respond as if of course payment is a given. So something like, “Sure, I can help with that! For this kind of consulting, my rate is $X, which would include ___. If that sounds good, I’ll send over a contract and we can get started.”

Or — any chance she’s only looking for something like 10 or 15 minutes as a friend rather than as a client? If so and you’re willing to do that, you could say, “Let’s talk and see what you’re looking for. If it’s more than a quick conversation, I charge $X/hour for consulting, and we can figure out if that’s what you need once we talk.”

4. Should you always negotiate salary, no matter what?

I recently accepted a major promotion at work (I’m SO excited!) and when the salary was offered to me, I did not negotiate. My reasoning was:

– I know the salary band for this position, and the salary offered to me was the low end (but within the band — in other words, they didn’t try to screw me by offering me something lower than the band).
– I feel the salary is in line with the market.
– This promotion is a “double” step up for me — I’m essentially skipping a level to take this role.

Given that this is such a reach for me and I felt satisfied with the compensation, I didn’t try to negotiate. But was that the wrong move? Obviously it’s too late now (I’ve signed the offer letter and accepted the salary) but was my reasoning off? Should you ALWAYS negotiate, no matter what?

You should usually negotiate, but not always. For example, if the offer is obviously generous (meaning well above market, not just a lot to you) and/or you’re on the low end of experience for the job, asking for more could look out of touch. Or if you’d told the employer the range you were looking for and they match or exceed that, asking for more can make you look like you’re not operating in good faith.

In your case, it sounds reasonable that they’d offer the low end of the range since it’s a stretch role for you. I think you could have tried negotiating, but it wasn’t a big misstep that you didn’t.

5. Can I ask why the previous people in the job left?

I am going to be interviewing for a new position with a competitor in the same industry as my current job. I know that the two people who were most recently in the job that I’m interviewing for left the position (and the company) after 2-3 years. This is a senior level position and the industry I work in does not generally have a high turnover rate. I have been in my current position for eight years and am interviewing for this other company as this would be a promotion.

My question is whether or not it would be appropriate during my interviews to ask why the last person (or last two people) in this position left? How about mentioning that I’m aware that the last two people in the position had a pretty short tenure? I don’t want to offend anyone but I also want to try to determine if this may be red flag.

Yes, you can ask that! It’s fine to say, “It looks like the last two people in the job each left after a couple of years. Can you tell anything about why they moved on?” Just keep in mind that you won’t necessarily get the straight scoop — they’re very unlikely to say, “The workload is crushing and the culture is oppressive.” So make sure you’re doing your own research too.

{ 223 comments… read them below }

  1. PollyQ*

    #1 — Or you could just walk away right now. This is tremendously weird of them, and it make me think they believe their employees are more like property than humans who are free to make their own choices about their employment. There’s no way this weirdness doesn’t crop up again when they deal with actual employees.

    1. Greg*

      Word. My first thought was that if they’re this odd when you’re coming on board, they’re going to be way weirder when you leave them.

      1. Mm*

        Maybe. Maybe not. This could also be some miguided hiring managers attempt to “play fair” and totally not thinking it through. Personally I’d see how they respond to the letter writer making their case.

        1. pancakes*

          It’s not benign to not think things through, or to be badly misguided in making hiring decisions. The best case scenario is that these people are impulsive and not smart.

        2. New Job So Much Better*

          Reminds me of high school when the cheerleading coach is warned not to ‘poach” anyone from the pompom squad. SMH.

        3. Nanani*

          But even then, they seem to think “Fairness” to LWs current employer is more important than fairness to LW which is… not how this works.

      2. Stina*

        Or when you want to change your role within the company. Just imagining the hoops and roadblocks and drama involved in asking for raises (do you need to provide your bills?), getting promoted or changing roles (must have approval of all candidates for role?), etc.

    2. Stitch*

      I’d also consider that when you want to leave they’ll be vindictive over it if you don’t do the same for them, were you to take the job.

      I see this as a very big red flag.

      1. BabyElephantWalk*

        Yep. I think it’s a sign of how they’ll behave if you leave, but also a sign that they don’t value you enough to be worth risking your job with no offer in place.

    3. Anon manager*

      I don’t like the way hiring company is handling this, but the concern may be rooted in reality. The LW should walk because of the position they are being put in, but I think I see what the hiring company is trying to avoid. Note: this is not something I support, just an experience for context. I worked for a software company that had a problem with a customer hiring away key individuals. One or two wasn’t a problem, but after 10 or so, the decision was made that we didn’t want to be their recruiting service and we stopped selling to them.

      If LW really wants this position, I would dig in and say I will only provide this document after an offer is made and accepted. If they want to make the offer contingent on this, that would be fine by me, but they need to let me manage informing current company of my departure.

      1. Snow Globe*

        I don’t think I’d accept a contingent offer, because what if their current employer says “we don’t want to give you ‘permission’ to hire our employee” (which they might because of fear that it could blow back on them if for some reason LW doesn’t work out at the other company).

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          This is exactly my concern. If OP a accepts a contingent offer and then their current company won’t give them this incredibly weird document that they’re probably not used to providing, now the OP loses the potential job and has a target on their back at the current job. It’s a terrible situation and none of it is good for OP.

          1. The OTHER other*

            The current company HR might refuse to sign, or delay signing, just because it’s a very weird document outside the norms of what they do. This is the sort of thing people consult lawyers about to make sure they aren’t signing away rights or something.

            There’s a reason this is not the norm. Unless the company is really unique, or known to pay higher than competitors, I would tell them no, and why. In this job market, there really isn’t a reason to put up with this kind of nonsense when there are tons of non-bizarre employers looking to hire.

      2. MK*

        If this a real concern, it would be better to simply not hire people from organizations that you have this relationship with, or warn the candidates upfront that you don’t want to jeopardize the relationship with their employer and ask their input. Not putvthem through a hiring process and then spring it on them.

        1. Annony*

          I agree. It might make sense if the OP’s employer is a major customer that they are afraid to offend, but that should have been addressed earlier.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        It seems so unusual to me that I did wonder whether this process was started after a specific incident. Maybe they did have a client unreasonably react one time? It’s still way too much of them to ask and I wouldn’t do it. But if you really liked them and felt strongly about the position otherwise it might be worth talking to them about it.

      4. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah I don’t necessarily see this as a sign of gross company malfunction (although it may be) so much as they’re unwilling to lose this client to hire OP. That sucks for OP obviously but I don’t think it necessarily means anything more than that.

    4. urguncle*

      My current employer requires this after 2 customers had employees leave for us. It’s a way of saying “please don’t apply if you work for our customer” without saying it outright. But, it has worked out for someone who was a contractor, wanted full-time remote work without the 1099 burden and waited until the end of their contract to apply.

      1. Observer*

        It’s a way of saying “please don’t apply if you work for our customer” without saying it outright.

        If you need to say something without saying it outright, in a business context, it’s worth thinking if you should be saying it altogether.

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

          Agreed. This is essentially a non-poaching agreement and they are against federal law according to a quick google search: “In 2016, the DOJ and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued joint guidance warning HR professionals that no-poach and wage-fixing agreements violate federal law.”

          1. e271828*

            Yeah, this is illegal. OP can point that out as they exit from the application process—which, in OP’s shoes, I would do, because this was always a weird thing to ask and it’s blatantly in violation of the law. Employment is not indentured servitude.

          1. RVA Cat*

            They’d probably make you sign a non-compete to not work literally any other job for the rest of your life if you dare leave!

      2. The New Wanderer*

        If that’s the thought process, why not just auto-reject any applicant whose resume shows they work for a customer? That seems far less problematic than telling the candidate to put themselves really far out on a limb in the hopes of getting a (decent) offer and not burning their current bridge in the process.

        Not to mention, if the OP hypothetically went forward with this and the resulting offer is terrible, would they even be able to negotiate? I’d feel like the offering company would either refuse to budge or pull the offer.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          Or better yet, put it in the job ad! “As a result of Reasons, we are unable to accept applications from candidates who are currently employed by customers of Acme Inc.” Saves everybody the time and effort of applying in the first place.

        2. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Exactly! Furthermore, why put someone through multiple interviews, with the investment of time and energy that involves on BOTH sides, if you know you don’t really want to hire thm because of who they currently work for? That’s bananacrackers!

    5. Guacamole Bob*

      I’m just trying to picture the chaos that would ensue if I approached the HR department of my large government bureaucracy with a request for this kind of letter. Based on experience of trying to get MOUs, NDAs, and other documents signed, I’d guess it’d take *at least* six weeks of the HR department going back and forth with our counsel’s office to get language that they were comfortable with, consulting with our ethics officer, etc. And if certain executives needed to sign it, add another six weeks.

      My agency does have non-compete rules that many of us have to do annual training on – basically, someone in OP’s shoes wouldn’t be able to work on any matters pertaining to her old company for a year, and on the vendor side of any contracts she was involved in when she was an employee of the customer for the entire life of the contract. You can’t go out and procure something as an employee and then hop over and work for the vendor providing that thing – there’s too much conflict of interest. I don’t know what provisions are in our vendor contracts to make that enforceable, but I’m sure it’s been through the lawyers.

      But even at my agency, OP could certainly go work for the vendor! She’d just have to avoid working directly on her old employer’s accounts and contracts.

      1. LizM*

        Yeah, this is the only situation where it might make sense – I briefly considered jumping ship from my agency to go work for a contractor, and they were up front when I applied that if they made an offer, it’d be contingent on a letter from my agency’s ethics officer outlining that I could work on the project they would have been hiring me for. Luckily, HR, management, and ethics are all separate business lines, and ethics advise is confidential up to a point, so if it had gotten to that point, I could have found out what the letter would say without my boss knowing I was asking. The offer fell through for other reasons.

        But asking a company’s “permission” seems extreme and paternalistic, and like a company that doesn’t see employees as individuals with autonomy.

    6. Lacey*

      Yeah. I think I would just explain that they’re asking me to do something incredibly risky to my career so I won’t be moving forward with them.

    7. anonymous73*

      I can “kind of” understand why they’re asking for a letter, because they’re concerned that they’ll lose business for poaching an employee. But it would be a big ‘ol nope from me. In fact, I wouldn’t offer to provide a letter even after an offer was made. An offer letter is never a guarantee, and new company could pull the offer. Meanwhile OP has made current company aware that they’re looking. I see no win here for OP by providing a letter at any time in the process.

    8. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Honestly, I feel like if LW is ok with walking away from this offer and burning a bridge, they could say to the company that this is a very odd request and name the reasons why companies don’t generally ask for such a thing, but I’d only do it if I were absolute sure I never wanted to work for this company. (And of course that’s what most of us are recommending anyway.)

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I don’t think it would remotely be burning the bridge to explain to them why it’s a tough ask. If they choose not to move forward with their process, they should *definitely* tell them why.

    9. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I had a similar situation once. Interviewed with a company that had my then current company as a client. Before they were to make me an offer, they asked me to get permission from my then current employer to move to the company I was interviewing with. I declined and did not receive the offer. It was a blessing in disguise because eventually the company I didn’t move to kept getting acquired until it is now folded into a company I once worked for later, (that wasn’t great) that I chose to leave for something better after around 6 months.

      You never know what will happen if you go the route of letting your current company know you’re looking before getting an offer. It’s definitely not in your best interest. And a company that makes an offer contingent upon that isn’t a great company to work for. While it’s understandable for a company to look out for the best interest of their business, it’s bad form to put an individual in an awkward position that can potentially affect their livelihood in a negative way just for seeking a better opportunity.

    10. zuzu*

      I ran into something similar about 10 years ago. I work in academic libraries, and I was looking to leave my first job in the field for something new. I had successful telephone interviews with two high-ranking schools (one Ivy, one not, but located in NYC, so highly sought after for jobs), and then got calls from each school asking to talk to my current supervisor before they would schedule a full-day interview.

      I offered up all kinds of other references, but nope: only my current supervisor would do. I dug in my heels, because I’d been around the block and this was NOT standard practice anywhere I’d ever worked. They pressured me *hard*. I wound up telling them I was not willing to stick my neck out like that and let my director know that I was looking for a new job until I had an offer in hand, and they had a lot of nerve expecting me to put my job at risk like that when they weren’t even offering me an interview, just the *prospect* of an interview. I withdrew from both, stopped looking altogether at that point because I was so weirded out, and took my current job a few years later.

      I’m currently job searching, and I haven’t run into any insistence that I divulge my current supervisor, though this time my supervisor knows I’m looking and is one of my references. I’d hoped to keep my search secret from my director, but someone from one of the schools I applied to (where he used to work and still has a lot of contacts) must have told him), because he knew almost immediately that I was looking and asked my supervisor if she knew I was looking. I’m Not Pleased about that and will have to address it with the hiring committee once I get hired somewhere.

      1. Nanani*

        Yes, this or an overbearing parent who thinks they still get to approve the partners of adult children.
        It’s prioritizing the wrong person (LW’s current job instead of LW) and doing it in a weirdly patronizing way

    11. El l*

      The comments are interesting about hiring away a customers’ people. It’s likely they instituted this blanket policy rather than rely on their relationship. It makes me think that this is a “poison pill” clause designed to make her walk away…”we don’t want to institute a firm rule against hiring away customers’ people, but we don’t want it to happen.”

      The only other possibility is that this is some misguided attempt to make the employee “show gumption” that they want to work there.

      Either way, it’s nuts.

      1. PT*

        It’s super weird, too, because there are so many business products that are widespread that almost everyone who has an office is a customer. Like, everywhere I’ve worked uses Microsoft Office or has a contract with Office Depot/Office Max or Staples for office supplies. But there would be no real conflict or anything you’d consider to be “poaching” if someone went from, say, working as a Front Desk Attendant at Llamas Unlimited to being the Administrative Assistant II at Microsoft or Assistant to the Director of Design (Paperclips Division) at Office Depot.

        1. Sleet Feet*

          Except like you said almost everyone uses Microsoft in business. This is typically more an issue in specialized softwares that have healthy competition. Like accounting software may have a contract about not poaching emyees from small firms to work at their software company.

    12. Momma Bear*

      I agree. I would self-select out of this one. I’d wonder what other things they’d want of me in the future.

    13. Sleet Feet*

      It’s actually incredibly common when employers may come from a client to a vendor. In fact it’s oftentimes written up in the various contracts, purchasing agreement, business association agreement, etc. Usually the client gets to put a year long exclusion of hire or other stipulations, such as signed letter before interviewing.

      At the end of the day the vendors contract may be worth millions annually and that’s not something they are willing to jeopardize to hire one person.

      Also my company was very punish those who are looking type, so it wouldnt surprise me that the ones with this crappy view on interviewing are also the ones with the strictist disclosure clauses. I wasn’t even able to compromise and disclose at the point of offer – it was in one of their contracts that they would not interview anyone without that persons supervisors approval.

      1. Aitch Arr*

        Even in those situations, the onus is not on the employee/candidate to get ‘permission.’

        It’s up to HR or the manager to look into what agreements the company may have with the candidate’s current employer.

        1. Sleet Feet*

          That’s what I’m saying though, the comtract states that a written letter from the candidates supervisor is requied. I’m sure they looked I to that before asking me to produce the letter.

          I bowed out of the pool and stated this as the reason why, but it is a choice for the candidate to decide if they want to provide the letter or not.

    14. Julie Hansen*

      #1 To me, it appears that the company wants to cut off any attempt for them to stay at their old job. They are trying to force them into saying they are leaving and then they will supply a low-ball, bad offer because they have already had you burn your bridges at your current company. They want possession of their employees and feel that they are not allowed to decide for themselves if they want the job, so they are trying to trick them into notifying them and possibly getting fired.

    15. Kimberly*

      It’s isn’t weird, especially in software. Have you ever seen a contract? Vendor contracts quite frequently have a “poaching” clause.

  2. Ellis Hubris*

    LW #1 – I had a similar situation EXCEPT the company called my boss and owner of the company to let them know they had offered me a job. I was shocked. Then they pulled the offer when my boss made it clear it would affect their relationship. Sooooo….I had no new job and my job did force me out. I’m not upset because obviously the ethics of that company are circumspect but it left me in a bind. Even more terrible, they had reached out to me after working with me for a bit. They both caused the problem and caused the problematic solution.

    This is such a strange ask of the company that I suspect they are odd in other ways. If they won’t budge, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.

      1. Ellis Hubris*

        Thank you, I appreciate your comment.

        It was so wrong, not okay to do that without telling me and then to not hire me once the offer was made. If they had concerns, they were in the position to address that before contacting me. I tend to think that shows the kind of company they were. I found other work and I’m ok. The general advice of looking out for your own interests is really important. If I were to end up in this position again, I’d address the possible conflict and see what was said ir what the plan was. I was expedient and didn’t realize the possible pitfall. I would now.

        1. WoodswomanWrites*

          What a terrible thing to do, and what a terrible situation they put you in. Unfathomable, and I’m glad to hear you found something else.

          1. Ellis Hubris*

            It was terrible for sure. I’m a paralegal and know more now but you can’t extend an offer without limitations and rescind it without consequence. At the very least, am employment attorney would have gotten me a settlement because I did lose my job and had no idea it was even possible. I know an excellent employment lawyer and it was a national company all of you would know so they should have known better or consulted with their legal department. It was truly a bad move, one that is very possible, so now I hope others realize to *always* act in your own interests, with a level of ethics we seem to generally understand. Alison has helped a lot with finding that North Star I think.

    1. Your local password resetter*

      That was incredibly scummy from them. They basically just went in and sabotaged your job. The fact that they were the ones trying to recruit you makes it even worse.

      1. The OTHER other*

        I hope Ellis put this on Glassdoor! Maybe this was an unusual thing they did just in this particular case and it’s not their usual practice but still, it’s awful and people should know before applying there that they might contact their employer and then yank an offer.

        1. Ellis Hubris*

          Glassdoor was not yet a thing, so other than telling everyone I know, nothing more. I lost a friendship over it, and won’t ever use this national company again. Likely just a bad manager of a branch location who opened the company up to a potential issue. I was fine and didn’t pursue further but definitely not acceptable. I would personally run from anyplace that suggested this kind of letter.

          1. Imaginary Friend*

            Yeah, and Glassdoor was founded 14 years ago, so probably all or most of the management has turned over since then. Still, yuck, and I hope that someday you’re in a position to keep some other national company from using this national company.

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

      That may have been illegal too. It’s in essence a non-poaching agreement and they are against federal law. I doubt the DOJ will go after a small employer with one incident, but just this year they have begun to prosecute cases.

      1. Ellis Hubris*

        It wasn’t a small business, it was a national company with thousands of employees all over the States. If it was illegal at the time, late 2000s, they would have been on the hook. I certainly would have had an employment claim because the offer was extended without limitations and then revoked due to their call. It is bad business practice. A company that does this is not looking out for their interests as now I would hire an attorney and get a settlement for their endangering my employment. Wish I had done it then

      2. Aitch Arr*

        Non-Poaching Agreements may not be legal, but Non-Competes and Non-Solicitation Agreements are under certain circumstances.


        1. Ellis Hubris*

          I didn’t have a contract and it wasn’t the same industry I worked in. It was the servicer of a major client, so not even related to my job specifically. There wouldn’t have even been an issue if I had a non-compete honestly. And all of that was known to the company before they approached me. They were unethical and owed to tell me, where I would have simply not taken the job. Ruining my current position is truly low and one of the issues I see with the ask of the LW #1’s situation.

  3. Ellis Hubris*

    LW #5 – I always ask why the position is open. I watch the listings in my city even when I’m employed and there are a few positions – even high level – that come up a lot. I’ve found that I get some version of “that is private information we don’t disclose” and the informal scouting I’ve done is that there is some problem not being addressed. There can be good reasons, if they are upfront about the amount of travel or the bluntness of the manager, you can decide. I would look for honesty and acknowledgement that it’s unusual and why.

    1. John Smith*

      “Due to expansion” is my favourite excuse – sorry – reason (usually stated in the job advert), especially when you do some checking and realise no expansion whatsoever has taken place. No new customers, no new premises or departments. I’d you so ask the question, watch peoples’ faces closely.

      1. Former Usher*

        I encountered a related situation with an HR recruiter once. He tried to sell me on their “expansion” by telling me how many people they had recently hired. But for reasons I can’t recall now, I knew a starting headcount and the current headcount after this “expansion.” There was no net change, and I got the recruiter to admit they had a large layoff and were in the process of hiring replacements. Expansion.

        1. Bernice Clifton*

          Or it IS an expansion, but they are buried in work &/or have no idea what they want the role to look like.

    2. Cedrus Libani*

      I’m with Alison – you can ask, but don’t expect the plain-spoken truth. They might tell the truth. They might dodge the question, which suggests that the truth sucks and isn’t going to change, and you really ought to figure out what’s up before you take the job. They might be mad at you for asking, which suggests that the truth sucks and you will be expected to be happy about it. There might be a rant about ingrates who left for higher pay and/or fewer hours, which suggests maybe you can do better also.

      1. Love WFH*

        I was interviewing to be a new manager at a company where the previous manager and all but one person in the department had quit. Yes, I really was, but only because I knew that the toxic grandboss had left.

        I emailed the previous manager and asked her about it. She was startled, but willing to talk. She thought the new grandboss wasn’t bad. I decided to go for it, and it worked out fine. I enjoyed building the new department.

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah I think it’s the kind of thing that’s worth asking because you *might* learn something helpful but a lot of the time you probably don’t have much more info. But sometimes they can share good reasons people moved on like “well Jack won the lottery and then Bob got married and moved to be closer to family!” and then you still don’t necessarily know anything more about the job, but it’s at least a little reassuring to know you don’t have to feel like this job is necessarily so terrible you’ll definitely quit in two years or whatever.

        And sometimes their reaction to the question in the moment can be telling too. Like they’re not going to *tell* you “oh, they quit because this job is terrible” but their body language or the way they struggle to come up with words might tell you that a little.

      3. Sloan Kittering*

        My experience is also that they may not truly understand. My company is pretty hard on junior employees – low pay, crappy benefits, no opportunities to move up and quite demanding hours – and as a result they have a rotating cast of these roles, but they only tend to accept that each employee “got an offer they just couldn’t pass up” and accept no blame for the situation, although I know it’s been explained to them. So they know but they don’t know. They see it as individual but it’s systemic. They would not be able to answer this question for job-seekers.

      4. Ace in the Hole*

        One of the benefits to working in a small town/industry is that you generally know enough to read between the lines. I don’t know everything about every local employer in my field… but I know SOMEONE who knows. And I am familiar with their reputations, typical hiring patterns, etc. I probably go to a monthly training with someone who works there or I’m on an advisory committee with someone from their office or at the very least I know someone who does contract work with them.

        Of course this cuts both ways… it’s very difficult for a candidate to hide anything, including the fact that they’re job searching.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      In the case of the department I work in we are always soft hiring – but we are a “entry level” department and also work swing shift. So what happens is after 9-12 months most of the people on our shift either realize that swing shift hours are not at all for them and apply for a new job/transfer or they have learned so much that they get promoted to a different position. The job posting is very open about the fact we are entry level and swing shift – so we’re not hiding anything here.

      (Why am I still here after more than that time – I have a grandfathered part time schedule while still getting all the benefits, at half scale due to half hours, as a full time employee. Maybe when my kids are a bit more independent I’ll go full time.)

    4. Ally McBeal*

      Yep. I saw a particular job posted several times (in a couple different configurations) over the course of a couple years, and upon googling the company I discovered that the CEO was making some pretty racist statements and then doubling down or only making minor concessions to DEI efforts. The job that was posted was in communications/PR/marketing, so I immediately understood why they were struggling to fill that job.

      I also find the question helpful more generally — for example if the role is a brand new one, they might have different goals/expectations (and the hiring process might take longer) than if they’re filling a role that already existed.

    5. ThatGirl*

      When I applied for my current job, I had seen a listing for it previously, and so I was a little skeptical. But it turned out that the company was on a pretty rapid marketing department expansion (my two teammates both started in 2020) and my particular position had been offered to someone else who backed out at the last minute. It really was just a very good year for a growing company, and I was glad it was a good/reasonable answer.

    6. Sara without an H*

      I’ve always expected job candidates to ask me why the position is vacant, and I always tried to give a politely-worded version of the truth. Sometimes this was easy (“She got married and moved to Atlanta”). Sometimes things got a little more convoluted, as in: “After a year, he decided he was basically an urbanite and moved back to the East Coast to be closer to his family.” (Translation: He was going nuts in our small rural town and couldn’t wait to get out.) But it’s a question I think any hiring manager should be prepared to answer.

    7. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      I always ask. Good reasons are: person was promoted, person took a job that was several steps up at a different company (i.e. role is a good springboard). Neutral reasons: someone left because his wife’s job moved her halfway across the country, employee did a career switch and went back to school full-time, etc. Bad reasons: anything that sounds like “she couldn’t handle the workload” or “he was a bad fit with his manager.” At this point, I’m not interested in taking the risk with a company who has a bad track record with employees.

    8. Missy*

      My current job has high turnover but they were very open with the reasons why when I applied. It’s a job where you are working 80 hours a week for about 4 months of the year and those months are highly stressful. But the rest of the year has very light workloads and allow you to take lots of time off with the hours of comptime you banked during the busy season. A lot of people can’t handle the stress and hours, but for people who can they end up staying for their whole career. They actually brought up the difficulties of the position and turnover before I could because they would rather weed out someone who was the wrong fit.

  4. Cmdrshpard*

    OP#2 You can ask but I wouldn’t count in it. I would not hire you for two main reasons backing out of the job at the last minute and you being willing to leave this job after a month of starting.
    I am not in your shoes, so maybe the job is really a bad fit. But i think the first few months of a new job are not necessarily what the job is going to be like long term.

    You are new to the company, meeting new people, getting to know the role etc… If I were a hiring manager it would worry me that you seem to have trouble with commitment. Leaving the new job so soon would worry me more than the backing out last minute, and worry that you would do that again if you felt “the job is not the right fit” after just a month of being there.

    Not to say that you are wrong about the job being a bad fit, but as an outside person it would be hard to know of that really is the case, or you are just not giving it enough of a shot.

    As Alison said, you can reach out, but forget about it after you do.

    1. Hazel*

      I had a similar situation with someone who accepted a job with us and then changed her mind before her start date. She said the offer came from another company she had interviewed with during her job search, which I understand. It did mean we had to start over, but I would have felt more favorable towards her if she had apologized and/or acknowledged the inconvenience she caused us.

        1. Willis*

          It would certainly make sense to apologize for the inconvenience if you accepted a job and then bailed on it shortly before starting! Similarly, if I made an offer to someone and then for some reason had to rescind it, I would definitely apologize to them. Even if you don’t really care one bit about any inconvenience you may have caused a prospective employer, at least pretending to makes an effort at preserving the relationship if you want to apply there again later or are likely to run into them in your industry. (Or, like the OP, might want to call them a month later and ask for the offer back…)

        2. Sigh*

          I would bet they apologize if they offered a position and then rescinded it a day before I was supposed to start.

          This is not the same as simply turning down the offer in the first place – the OP agreed to a start date, the company turned away others who were alternative picks, and then the OP reneged leaving the role unfilled and restarting the expensive and time consuming hiring process. The literal least he could do is apologize, even though he was justifiably self-interested.

          1. Essess*

            Exactly this. A company does a lot of prep work before a new person arrives for the first day so that everything is ready for the new person when they walk in. They have already started getting your equipment set up which adds extra work especially if preparing individual computer equipment such as imaging a laptop/loading software (at my company that takes several hours for equipment setup), cleaning your work area if you have an assigned desk so that all the dirt and clutter from the previous occupant is gone, your security access is started for both the building security and for IT security to get email addresses and logins prepared, possibly nameplate and/or business cards ordered.
            Someone has usually been assigned to do training so workloads have been rearranged, and sometimes schedules/time off requests have been rearranged to make sure people are available to welcome/train the person when they arrive. All this would be done prior to the first day so all that was just wasted.

            The delay of waiting for the person to start working means that second choice candidate may already have been hired elsewhere since most people don’t start for 2 week or even 1 month after receiving an offer which is a huge time gap for the other good candidates to be grabbed by other companies.

        3. Bagpuss*

          Well, when we had to rescind an offer after we’d made it (pandemic!) yes, we apologized and we paid them a month’s ‘notice’, so.. if we rescinded an offer 9other than because of something like bad references or finding out the candidate had lied) then yes.

          Rescinding an offer /acceptance is different to just rejecting a candidate or an offer.

    2. Ori*

      The first factor would be an issue for me but not the second. Around a month into my last job they rescinded a really important perk and my boss was verbally abusive to a colleague over a triviality. If I had had a solid emergency fund, I’d have walked away, no question.

      1. CmdrShepard*

        I’m not saying that leaving a job after a month is never justified. But for me it is the combo of the situation that makes leaving after a month seem worse.

        If I had a candidate that was in the regular interview pipeline (had not accepted/rescinded an offer) and they told me they were leaving their current job after a month, I would dig a little but not put a lot of weight on it. But when OP has accepted a job offer, quit the day before they started, and then came back a month into their new job it does start to look like a pattern of unreliability/commitment. It would make me hesitate to hire them.

        I don’t fault OP for doing what they did. I did something similar, left a job after 2 months, when a job I had interviewed at previously was offered to me, better pay, actual benefits etc…

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          Right. It’s not that the LW is a bad person. It’s that the company that she bailed on has two new pieces of information about her now that might change their assessment of whether they want to bring her on board: 1) She backed out of a job with one day’s notice (and leave a new job after a month) and 2) She misjudged the fit of the other job, leading her to want to leave.

          #1 is frustrating, but it is reasonable to take a better offer and I would hope that the first employer would be willing to consider the LW’s request. But combined with #2 — that would make me hesitate to bring her back. I’d be concerned that she doesn’t have a great handle on what kind of role or organization is going to be a good fit for her… and that if my company also isn’t a good fit for her, she’ll leave quickly, without working to find a solution.

          1. Annony*

            #1 would probably be enough for me to not want to hire them so soon after. Nothing about the job has changed. I wouldn’t trust that the job wouldn’t simply be a placeholder until they find something better. I don’t think the OP did anything wrong by backing out, but they sent a clear signal that they weren’t that interested in the job.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I would be less concerned about someone leaving within a month than about them backing out after they accepted . I’d want to know a bit more about why but it wouldn’t automatically make me completely rule someone out unless it was part of a bigger pattern

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        No rational manager is bothered by someone rejecting an offer. However, you accepted the offer and the company planned around that. It’s the backing out from the acceptance—the day before you were due to start(!)—that matters. I’ve had that happen and, for a small company, this is wildly disruptive. We delayed production, postponed deliveries to customers, and the remaining staff worked unwanted overtime, depriving them of personal time. Moreover, we no longer trusted the candidate, who had said we were their #1 job choice.

        You can ask about the job opening, but don’t expect a warm reception. At the very least, you need to think about how this impacted the business and apologize profusely. And that will likely not be enough to be hired.

      2. Ori*

        Definitely. I’ve been in a situation more than once where I wish I had left a month in, and if the candidate explained a bait and switch, change in job duties, unhinged supervisor etc, I would completely understand.

    4. Threeve*

      I wouldn’t ask. You might see a job there in the future that you want to apply for, and if the bridge isn’t permanently burned right now, this ask is so audacious that it would be.

      1. LouLou*

        I had a similar reaction to this letter. “You don’t have much to lose” didn’t seem obviously true.

        1. Hazel*

          I agree. Let it go for now, look for work elsewhere if the new position really isn’t working out, and then revisit the possibility of applying again at the first company in the future.

      2. TootsNYC*

        this is my reaction.

        It’s bad enough now. Asking to be reconsidered after only a month at the new job would make it worse.

        If you left it alone, and came to apply in a year or two, I might be willing to entertain the possibility.

      3. Momma Bear*

        Agreed. I think it would be worse to ask for the job now. OP made a choice they regret, which is understandable, but they went all the way to accepting the role and then backed out just before starting. I would not want to take a risk on someone like that, especially knowing that it means they started and quit a job within weeks. Why would the company take a risk on someone like that? Better to see if OP can make this job work and reapply, IMO. Then they can explain later if brought back in for an interview. We had someone return after the startup they went to didn’t pan out, but that was months later, not weeks, and they’d left on good terms whereas OP burned a bridge immediately.

    5. Meep*

      Probationary periods are for everyone but as someone who worked with a guy who cycled through labs in college every 1-3 months (no professor wanted to work with him) I definitely agree it is a red flag. When your work experience for the past 3 years fits on three pages because you move around a lot that is a problem. Heck, my 60-year-old aunt hasn’t worked in 8 years after quitting her last job after a mere two weeks because her boss was as I quote “a bitch”. (She is currently estranged from all three of her brothers, all three nieces, and her mother to give you an indication who is actually the problem.)

      If I were them I would probably not hire LW#2 but I would also look at their work history prior to see if it is a definitely not.

    6. Sara without an H*

      While I basically agree with you, Cmdrshpard, would your take be different if you were having trouble filling the position? I know it varies by field and, probably, by region, but I keep reading news stories about how hard it is now to staff certain positions, and not just in the hospitality industry.

      1. CmdrShepard*

        It would change if the position was hard to fill. If it took a long time to find a worthwhile candidate like OP during the first time, and it seemed like no other good candidates popped up, I would consider OP. I would want details about why the old position was not a good fit, and why they like/want this job.

        Even if the position was not hard to fill, I would still consider OP. What they did is nothing I consider to put them in a hard no zone. But it just puts them in a likely/lean no zone, that they would have to do a lot of work to overcome. If after the 1-1.5 months if the position was not filled yet (but still had candidates), and it seemed like OP was still the best candidate head and shoulders above the rest of the new/current candidate pool I would consider them.

    7. Observer*

      But i think the first few months of a new job are not necessarily what the job is going to be like long term.

      On the other hand, if the flags are red enough, it’s stupid to try to convince yourself that everything is OK. For instance, if you hear someone being abusive and HR makes it clear that nothing is going to be done about it because “that’s the way they are”, do you REALLY need to stay around to see if this is going to be a problem long term?

      If you see a pattern, that’s one thing, but a single move after a short stint is not something that should be seen in such absolute terms.

      1. CmdrShepard*

        I agree, I am not trying to say OP needs to stay in the current job. I have left a job after two months simply because a better one came up.

        But the two actions: quitting the day before starting, and leaving the new job after a month does start to seem like a potential pattern.

        You are right I did write my initial comment in more absolute terms that I did not mean, I should have said, “I would likely not hire you.” I would give OP slight considerations, but they would start in a “likely won’t hire” zone, and would have to really work hard to overcome that to get into a “yes hire” zone, part of that would be factors outside of OP’s control, such as what the new candidate pool looks like.

        1. LQ*

          I think the pattern thing is really important. The actions that the employer can see are your interview(s), your acceptance, your backing out, your asking to have the job after you were at another job for a short period. If half of those actions may appear concerning at all that’s a lot of pattern. That doesn’t mean they are when looking at it from the employee’s/op’s view of having their whole job history and actual interactions with this new employer and the rest. But when your view is so limited things that appear concerning stand out. Especially if they are unusual or repeated. It absolutely appears to be a pattern based on what they can see.

          OP needs to behave in a way appropriate to their life and needs, but they can’t expect everyone to have full transparency into what they are experiencing, which is normal.

    8. Nanani*

      That’s a really good point. LW2 sounds to be in a prime window for “culture shock” for lack of a better phrase to set in. The grass loooks greener where you didn’t go, and where you were before, and the problems of where you are now are becoming apparent, while the upsides are losing their lustre.
      Not a good time to make big decisions during!

    9. Bernice Clifton*

      I tend to agree with this viewpoint. Unless there’s something very egregious going on at the new job I think you’re more likely to be seen as flaky after backing out of the offer as well.

    10. A Feast of Fools*

      I accepted an offer at my current company and then bailed on it a few weeks later.

      BUT… I bailed 3-4 weeks before my start date; I apologized *profusely*; I explained that the other offer I’d gotten was for a higher role level and close to double the pay. I asked the genuine question, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” And the hiring manager said, “I’d take the other job.”

      That other job was a sh*tshow but I stayed for a year. I gained enough experience and industry certifications that I was seen as a good fit for a similar role at the place I’d originally bailed on. They reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in taking the higher role at a slightly higher rate than sh*tshow company.

      Two years later, I’m still at the company I had originally bailed on and everyone is happy.

      We’ve had people quit, realize that the grass isn’t greener, and be welcomed back with open arms. [Someone on my team who left over the summer is coming back December 6 and I am thrilled at her return!]

      But we have never, to my knowledge, welcomed someone back who rescinded their job acceptance the day before they were supposed to start; nor have we welcomed back people who quit with no notice and/or didn’t do anything during their final two weeks to make the transition as easy as possible.

  5. Hazel*

    RE #4: I kind of wish I hadn’t tried to negotiate when I started my current job. My experience falls into the category of

    “If the offer is obviously generous (meaning well above market, not just a lot to you) and/or you’re on the low end of experience for the job…”

    Nothing bad happened, but I was embarrassed when I realized that the salary I asked for was what people with a decent amount of experience were making, and I was shifting into a more technical role than I had done before. They were nice about it and said they couldn’t offer that much because it would put my salary higher than others who are higher than me in the company’s hierarchy. They sounded apologetic, but I said if course that makes sense, and I totally understood. So it worked out fine, but I’m still a little embarrassed that I completely missed the experience factor in my salary research.

    1. Former Usher*

      Try not to feel embarrassed. The employer typically has much more information than you do. This employer recognized that and was gracious in its response.

    2. Smithy*

      Please please try not to feel embarrassed. There likely wasn’t any genuine way you would have known that information before you asked.

      It may be that I’m entirely biased based on my own sector, but the “research” that individuals can truly do on salary and market value can really only go so far via the internet and their own networks. There are guidelines that can be helpful in getting to you a reasonable ballpark, but when it comes down to being offered $X and trying to negotiate for $X+$5k at any one employer (provided its not government or you know someone who works there) – there’s no way to know that.

      I also think that “years of experience” ends up functioning in two ways that are also impossible to know from the outside. For many mid-level job postings – years of experience really is looking to address total years of professional experience, the more relevant the better. And often with a job posting it does function that way, but then when it comes to pay scale or internal equity those years of experience can mean “doing this exact job” or even as narrow as “doing this exact job for us”. But there’s zero shame in not knowing that from the outside.

    3. CriticalCare*

      I’m in a similar situation as you, except I did negotiate and I ultimately got a much better offer (above what people senior to me were originally making). Apparently many others also behaved similarly. Our market value was actively increasing because of a labor shortage due to COVID-19. They raised everyone’s salaries to maintain equity.

  6. Ori*

    LW2: I had this happen once, except they emailed me on their start date to say they’d taken another role. I don’t have any malice toward the candidate, but I wouldn’t hire them again, either.

    1. Bagpuss*

      Yes, this is pretty much where I fall .

      It would depend a bit on why they were reneging on their acceptance. We had someone recently who accepted a job and then a couple of weeks before they were due to start withdrew – they were very apologetic and explained that it was due to a family issue (a parent having become ill and needing support) – it’s frustrating, especially as hey were our first choice by a tiny margin and the other candidate is no longer available, but life happens.

      With that one, we’ve left it that we are re-advertising but to let us know if the situation changes. In this *particular* case we would be open to taking them on if they were to become available before we find someone else, but a lot of that is about the fact that they were apologetic and clearly recognized that it was very inconvenient (long notice periods are normal here so even if we find someone else straight away it’s likely going to mean a delay before they can start), and it wasn’t them taking another job, it was a case of ‘I’m having to delay with this crisis and I can’t make any other big changes right now ‘ – plus they were going to be moving from part to full time so I assume that was a factor too.

      If they’d cancelled on us because they had just taken a different job, then they’d probably have burned their bridges.

      1. Hazel*

        In a way, I think Bagpuss’s situation was better than the one where I hired someone for a full time position who, it turned out, really couldn’t work full time. I was very sympathetic to her situation – her soon-to-be ex-husband had taken their son and moved over 1,000 miles away. She delayed her start date two weeks because she was in the location where her kid was, trying to get him back. After she started, she spent a lot of work time talking to and meeting with her attorney. We might have been able to work with this, but then she stood up a client and said that she had no choice because she was at her lawyer’s office, and the meeting ran late. She didn’t apologize, and she didn’t call me or anyone else to cover over her appointment with the client. I really felt for her, but we needed sometime to actually do the job, so we let her go. She understood and even said that she probably should not have tried to work a full time schedule.

    2. Roscoe*

      You know, I understand your POV. But in my experience, and LW as well it seems, its usually because the company drags their feet on a decision.

      The one time I did this, I interviewed for a job in June. They told me “we will let you know by early July”. That time frame came and went with no updates. My inquiries to them basically just said “we are still deciding”, so I continuted to interview. Well, I had a final interview the day before I got an official offer from the first company. The second company seemed a much better fit. I accepted the first job, because they needed to know within a few days, and wanted me to start on a certain date. The second job gave me and offer, and by the time we came to terms, it was the Friday before I was supposed to start the other job. So I backed out of the first one. The manager was NOT happy. But again, had she not taken 2 months to make a decision (and I’m well aware I may not have been the first choice), this issue probably wouldn’t exist at all

      1. EPLawyer*

        To me, once you accept a job and set a start date, you are done job searching. You have a job. You should not be going on interviews, reviewing offers, etc. Even if the company dragged their feet. They clearly didn’t drag it enough to keep you from accepting and setting a start date.

        Sure its a chance you take. But, you have own reputation to protect. I agree with Alison, I would not reconsider someone who had a start date then bailed for greener pastures*. Hiring is a two way street, the company made plans expecting you to be there. You have just shown you cannot be counted on.

        * Exceptions exist of course, like noted above, someone called and could not start due to a family emergency. Or you know, you just got nominated for the US Supreme Court.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Eh, I’m neutral on this. I wouldn’t go on more interviews after I accept a job but if a first choice I’m waiting on comes through with a better offer I’m going to do what’s best for me and I would expect candidates to do the same. And I think I’d at least have a conversation with a candidate who changed their mind after that happened. It would take a lot to convince me to hire them but I’d take the meeting.

        2. Former Usher*

          I disagree. I think you don’t stop looking until you have started the new job. At one job, my project was cancelled after a product recall during my second week of work. If it had happened the week before I started instead of the week after, I am confident that the offer would have been pulled and I would have been out of a job.

          1. Threeve*

            I think ~the day before you start~ is so close to actually starting that it doesn’t make a difference. Your paperwork is complete, your email address has been created, your desk is set up. This isn’t really any different than showing up for a day or two and then quitting.

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              “This isn’t really any different than showing up for a day or two and then quitting.”

              It might even be a little worse. Someone who at least shows up for the job might quickly realize that the job really isn’t what they thought it was. In that case, quickly and apologetically quitting might be best for everyone, although it could still burn bridges. But a person who bails on a job the day before starting it really only has “I got a better offer” or some variation of “I’m a flake” as explanation, which will make most managers think twice.

              1. L.H. Puttgrass*

                Amending my comment: ‘But a person who bails on a job the day before starting it really only has “I got a better offer” or some variation of “I’m a flake” as explanation’…or some kind of emergency, of course.

            2. Momma Bear*

              I think that OP declining the offer the day before they started is way too close as well. It’s one thing if the timeframe is “I’ll start in a month” and sometime in the week after you get a better role. I think this is especially true if it’s not contract work that might fall through – working for corporate is a pretty done deal 99% of the time. I stop job hunting once an offer is given and accepted. Accepting means to me that I’ve evaluated the situation and think they are the best fit.

        3. Generic Name*

          I see what you are saying. It is a huge inconvenience to employers when a worker backs out of a job. But is much more than a huge inconvenience to a worker when a company pulls a job away from them. It can mean they can’t afford rent or food. Many Americans are one paycheck away from homelessness, so I don’t blame anyone one bit for hedging their bets in this way.

        4. Roscoe*

          I guess I just don’t see it that way. I wasn’t setting up interviews after I got an offer from the first place, but I also wasn’t going to not listen if another offer came in after I accepted it. I think there are levels to what is acceptable to do once you have an offer. Listening to others ones that come in after, IMO, is fair game.

          1. LQ*

            You absolutely can do that. But sometimes actions have consequences and it’s good for folks to know what that looks like. I don’t think anyone’s ever going to not hire someone for listening to an offer, but listening to an offer is a far cry from backing out on a job the day before and then trying to go back and get it a month later. Listen, take the job, but realize that you may have charred a bridge, maybe not fully burned it but it’s likely to have a little bit of char on it depending. But it’s also more likely to be burned if you go back really shortly thereafter.

            I am on the people should always listen to a job offer but that doesn’t mean you should take every job offer. The more you hear the better you understand the market and your skills.

        5. Nanani*

          Sure but the other roles you interviewed for didn’t vanish into the ether. Sometimes the timing of responses is just bad. A role you thought was ghosting you suddenly contacts you and is better than what you accepted yesterday, that sort of thing.

      2. SheLooksFamiliar*

        We don’t know if the OP was dragged along by the employer’s feet. Even if she was, that doesn’t mean it’s no big deal for her to rescind her acceptance at the last minute. She is free to do so, but she may have burned a bridge. She needs to accept that possible consequence.

        I get it. It seems like employers have all the power, so it’s hard to care when someone inconveniences them for a change. But this is an issue of integrity, not tit-for-tat.

        FWIW, I can count on one hand how many times in 40 years how many times I’ve re-hired someone who backed out of an offer at the last minute – twice. And each time, our new hire left within a few months because – surprise! – they got a better offer.

        1. Roscoe*

          I guess I just don’t necessarily see it as a lack of integrity to hear out another off that you interviewed for BEFORE you got the first offer, and then make the decision that is best for you.

          Like, sure, it may be a lack of integrity if I have accepted an offer, set a start date, and kept going on interviews. But sometimes the timing of decisions just doesn’t line up perfectly and something else comes along unexpectedly

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I don’t think it’s a lack of integrity either. You get to act in your best interests. But you also need to realize you’ll probably be burning a bridge, which means that employer may understandably not be inclined to extend an offer to you again. You didn’t necessarily do anything “wrong” by acting in your own interests, but it’s reasonable for them not to be open to hiring you after you leave them hanging at the last minute. (Although some might be, which is why the OP can ask.)

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            I see this, in large part, as ‘when is your word your word?’ and that’s a matter of integrity to me.

            Yes, I apply that concept to employers, having been one myself. Rescinding an offer or acceptance is a big deal, even with a compelling business reason, and their integrity is impugned as well.

            Yes, employees can and should support their interests, and they risk bruising their integrity if they decline at the 11th hour.

            Ask the employer the OP turned down how they feel about her integrity, and their thinking might be similar to mine.

            1. Former Usher*

              Yet there is an asymmetry here. In most cases an employee changing their mind creates an inconvenience; an employer pulling an offer creates a potentially catastrophic financial hardship.

          3. Public Sector Manager*

            I don’t see it as a lack of integrity either, but actions do have consequences. If you never want to go back to the company whose offer you’re rescinding at the last minute, then game on.

            About 6 years ago we made an offer to a 3L law student. They asked if they could delay their start date 3 months to do a volunteer internship they scheduled that was taking place after the bar exam. An odd request in my experience because most people want to start working on their career and get paid, but who am I to argue. We agreed. The Friday before their Monday start date, they said they were taking another job.

            I still remember their name. And I still would be a “no” on ever extending an offer to them again.

      3. Ori*

        We hadn’t dragged our feet. That said, I have also been in the position where a company reneged last minute. It wasn’t 100% their fault – a merger had fallen through – but it put me in a rough spot, so maybe your approach is the smart one.

  7. Mangled metaphor*

    I’ve encountered the “must let your current boss know before applying” within my company. By this, I mean applying for interdepartmental moves.

    The only time I can see it being _justified_ is when a role is a limited time secondment. Real world example: the tech team needs to borrow a reasonably knowledgeable person from within the company for exactly two months (there was a proper start and end date, a bit like when the council announce roadworks) – this is a genuine thing that’s happened recently, with the two months (actually eight weeks) being how long it took to install and set up computer equipment for staff returning to the office. They borrowed someone from the data entry team.
    Letting the boss know you’re applying here is akin to taking a very, very long holiday – the “outgoing” manager can’t recruit to replace because the person will only be gone for a short time – an exact period is known. And technically, that person hasn’t left the company, so are still on hand to answer “where’s the TPS file for last month?”.

    Of course, if a limited time secondment looks like it’s going to be made permanent, it’s a different kettle of fish.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      That’s a completely different scenario though. We don’t talk of poaching among departments within the same firm. Poaching is a problem when a sales director leaves for another company, taking their client file with them. I’ve seen this happen twice in my industry.

      1. Mangled metaphor*

        Except the word “poaching” was actually used when I applied for (and got) my new role. My former boss made my last few months (from letting her know I was applying to moving into my new role was approx three months, including my actual “notice period”) absolutely horrendous.
        Some managers take it as a person slight that you’re leaving, even when you’re just moving within the same company.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Sure, but that’s your previous manager being terrible.

          It’s pretty much standard practice to let your manager know if you’re applying for another role in the organisation to the point that I would explicitly ask questions about why they hadn’t done it if I were hiring.

          1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

            Yup – our regular practice is that for internal applicants, the first thing the hiring manager will do is touch base with your current manager. That way, if I find out that you’re applying around because you’re about to be put on a PIP because you don’t work well in-office and your current role isn’t well-suited to let you be remote, I can be like “Heeeeey my team is fully remote so that won’t be an issue for us, let’s keep talking and see if we can get this person into a better situation that works out for everyone,” and if I find out that you’re applying around because you’re about to be put on a PIP because you’re aggressively nasty to everyone you’ve worked with for the last FOUR YEARS to the point where you’ve been transferred to different worksites multiple times, I can be like “Uh, well, thanks but no thanks,” and cross you off my interview list. (Thank God that manager was honest with me. :P )

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                Haha, neither of them was hypothetical, though the first one was actually the other way around – the person on my team wasn’t doing well and they thought it was because of issues related to working remotely and they’d do fine if they could work onsite, so they were looking to move to a team that wasn’t remote – my department’s onsite offices are limited to people two levels up the org chart from me, and that was the case even pre-pandemic. And I’ve been on the applicant end of that too — my original manager was like “I had to tell them you’re not always very consistent about keeping your tattoos covered.” (It was part of the dress code at the time, but is not anymore.) I said “That’s fine, they’re hiring me onto a remote team, so I don’t think they care.”

                But bless her, the manager in the latter situation was like “Well, they’re hands down the best teapot painter on my team. BUT.” and I was super appreciative she didn’t stop there. (Because I’ve encountered another manager who flat out lied in their reference to get a problem person off their team. :P )

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  My dad gave a reference like that once. He’s a good engineer, very strong in A,B, and C; BUT he needs lots of work in D,E, and F. Guy didn’t get the transfer, and left six months later.

                  Thing F applicant wasn’t good at was interacting with anybody who wasn’t an engineer. Like really, really bad at interacting with people who weren’t engineers, to the point that frequently non-engineers left conversations with him in tears.

          2. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Right, because in theory you’re all working towards the same goal and you want what’s ultimately best for the company.

            In theory. In practice you get reactions all over the map.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            I agree. I think it’s normal that once you are already working for a company they want to consider the whole picture and make sure the managers from each department are on the same page. But ideally companies that do that should make sure they are supportive of their employee’s career as well and not just treating them as cogs in the machine. My company I believe needs your manager to know if you are applying elsewhere in the company, but they are also extremely supportive of internal transfers. My boss has actively encouraged me to apply for other roles on a few occasions or would like send out an opening to our team and say it could be a cool opportunity if anyone wanted to discuss it.

    2. urguncle*

      I knew my former boss was telling management things about me that were not true or not based in a significant amount of experience with me. For example, for two half-year reviews, she had given me a lower score on my presentation skills when she had only seen me present once each half in bizarre scenarios. When I made a pretty routine mistake, she blew it into a series of mistakes and conveniently gave me an “unofficial PIP” while telling upper management that the issue was far greater than it actually was.
      When I wanted to leave, I asked HR to not consider her as part of the hiring process for the new position as it was within another team and I’d had two instances of inappropriate behavior already reported to them. She’s still employed, but not managing people (its own issue that I’m trying to radically accept), but I got the job without having her poison the well.

    3. Snow Globe*

      I think it is pretty common *within* an organization that you let your manager know if you are posting for another position. It’s not because the manager can stop you from leaving, but because there will likely be information sharing about your job performance (hiring manager will undoubtedly want to talk to your current manager about you, and you wouldn’t want that to be a surprise to your current manager). In my experience, my current managers have always been supportive; it reflects well on the manager if their employees are tapped for higher level positions.

    4. GerryL*

      The large tech company where I worked required hiring managers to notify the manager of an employee applying for an open req. We were able to get around this by having “informal discussions” (read: interviews) before making a formal application. In other words, we would agree that I would not make a formal application until they could tell me that I was on the short list of applicants. Hiring managers were willing to do this because they understood how the requirement could negatively impact internal applicants.

  8. Anon manager*

    LW 5: I always ask, “Is this a new position? Is there a change in business growth or strategy resulting in needing to add this position?”, knowing full well that the answers to these questions are “no”. For whatever reason, this seems to disarm the interviewer and they are much more transparent. I don’t always get to the truth, but I feel like I get a much better read on the situation (and the company culture) when they are volunteering info rather than defending why they are filling a position yet again.

  9. MT*

    LW 2 – I had this exact situation happen when I moved to a new city in my 20s. In my industry it was very common to work with recruitment agents rather than to apply directly with an employer, and to be on the books of multiple people at the same time. I got to the final stages with two companies – the first was a lovely smaller firm with nice people, the second was a larger firm with bigger clients and what seemed like more opportunites for growth. The first offered, I accepted and was sent a contract, then the second offered and I had to go back to the first and turn them down. The second job was HARD. I was treading water constantly and figured out after a few months that the agent had oversold me as a candidate, and presented the job to me as something other than what it actually was. Tail between legs I called the first recruiter and asked if she had anything, and it turned out the first job had another opening and still wanted me. It ended up being one of the best jobs of my life, and any embarrassment or awkwardness was quickly gone.

  10. Bookworm*

    #2: You can try and under “normal” circumstances I’d agree with Alison that a lot of hiring managers would be like “absolutely not.” But the “Great Reshuffle” (or Resignation, etc.) is real and they could be open to at least talking.

    Be prepared for a “no,” though. I haven’t been quite in this same position but I have tried re-applying after being rejected and even tried re-applying to seasonal/temp jobs where I thought I did ok and usually the answer is no or I’m just there as part of their pile of applicants. Which is not to say that will happen to you but just be aware that this door may be closed to you.

    1. pancakes*

      There’s a pretty solid argument that what a lot of headlines are calling “the Great Resignation” involves a large number of women dropping out of work due to being unable to find or justify paying for unaffordable childcare. A paragraph from a recent article on this by Moira Donegan in the Guardian, which links to her sources:

      “The fact of the matter is that when we speak of the Great Resignation, we are really referring to a great resignation of women. During the pandemic, women have exited the labor force at twice the rate that men have; their participation in the paid labor force is now the lowest it has been in more than 30 years. About one-third of all mothers in the workforce have scaled back or left their jobs since March 2020. That labor shortage? It’s being felt most acutely in sectors like hospitality, retail and healthcare – industries where women make up a majority of workers.”

      It would be really great if what we’re seeing turns out to be a huge and enduring shift in the balance of power between employers and employees, but I’m not yet convinced that is in fact what’s happening.

    2. Gene Rayburn was the best game show host ever*

      Would like to add that it’s worth a try. The worst they can do is say “No” or just not respond to your request for a second chance, but who knows? Bookworm’s “Great Reshuffle” is worth considering, in that they might not be happy with the person they did hire, and would at least be open to talking with you.

    3. Chickaletta*

      Came here to echo this – depending what job it is, you may have a real chance. For example, nurses right now are in very high demand and my company is actively reaching out to candidates they rejected recently to see if they want to apply again, so a candidate who rejected them probably stands a real chance. Might be a similar situation in other industries where employees are very much needed – retail? food? services?

  11. Lucious*

    “I know the salary band for this position, and the salary offered to me was the low end (but within the band — in other words, they didn’t try to screw me by offering me something lower than the band).
    – I feel the salary is in line with the market.
    – This promotion is a “double” step up for me — I’m essentially skipping a level to take this role.”

    This LW was correct to not negotiate. When an internal hire is promoted to a new role , unless they have prior background it’s no different than hiring a newbie off the street from a compensation perspective. They’re starting with 0 experience in the new job , which puts them at the bottom of the salary band. It’s a hard concept to process because “I’ve been at Teapot LLc for eight years!”…..but that was eight years in Job X. Being promoted to Job Y means a different role and different compensation band.

    Naturally , this point merits a disclaimer; companies shouldn’t play games or lowball employees, and all too often at my last employer I’d see people moved to “Job Y” on the substantially lower payscale of “Job X” + 5%. Once a former coworker was offered a position at a New York City subsidiary….with a 15% bump in his Wichita Kansas salary. Management sold this as an exceptional raise….which was true, but only because they were stealth lowballing him. He politely declined the “opportunity”.

    1. Chili pepper Attitude*

      I had the same situation, got a shiny new job that is a step up and more pay, is fewer hours, I’m shifting roles in a way that means I should be in the lower part of the salary band, and I am place-bound and roles here are limited.

      I did not negotiate bc the pay was fair for me.

      I wonder if age plays a role; I feel it did for me. I’m so late in my career that the loss of a couple of thousand dollars will not lead to a lifetime of drastically lower salary the way it might for a 20 or 30 something person.

    2. Retired Prof*

      At the large public university I worked for, staff new hires were almost always brought in at the bottom of the salary band – but it was very difficult to move up in that band. As a supervisor, I had no control over the hiring salary – that was between the Dean and HR. But to get an in-range increase for an employee, they had to have perfect scores on their performance review (5 out of 5 in every category) or you had to show they had taken on additional job duties, AND the HR had to have unofficially signaled that in-range requests were being favorably received (I.e., the university had some excess funds). That only happened once every few years. Everyone kept their ear to the ground to catch the signal that in-ranges were being considered, and then flooded HR with requests when it happened. But it also meant that supervisors were under a lot of pressure to give perfect performance reviews, in case this was the magical year when in-ranges would be approved.

      So people were pretty much trapped at the salary they came in at (plus a COLA in some years). That meant the only way up was over – to get a salary increase you needed to apply to another position in a different office, even if it was a lateral move. So there was a constant churn of staff between offices, with corresponding loss of institutional memory. A profoundly stupid system.

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        That’s disgusting. Everywhere I’ve encountered you get automatic step increases for time-in-grade. Even my current employer who claims to do merit-based step increases, actually means “you get an annual step increase unless you royally screwed up this year.”

  12. Roscoe*

    #5. I find this kind of an odd question. Because most managers don’t REALLY know why their employee left. I don’t know that I’ve ever been 100% honest about reasons for leaving a job. I usually just say “it was a great opportunity” or something like that. Like, yeah, I could say “the ceo is ridiculous” or “your new policies were stupid”, but I like to leave places on as good of terms as possible. So I’m not really all that clear what type of info you think there is to be gained by that. I guess I just see it as, for you, do you want it or not. A job that is perfect for you may suck for someone else, and vice versa

    1. AR*

      That’s somewhat true in average-to-good workplaces but at jobs where there are departure patterns, people do often know. I took a job during the Great Recession out of necessity and even my colleagues warned me there was a specific departure pattern. After a year there, I was just as frustrated by the board as my predecessors and left under similar circumstances. When it’s quite bad, people do tend to be aware.

      1. Roscoe*

        But even in that situation, how likely is a manager to say that?

        I mean, I’ve definitely had jobs where they told me that people usually stay in the role for 2-3 years, then want to move on to another role in the company. I loved that job, but after 2 years I totally understood why people left then. And in a lot of ways, for the job, it kind of made sense to get new teams in every few years. But if its a bad environment, I can’t imagine management being up front about it.

        1. Chili pepper Attitude*

          No, but you can learn something from the response and, as Alison said, you also have to do your due diligence

    2. Bagpuss*

      I think it varies. If there is a pattern then the employers should be thinking about why that is even if they haven’t had a frank conversation the with the people leaving – even if people are saying they are getting great opportunities then it’s reasonable to look at whether you are competitive, as an employer, on things like salary. And in most cases of someone is leaving because they are unhappy with something, whether that is policies, a manager or CEO, pay or other conditions etc , mostly their manager will be aware of that, in general if not in detail, and should be able to join the dots.

      Of course, a good manager will often have a better relationship with their reports and be more likely to have been given an accurate (or at least honest, if not necessary complete) answer when asked.

      (Example. Jane gives notice stating she has had a great offer she feels she can’t pass up./ Jane’s manager is aware that Jane requested a pay rise in her last appraisal but was turned down , so manager should know that her leaving was likely related to her view that she was underpaid.)

      I’m sure that there are exceptions, even for a good manager , but I think generally the employer should have some feel for the underlying reasons.

    3. Colette*

      Sometimes the answer is “they were promoted internally” or “they moved to a different city” or “they went back to school”. If you’ve had 2 people move on in two years for “great opportunities”, there’s probably something wrong with the job/company. If you’ve had one person go back to school and another get promoted, that’s a different scenario.

      1. Roscoe*

        Is it? I don’t know, I guess maybe its my age or maybe that I just get bored, but I feel like many jobs aren’t going to be there forever, and after a number of years, you’ll want something new. I’ve left some jobs I truly enjoyed just because I wanted something different. I don’t think if multiple people get that feeling over a few years it really says anything specific

        1. Colette*

          Sure, after a number of years – but if you’re having people leave every year (or less), that’s where there’s likely an issue. If they’re leaving after 2 or 3 years, that’s much more normal.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I think the exception to people constantly leaving after about a year is if the department/job in question is entry level. I know the department at work I’m in is considered Entry Level – so we get lots of people in or just out of college as well as lots of people starting over after a career change. Most of those move up through promotions or transfers after 9-15 months. I don’t see that as bad, but as a sign of good internal training and growth.

            (Caveat – we did have way more than the normal churn at one point, but that manager got pushed out – the few of us that outlasted her call ourselves the survivors. We had people constantly leaving, applying for transfers, etc within 4 months.)

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Yeah I think you have to examine high turnover but it’s not necessarily bad. We also have an entry level department where the staff is entry level and we expect them to last less than two years if they’re very good – they’ll either get promoted out, or move on. But if you just look at the staff and see “all people with this title have less than two years” without context it could indeed be concerning.

              And likewise in a situation like you describe, 1-2 years might be normal but you need to examine when it becomes four months. As long as you understand what’s happening and are okay with it turnover isn’t inherently a problem.

    4. Allonge*

      I think it’s one of those questions where it would be really useful for the applicant to know the answer, but as you and Alison both say, it’s really unlikely to be provided.

      Not to mention, usually people leave jobs for several reasons all put together – sometimes your boss is ok but booooring and the other offer is good enough and the commute here is too long and the new place has a gym… and a lot of this is nothing useful for the next person in the job.

      1. Koalafied*

        I view it as one of those questions where you know you’re not likely to get radical candor for a variety of reasons (ranging from respecting the privacy of the departed employee to trying to conceal unflattering information about the company), but there’s non-verbal information you’ll get off you pay attention to how they react to the question.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yes, it’s a normal enough question that there is no harm in asking–but you go into it expecting you may not get any useful information. But they might have some helpful information they can share and they might share some through their body language or the way they answer even if the answer itself is generic.

          1. Esmeralda*

            Yep. You ask the question and then everyone on the hiring committee flicks their eyes at each other, there’s a just a bit too long pause, then committee chair muddles about for a sentence or two before giving a bland answer.

            1. Sloan Kittering*

              Hehehe! I’ve also had a sense of bitterness/hostility from hiring managers when talking about somebody who left, which is … always an interesting datapoint. Especially if it seems more than one person is on this character’s sh*tlist, you know it’s probably them that’s the problem.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Right. I recently left a job that was bad for me in a multitude of ways, but was also far away from my house, so the official reason for leaving on my paperwork is that I left for a job closer to home. That’s what my old manager would probably give as an answer to this question, but it’s only about 10% of the reason I left.

    6. Observer*

      Because most managers don’t REALLY know why their employee left. I

      Sometimes the answer is useful, even if the employer doesn’t really know. Some types of answers will tell you, for instance, that the company really doesn’t care about retention. Or it might be a bit of a flag to really find some way to dig in elsewhere about the something at the workplace.

    7. Ori*

      Yep “I’m leaving because of the commute” sounds better than “you’ve made my life a living hell for the past six months”. I mean I was the third person to leave after that director joined, I’m sure it wasn’t rocket science for the owner to figure out.

    8. Ace in the Hole*

      The manager knows a lot of useful things. For example, was the employee fired, did they quit for another job, go on medical leave, retire? Is this a newly created position? Or, if not new, has it only recently re-opened after a long hiring freeze? Have they had a lot of turnover recently? Is that normal for the position/industry?

    9. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      I once gave HR chapter and verse as to why I left; they never felt like fixing the problem.

      Another time, I had two very specific reasons for leaving (the commute and the culture within my department). Given that the culture problems came from the top, nothing I said would have had any effect on the culture. However, as numerous people had left over the butts-in-seats policies, I thought that being another commute/butts-in-seats resignation statistic might be helpful for my remaining coworkers.

    10. HiHello*

      I think it is also about the field and how young the employees are. I feel like people in their 20s, maybe 30s, are more likely to switch jobs every few years. I know only very few people who have been in one company for more than 3-4 years. Most of my friends move on after 2-3 years.

  13. Lizzie*

    #4 I was in the same situation; i was promoted, and offered a decent increase. I signed the offer letter and didn’t negotiate; it was a nice increase, and our benefits are fabulous, and with my promotion, came a 5% increase in my base bonus. So I went from very close to the top of my salary grade pay scale, getting very small increases, to the bottom of my new scale, and six months in, when merit raises are done, i got a very nice increase. then this year, they were looking at all salary grades, and pay, so I got another huge increase, plus a small adjustment a few months later. so in about 2 years, my salary went up by close to 30%!

  14. Hiring Mgr*

    On #2 I think it’s somewhat related to the job, or maybe the level of the position. In my white collar experience it would be tough to get another chance, but Amazon etc warehouse workers come and go from one facility to another frequently (I work in a related biz now) and nobody bats an eye.. so YMMV.

  15. Spicy Tuna*

    #4, I didn’t negotiate for my last job (I’ve actually never negotiated, but that’s another story / issue). The salary they offered was significantly higher than my current salary, and the company had a lot of opportunities for advancement. They also made the title of the role a half step down (manager instead of senior manager) so I would have the opportunity for a promotion and related salary bump, which happened a year into the role. My suggestion is always to go with your gut. If you feel like the company isn’t trying to undercut you or otherwise take advantage, there may not be a need to negotiate.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I didn’t negotiate for my current job either. They said they didn’t want salary to be an issue so they were offering me the top of the (posted) range. Does that indicate I had leverage to push a little? Maybe. But it was a big increase for me and seemed like a good foot to start off on, so I was just happy to accept and figure I can angle for a raise once I’ve been here a bit if that makes sense.

      1. Long Time Reader*

        I just took a new offer and also didn’t negotiate salary- it’s a decent raise, new area of work for me, etc. I did negotiate the timeline for starting though- just a reminder that negotiations aren’t always about salary!

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          True! I did make sure they’d work around the schedule of my last semester of grad school, and wanted to give my last job three weeks notice, but I guess I considered that more of an accommodation than anything.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      When I was coming out of graduate school (~10 years into my career), I was really feeling myself, and was DEFINTELY going to negotiate this time! They told me the range for the job was $60K-$80K. I had been making just under $60K before grad school, and was prepared to be lowballed. I was so ready!! And then they offered me $78K. I just took it. :)

    3. ThatGirl*

      I didn’t negotiate for my current job because I named a range and they offered me the top of it. It DID leave me wondering if I should have aimed a little higher, ha! but I’m certainly happy with my salary. (I haven’t had an annual review yet, we’ll see how that process goes.)

    4. Loredena Frisealach*

      I didn’t negotiate for my last two jobs because they were both decent jumps in salary (though in retrospect I should have, because it turns out I was still underpaid! the downside of moving and not knowing the local market).

      For my current job it was less a negotiation and more a level set — I interviewed for a consulting role that was a step up, and a significant salary increase (think 30k). They came back and said they didn’t think I was a good fit but would love to bring me in for a role that was more in line with my current (though a higher title). But the amount they told me was 10k *less* than I was being paid and I knew I was already underpaid by ~10k. I didn’t even hesitate, I just immediately said that that was way too low. They asked my bare minimum, I gave the 10k over current #. In the end they offered me a bump of 12k plus the potential for a decent bonus.

      In consulting it’s really really common to be offered base plus bonus, and I learned the hard way that bonuses don’t get paid if the company can find any wriggle room, so I set my mental minimums entirely on what is an acceptable base, with bonus being gravy. I’m honestly a poor negotiator, and a woman, so know that I’ve been underpaid for much of my career, but at least knowing what I consider ‘good enough’ keeps me in the ballpark!

    5. JLP*

      I’ve always just been so surprised and happy to get the job that I never negotiate cause …I got the job. I might fix that sometime.

      Narrator voice: She never does

  16. J*

    LW4: I am a hiring manager, and I am always surprised at how often job candidates don’t negotiate. I’m not saying that to make you feel bad about your recent experience, but the opposite–in my experience, not negotiating salary is actually fairly common. The comments on this thread from others saying they have never negotiated salary seem to corroborate that.

    1. anon e mouse*

      I have always asked except at my first job where I had a big non-salary ask, but I think I only ever got anything once, and it was only like 2-3% they were willing to do so that it wasn’t a step down for me. Another time I got a one-time infusion of five bonus days of PTO, which in a must-pay-out-PTO-balances state is effectively money. But yeah, in my line of work with my credentials, they’re usually offering about what they’re willing to pay.

  17. LadyByTheLake*

    #5, you can ask, but take the answer with a grain of salt. I recently took a short term job filling in for a position where the last three people had all lasted around a year. I asked the manager why people left and he said (and honestly believed) that the business partners we dealt with were difficult and demanding. And they were. But the real problem was that the manager was an interfering micromanager who made an already tough job completely impossible.

  18. Speechless*

    #1 happened to me, too! They wanted me to talk directly to the CEO (small company) before I had an offer. I countered and said I would talk to my direct supervisor and report back. Once I reported back that everything was fine the person who was holding up my offer went and called the CEO, who then called me for a “quick chat”. I could have spit tacks.

    I was lucky that they caught the CEO on a good day, that I’m a star performer, that it was in no one’s interest to hold a grudge. And ultimately the offer from the new place was good enough (and it’s large enough that I don’t have to work with the person who outed me). It worked out for me but everyone I talked to agreed with Alison: This is definitely wildly out of line.

  19. Database Developer Dude*

    Walk away, OP1. Tell them why.

    If I were looking, and ANY prospective employer said this to me, I’d immediately take myself out of consideration, and I wouldn’t be shy about telling them exactly why.

    This employer is stupid, and scummy.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreed – you deploy that line, and I straight pivot to “thank you for your time but I am no longer interested in the position. I’m formally withdrawing my application.”

      That line to me (wanting to talk to my manager and out that I’m job searching) is a red flag the size of the Rock of Gibraltar if I don’t have a very firm offer in my hands already.

      1. Nesprin*

        “Thank you for your time, but I am unwilling to continue interviewing with a company that has this stance on poaching. I’m formally withdrawing my application”

  20. Annie E. Mouse*

    LW#4, I did basically the same when I moved into my current role earlier this year. I was in the middle of the pay range for my prior role, but accepted a promotion that was two levels up, skipping a job grade. Even though my new salary is on the lower end of the new range, it was almost 30% over my previous salary. I felt the same as you, it was fair for my experience and I was happy with the new salary so didn’t negotiate. Now that I’m coming up on my annual review and have been in the role for a while, I feel much better prepared to ask for a raise.

  21. Falling Diphthong*

    It’s not that you did something horrible by looking out for your own interests. But they have to look out for theirs too.

    I feel like this underlies so many work interaction–in all directions!!–and yet it’s hard for many people to see.

  22. animaniactoo*

    LW2, Yeah, those are some long odds. And it’s a thing to consider when you’re burning a bridge like that – how will you feel if that better-seeming offer doesn’t work out? It has to be part of your calculation, looking for the downsides and not just what appear to be the upsides.

    But – this kind of thing is why it can also be smart to pull yourself out of the running for other jobs once you’ve accepted an offer, provided you are actually happy with the offer you accepted.

    It’s easier to revive a candidacy that was treated respectfully than a start date that was not.

    Good luck in your current search and finding something you like even if it is not that previous offer.

  23. Cera*

    I agree try not to feel embarrassed. It always okay to try. I somehow negotiated a 5k pay increase on an offer that was already above salary range. The offer was already 50% more than the my current pay. I am still not sure how the words came out of my mouth. But they accepted without hesitation.

    You never know the possibility unless you try.

  24. Enginerd*

    OP1 the letter is a little weird but the conversation is pretty typical. I’ve had it a couple times if you leave a job with a client to go to a vender it tends to be a bit of a slippery slope (the other direction no issues). They’re basically looking for a confirmation from your current employer that hiring you away won’t jeopardize their business relationship. Typically they’ve only ever needed a conversation or an email from my boss but I guess it would depend on how high up you are where they might want to loop them in. If your boss is decent it should be an easy conversation on how to proceed as this approval is pretty typical for STEM field jobs, but if your boss is not so great chances are they’re going to see this as you’re definitely on your way out and you’ll get the short timer treatment.

  25. the cat's ass*

    LW#1, this is sketchy AF. Many of us face reprisal when we job hunt/ give notice. Who wants to be exposed to that without even an actual job offer on board? Walk away.

  26. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – The company you are interviewing with is clearly a vendor or strategic partner of some kind to your current employer. This is not all that unusual when an important relationship between companies exists – everyone wants to make sure that they are not torpedoing the existing relationship. However, they SHOULD have flagged this at the outset (ie. before they brought you in for an interview) and they SHOULD made you aware that they would need to get the permission of your current company to hire you at an early stage of the process. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

    The risk here is if your current employer balks at giving their blessing to you joining their vendor/strategic partner. I would look at a couple factors here – what is your company’s typical response to people leaving – does the company consider it treasonous to look outside or do they respect that people make career choices in their own best interests? (Have they ever rehired anyone? – that’s an indication of openness.) Do you feel that your current manager would block your attempt to leave the organization or would they respect that you need to make a career change? Does your company understand the strategic value of having a happy former employer join a partner company? Also, has there been any history of former coworkers going to a vendor or strategic partner before, and how was that handled? (If so, and you know one of those people, you could ask what their experience was of leaving the organization for a vendor/partner company.)

    If the answers to these questions are positives, then the risk would be worth taking, IF the opportunity is spectacular, the offer is great, and you have other options if your company says no to your leaving (could be your company says you’re a strategic employee, and the other company can’t have you without damaging the relationship. Then you’re stuck and your company knows you’re looking. So you would want to know – if your company takes it badly that you were looking at the opportunity – that you have other career options.

    If your company is reactionary wrt people leaving for other opportunities, though, then I would bow out of the search and tell the hiring company that it is too high a risk and that your current employer doesn’t handle these transitions all that well.

    IF you decide to proceed, YOU should be the one to flag to your manager and HR that you are being courted by a vendor/strategic partner, and that their head of HR will be in touch with your company’s head of HR to discuss the situation. You need to take the initiative here – for one thing, you’ll control the message, and for another, it’s more respectful for you to alert your manager and HR. You can also back off if the response is negative and can point out that you were simply informing them that OtherCo had approached you.

        1. Observer*

          There is no doubt about it – so called no poach agreements are illegal.

          Primarily The Sherman Act / Anti-trust

          1. EnterpriseRecruiter*

            Blanket restrictions negotiated between competitors are illegal. Targeted restrictions between supplier company and customer company are entirely different.

  27. Sleet Feet*

    #1 this is unfortunately common and often it is baked into the software product purchasing agreements. I had this happen with 2 software companies at my old job. One refused to interview without the written letter from my current supervisor and refused to make an exception (this was during the height of pandemic layoffs!). The other confessed that their BAA had a steep penalty for poaching any employee within 12 months of leaving even if our company had laid them off.

  28. EnterpriseRecruiter*

    Regarding #1, I am in recruiting for a global professional services firm and while not the norm, it sounds like some of our client hiring restrictions. Due to some Master Service Agreements, there are instances where we are not able to hire from clients at all. Other times there are work around like this (we would need permission from the client to proceed first). Typically in those instances, we just let the candidate know we cannot proceed due to the relationship we have with their current employer and we don’t actually ask them to seek permission, but if a candidate was insistent I would share the loop hole with them and let them decide if it was worth it.

    Not sure if this is the same situation, but I suspect there is some contractual legal agreement between your employer and the other company.

  29. memyselfandi*

    LW#1 I am wondering if this is Amazon. In their application materials it specifies that you need to get permission from your current employer to talk to them (not the right language, but something like). It is one of a series of check boxes you have to tick. I don’t recall if they give a rationale. I think it might have something to do with the fact that they might have business dealings with your company. I know they also ask current government employees to get an ethics clearance.

  30. No Dumb Blonde*

    #1 – this happened to me, but it was handled much better. At the time I worked for one of the Big 4 accounting firms within their consulting division. I live in a very small city where job postings for my particular skillset are few and far between, but I saw the perfect contract position listed on an online job board. Not only was the job local, but the project manager was someone I had worked with before and whom I respected, so I submitted my resume. I received a call immediately from a representative of the staffing company; he informed me right up front they had a business relationship with my current employer but it would only matter if I was offered the job. My interview went very well, and shortly afterward, the rep called to tell me the interviewers had ranked my application the highest and wanted me for the position, but due to their relationship with my current employer, I would have to make sure my current manager knew I had initiated the job search on my own (which was true, I had). I wanted the new job very badly, and would have to give my notice anyway, so it worked out fine. But like this LW, I wouldn’t have agreed to tell my current manager without knowing I had the job.

    1. No Dumb Blonde*

      … oh, and we had agreed on a contract rate already, which I had in writing in the form of an email from the rep. So I knew exactly what the contract would contain when they were able to forward it.

  31. HolidayAmoeba*

    Allison mentions this a lot but I am witnessing firsthand. An employee got a better job offer elsewhere and their HR botched the whole thing and ended up withdrawing the offer. He just got let from us, because while he thought he had a better job and was just waiting for a start date, he let his work slip a LOT. Needless to say, his chickens never hatched.

  32. yup*

    OP1, you need to run away in the other direction, fast. It sounds like a nasty, toxic culture full of overly controlling people.

    Op5, I think you definitely should. I think reference checks from employer to potential employee are basically always either utterly useless or pointlessly damaging, but I think a reference check performed by a potential employee about a potential employer is critically important.

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