am I obligated to tell interviewers that I’m considering other jobs?

A reader writes:

When during the interview process is the right time to disclose that I am also pursuing other opportunities? Am I even obligated to disclose other opportunities to a potential new job? Is it wrong to see through an interview process if I’m not sure I even want the role in the end?

I have been in my current position for 10 years and I’m ready to make a move. So I started thinking about what’s next for me and began seeking new job opportunities.

Early in my search, I was contacted by a recruiter about a great position with lots of growth potential at another mission-oriented organization. The hiring process was very intense, took about six weeks, and entailed many meetings (virtual and in-person), test assignments, calls, etc. The recruiter did explain to me up-front what the process and timeline would look like and I agreed to it. However, during the process I realized that I have concerns about the organization, the role, and my ability to deliver as expected. Being new to this process and looking out for my own best interests, I never volunteered any of my doubts or concerns, and I never shared that I was continuing to assess other opportunities. I continued into each new step thinking “well, maybe…” and decided not to let my doubts affect my thoughts until the time came that I received an offer. Well, the interview process went well and I was surprised to receive a great offer well above the listed salary. The hiring team indicated that I was the perfect, and only, candidate for the job and they were excited for my acceptance.

While the offer feels almost too good to be true, and I now have dollar signs for eyes, there was still something holding me back from accepting right away — especially one other job I’m interviewing for that is well paid and fun with a remote schedule.

When I asked for time to think the offer over, things took a weird turn with both the recruiter (who seemed shocked I had doubts and was still entertaining other offers) and the hiring team, who seemed to think I was going to be an immediate “yes!” These reactions have triggered some self-doubt around whether I was wrong not to be clear with both the recruiter and the hiring manager that I had other irons in the fire. Should I have told them sooner?

From my perspective, I was led to believe that I was one of several candidates they were considering, so I certainly couldn’t have been sure that I would even receive an offer. When I expressed that to the recruiter, she indicated that I had been the only candidate for several weeks and much of the latter half of the hiring process was formality to get me into the role. Apparently, the hiring team thought I was a sure thing and is now scrambling back at square one with no chance of hiring someone before a staff member is out on medical leave.

After much reflection, I don’t think I’ll accept the offer. I’m in the early-mid stages of interviewing for other roles I am very excited about, and I know I can’t accept the first big offer I get just because the money is good if I don’t feel confident about the role being a good fit for me. I also recognize that however the hiring team and recruiter feel about my “no,” that doesn’t really matter and isn’t my concern. I have to do what’s best for me. But I can’t help but feel a little shaken by the whole thing.

So, as I forge ahead in my job hunt, how should I approach this moving forward? Is it best to keep everything close to the chest and always act 100% in my own interest, chips falling where they may? Or is it my obligation to be clear and up-front with a potential job about whether I am pursuing other roles as well since it may affect their hiring timeline or desire to keep other candidates in the running? Obviously I don’t think saying “I’m not sure if I want this job” is in my best interest during an interview process, but I feel bad now that this hiring team seems genuinely shocked. Is that just business, or should I be handling it differently?

They are being really weird.

It’s one thing for a hiring team to be a little surprised when a candidate doesn’t accept their offer. As a hiring manager, sometimes a candidate is so enthusiastic during your conversations that you do start feeling pretty confident they’ll accept (although even then, nothing is ever guaranteed and who knows if you’ll be able to come to terms on salary or other details). But it would be bizarre to assume a candidate isn’t talking to other employers too, or to believe they should disclose it if they are … and I don’t know why they would assume you knew (or cared!) that you were their only candidate. That is not how this works.

You do not need to explicitly tell employers that you’re pursuing other opportunities. It’s normally assumed, just like you assume they are talking with other candidates. (Frankly, if a candidate who actively wanted to change jobs was talking exclusively with me because they had their heart set on this particular position, I’d be concerned! There are never any guarantees at the end of an interview process, on either side.) Reasonable employers assume you have options and are looking at multiple jobs.

And no, it’s not wrong to see through an interview process if you’re not sure you’ll want the job at the end of it. The whole point of an interview process is for both sides to learn more about each other and each decide if they want to work together. You presumably don’t expect employers to only interview you if they’re sure they’ll make you an offer at the end of it, and it would be wildly unreasonable in the other direction too. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen — I hear from candidates all the time who were shocked they didn’t get hired, and there are interviewers who can’t believe their candidates have other options — but it’s not normal behavior, and you don’t need to plan your own conduct around it.

{ 159 comments… read them below }

  1. Elder Millennial*

    This letter and response was so timely for me and greatly appreciated; I have been interviewing with multiple employers and the first offer that came through just didn’t excite me and didn’t feel like the right fit. It felt incredibly awkward for me to turn down that offer and they were clearly surprised (I think I exude a lot of enthusiasm in interviews). But I felt such relief after I did it, a clear sign that it was the right choice for me. Sorry that they made that awkwardness worse for you OP, but it sounds like you are exploring all possibilities and thinking about your next step carefully – and those are good things!

    1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

      OP here, thank you! I also felt VERY awkward turning the offer down–and that was made even harder when they responded with disbelief. I do feel confident that turning it down was the right move. Best of luck to you in your job hunt!

      1. Lance*

        Absolutely don’t let anyone guilt you into accepting an offer, especially when it’s an offer for a position that you’ve already had some hesitations about. You didn’t do anything wrong here, and it’s not your fault that they put all their eggs into one basket.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My mindset has always been that if someone reacts to my saying no/declining an offer with a guilt trip- well you have just set in concrete the fact I made the correct choice.
          OP, that recruiter was just odd. Best of luck on the other interview processes.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yes. If you take the job then resign, the guilt-tripping will be ramped up. We’ve seen some epic examples on this website!

          2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Yes, exactly! If they’re being weird about someone turning down an offer (which is a thing that happens), there is a very high chance of weirdness if you did take the job. Are they going to be cool about you wanting to work reasonable hours or have a sensible workload? Their understanding of norms is skewed.

      2. Elder Millennial*

        It was especially awkward that they asked what the job was I had decided to pursue instead – and I am still interviewing, I don’t actually have an offer and might not get one! I tried to be very vague, in a “it’s not you it’s me” kind of way. Best of luck to you OP!

      3. Artemesia*

        Never disclose anything in the job hunt or the workplace that is not in your interest. You owe nothing to those interviewing you except a certain level of good faith (I think it is wrong to accept expensive flights to interview etc if you are literally ‘doing it for practice.’ But if you are genuinely searching — keep information to yourself that might jeopardize the process)

        You behaved honorably and turning down something that seems not quite right is a normal part of the process. I found it very hard to do that early in my career; I think many women are conditioned to be agreeable — job searching is about what you need and want — don’t take a job that doesn’t give you what you need and want..

        1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

          Thank you, this is validating to hear! You’re right, it feels like I should be agreeable–hard to push that aside and make sure I’m looking out for me, but that’s what I need to do.

      4. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I felt SO awkward the first time I turned a job down. I even tried to negotiate with them (even though I was hesitant on the culture) but they refused to change their offer at all, and 1 week vacation is solid NOPE territory for me. Sometimes you are onboard until the offer comes though and then it just isn’t enough. I think we both thought the other person was kind of out of line. I actually felt a lot better about myself for turning it down though, since I am so non-confrontational I kinda proved to myself I have a backbone when I really need one. Next job after that I negotiated and got what I asked for, proving to myself it was ok to ask for what you need.

    2. Annimal*

      I’m in the same position – I have two interviews this week and one that has been talking to me but is waiting for HR to do the official stuff. That’s of course the one I’m most interested in, but the others are moving quick and have indicated that they really like me so far. I don’t think I could go wrong with any option but I might (for the first time ever) have some choices and THAT is more daunting than I had expected.

      Plus my current job is kind of trying to throw their hat in the ring with a possible promotion but it wouldn’t actually happen for several more months (3-6). I am so nervous just about the possibility of having to make this choice that I can’t sleep at all (so maybe I’ll tank the interviews and not have this problem).

      1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Thank you! I also never though I’d be in a position to compare multiple offers. I ended up turning down this really great offer to hold out hope on another opportunity that may or may not come through with an offer in the end. That was really scary to do and came with lots of “but what if nothing else comes and I ended up turning down my only offer?” fear… but ultimately, even though there weren’t any glaring red flags, my gut was telling me the offer I had just wasn’t right so saying no was the best choice. (And agreed–having to make the choice is the hardest part!) Good luck to you in your search as well.

        1. Annimal*

          It’s really weird! I got the feeling in my interview this morning that they’re going to send an offer… and yesterday my current job made a kind of offer. And I’m trying to figure out what’s most important between salary, managing people, and other workplace concerns, and I’m really unsure until I get to see everything! I don’t know which long game is going to be the best for me.

      2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        It’s weirdly stressful, right?! I try to remind myself that as problems go, it’s a pretty good one to have. Even if the decision feels huge and momentous. And if you end up having more than one really good offer from places you have good feelings about, there kinda isn’t a wrong choice.

    3. Gnome*

      Thank you for saying that! I think I exude a lot of excitement too… Even when I feel I’m being hesitant.

    4. Fikly*

      The flip side of this is that many people get rejected and literally told it’s because it’s because they don’t seem enthusiastic enough in interviews, so candidates feel obliged to be enthusiastic in interviews just to move forward, regardless of their actual feelings.

      Applying to a job is never, ever an obligation to accept a position. Turn this around – how outraged do you think they would be if after they rejected your application, you said “but you’re the only job I applied to!” and expected them to change their minds?

      1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Great point, when flipping it around like that–it does sound ridiculous!

      2. Autumnheart*

        Heck, what about all the times that candidates have seemingly successful interviews, complete with meeting the team, being shown your future desk, being promised that an offer letter was on the way, etc. (I can think of multiple interviews I’ve had where these things occurred) and then poof, the offer letter never shows up and your emails or phone calls go straight into the void. And as candidates, we’re expected to just suck that up.

        Meanwhile here’s this company that makes a poor strategic decision by not interviewing multiple candidates, then wants to put the responsibility on OP for “wasting their time” because they declined the position? That’s a twofer—a bad business practice followed by pretty unprofessional behavior. I wouldn’t want to find out what other business practices they mess up and blame individuals for.

        1. Fikly*

          Ugh, that reminds me of the time when not only did I have an offer in hand, but my start date was literally the next day, when I got an email that the position disappeared due to changed budget.

  2. Eldritch Office Worker*

    “she indicated that I had been the only candidate for several weeks and much of the latter half of the hiring process was formality to get me into the role. Apparently, the hiring team thought I was a sure thing”

    This one line is FULL of red flags and I’m glad you’re going to turn them down. Both the recruiter and the company behaved incredibly unprofessionally here and I promise you there is more dysfunction on the other side. Run and don’t look bad.

    You didn’t do anything wrong. Ignoring those initial gut feelings is normal – you wanted to get more information. And your assessment of the situation is spot on. I hope you get the fun job!

    1. HA2HA2*

      Right! If the latter half of the hiring process was a formality, then they SHOULD HAVE GIVEN AN OFFER halfway through the hiring process, and then they could have spent time assuaging any of OP’s concerns (if they still had them).

      They should have of course assumed OP was still interviewing in other places (just like they should expect all candidates to be applying to many places – it’s not like their job is so special). And, equally, OP should probably assume that they are interviewing multiple candidates, and at literally any point in the interview process might say “yep you’re great, but a different candidate just accepted an offer this morning so we can’t hire you.”

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        “But, but, but…we picked YOU! No, we didn’t tell you for weeks, but how could you not KNOW that? Obviously, interview number seven was clearly the last step. We didn’t make an offer then, or at anytime over the next three weeks, but we cannot believe you would still be interviewing at other places!”

        1. Lily*

          “But…we picked YOU!”
          Someone actually said this to me after I declined their offer. They seemed shocked and offended, and weren’t exactly polite. So I responded, “Well, that’s really not my problem.”
          Felt good.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes! That bit was wild to me, who decides on a candidate but doesn’t offer them the role then?

      1. Esmeralda*

        Academia, state system — we have to get approval first. A smart department will have as much set up as possible ahead of time, but we still have to get HR’s official blessing before making an official offer. If HR is slow, we can lose candidates (BTDT).

        1. Wynn*

          I think I applied to your agency, or one if it’s twins, in June 2019. Got the offer in December of 2019, at which point I’d already taken a job elsewhere and finished the probationary period.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          In the government jobs I’ve been in, they’d make provisional offers, where you’ll get the job assuming you don’t have a murder show up on your background check and nothing really weird happens in the funds allocation. It’s super slow though, and they lose a ton of people.

        3. FrivYeti*

          I recently got a job connected to academia, and while there were steps that HR had to get through, I was told beforehand that I was the choice and asked if, provided the details on the paperwork were acceptable, I wanted the job. I was able to give a provisional acceptance and then wait for the formal offer, so that both I and my new employers knew that the job was likely mine.

          I didn’t stop my other interview processes during that, because it was possible that I would get some terrible contract or unexpected problem, but an informal “we’d love you have you – I’d love to work for you” avoided any kind of surprise in the final stages.

      2. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        This job was in a field with a lot of bureaucracy and many, many people involved in hiring. My guess is that they had to do the last few steps regardless of having already decided I was the right person to receive an offer. But yes, as you and others are validating for me, it was nuts on their part to be so sure that I would accept the role when they hadn’t even asked me if I was likely to accept or what other interviews I was going on!

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Would have been ideal for them to clearly state this to you. Like, you are our top candidate for the job, the process is rigid and we have to continue with it, but unless there are major curveballs that come up, there is a very good chance you will receive an offer. Even if they did do that, it absolutely does not obligate you to commit to anything at that time or accept a future offer.

          It’s WILD that they seem to have expected you to just intuit where they were at. What else would they expect you to just magically understand if you worked there?

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I can imagine a ton of situations where the person or people most responsible for the decision know who they want which makes it practically a done deal, except they can’t just decide to make an offer yet because they are working within the company’s hiring process. I don’t think that on its own is anything wrong or unusual.

        But assuming the candidate will definitely say yes was a stupid mistake and they definitely should have continued with one or two backup candidates just in case. (Unless they literally didn’t have any, which is possible I guess. I know one time I took a job where I was literally the only candidate with the relevant knowledge they needed who applied.)

    3. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      Exactly! I just copied that exact same portion. Several weeks of being the final candidate just seems like really poor hiring practices. Even if there are understandable reasons for the delay in selecting the final 1 or 2 candidates and getting to the offer, before spending that long with just one candidate, check their temperature!

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      It sounds like they may be a company or industry with a very formal or structured process. However even there the process is two-way the whole time. Even if you are the last candidate standing it is fine to decline an offer (but do it professionally and politely).

      Sounds like the committee forgot or never even considered that OP was interviewing them as much as they were interviewing OP.

      1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Yes, a very structured process! But you’re right, they didn’t seem to think at all about the fact that I was talking to them for a month and a half and obviously wasn’t sitting on my hands in between calls from them.

    5. voluptuousfire*

      Also, the fact that they only had ONE candidate over several weeks is a huge red flag, unless it’s a specialized niche skillset.

      If they had to have you do a test and all of that as a “formality”, another huge red flag.

      1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        The test assignments were meant to assess my skills at the outset–that’s what secured me the later interviews. The later “formality” steps were meetings with different team members who had to sign off on me receiving an offer. To be fair, the recruiter did tell me up front that there would be 8-10 different steps and that all the meetings were required to make sure all those involved in the hire were on board, and I agreed–but I certainly never agreed on the understanding that I’d definitely accept if an offer came!

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            That sounds super weird to me. Like, is it always a formality? What if multiple people do very well on the initial screening? Do they just pick the top person to go through next steps (which would be extremely silly)? I’d like to assume that it was a “formality” in your case because of being clearly the top choice, but this organization has made some interesting choices, so who knows?!

    6. Koalafied*

      Yep, at that line I thought, “Well, if LW wasn’t sure about the offer before, this window into how they ran their hiring process/how they ensure coverage during long leaves should push things solidly into the ‘No’ camp.”

      Good golly. I would be pretty sour to be another employee there and find out I was about to get slammed with a bunch of extra work because the hiring manager thought it was a good idea to proceed through a six-week process with a single candidate who had not been made or accepted an offer yet. They either cut other candidates loose way too early in the process, or they weren’t getting enough applications and hundo P should have addressed that problem directly.

      Hiring for a role without interviewing a minimum of four candidates for at least one round of interviews is gross negligence IMO. If you can’t get at least four qualified applicants, that is A Problem, and the solution is not to just plow ahead with the one or two apparently qualified candidates you did get. You must expand your candidate pool by some means, whether it’s sweetening the compensation offer, revising the job description so that you’re not looking for a unicorn who can code in python and write compelling blog posts and manage fussy client accounts, or even just posting the job more widely on different niche job boards and asking staff to share with their personal networks. It may not be your ideal scenario but geez, proceeding to hand all your eggs to a single candidate surely isn’t your ideal scenario either!

      1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Yes, agreed on all–thank you!

        Not to toot my own horn too much but I do think I really blew them away with my submissions and I think they started to get excited about me and figured “hey, she’s going through this enthusiastically and we really like her stuff so this is a perfect fit”. And I was excited about them, too! But in the end, yeah, it’s not my fault/problem that the didn’t have other people in the mix. They really should have. And in hindsight, yeah, planning to make an offer to a single candidate just 3 weeks before a team member goes out on leave (when there’s a 6-week hiring process) was not smart planning on their part–and that isn’t my fault either!

        I’m sure they will eventually find someone. It is a high pressure job, but one that is very well compensated with a ton of growth potential–another reason I think they were shocked, the idea that a person would turn down an offer well above the hiring range and great benefits just because it “doesn’t feel like the right fit” was wild to them. But we do exist! Some of us prioritize work life balance and our own well being above just earning the big bucks!

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          It happens so often here that we see candidates who felt so confident about how interviews went and that they are such a good fit for the job that they are shocked when they don’t get an offer… it’s a little bit of a relief honestly to be reminded that sometimes the people on the other end make the same mistake!

    7. SearchingForTheRightJob*

      Thank you! In hindsight, when the recruiter mentioned “well you’re actually the only candidate and have been for awhile” I don’t think she necessarily meant to manipulate or guilt trip me, more so that she thought it would sell me/win me over to know they had that much confidence in me that they weren’t even talking to other candidates anymore. It’s also possible she only meant to remind me of their very tight timeline so that if I was leaning toward no, I’d tell them sooner rather than waffling over it for a week. But, on my side, it sure felt like manipulation and pressure! It was my perception that because it was such a great offer (and it really was!), they thought I wouldn’t be able to say no–but that left me feeling like…. do you really want someone working for you because they felt backed into a corner? Don’t you want the person who says “hell yes!” to this job?

      Ultimately, I ended up turning them down because above all else it rubbed me the wrong way that, even as they made me prove myself time and time again through interviews and test assignments, they never really asked me about ME–my timeline, how I was feeling about the role, the organization’s culture, if I thought I’d fit in with the team, my needs, my work style, etc.–all things I would have very willingly discussed at length with both the recruiter and the hiring team had they brought it up. (Maybe I might even have been more sold on the job if I had a lot of my questions in this area answered. Instead, a lot of them got left on the table as I thought asking too much about lifestyle factors might reflect negatively on me.) Rather, it was all about proving myself which, of course I wanted to win them over so I was enthusiastic (which, as others have mentioned, may have been the thing that mislead them). But I do believe that had the done their due diligence on me outside the specific, technical function of the role–they probably would have learned a lot more about me and may have been more in tune with how their very corporate, very strict in-office 9-5 culture probably wasn’t checking my boxes.

      Thank you for your feedback–I hope I get the fun job, too!

  3. Justin*

    My new job, the HR person doing the initial interview asked me if I was in process with any other places, and I said, “I’m looking at a few things but not very deep into any processes.” I wouldn’t have brought it up otherwise but it did help establish a transparency that was rare during these experiences for me.

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I’ve been asked this before a few times as well, and it’s such a pointless question. Of course I’m open to other opportunities, and I will also be evaluating any potential offer on their own merits whether or not I’m also interviewing elsewhere. Telling the interviewer I’m in other hiring processes as well gives them zero useful information.

      Now, if I tell them I have an offer and need to make a decision by Friday, or that I received an offer but am looking for a higher salary, that gives them information they can take action on! But just whether or not I’m interviewing doesn’t mean anything – after all, that answer could change day by day.

    2. Velawciraptor*

      I ask this primarily to find out if people are talking to other offices in our agency. I don’t want to hire someone another office is talking to without having a conversation with that manager first. If one office has options and the other doesn’t really, I believe in collaboration between management teams to be sure everyone is getting what they need.

      But beyond that specific concern, I just assume people are interviewing elsewhere because that’s how things go. I admittedly get frustrated when people accept with us and then back out, but that’s a far cry from just assuming someone is taking the job.

      1. Zephy*

        I think “have you applied or interviewed for any other roles at this agency” is a different question from “are you talking to other companies at all,” though – even if HR can’t see multiple applications from the same person in their side of the ATS, although that would be my assumption, that they can.

      2. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Thanks! I 100% did not want to accept and then back out, that feels so wrong! But some people I know were telling me I should just accept if I needed more time to think, because I could always back out later. Ultimately, that didn’t feel good–so it was a better choice to say “no” and hold out hope that another offer that is a good fit will come through!

    3. voluptuousfire*

      It’s not unusual to be asked if you have any other interviews going on. It helps give the recruiter an idea of what your timing is like. Knowing you’re in the final rounds with another company can help expedite things if you’re a priority candidate. It’s a check-in thing and for the most part, is routine.

    4. SearchingForTheRightJob*

      Thanks! I definitely would have been transparent if they had brought it up. But, they didn’t!

    5. Squishy*

      Came here to say something like this — it’s on them, and/or the recruiter they hire, to make it as comfortable as possible for you to reveal enough information about the likelihood of your accepting if offered. Certainly if a company is getting together an official offer they should try to gauge what else you may have going on. But if they never even ask… that’s just bad practice.

  4. soontoberetired*

    If they made you go through more interviews when you were the only candidate they wanted, that’s just bizarre.

    I know at my company major management roles have had to go to the second and third options when the first option says no, and the company moves on even if disappointed. It happens, it isn’t unusual. And we’ve even had people in those major management roles resign after a month. Disappointing to upper management, but they just moved on to the next choice.

    1. Antilles*

      If they made you go through more interviews when you were the only candidate they wanted, that’s just bizarre.
      This is very much a YMMV / industry specific thing, because there’s a decent number of roles or industries where this is just a thing that happens. There’s a pre-set protocol set by HR or your Legal Department and that’s that – an individual manager just can’t really short-circuit such a process even if you’ve already made your decision. The fact that they laid out the entire timetable upfront makes me think that might be the case here, that they knew that the process is the process.
      That said, if you know you’ve got a set deadline to hire someone who’s leaving AND you’ve got an extended process like this, it seems like they should have at least had that discussion very clearly of “we still have to follow the process, what would it take to get you on board? would you accept if we offered?”…rather than (apparently) relying on just their gut feeling that it’d work out.

      1. BethRA*

        “individual manager just can’t really short-circuit such a process even if you’ve already made your decision.”

        But even if you are 100% certain about who you want to hire, there is no guarantee that person will accept the job.

        1. Antilles*

          Agreed and that’s exactly what I meant in the last paragraph – if you’re in such an environment, you cannot just rely on a gut feeling that the person will accept.
          Either talk to your prime candidate and come to an unofficial agreement even if you still have to ‘officially’ run the rest of the process OR keep backup candidates in the process in case things don’t work out with your preferred candidate.

      2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        Yup really depends. Also if it’s a government or university position. Heck they almost had to post and interview for the position I am in even though i was just taking over another persons position (going from part time to full time when the full time person left)

    2. Frapperia*

      I was recently pipped for a job that would have been a £25k pay rise. It was galling! Got such good feedback – ‘we wished we had two jobs’ ‘you were a very close second’, but knew there was no way with that pay that the first choice would turn it down – and I haven’t got anywhere near that salary since.

  5. Beth*

    Just based on the fact that they were sure they’d hire you weeks ago, and they were sure you’d accept, but they still thought it was reasonable to put you through WEEKS of bureaucratic process without bothering to communicate any of that to you….I think you dodged a bullet here. This place sounds like a mess.

    1. Artemesia*

      When I have been in a similar situation the hiring manager has always said something like ‘You are our number one candidate but we have this complicated procedure before we can make an offer.’

      1. Susan Calvin*

        Yes! I used to be on the other side of this, and it costs you 0.0$ to tell your candidate, hey, we like you and want to make you an offer, but as I outlined at the beginning of the process, we still have a couple of due dilligence things to check off – let me know if you have any timeline constraints so I can try to expedite things if necessary.

      2. Beth*

        Yes, communication is the way around really firmly set processes–sometimes the policy is the policy, even if it’s overly bulky, but there’s no excuse for not being clear about what’s going on in those circumstances.

    2. Just stoppin' by to chat*

      That was my thought too. Sounds like everyone was in on the fact that the LW was the desired candidate…except for the LW!

      1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Thank you all! As others have said, this is an industry where the hiring process is what it is and peoples hands are tied by the bureaucracy of it. They did inform me up front, and I agreed. But yes–they never “checked in” along the way to gauge where I was at. I actually think the recruiter dropped the ball quite a bit with me, and so her frustration at my slow response and ultimate no was probably more a result of that. I just wasn’t sure if this is something I’m supposed to be more communicative an up front with a recruiter about. Very validating to hear all this feedback!

  6. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    This is almost like a bad romcom. You thought you were still just dating, the company thought you were engaged. It’s not your problem that they downselected to just you and then kept on meeting with you for weeks as “onboarding” without telling you. If anything, that just confirms your decision to not take their offer, as that seems like a pretty dysfunctional practice.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yeah, I was getting wHy DiD yOu LeAd Me oN?!? vibes from that company. It’s like going on a date with a person who then concocts a relationship in their mind and is devastated that you decline a second date with them.

  7. ecnaseener*

    I completely agree that they’re being weird and they shouldn’t have assumed you were decided, but the one thing that jumped out at me a little was “I never volunteered any of my doubts or concerns.” This makes me think you felt like you couldn’t express anything but unmitigated enthusiasm, and maybe they picked up on that. Not that they should’ve jumped from “LW didn’t seem to have any doubts” to “LW is a safe bet,” but it’s a good idea in the future to probe into anything giving you pause, for your own benefit!

    1. Elenna*

      Agreed. The company is definitely being super weird regardless, and they shouldn’t have assumed you were going to agree (especially in this job market, but also just in general). And continuing to “interview” you for weeks after deciding you were the top candidate is… strange, to say the least.

      But it’s worth remembering for the future that you can express doubts during the process of interviewing! Not because you owe it to the interviewers, but because it’ll help you to get further information about whether your doubts are reasonable, and one way to do that is to talk to the interviewer about them.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I don’t really think it’s necessary to express doubts. You can ask probing questions without letting on that your are unenthusiastic about certain things or picking up on red flags. For me, the last job process I withdrew from I based the decision less on what I heard in the interviews (what they wanted me to hear) and more on what I heard from a former employee and others who have interacted with the CEO. I didn’t feel like it was necessary to then go back to the CEO and ask why there was such a discrepancy between what she said and what others experienced. I just…pulled out. The recruiter was surprised, but moved on within two emails.

      2. Migraine Month*

        I went to one interview just so I could ask, “What have you changed since the state of California sued you for fraud and racial discrimination two years ago?”

        They still made me an offer. Based on the non-answer they gave to my question, I turned it down.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I definitely don’t hold this against the OP – it’s hard! We’re sort of conditioned to think the employers have all the power in these situations, and it’s hard to have a lot of confidence if you haven’t gone through the process in a long time. But still, I agree – always feel free to vocalize concerns, and remember you are interviewing a company as much as they are interviewing you. As you can see from this outcome, you DO have a lot of power in these situations and can have real conversations with people.

    3. anonymous73*

      Expressing doubts is not always necessary during the interview process and could be held against you in the long run. If you have deal breakers, then you need to be honest for everyone’s sake, but you do not need to be honest about doubts. The only thing you need to do is ask relevant questions to help you make your decision and if you are 100% sure that the job is not for you in the middle of the process, let them know you’re no longer interested in pursuing the role to avoid wasting everyone’s time.

      1. ecnaseener*

        I agree with you for the most part, it’s certainly not owed. If the quote from LW meant “I probed into certain things and asked reasonable questions but hid my doubts well” then awesome. I read it to mean they avoided saying anything that could be taken as less than 100% enthusiastic, which I wanted to flag as unnecessarily cautious/deferential.

        1. Fikly*

          That’s the thing though, there’s no way to know if it’s unnecessarily cautious or deferential. Because you never know what will make someone go, nope, not you!

          I recently had an interview for a position where I was reached out to by a recruiter and given a job description. Passed interview with recruiter, had interview with person from actual company. Before this person described the position in detail to me, she asked me what duty on the job description I was most excited about. I told her X, and in response, she told me that for the first 6 months, the bulk of the work would be Y (that was listed on the description, and I have plenty of experience doing) but then afterwards, it would be much more x.

          I told her that was no problem, and explained why actually, I thought it would be helpful to be doing Y as it would benefit X in the long term. I sent a follow up note discussing it further, because I knew she didn’t like my answer. A day later I got rejected because Y was not my favorite thing on the list, and they had decided passion for Y was critical to job success.

          All of which is bonkers and nonsense, and even if needing to be deeply passionate about this particular job duty was reasonable for being good at it, that’s not even what they asked – they asked what my favorite thing on the list was, and before they told me what the bulk of my time would be spent doing in the first 6 months. So I lost my chance based on that one question.

          1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

            When I’ve encountered things like this before, the ‘X’ work never materialised after 6 months and the position was just Y, so maybe a bullet dodged if you don’t want to focus on Y!

          2. ecnaseener*

            True, “unnecessary” is too objective a word – it’s easy for me to say that in a hypothetical ideal job hunt you don’t want to work anywhere that demands 100% enthusiasm, but like everything else in the real world it’s a personal calculation of how much you care about that and how picky you can be.

        2. SearchingForTheRightJob*

          Thank you! I would say I was at about a 90% enthusiasm level. I did ask probing questions, but as I’m thinking back on it now… they definitely danced around those.

          For example, I asked the direct report to this role “are there any major concerns you have about someone being hired in above you? Or anything you’re excited about?” — and the answer was very vague (“no concerns!” and “excited to have more structure!”) with a lot of side glances at the senior people in the room.

          I asked about the work life balance, and whether the team feels like their own well being is prioritized… and the answer to that was a very general “well, everyone here understands the urgency of our mission and wants to give 110%!”

          Questions about remote work were deflected with “the team is SO happy to be back together in person we work so much better this way!”

          Questions about the CEO’s style were deflected with “something really great about her is she knows what she wants!” and other general statements like that.

          Stuff like that that in the moment seemed to be pretty standard interview fare but that ultimately did not really lead to any meaningful discussion or clarity. The deflection and vagueness definitely made me stop myself from pushing the conversation, because the conversation didn’t seem welcome in that setting. Job function wise, this role really was a great match and so I was genuinely enthusiastic about it. Organization wise, I did think its the type of place I want to work. So, I would say I was as enthusiastic as a candidate well suited to the job should have been. What killed it in the end was the smaller, more nuanced elements of the how/when/where side of the job. I can certainly be better about drilling into those in future conversations, and will!

          1. Hlao-roo*

            I think you read the room correctly with their responses to your questions! If they had answered “are there any major concerns you have about someone being hired in above you?” with “the person in this role will have to deal with internal politics to get things done effectively, so you’ll need to learn the lay of the land pretty quickly to be successful” that allows you to say “I’m up for the challenge!” or “oof, politics is not my strong suit, I think this role will be a bad fit.”

            But the answers they gave sound a lot more like “we’ll answer all questions positively and say whatever we think will get OP into this role, good fit or not.” Those types of answers would give me more pause as a candidate.

          2. ecnaseener*

            It honestly sounds like you probed enough! Other commenters are mostly leaning more cautious than me, so don’t change up your tactic just because of one opinion :)

          3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Yeah, all of that would have made me concerned. Like, one or two of those things I could probably brush off. But the overall impression I’d take from all of your examples (and I’m guessing this is not the full list) is not good. For me, especially the work-life balance piece, since they’re basically telling you that they don’t have/value that balance, and the remote work piece, since I’d interpret that to mean they are not acknowledging that we’re still in a f***ing pandemic and that some people really want to work remotely, and flexibility is good.

            In short, I read this as the organization being rigid and demanding and that there would be a lot of resistance to changing anything that’s causing problems.

          4. Beth*

            Some of your other replies in the comments made me think you hadn’t really probed about this stuff out of fear of looking unenthusiastic, but reading this, I actually think you did everything you should have done! These are pretty clear answers, taken together. They’re all telling you “this is a place where you will work a lot with pretty limited flexibility, and questioning or pushing back on that–or even mentioning it–is not really welcome.” Give yourself more credit here; you did your due diligence and came to the right answer for someone who cares about work/life balance.

      2. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Thank you, this distinction between “doubts” and “deal breakers” is really helpful!

      3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Excellent advice. Honesty and forthcomingness can bite you in the butt. It is entirely reasonable to continue with a process and collect more information, as long as you would still potentially take the role with the right offer and your concerns have been addressed.

    4. Esmeralda*

      Eh. I learned several decades ago not to be transparent about doubts. That’s how I lost out on offers (so I was told — “You just didn’t seem as enthusiastic as the other candidate”). If I have doubts, I’ll keep them to myself, continue in the process, ask questions, get information.

      They don’t need one shred of info about my inner ruminations. Which could change. It’s not like employers are obliged to be honest about this. A smart interviewer does not want to express doubts — that’s the sort of thing that bites them in the heinie. I’ve been candidate number 2 or 3 (once, I didn’t even make it through to the interview round until the search failed!) and gotten the job, and done very well at it.

    5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Great point about LW likely not feeling like she could express any concerns. As she noted above, the organization really didn’t create space for her to discuss any reservations she had or check in with her on her thoughts about the job.

  8. suspicious_swan*

    Has anyone had the opposite? In the past few months, I’ve had interviewers not only ask if I’m interviewing with other places, but to name the companies. I’m still early in my career but this struck me as strange.

      1. Critical Rolls*

        Seconding. I understand a company wanting to know if they’ve got competition for a candidate, but they just get to live with not knowing (and should assume that of course candidates are looking at multiple jobs!). I initially thought I might be okay with the first question, but on further reflection, even the yes/no isn’t really actionable in ethical ways until late stages, when the employer is basically ready to make an offer anyway. The “which companies” bit is fully and entirely over the line.

        1. Elenna*

          Sure, it’s understandable that a company would want to know if they have competition. Companies, like people, often want things that they cannot or should not get. Presumably the candidates also want to know who else is in the running for the position they’re interviewing for, but I can’t imagine the companies asking this kind of question would be willing to give out that information…

    1. onyxzinnia*

      Yes, this has happened to me. Companies asking if I’m interviewing elsewhere and what stages I am at with those interviews. I won’t name the companies, but I’ll say I’m having conversations with different organizations.

      1. Artemesia*

        I think that is the answer whether you are or not i.e. no details at all, but ‘of course I am considering several organizations.’ And if probed it is ‘I wouldn’t be comfortable discussing details of the search process.’

        1. Curious*

          “Are you interviewing other candidates? What are their names?” Either way you slice it, it doesn’t seem to work.

      2. Antilles*

        I’ve gotten that question and I just treated it as though they’re just trying to probe the overall timetable.
        Am I-the-candidate deep in the process with a bunch of companies so the interviewer should be ready to move fast? Or am I just starting the search and won’t blink if it takes a couple weeks for everything to get arranged?
        I frame my answer appropriately – without specifics on the company or their processes, but with enough to sort of indicate how fast I’m looking for a decision.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          This has been my understanding of that question. They want to know if you’re already in final stages with someone else in case they think you’re a strong contender and may be worth speeding up the process for.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Yeah that’s weird. Depending on the industry it could be conversational. “Oh, you’re interviewing at Other Big Company? I went to school with Department Manager.” If you feel comfortable sharing you could use it to gain valuable knowledge. If they try to bad-mouth the other place or try to sell themselves as better that’s a red flag. They need to stand on their own merits. But if they’re gracious about it that’s a good sign. They still shouldn’t ask in the first place though.

      1. Artemesia*

        I would absolutely not mention the name of any other company I might be interviewing with. No good can come of that and it is possible that some bad could come of it.

      2. Beth*

        If I’m interviewing with company A and company B, I’m not at all sure information I got about company A from company B would be valuable. They’re in competition for candidates–that’s a lot of potential bias, would you really trust whatever info they gave you about each other?

      3. Eyes Kiwami*

        If the industry is that small/interconnected I’d be concerned that they could tip off my current employer that I’m job searching.

    3. nonprofiteer*

      Very common with third-party recruiters (they really like to know the context and generally aren’t worried about being pushy) but I’ve not had an internal interviewer ask that. And I wouldn’t ask myself!

    4. Evan Þ*

      Back in college, when I was looking for summer internships, I had one recruiter ask me that. I said yes, I was interviewing with OtherBigTechCompany. I think that made him press faster on getting me an interview. That turned out to be a good thing: OtherBigTechCompany gave me an offer a few days before the interview, and I asked for a week to think it over, in which I interviewed with FirstBigTechCompany and got an offer at the end of the day and accepted it as it was better.

      In retrospect, I think that was an unusual situation as everyone knows college students are looking for internships, and most big tech companies are working on roughly the same timescale. But then, by this point in my career, I know enough about the timescale that I probably would’ve mentioned anyway “hey, I’m interviewing with this other place and might be moving ahead in a couple weeks; can we get your process rolling?”

    5. ThatGirl*

      I have had interviewers ask if I’m in any serious/end-stage interviews with anyone else, but never for a company name – and I wouldn’t give it even if they did ask.

    6. A Person*

      This is pretty common in my industry. Recruiters (internal and external) really want to know the companies they are competing against if there are multiple offers, etc.

      Personally I’ve generally been open about being in process with other companies if asked, but rarely disclosed the actual company names. And generally I’m vague unless I need to tell a company that I need extra time to consider their offer because I have another one that just came in or was about to come in (this has only happened once).

    7. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I know that if you are working with a recruiting company they will ask you where else you have recently applied. This is so they do not accidentally submit your info to the same place twice.

      But if you are applying directly with the company and multiple companies are asking this I think that is strange. OF COURSE you would be looking at other places. That’s what you do. Would they expect you to ask “Am I the only candidate you are interviewing?”

    8. Clementine*

      Different story, but we are in a large organization (government) where we’re pulling from a distinct pool. We started asking if there were other teams (internal) with whom they are interviewing because we are genuinely looking to make sure we find the right fit for strong candidates. It’s actually been really nice because if one of us finds a candidate who isn’t a good fit for us in spout pouring analysis but has extensive tea pot lid design experience, we’re able to send them to that team and vice versa.

      Beyond that, I would be kind of horrified if we asked somebody to name external businesses with whom they were interviewing.

    9. Me!*

      I’ve heard this a couple of times myself, but no one has asked me to name the companies. If they did, I’d side-eye them pretty hard. That’s none of their business. Even if one of my potentials is a competitor, as a candidate who hasn’t even been hired yet, I’m not committing any grave, non-compete sins.

      I think if someone is interviewing at all, it’s just safe to assume you’re not the only employer they’ve spoken to.

      1. Koalafied*

        I think if someone is interviewing at all, it’s just safe to assume you’re not the only employer they’ve spoken to.

        TBH, this could be the entire answer to the question. At just a super basic level, there’s no reason NOT to assume that the candidate has other irons in the fire.

        I suspect a lot of employers are dealing with this for the first time ever because of the way the job market dynamics have shifted in the last year or two. I recently hired for a role and we had multiple strong candidates drop out during the 6-7 week process because they accepted other offers before we could bring them in for a second round or make an offer. I’ve never actually had that happen before, and it did make me hyper-aware of how fast things are moving out there and I sped through the hiring process faster than I ever have before because I was trying to minimize the risk of losing candidates to other offers.

        But even in previous years I’ve always assumed any candidate we talk to is talking to other people – why wouldn’t they be?? I may not have ever been so concerned before that we’d lose gobs of people by moving too slow, but I’ve certainly always been prepared for an offer to be turned down no matter how far in the process we’ve gotten.

  9. anon e mouse*

    I JUST had something like this happen a couple weeks ago. Drawn out process, mediocre offer, changes in my current position and other interviews underway, so I turned it down and the hiring manager gave me a guilt trip and kept pressing me for several minutes. Don’t do this!

    I may have to do it again. I got a good offer this week but some departures were recently announced here and if I added my name to that list my org would be kinda screwed. On the other hand, it IS a good offer. Not sure tbh.

    1. Annimal*

      It’s terrible timing for everyone, but you should absolutely do what’s best for you! Maybe try to work out a longer notice period if you’re worried about burning a bridge or something to make current employer feel like you tried to help them out a little. If your org has that many people departing and you’re already looking…. they need to know that something is out of alignment with the market, whether it’s salary or workplace etc.

    2. anonymous73*

      If a recruiter tried to guilt me into the job offer, I would shut it down immediately and tell them that just solidified my decision. That would be a giant red flashing flag.

    3. PollyQ*

      if I added my name to that list my org would be kinda screwed

      Not your problem! Do whatever is best for your career. Most likely, your current employer will muddle through, and if they don’t, then perhaps they were going to collapse anyway.

    4. Artemesia*

      Do you think the company would put off your layoff or a merger because they knew it would be a bad time for you? I know people hired out of good stable jobs only to have the job cancelled in a re-org within the month. The hiring company had to have known, but they let this person sacrifice their career for nothing. We all know someone who buys a house and then immediately loses his job — the employer KNEW but didn’t let him know to hold back.

      Never ever make your own career decision based on the needs or wants of the business you work for. NEVER.

  10. Sequoia*

    The only time I recommend sharing that you are in the process with other employers is if you have a competing offer or expect an offer shortly. Some employers, like mine, have a notoriously long process but it can be accelerated if the candidate has other offers or serious opportunities.

  11. anonymous73*

    You say you’ve had doubts throughout the entire process…well their reaction to your response of their offer should be the last thing to solidify your decision to say no. Always trust your gut. You are under no obligation to tell your interviewers that you’re exploring other opportunities, just as you are under no obligation to tell your current employer that you’re looking. Them thinking you were a guaranteed yes when an offer was made is no different than a candidate thinking they’re perfect for a job and being rejected. People on both sides need to live in reality and understand that nothing, no matter how perfect it seems, is guaranteed in the job market. You did nothing wrong. I hope one of the other opportunities that you’re actually excited about works out.

  12. T-Rex tea time*

    I had an experience early in my career where I was not selected for a job I applied and interviewed for, then after the rejection call came in (they did call, which was nice!) I got an email from the hiring panel offering me a different job at the company. They were shocked when I turned it down, and even went so far as to chastise me about it! IT WAS A DIFFERENT JOB. I though their reaction was odd.

    1. Zephy*

      They could have been more transparent that they thought you were a stronger match for a different role they also had open – chastising you was unnecessary so that’s a good sign that you made the correct choice, but they weren’t wildly out of line in offering you a different job than the one you applied for.

  13. Clementine*

    Other side perspective: I was genuinely surprised when somebody declined my offer. It was somebody we had found doing interviews for a different position who had the skill set we needed. We interviewed the candidate who was absolutely a great fit, fast tracked the offer so it was 7 days from interview to offer.

    I had offered my phone number if the candidate had any questions and we had had 2 follow up questions – talking about aspects of the job, talking about some of their questions about schedule and setup… they declined the promotion because of a promise of a potential promotion at their current job. I was kind of shocked mostly because of something which came up in a reference from their current manager: they had spoken negatively that candidate wanted to ‘move up too quickly’. Current manager believed strongly that candidate needed to ‘do his time’ before being promoted.

    I did not convey this to the candidate but was shocked that he declined a definite offer of promotion with a firm start date for a handshake and a promise from somebody who wants to make him ‘simmer’ for a while. I didn’t guilt him – we all have to do what we have to do and I think it’s crummy they tried to guilt you – the most I did was send him a screenshot of the full approval for the promotion and say ‘i’ve got authorization to give you the title and pay bump starting in your next paycheck if you want it.’

  14. Not Gen X, Not Millennial*

    I do not fully agree with Allison. For senior levels in a company, interviewing is like dating and there is some expectation (two way from company and candidate) regarding their feelings about fit and interest for the role and where the company and candidate is in the process in offering / accepting the role. For high level roles, the interview process is the first step in establishing the working partnership and trust. If a company abuses that trust, then its probably not a company to work for.

    I may be naïve but this is how its worked for me in interviewing and accepting senior level positions. This was not how it worked for me as a early career professional. I think how you interview and what you disclose needs to be adjusted depending on where you are in your career journey.

    1. Rachelle*

      I think some openness and transparency are useful in a lot of places in the interviewing process (and can even be useful for lower level positions!). However, I think that traditional power dynamics in the hiring process shift the responsibility of opening up the conversation onto the recruiter/hiring manager. I’ve seen this work best when the hiring team is willing to say “we’re highly interested in you as a candidate and would like to gauge your general interest in this position. We’ll be moving forward with an offer if *next step* goes well- what would it take to ensure you’ll be joining our team? What would be any barriers to you joining our team?”.
      There needs to be some willingness to open up on both sides of the table – and to me, that frankly starts with the hiring team. In this case, it didn’t seem like there was significant openness on the side of the hiring team, so I wouldn’t expect OP to just start divulging details about other offers.

      1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Thank you! I agree–if the recruiter had initiated this conversation with me I would have been willing (and pleased!) to discuss with her at length. My hesitation was in whether I should be the one to proactively bring it up. I was enthused about the job and company, so I didn’t want to do anything that might take me out of the running. That one question “If next step goes well, what would it take to ensure you’ll join the team?” would have been so helpful in talking about the specific issues/doubts.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      Even in dating, you can turn down someone who asks you out, or decline a second or third date, without having to explain why, or justify your decision, or make an effort to make things work, or give the other person a chance to address your misgivings. Deciding after a couple dates that the other person is nice enough, just not for you, or that actually they’re not all that nice and you want to get away from them is an entirely reasonable part of the dating process.

      And you can get hordes of people, particularly women, who will tell you stories about the people who, when turned down, wanted justification for the rejection and then used it to argue that their reasons weren’t valid and they were therefore obliged to date them. And the related issue – the people who tell you it’s rude to turn down a date, period, which presumably means you have to spend the rest of your life with someone who keeps asking you out.

      The equivalent of a job interview in dating terms is the process of messaging someone on OKCupid (or flirting) asking them out on a couple of getting to know you dates, and then mutually deciding you want to go further. (Accepting/offering, having the other person stop their search and give notice, getting to the first day of work, then yanking the offer/no-showing is more like jilting someone at the altar.)

      1. Not gen x not a millennial*

        Yes totally agree that at any point any party can end the interview (or dating!) process. I certainly can imagine that there are people that are awful. I have had enough friends tell me about some of the awful things they’ve received on dating sites that makes my blood boil. I appreciate the call-out to make clear that a candidate or company can say no at any time and folks need to be professional about accepting that no and not try to guilt a person to say yes.

  15. Parenthesis Dude*

    I disagree with Alison.

    This isn’t a case where the candidate got bait and switched. This is a case where the candidate went through a whole round of interviews, had plenty of chances to discuss concerns and failed to do so, and was offered significantly more money than they expected. If I’m discussing a position with a candidate at $75k, and ultimately make an offer at $90k, I’m expecting the candidate to be really happy and sign. Especially if there were no concerns discussed earlier.

    Now, this doesn’t mean that the company did everything right. They have to keep on looking to make sure that you’ve not stuck. It’s one thing to pause for a week to give a candidate a chance to consider an offer, but quite another to pause for weeks — especially if your process takes so long. But I don’t blame them for being surprised.

    I would state that you don’t need to tell potential employers you’re looking at other jobs, but I think you owe it to yourself to bring up potential concerns. Discussing your doubts with the employer may have helped you address them, or alternatively convinced you to stop this process weeks earlier. This took up a lot of your time, as well as their time.

    1. Delphine*

      It’s called an “offer” for a reason. A candidate is not required to accept it. This is why you should always have backup candidates.

    2. T. Boone Pickens*

      I think the recruiter dropped the ball a bit here but I can understand why given that OP was the first legitimate candidate that had come through the ranks. A good recruiter would’ve been debriefing and checking in with the candidate especially given the length of the hiring process. It sounds like this stretched out over several weeks. It sounds like this was a more senior level position so I’m surprised the recruiter wasn’t doing trial closes with the candidate once it appeared an offer was imminent to head off this issue. This is especially true given that OP has been with their current job for 10+ years and was probably a bit rusty when it comes to interview norms.

      OP, I don’t think you did anything wrong as the recruiter should’ve been able to draw out your concerns.

    3. Artemesia*

      You don’t have to ‘express concerns’ or ‘ask questions’ in order to observe that the place is not where you want to work or the job is not what you want. Concerns are just an invitation for them to whitewash whatever is bothering you. Plenty of high level recruitments end in the candidate declining an offer.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And to be honest, from something the OP said in another comment Whitewashing is exactly what this company did when OP tried to ask probing questions about the parts they were “having doubts” about. If I try to probe and you whitewash, well – that answers me question too, but probably not in the way that you wanted it answered.

    4. Tally*

      I disagree a bit.

      As a candidate, I’m keeping a mental tally of concerns I might have as we go through the process, just as I assume the hiring manager/committee is keeping a mental tally of their concerns about my candidacy.

      The question is whether the concerns, overall, are enough to make you decline an offer. Sometimes you just don’t know that until you actually receive the offer and you weigh the concerns against whatever else your other options/considerations might be. Like early on, you might get the sense that the organization is rather stuffy and bureaucratic. But you might not have evidence of that until you see the offer and realize it’s a rigid 8-5 with a formal dress code, only two weeks PTO, and crappy health insurance.

      I mean, there’s no good that will come, early on in the process, with saying something like, “I am just not sure you’re fun enough for me.” But when you get the offer, if the concerns are minor, you can bring them up or negotiate them away. And if they’re major, then you know it’s not the offer for you.

    5. Generic Name*

      I don’t understand. Are you saying a candidate doesn’t get to turn down a job offer if they don’t bring up concerns and provide ironclad reasons that you, the employer agrees with? That’s super not how job hunting works. When I agree to an interview, I’m agreeing to an interview, and that’s it. An interview is not a contract where I will accept a job if one is offered to me. That’s like me saying that if you interview me, and I want the job, you should give me the job unless you lay out all your concerns to me during the interview process.

      1. Parenthesis Dude*

        “Are you saying a candidate doesn’t get to turn down a job offer if they don’t bring up concerns and provide ironclad reasons that you, the employer agrees with?”

        Of course I’m not saying that.

        I’m saying that if we discuss an offer at $75k and there seem to be no sticking points, and I offer you $90k, I’m right to be surprised and disappointed if you don’t take it.

        That doesn’t mean you have to say yes. You should do what’s best for you. Nor does it mean I can do anything if you say no. It just means that it’s reasonable for me to be surprised. That’s it.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Well then what exactly are you disagreeing with? Alison explicitly said in her letter it would be normal and understandable for them to be surprised.

          “It’s one thing for a hiring team to be a little surprised when a candidate doesn’t accept their offer. As a hiring manager, sometimes a candidate is so enthusiastic during your conversations that you do start feeling pretty confident they’ll accept.”

          Literally no one here is suggesting “surprise” is not reasonable.

    6. Esmeralda*

      So what? Interviewees do not have to accept any offer for any reason. OP went through the process, gathered information, sat with their feelings — even if the offer is excellent in terms of money, benefits, job duties, whatever — if it’s not right for them, then it’s not right for them and they can turn it down guilt-free.

      Sometimes, candidate could get several good offers. And choose ONE that they feel fits best. For whatever reason. Or for no good reason. It’s their choice.

      For sure employers interview multiple candidates (usually), and they choose one to offer the position to. Even if all of the candidates are fabulous.

      It may be an employer that no one usually turns down, which could make them surprised. But that doesn’t mean OP was wrong to say no.

      An interview, or an interview process, is not a promise, and entails no obligations to either offer the job, or to accept it.

      1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Thank you! The “guilt free” part is what I’m struggling with. But you’re right and this is helpful to hear.

    7. Eyes Kiwami*

      I wonder if it really makes sense to discuss all your doubts with the hiring team when ultimately you’re comparing the different companies you apply for and the offers you get. It could work against you as a candidate to be too open, I think.

      For example Company A is solid but has a downside you cannot improve through negotiation but you could tolerate. Company B is also solid and does not have that downside. If I am open with Company A about my concerns, they might preemptively remove me from the process or it could come back to hurt me: “I’m not enthusiastic about your company culture” is not a great starting point if you accept the job. If Company B gives me an offer I would accept, but if they don’t, I’d still like to work at Company A, so there’s no benefit to being very honest with Company A except to give extra info to their hiring team. I don’t see any benefit to the candidate.

      1. Parenthesis Dude*

        It can be a tough balance.

        Because sometimes having that frank conversation can save you from a job that you don’t want. Like, if the job requires overtime and you want to work 40 hours a week, then that’s something you want to discover in the interview process as opposed to your second month on the job. You don’t want to find out about a deal breaker two months after you start.

        But also sometimes you want to do it in a way that you’re asking questions about a situation rather than stating bluntly you’re worried about such and such. Like, if I ask my employer whether I’m expected to work 60 hours, I’m not necessarily saying that I’m only willing to work 30 or something. Or I might ask whether there are frequent 1:1 convos or something.

        You have to use your best judgement on how to do it, but you should definitely get your doubts and concerns addressed instead of keeping them to yourself.

    8. Switch*

      “I’m expecting the candidate to be really happy and sign.”

      Then you have unreasonable and unwarranted expectations, and you should really work on that.

    9. MCMonkeyBean*

      “If I’m discussing a position with a candidate at $75k, and ultimately make an offer at $90k, I’m expecting the candidate to be really happy and sign.”

      If you continue to feel that way even after reading this letter and response, then I guess that’s your choice but it’s a weird choice to make.

      There is a big difference between asking questions around any potential concerns and verbally expressing “I have doubts!” Plenty of people will do the former without doing the latter. I’d venture to say *most* people would. You have no idea what is going on in the candidate’s head or what priorities will inform their ultimate decision (a lot of times the candidate won’t even necessarily know that until they are sitting with an offer in hand).

  16. Observer*

    OP, even in a employee unfriendly economy, it is really not reasonable to assume that someone could not have other options and could never refuse an offer. In the current economy? It’s just delusional.

    The fact that the latter half of the process does not really change that. To the extent that it does change anything, it just strengthens the point. They were perfectly happy to hide possibly actionable information from you. Worse, they were willing to waste your time on paperwork without getting your buy in or doing you the courtesy of letting you know what was going on, on the assumption that you couldn’t possibly say no.

    They were willing to waste your time before they had a commitment from you. How do they treat staff that have made a commitment? Do they waste people’s time and resources under that assumption that they “can’t” leave?

    Don’t feel bad. You didn’t owe them the information.

  17. Florida Fan 15*

    “The hiring team indicated that I was the perfect, and only, candidate for the job and they were excited for my acceptance.”

    Sounds like a guy I knew once who just assumed any woman would want a relationship with him, all he had to do was pick her.

  18. JTP*

    You’re not obligated to tell them, but I’m concerned why you didn’t address your concerns during the interview process. That’s part of what the process is for.

    1. bloop*

      The writer said they have “concerns about the organization, the role, and my ability deliver as expected” but that does not mean that there’s a completely black-and-white, yes/no approach to addressing those concerns, as your comment suggests. My read was that the letter writer found the identified concerns to be problematic enough to mean they didn’t want the job anymore, not that they wanted more time for the hiring org to talk them into it….

      1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

        Yes, thank you. My concerns were definitely more the little things that added up to a “no” cumulatively, rather than any one big thing. The personalities and work styles of other senior staff were also an issue that was tricky to bring up. How can you ask one hiring team member if they like working with the others… when the others are also in the room? There wasn’t really a time/place in the interview process to effectively and productively address most of those within the conversations I was having. It’s also true that I’ve been in my current job 10 years, am new to the interviewing process and this was the very first thing that landed in front of me–so part of the “concern” was more about is this the right next job and should I really say yes to a good opportunity, because it’s a sure thing, rather than hold out for a great one.

  19. T'Cael Zaniidor Kilyle*

    Really, interviewers should ASSUME that you’re considering other jobs. If you’re unemployed or about to be, then of course you’ll have sent out other applications; and if not, then at a minimum, they’re competing against the idea of staying at your current job.

    They probably wouldn’t consider interviewing only one candidate, so why would they expect you to interview at only one place?

  20. Esmeralda*

    Alison is spot on.

    It’s an INTERview — they are assessing you, and you are assessing them.

    Always remember that.

  21. the cat’s ass*

    OP, this is a them problem, not a you problem. Good luck with your job search!

  22. Tussy*

    As my granddad was fond of saying: If you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie, wipe the seatie.

    1. Tussy*

      Ha ha, wrong post! This was meant to be on the one about the pee on the toilet seat obviously.

  23. Caroline Bowman*

    Ah yes… those old double standards! It’s the sheer entitlement that always kills me. On the one hand we have a company that requires, indeed demands a candidate show up repeatedly, do assignments, tests, have many interviews, really work to impress, all the while with the caveat that there are ”lots” of other candidates so don’t get excited, but equally, do burn through flexi time, vacations days or whatever, because we’re that great. But do not even THINK of not accepting our offer, should we deign to eventually make one because how VERY dare you? We want you to work for us and that’s totally obvious. The absolute effrontery in, you know, interviewing and looking elsewhere while interviewing for us for months and months! Where’s the groveling, tearful gratitude?

    Truly. OP, your instincts are absolutely spot-on. This is not the company for you. You had every right to act in your own interests, and I strongly advise you to continue to do so. If a company asks if you are looking at other options, by all means say ”oh I’m considering various things” i.e. don’t lie or obfuscate, but that’s where your ethical responsibility ends.

    The recruitment agent was narked because they saw a huge payday after months of work and it came to nothing, which sucks, it really does, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

    1. SearchingForTheRightJob*

      Thank you. The recruiter losing out on their payday is not something I had really factored into the response at the time I wrote this letter to Allison. In hindsight, I can understand how she was reactive because of her own disappointment (and probably the knowledge that she did drop the ball with me/this process a bit)–and in that context, the “WHAT?!” response makes more sense.

      I appreciate your feedback!

  24. Jenny D*

    Today I had an interview with a person who opened by telling us that he had already signed on with a competitor and didn’t want to go back on his word to them. We ended up chatting for about 20 minutes, I told him more about what working with us in this position would be like, and we agreed that if he feels the other place isn’t right for him we’ll talk again.

    We simply weren’t quick enough to make the first offer, or interesting enough for him to wait on our schedule. It happens.

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