do I have any recourse when an employer ghosts me after saying a job offer is coming?

A reader writes:

I’m really frustrated at the way employers treat potential hires and would like to know if I have any recourse for the way I’ve been treated.

Over the last three months, I’ve been interviewing for executive assistant roles. I have made it to the offer stage three times. Each time I meet in person with the executive who I will be supporting at the final stage, and each time at the end they say I will be receiving an offer letter via email either the next business day or within the week. Each time I’ve been ghosted. Literally ignored when I follow up with the exec, the recruiter, anyone I can get contact info with. Ignored.

This is unacceptable behavior. I’m starting to have something like interview PTSD for fear of going through the whole process again and getting ghosted over and over. I’m crying just typing this. I’m just wondering what if any (legal or otherwise) recourse I have available to hold them accountable and protect myself and other job seekers. I’m in Washington state applying for jobs mainly in Seattle.

There isn’t really legal recourse.

If they had made you a formal offer and you accepted it and then you made plans with monetary significance based on that offer (like quitting your old job or moving to a new state), a legal concept called “detrimental reliance” could potentially be in play. Detrimental reliance means that you relied on the employer’s offer to your detriment and suffered damages as a result. However, those claims historically have been difficult to win, partly because you could have been fired on your first day without legal recourse since employment is usually at will. A related concept called promissory estoppel works similarly.

But in situations where you didn’t receive a job offer and were just told to expect it, it’s unlikely you’d have much of a case. And assuming you didn’t move, quit a job, sign a new lease closer to their office, or otherwise suffer financial harm, it would be hard to argue for damages.

You can post your experience on Glassdoor so others know how the company operates. But beyond that, there’s unfortunately not much recourse.

Frustrating as this advice is, the smartest thing you can do is simply to know that ghosting is really common, accept that it can happen at any stage of interviewing no matter how promising things seem, and don’t put too much stock in promises (even clear ones like “we will email you an offer tomorrow”) until you actually see the follow-through. That’s aggravating and you shouldn’t have to bring that level of skepticism to a job hunt … but in reality, you do and it’ll be better for your mental health to plan for it so you don’t feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you each time.

Also, given that it’s happened at such a late point in the process each time, make sure that there’s not something coming up in your references that could be behind it.

I’m sorry this keeps happening.

{ 203 comments… read them below }

  1. CoffeeFail*

    Three times? That seems like a lot in a short period. I would look into whether something is coming up in a background check or with a reference (usually the last step before a formal offer). I am sorry though. That is incredibly frustrating and, well, wrong.

    1. kiki*

      Yes, three times being ghosted when they’ve reached the offer stage is really strange. I get that ghosting is a think that happens, but it generally doesn’t happen with finalists, let alone somebody who was told they’d be seeing an offer. I’d check your references, previous employers, and online presence to make sure something isn’t amiss.

      I’m really sorry this keeps happening! It’s so disappointing nobody is telling you what’s going on.

      1. Triplestep*

        No, it happens with finalists. It happens after multiple interviews and jumping through hoops by candidates.

        I have an unusually good rate of being contacted for an interview because I write well and I follow the cover letter advice here. When I was looking over a period of a few years (I was employed, but wanted to leave that job) I would often make it through multiple rounds of interviews. I either got an offer, or I got ghosted. The only time I got a rejection was after a call screening (meaning no rounds of interviews.)

        The same thing has happened to my son; He was unemployed for the first year of the pandemic. The only time he was not ghosted as a finalist was when he withdrew because he had another offer. (So you could say he actually HAD BEEN ghosted, but he contacted the company and withdrew.)

        It is incredibly, inexplicably common, even for finalists.

        1. kiki*

          That’s wild, that hasn’t been my experience at all! Employers and hiring committees need to shape up!

          1. JustaTech*

            I applied for a job with a major company with what looked like a really robust candidate tracking system, where I also know the department director (and talked with him about the job and told him I was applying).

            The only way I knew that they weren’t going to contact me about the job was when I checked the website about 6 months later and the position was closed/gone. Now, I hadn’t interviewed, let alone been promised an offer, but I was still a little miffed that they couldn’t be bothered to send an automated email (or that my former coworker didn’t even send me a LinkedIn message).

          2. Elizabeth West*

            This has happened a LOT throughout my job search. And I do not count an email sent five or six months to a year after my interview as an official rejection. You ghosted, buddy.

        2. Triplestep*

          Just to add: I am aware that one reason this happens is because companies have policies not to reject any finalist until the selected finalist has a start date and is on-boarded. And that can take a while. But *someone* is not closing the loop. I don’t know why, but I suspect they figure “meh, so much time has gone by – they know they didn’t get the job. I’ll just skulk away now.”

          My son once called a hiring manager at a company where he’d been a finalist (ghosted, of course) and coyly asked for an update, knowing full well he mostly likely had not been selected. The manager got really flustered and finally spit out “You were supposed to get an email.” I guess the recruiter had never clicked that button in the ATS that sends the rejection emails out. My son got one later that day.

        3. Cj*

          In your case, did they tell you to expect an offer my email to be emailed to you within that week? Or did they just not let you know that you weren’t selected?

          I think employers should let everyone who was interviewed know if they aren’t moving forward, or weren’t selected if they were a finalist, not ghost them. But if they don’t let you know these things, that’s not as bad as telling you an offer is coming and it never appears.

      2. Esmeralda*

        Happened to finalists in a search I chaired — the hiring officer told me, after we sent up our list of recommendations, that she would take it from here and I was not to have anything more to do with this search. Nothing at all and she didn’t need to hear from me about it, either. (She was very very angry that I insisted on following university policy and federal law and made her comply as well)

        The only person contacted, I discovered later, was the person who was offered the position. The other finalists were ghosted.

      3. Ann Nonymous*

        I haven’t read all the responses yet, but maybe OP could have a friend call the references pretending to be an employer and see what they hear. Also, have the friend Google OP and see what pops up as well as have them take a look at their SM with an outsider’s eye.

    2. MK*

      It’s still odd that they are ghosting. You would expect that they would rescind the offer with some excuse.

      1. PollyQ*

        Agreed. Nobody likes to give bad news, but c’mon, be adults. Step up and do the right thing, employers.

        1. fhqwhgads*

          Sure but then instead of sending the offer when they said they would, send a rejection instead of an offer.

          1. English Rose*

            Or they end the discussion by saying they’ll get back to you (even if they then don’t). To my mind it’s the statement that there will be an offer and then nothing that is so very strange.

    3. AnonyAnony*

      Agree. I feel bad for OP. I also wonder if the initial offers were meant to be conditional offers, contingent upon passing reference checks, drug screens, background checks, etc. But the companies didn’t specifically say the offers were conditional, but the OP didn’t know and assumed the offers were final?
      In any case, it’s terrible that they ghosted OP without any explanations.

      1. Cj*

        If you’re told and offer is coming, and it doesn’t, I understand how much that sucks. In this odd that this scenario happened to the letter writer three times in 3 months. But they all told her an offer was coming within the week. She never had any actual offers, conditional or final.

    4. Lacey*

      Yeah. That’s got to be something wonky on a background check or a reference who is saying something upsetting.

      Though it’s still wild that they’re ghosting them about that. I’ve been rejected from jobs where I made it to the final round and they sounded super excited about me – but they emailed me to let me know.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah I think the background check or references need to be checked up. Just the other day I was reading about a guy wanting to change his name. He had the same name as his father, who was a sex offender and that was the first thing that came up when googling his name.

    5. irene adler*

      Not disagreeing, but it seems a little much that all three employers ghosted the OP.

      Given they were interested in hiring the OP (as evidenced by an offer ‘on the way’), I would hope at least one or two employers would get back to OP if the reference created enough doubt or concern to want to move on to another candidate. They should at least let OP clarify/dispute any negative statements made by the reference.

    6. Lilo*

      I agree. Ghosting happens but three in such a short period is a bit off. Double check those references and Google yourself.

      1. TJ Grace*

        I’ve Googled myself too! Learned there’s more of me than I thought but we’re all perfectly decent people on the surface!

        1. many bells down*

          Yeah I have a pretty common name. I’m a professional poker player, a diabetes specialist, and a financial advisor if you go by the top few hits.

          1. metadata minion*

            Most of my hits come up for a psychiatrist in another state. Ironically, they seem like they might be a really good fit for my mental health needs if I ever moved to that state, but that would just be *weird* :-b

          2. WillowSunstar*

            Both my real first and last names are incredibly common, especially where I live. I’ve had wrong numbers for other “me’s” before. 1. I knew because it happened in college, for someone trying to contact a math tutor, and I’m very bad at math. 2. The other “me” was moving and it was the moving company contacting them. I also have a friend who sadly, happens to share a name with a convicted murderer from another state and always has to explain that no, he is not that person and that other person is still in jail.

            So companies Googling people, be 100 percent sure it is indeed the sane person who is applying for the job. If it’s not and you deny them an interview based on a social media account belonging to another person with the same name, that’s not right.

            1. WillowSunstar*

              Same ugh, my fingers apparently are quitting early for the day. This is what happens when you type for a living.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Ah nuts…there’s a new name-duplicate for me on Instagram and I haven’t given them my birthday so I can’t see if it’s an eyebrow raiser or not.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          There used to be one of me in Texas that belonged to some Obama haters society. Seeing her on FB made me promptly add a few peace-and-love quotes to my FB page so that people would realise we were two very different people.
          Last time I looked, she was no longer there. I low-key worry about her every time I think of her now ^^

      2. Ellie*

        There’s no harm in checking references, and I would definitely do that, but I can also see the OP getting ghosted a lot if they happen to be a strong, second choice candidate. Many employers are going to leave it a little while to notify their second choice, to make sure their first choice pans out first. It sucks and its rude, but there’s not much you can do about it.

        That, ‘we’ll send you an offer tomorrow’ one is really weird though. I wonder if some event occurred later that afternoon? They didn’t get a contract, the HR rep was suddenly taken ill, or some other thing.

    7. TJ Grace*

      I have yet to get to the background check phase. I’ve worked in the financial industry in the past and have been fingerprinted, etc so no concerns there. In these cases, they have yet to get my details to complete a background check. That can’t be it. Also this is before the references stage too! None of these positions I’d applied to asked for references during the application process. I also checked with my references prior to notify them so they can be prepared. I do this as regular practice before anyone asks for them. I’m disappointed to hear that there isn’t much I can do. I could write an op-ed or go the the news I guess.

      1. Lilo*

        I understand but I wouldn’t do that. Because then when they Google you that’s what will pop up and it’s not really what you want.

        I get the frustration but the reality is taking any kind of retributive action is really not going to help.

        1. Grits McGee*

          Plus, this is so, so common- unless a news entity already has a story in the works, I would be very surprised if a third party would find this newsworthy.

          1. Lilo*

            But hey we’re here! You will find lots of sympathy and commiseration right here and on the Friday open forum. And a text with your friends or family too. Yes they were bad, but the sad reality is that there’s no way that will actually “punish” them that might not potentially hurt you worse in your job hunt.

            But we’re here for you if you need to vent.

      2. Smitty*

        Potentially, even if you haven’t provided references, you have contacts in common with the recruiters/hiring managers (whether personal or professional). That is something they could identify through a quick social media search. It’s possible that they are conducting informal reference checks and someone you know doesn’t have kind things to say. Seems unlikely that it would happen three times, but could be possible if everybody knows everybody in your industry and location.

      3. no longer working*

        They are telling you to expect an offer before they’ve asked for references and before a background check? Maybe there’s a misunderstanding. Maybe they are saying/meaning they’ll be sending an offer letter to the candidate they decide on and they don’t necessarily mean you?

        1. thursday*

          Also confused by this. (Once had a co-worker who was hired before they called any of the references, which was hilarious as we watched them frantically tried to track down one of his references who’d moved, but that’s not normal)

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            In the UK it was really common (when I worked there >10 years ago) that companies would contact references after hiring you. Because they wanted to get you on quickly. Firing someone for performance reasons or fit, or laying someone off, is of course much harder there than in the US, but during the probationary period (3 months) either side can walk away with no notice and no reason given. So that was my employers’ perspective there. If the references and background check really came up with something problematic, you would just not pass probation. (This wouldn’t work of course where you need a police or similar heightened bg check for work with children for example.)

            1. GythaOgden*

              Yeah. My mum has just retired as an educational consultant. As a headteacher, she employed a lot of people in education. The consultancy she did was with school governors (similar to school board in the US) who were dignitaries from outside education. She often had to remind people, sometimes somewhat forcefully, that in education you check references first rather than offering first. The logic is obviously that you want to be totally sure that nothing comes up. It may sound alarmist, but the DBS system was ratcheted up in intensity after a very high-profile case in the early 00s (Soham), and no school wants to go through that kind of thing again.

              So it definitely differs when safeguarding is an issue. Leaving that one dot off an i, however trivial it may seem, may lead to heartache further on down the line.

              Obviously it doesn’t sound like this is an issue for OP, but just filling in the blanks.

        2. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          That was my thought. I’ve never heard of someone promising an offer before the team ha conferred, let alone (in my industry) before a reference check. OP, based on what you said, please consider if you are misinterpreting what these potential hirers are communicating to you.

        3. Joielle*

          Yeah, I think it’s fairly unusual in an office-type job to be offered the position at the end of the interview. Even if they’re not going to do a full background check, it’s just a lot more common to finish the interview, think about it for at least a few hours, and then call or email with the offer. Certainly not impossible, but I’d be really surprised if that happened three times in a row. I think either the OP may be misunderstanding these “offers” or they may be interviewing with shady companies.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            That depends on how the interviews are structured though. I’ve seen companies hand candidates contracts in final interview rounds (to take home and read at leisure, obviously).

      4. Prefer my pets*

        There is something wonky here…*3* places in as many months told you they are going to send you an offer letter before they even have your references? The vast majority of places will check references on their top couple candidates before even deciding who to make an offer to. Offers contingent on background check are common, offers contingent on speaking with the current manager after all other references have come back are sometimes a thing, but offers before any hiring panel discussion after your final interview, before any reference checks, before any background check at all? That’s super odd for anything except things like retail, food service, etc.

      5. BRR*

        Question for clarification: How do you know you haven’t gotten to the background check phase? And I don’t mean that in a way that questions what you’re telling us! Just genuine curiosity. Because could it be possible employers are just running a background check without telling you? I would assume a lot of background checks can be done with just the information from your resume.

        1. kiki*

          In the US, a lot of background checks ask for information beyond what’s on a resume, like a list of your addresses over the last 7 years, a SSN, etc. I think most background checks in most states also require consent from the applicant

        2. Warrior Princess Xena*

          I’ve had to fill out an additional form every time I’ve been background checked, providing my social & prior addresses. Washington for sure requires consent from the applicant. That said, this is for the official background check. If there’s any reference/network checks or word of mouth info they are not required to inform.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          The background checks I have done have involved me filling out forms and going to a lab for a drug test.

          1. Ellie*

            The ones I’ve done started with them just photocopying my drivers license, and asking if I consented to a police check. Later on, there was a huge stack of paperwork that took a week to get through, but that was after they’d made an offer and I’d accepted the job. I don’t know quite what would have happened if I’d failed that final phase.

      6. KatEnigma*

        You say they didn’t ask for references, but it would be very unusual for an application to not ask for prior work experience. Perhaps they are calling former employers and something isn’t matching that is getting you rejected? My husband has worked for his current company 3 times now, and their own records were wrong about his prior employment there, which delayed his offer. They contacted to clarify, but he was being recommended by the Director. They would have just rejected him if he had been a normal candidate. Maybe you could call your former employers to verify that your info matches their records?

      7. TheSockMonkey*

        Most of the time references aren’t asked for during the application but after the interview.

        Also, don’t go to the news. Even fewer companies would want to hire you.

    8. Koalafied*

      To be honest, it also strikes me as a lot of times in a short period to be told to expect an offer letter at the end of an interview. Most places I’ve worked or interviewed, even if you were the very last candidate being interviewed, multiple people are involved who still need to meet and compare notes after the interview to make sure everyone was on the same page about who to extend an offer to. The only jobs where I’ve been told in the interview that they’d be hiring me were part-time/service jobs where there was no offer letter, just verbal instructions to show up on X date for my first shift.

      Certainly seems to me like these might be related – that LW has been unlucky to have had more than one interviewer extend an offer prior to getting buy-in front the rest of their panel or otherwise not having actually been authorized to extend an offer in a final interview.

      1. Umami*

        This makes a lot of sense, and I also wonder if it’s a slight miscommunication and they mean that the selected candidate will receive an offer in that timeframe. I say that because even as a hiring manager, I never make or (hopefully/ imply an offer is coming during an interview, but I do explain our hiring timeline and am very careful in saying what the ‘finalists’ can expect, not any particular candidate. I hope that isn’t being misconstrued or offering false hope just because an interview goes really well!

      2. Ellie*

        Its still odd to be ghosted though – if the OP was unsuccessful, you’d think following up with the company would quickly reveal that. Unless there’s something in your manner OP, that is putting them off? Is it possible they think you might get aggressive? It could just be your looks, it might have nothing to do with your behaviour. Another possibility – do you have connections in the field that would make it difficult for someone to outright reject you?

        I think the timing of the offer letter depends on the field though. I’ve been offered the job at the end of most of the interviews I’ve sat for. I’ve also had an offer via a phone call later that day (once about 20 minutes after I’d left the building), and the written offer by email within minutes of the phone call. In hard to hire fields, it can be normal. But OP would know if they were in one of those fields.

        1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

          Depending on how recently OP interviewed, they may not have been ghosted but rather just haven’t been notified yet. I recently went through a process where they checked the references of the top 2 candidates, and it took 6 weeks for them to let me know I wasn’t selected. It sucked and felt awful as a candidate, but I wouldn’t call it a ghosting.

      1. metadata minion*

        But if that were the case, it seems odd to be told to expect an offer. I can understand being ghosted after the final interview — obnoxious, but kind of par for the course if they went with another finalist — but it seems extremely odd to not receive an expected offer letter three times in a short period. To me that says something weird is going on, whether it’s background checks or references or maybe something really dysfunctional going on in the industry in that area (though if that were the case, I’d think the LW would have at least some hint of it).

  2. yokoznornak*

    It sounds like something else is going on. Is there something on your background, on your social media, or in your references that would cause them to pull the offer? I would get a friend to do a reference check to see if something concerning is being said.

    1. Moonlight*

      I saw in another post recently (in comment section) that is is actually not a good idea: your references might find out about your lie, and that could damage further references they may provide , which would suck if if they were providing good references.

        1. Moonlight*

          I’m not saying not to, if OP chooses to do so, I just like to make sure people are informed of possible repercussions.

        2. TheSockMonkey*

          The OP could call the references to discuss the situation and offer them a way out of being a reference if they aren’t totally supportive of her.

          The references I picked are people I know have my back. I ask them if they are willing and let them know there are no hard feelings if they say no.

  3. TinaTurner*

    Yes, there’s something going on. You could have someone call and pose as asking for a reference and see what happens.
    And Equifax just had a scandal where it gave out the wrong credit scores, so the background check could have wrong data maybe.
    Repeated ghosting could be something wrong on your end. If you get a good idea what it is you could warn them at the interview that there’s an error & ask for a chance to explain.

    1. Becky S.*

      Decades ago when I was job hunting, I had a friend who worked in HR for a bank, call my former manager to check my references. Fortunately he gave me a good one.

    2. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      There are also jobs/companies that do limited credit checks when it’s relevant to the role (years ago I had a friend with 2nd to top level security clearance and they wanted to know he wasn’t in a position to need cash/sell secrets), so something (whether true/untrue) could be coming up there as well. It’s worth getting a credit report to see what they’re seeing if any of the three companies included that in their background check process.

    1. Antilles*

      Not in this way though.
      It’s common to not hear anything back after sending your application in. Some employers will ghost after a phone screen or an interview. But if they’re getting to the point of running you through a full interview and explicitly expressing “we will be sending you an offer tomorrow”, THEN ghosting? That’s extremely rare – certainly far rarer than a Sturgeon’s Law-esque “90% of everything”.
      And having it happen three times in very short order? As others have said, that doesn’t seem like a coincidence.

  4. Healthcare Manager*

    Is this… a US thing? Or related to levels of roles?

    I’ve worked in Australia and UK and I’ve never come across ghosting after a roles been offered verbally.

    Just curious!

    1. Anon all day*

      It doesn’t fully sound like they have received a verbal offer, just that a verbal offer would be coming soon.

      1. Healthcare Manager*

        I read ‘I will be receiving an offer letter via email’ as implying a verbal offer had been given and they were waiting for a written follow up confirmation.

        But maybe that’s part of, miscommunications on expectations?

        But regardless Alisons advice is implying it’s common to get an offer that’s not followed through.

        1. Another Jen*

          The word “offer” is a specific term here. “We’ll send you an offer” isn’t considered an actual offer.

    2. KayDeeAye*

      I’m in the U.S. and I’ve never heard of it either. Earlier in the process, sure. This is amazingly rude but also amazingly common. One in three times…OK, pretty rare but maybe. But three times in a row just is not right. Even if there is some problem with the OP’s references or something, somebody should at least be adult enough to send an email that says, “I am sorry, but ____we’ve changed our minds/the position has been put on hold/we’ve all been fired/aliens have taken over the corporation/whatever____.”

    3. RagingADHD*

      No, it isn’t a US thing. It’s extremely unusual to get ghosted this late in the process. Of course, it can happen, but it’s not “the new normal” or “the US normal” or anything like that.

      It’s even more unusual to have it happen several times in quick succession, with not even a form reply to queries.

      It’s very, very weird. That’s why it’s making so many people ask follow up questions, like whether there’s a bad reference out there.

    4. Books and Cooks*

      If it was a “US thing,” that just happens a lot in the US, I doubt the LW would have written to ask about it? Or be wondering if she could sue over it? And I think Alison would have mentioned that yeah, this is common and happens all the time.

    5. Hayley*

      I live in New Zealand and have absolutely had this happen, even after a verbal offer was made. It’s illegal here, but there’s no stopping bad managers.

  5. Baron*

    I’ve had similar situations with many employers ghosting me at the offer stage, and it turns out one of my references had gone awry. Be mindful of that possibility for sure. But in terms of legal recourse…well, ghosting somebody is inconsiderate, but that’s not illegal.

    1. A Yellow Plastic Duck*

      LW could get someone to pose as a hiring company and call his references.

      It’s not out of the question that one of his references is stabbing him in the back.

    2. Nesprin*

      Yep- I was just on the other side of this.

      We had an applicant with a good but not great interview, and we were seriously considering making an offer, then hit a truly miserable reference. Referee was really trying to find nice things to say, and couldn’t come up enough, and all the issues that we flagged in the interview were problems with this candidate according to the referees.

    3. Moonlight*

      This! I feel like we’d be in so much trouble if it was illegal to be rude/a jerk. It can be painful to deal with but it isn’t a crime.

  6. Emdash*

    I’m so sorry this keeps happening to you. Can you look into Washington state background checks and also pull your social security record to make sure you aren’t a victim of identity theft? The latter I mention in case someone has used your name and this is adversely impacting you.

    In regards to background checks, if you didn’t pass one for some reason, I believe some states have to inform applicants if they didn’t pass when asked.

    Is it possible a former employer is bad-mouthing you unfairly?

    I am shocked the employers would ghost the OP rather than at least inform OP.

    1. Kacihall*

      It is a federal law (FCRA) that applicants be told of they are denied employment even partially due to negative information from a background check. By law, the applicant then has a chance to dispute the negative information. I’m sure not all employers follow the law. I can’t even say all background check companies make clients aware of this. I can tell you this is what my company sends out that has been vetted by our legal dept.

      “The FCRA also has very specific requirements related to taking adverse action. The FCRA requires a two step process for denying employment “in whole or part” based on a background screening report that is initiated with a Pre-Adverse Action Letter, FCRA Summary of Rights and a copy of the report which is followed after a “reasonable amount of time” with an Adverse Action Letter.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        One clarification: FCRA covers credit checks, background checks, and anything else received from a consumer reporting agency. It does not cover an employer’s own reference checking (so employers aren’t required to tell you that something came up in a reference call).

        1. Kacihall*

          True! I am used to explaining the other way – that the consumer reports in that law mean more than just credit reports and also apply to the criminal portion of a background check. Or that we are not actually running a credit check or ‘mode of living’ check. References are opinions and can’t be verified or disputed.

          1. Don't Send Your Kids to Hudson University*

            Defamation could be actionable, but in this case you’d need to know who said what and demonstrate that the statements were false (not just that you disagree with them).

    2. WonderWoman*

      I’m wondering about the background check process though – at my company, the offer letter comes first and then it is contingent on a background check. (Maybe that’s just us though.) I would be surprised if the full background check is completed before the offer letter goes out – it would be more work for everyone involved if the offer was declined after the background check and references were processed.

      1. TJ Grace*

        This is my experience. Offer letter contingent upon passing of background check and reference check. I’m just not getting to that stage!

        1. AnotherLadyGrey*

          So just to clarify, they are telling you will receive an offer letter contingent on successfully passing background & references, and then they are not contacting your references or doing a background check?

          If so that’s really strange and I’m so sorry it is happening. I will add, though, it doesn’t sound like you are receiving a formal offer in those cases. It sounds almost like you are reaching the finalist stage and they are choosing to go with another candidate and therefore end up not doing your reference/background checks. If so, that’s bad form on their part, and it sucks to not get the job, but it means you are probably doing all the right things and just have been unlucky or are matching up against highly qualified candidates. So I would really think about that possibility.

          If that doesn’t seem likely or possible, I would advise looking at what other factors could potentially be affecting their decision making after they’ve told you to expect an offer and before they’ve done a background check or contacted your references. Is it possible they are contacting a prior employer from your resume (not a provided reference) and getting bad information? Are your references proving hard to reach? Is there something going on with your email? Is this all happening through one recruiter who is maybe operating in a shady way? Etc.

          I am sorry this is happening and wish you good luck in your search!

      2. gsa*

        My last two jobs were like that. I got an offer including salary benefits etc. contingent on the background check and the drug test.

  7. Polecat*

    I agree with the OP that this is a form of trauma. Job hunting is so stressful and to be told continually that you’re going to get an offer and then ghosted is abusive. There is no recourse, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t emotionally abusive and really shitty. One thing you might do as a therapeutic exercise is write a letter, and tell these people exactly how you feel about them and exactly how crappy they have treated you, obviously you’re not gonna send this letter! But sometimes venting and getting it all out of your system can be therapeutic and helping you move past it. But make no mistake, it’s not something you should have to put up with. And it’s not just aggravating. It’s aggravating when you have an interview and they don’t respond to your thank you note to let you know you didn’t get the job. When you’ve been told they’re going to offer you the job, that escalate the situation into something beyond aggravating.

    1. Cassandra*

      Being told you’ll be offered a job and then not getting it is not “trauma” and calling it that (and OP saying they’re getting PTSD from these rejections) is horrifying to people who have actually experienced trauma. Unlearning trauma responses takes a specific kind of therapy, and is difficult and painful. This is belittling actual tragedy and the way it shatters those who experience it.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Considering how close the typical US employee is to financial disaster, and how much rides on consistent employment (healthcare, housing, food stability) with zero safety net, I honestly don’t think I agree with this statement. Not these days. There has been an enormous rise in poverty and homelessness among people who were previously stably employed. I wouldn’t tell someone who is potentially weeks, maybe days from being among them that they’re “not experiencing actual trauma”.

        1. Cassandra*

          OP said nothing at all about being in any kind of crisis, whether housing, food, or financial. They have only expressed that being ghosted is what is so awful to them.

      2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        There is various levels of trauma, so let’s not tell someone how to feel. No, this isn’t on par with being a war veteran or a assault survivor.
        But the emotional rollercoaster of applying, getting to the final round, being told an offer is imminent, then being ghosted, can be traumatic. It takes a toll on your confidence. And if you are in a precarious financial position, it can be very difficult.

        About 5 years ago I was searching for a job and was getting great interview but no offers. In the meantime I was stuck in a role I was not well suited for and the clock was ticking. My role prior to that I had been let go from. I’ll be honest, one rejection sent me into a deep depression. I felt completely worthless. I’m in a much better place because I did eventually find a job I thrived at, but at the time I saw no way out.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          I feel like this is another “English needs more words” sort of situation. It’s unfortunate that we can’t have terms to differentiate between “Witnessed or was victim to extreme violence and now have a very specific mental health issue” and “Went through a more generally stressful and uncertain time that lasted over a significant period and now is causing significant depression/anxiety”. Both can cause significant upheaval and distress, but I find using the same words for different experiences is frustrating for both groups.

        2. Parakeet*

          Depression is really awful and PTSD is really awful (speaking from experience, as I have both!) but they aren’t the same thing. “Trauma” isn’t simply another word for “severe distress.”

          I’m glad you’re in a better situation now! I’ve been in the position of getting good interviews but no offers when I was in a precarious situation too, and it is indeed really stressful.

      3. Marvel*

        I have PTSD (clinically diagnosed, I see a trauma specialist weekly). I could not disagree more.

        Trauma is actually not uncommon. At all. Any decent trauma therapist will tell you this. The truth is, almost everyone has experienced some kind of trauma in their life. Most of the time it doesn’t turn into PTSD, but sometimes it does, and it is absolutely possible to develop PTSD due to events that a lot of people would dismiss as “minor.” (Which increases shame and reduces the likelihood that people will seek treatment, a terrible reality that we do not need to perpetuate here!) Trauma often isn’t big and flashy like you see in the movies; it can live in the banal things we all take for granted, growing and spreading while people make excuses about how “that’s just life” and you need to “grow up” and “get over it.”

        This is a deeply ignorant comment, and you do not speak for me.

      4. Dodubln*

        Is it really, Cassandra? I lost 7 coworkers in a mass murder in the work place back in 1993. So I should have PTSD, right? Regardless of whether I do or not, I would NEVER presume what causes someone ELSE to have PTSD. Why would you? And stop speaking for me, saying that it is “belittling tragedy and the way it shatter those whose experience it”. You don’t know me, or my experience, or how I feel it about it. When I read the OP’s letter, I took it at face value, and assumed what they were feeling when they wrote it was how they were feeling. If they describe it as “something like interview PTSD” does it really have to be jumped on? Nope. It doesn’t. Maybe offer constructive advice, like checking references(OP, please do this!), are you really getting an offer, etc. As for “horrifying to people who have actually experienced trauma”, don’t even. Please.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          +1 from someone who has diagnosed PTSD from prolonged verbal and emotional abuse by my family.
          Cassandra, Who are you to say how other people feel??

        2. Cassandra*

          That’s horrible, and I’m so sorry you experienced that. I’ll reword to speak just for myself then. After experiencing my trauma and the way it destroyed my life, I think it’s callous and wrong of people to belittle real mental health conditions to add flavor to their stressful situation. Mental health issues are real, diagnosed conditions. When people co-opt that to make their experience sound more serious than it is, it’s wrong. OP had three interviews that did not end in a formal offer. I am upset that she chose to use language describing actually conditions to relay that she is bothered by this. In my group of survivors, many many people have expressed similar sentiments about how upsetting it is to hear people use these terms flippantly and with no understanding of real pain or grief or trauma, hence my original post talking about “people”.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            As Marvel mentions, many people get PTSD for a variety of reasons. Part of my growing up experience was people dismissing my hurt feelings and trauma because they didn’t want to accept how hurtful they were being and how traumatic life is. They had an attitude of “ if you’re not bleeding, you’re not hurt”, dismissing the very real trauma of people who have other experiences.
            I have diagnosed PTSD from long-term emotional and verbal abuse, and I know exactly what OP means when she says she’s getting interview PTSD. Maybe the D doesn’t belong there just yet, but I’m sure many of us can understand she feels traumatized and afraid to go through it again, and that needs to be respected.
            Life is inherently traumatic. I believe almost everyone has had PTS and some continue to have it. There’s probably an official threshold when it becomes a Disorder, but whether they reach that threshold or not, people who are traumatized need to be respected and cared for, not dismissed.

            1. Cassandra*

              I understand that OP is feeling stressed, distressed, uncomfortable, demoralized, or apprehensive. But I feel that it is impossible for our country to have a reckoning about mental health care being as important as physical health care when people apply these terms to themselves in a casual way. I had to fight to receive the time off work I needed to heal after a violent crime was committed against me, and spent years unlearning trauma responses. I had a department head laugh when I disclosed my diagnosis, and say “doesn’t everyone have that now?” No, not every ‘has that now’. I think it is wrong for OP to use the language of “PTSD” to describe 3 interviews not ending in a formal offer. If you disagree and feel that this is trauma, then that is your opinion, just as this is mine. But I find it belittling, I find it disrespectful, and I think the language people use needs to change. Just as it is wrong for people to say “I’m so organized, I basically have OCD!” Or “I’m so ADHD today”, applying the condition of PTSD to a temporarily stressful circumstance in order to dramatize it is wrong.

          2. Marvel*

            You still can’t speak for a group, and you slip back into trying to do that at the end of this comment. You can only speak for yourself. Your voice matters, but it is only one voice.

            I urge you to reconsider how you’re defining “real” pain/grief/trauma. It is very easy to fall into a pattern of feeling like your trauma makes you special or unique; “no one understands, they haven’t suffered like we/I have suffered.” I used to think that way. But it’s not true. People suffer every day in a thousand ways that you will never experience or understand. We don’t know this person’s context or circumstances outside the information in the letter; we don’t know what memories this experience might be bringing up, or how it may be compounding previous traumas. That context matters, and when we lack it, jumping immediately to trauma gatekeeping isn’t helpful to anyone.

  8. Purple Loves Snow*

    Maybe I am having a “Debbie Downer” outlook on today, but you haven’t actually made it to the offer stage, you have made it to through the final interview and/or meet & greet. You haven’t received an offer; therefore you are not at the offer stage. I feel like some of this needs to be re-framed in the way you are thinking. You have only been searching for 3 months and that isn’t very long with the amount of people out there looking for work. And as someone who has diagnosed PTSD, I am a bit offended in your use of it in this regard.

    1. Spicy Tuna*

      I dunno, being told to expect an emailed offer seems like reaching the offer stage to me. If LW went to the final interview and was thanked for their time and told that they would be contacted soon, that would be making it through the final interview. But this seems like splitting hairs.

      1. Elenna*

        Maybe it’s a weird way of phrasing “if you are selected we will send an offer soon”? Still seems weird for three different companies to do that.

    2. MicroManagered*

      I sneered at this too and I agree that it’s somewhat* disrespectful to use “PTSD” in this sense. Yes, job hunting and interviewing is very stressful and requires a ton of emotional energy, but almost* any comparison to actual PTSD is going over the top.

      *I’m using “somewhat” and “almost any” to leave room for the possibility that some job hunters could have PTSD from other traumatic events that is triggered by the job hunt–so it’s not unilaterally offensive but I think if that were the case here, that context would be in the letter.

  9. Former Retail Lifer*

    I don’t know if these positions do credit checks, but if so, check yours. Equifax had some screw-up where they reported credit scores around 20 points lower than they actually were. Have someone else call your references and former employers and see what they say. I’m job hunting and have been ghosted so many times that I’ve lost track, but it was never that late in the process. If you’ve been promised an offer multiple times and haven’t gotten one, something is up with the steps in between the last interview and the offer letter. It’s bound to happen once or twice, but I’d really look into this if it’s happening more often.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      WTH, Equifax. Yet another reason credit checks for employment need to go the way of the dodo unless the candidate will be working with financials. :facepalm emoji:

  10. CheesePlease*

    Being ghosted sucks big time. But I also wonder if you have misheard statements. An employer saying “We expect to make an offer by Monday” is not the same as “We will make YOU an offer by Monday” – and even so, it would be strange for them to not communicate that they decided to hire a different individual, thank you for your time etc.

    In the future, if you get the verbal agreement to an offer, I would clarify “are you waiting on anything to be finalized before formalizing my offer?” just to help you identify if a reference, background check, other thing is coming up

    1. WonderWoman*

      This was my thought too – the opportunity for miscommunication is so high in the stressful interview process.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Last time I was job hunting, I had a conversation with a hiring manager where I was certain he’d given a verbal job offer and freaked out when it wasn’t immediately followed by a written one. (I actually took it as a red flag that the hiring manager wasn’t on top of things and reached out to some people on the team he manages to learn more about him as a manager.)

        In hindsight, I can see that the hiring manager was actually at the “references and salary negotiation” phase and that I blew everything out of proportion. At least I didn’t burn the opportunity; I did end up receiving (and accepting) a written offer, but it was several weeks later.

    2. Tom Servo's sister*

      This was my thought, too. I knew someone who thought he was given a starting date and showed up only to find out it was the second interview. Of course, they should still tell anyone who makes it to the final round that they didn’t get the job.

      1. Pugetkayak*

        Ohhh no. But wouldn’t there have been benefits/pay/a title to discuss? Definitely weird to just show up with none of those things in place?

    3. Desdemona*

      Yes- I was thinking this too. Because it’s also a bit odd to tell someone in the interview, on the spot, that you will give them an offer. Usually folks mull it over and weigh pros/cons of candidates, take a few days to think, etc. If they do give a verbal offer on the spot, it’s for someone really incredible, and odds are folks wouldn’t go from “you’re incredible” to “ghosting” without something else crazy going on.

      It really sounds more plausible that they are saying they will give SOMEONE an offer the next day (after they’ve thought things through) and that someone isn’t you.

      1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

        This exactly: “…it’s also a bit odd to tell someone in the interview, on the spot, that you will give them an offer.” Never in my 25+ years of getting jobs—and my friends and family getting jobs—have I encountered an offer being extended AT the interview.

        1. KatEnigma*

          Well my husband has- under specific circumstances where his old employer was actively recruiting him to return. The first time, the “interview” was with his manager who was his former colleague and former boss who was now grandboss. The next time the grandboss was now Director and was introducing him to his new manager.

          But it takes HR wayyy longer to get the offer together than “tomorrow” or even “next week” so they didn’t make that part of the promise.

        2. Angelina*

          I have – it’s different as an executive assistant. If OP is meeting the executive, the hiring committee already likes her and the big boss is being allowed the final say. It’s not uncommon to hear something informal at those meetings about how “yes you’re right for the job and someone from HR will make you up some paperwork…”

          1. Kermit*

            Yeah, I once had an offer before I even met the person I’d be working for, contingent on the background check, but with salary negotiations already started. The offer came from the site manager, and the person I’d be working for did meet me later, but I had already been blessed by the site manager. I found out later that my boss was told if he didn’t like me he’d have to get over it, because the site manager had decided I was the right person for the job. Although I was basically hired to manage the person I’d be working for, who needed to concentrate on one tiny aspect of his new-ish job while I shouldered the non-public-facing parts.
            I’ve also had a job offer on my home answering machine (clearly not a recent job. I didn’t even own a cell phone then!) when I got home from the interview, although that interview was a 2-hour drive from home. It wasn’t quite instantaneous. The offer letter itself came via snail mail after we did the negotiations over the phone and I’d accepted.

        3. just some guy*

          It shouldn’t happen, but… as a junior panel member, I recently had to check a senior panel member who was very strongly implying to the interviewee that we would be making an offer. Not because I disagreed with the assessment, the candidate was very good, but just on principle it’s not the kind of commitment one should make before the people who actually have authority to approve that recommendation have done so.

        4. Emmy Noether*

          I have, on both sides. I once got handed a contract at the end of the second interview (to take home and read and reflect, obviously), and my current employer also sometimes does this. Now, this clearly means the decision was already pretty much made before the final interview and it was just checking for red flags or getting the thumbs up of one final person.

          I think it’s more common when hiring for multiple positions and the candidate pool is not that deep. If you’re hiring for three positions and have five finalists, nailing down your top two immediately makes sense.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      Yep. I use very specific language regarding each step and status update, and candidates quite often get it wrong. I once told a candidate, ‘My hiring partner is traveling and I will not be able to speak with her about your background for at least another week. Regardless, I’ll send a status update by email by August 19 at the latest.’ The candidate replied, ‘Great, I should expect a call from her on August 19…’

      I never enjoyed telling someone they were not going to proceed to the next interview or get an offer, even if we got confirmed negative info on a candidate. But it’s far more kind to say so than to avoid them.

      1. CheesePlease*

        Yes, it is very awkward. I can see that happening in this situation. OP assumed that they had the offer, but the hiring manager planned to hire another individual. Before the other individual accepts their offer (the reasonable time for hiring manager to reject all other candidates), they get a voicemail from OP saying “Hello Manager, I was wondering when my offer letter would be emailed to me. I reached out to HR as well and haven’t heard back. Please call me back – I am very excited to review and start soon!” and don’t know how to respond, so just ignore OP

    5. Spearmint*

      This was my thought. A lot of hiring managers are sloppy with language and say things like “you will work at this desk” when they mean “if you are hired, you will work at this desk”. Perhaps something like that is going on here.

      1. CheesePlease*

        I speak from experience when at my last job (manufacturing) I asked if they work 1st and 2nd shift, just 1st shift with overtime etc. and my manager responded “we work a split shift, 10am-6:30pm.” What he meant was that they worked 1st shift and ran an additional split shift, instead of a second shift. I was surprised when I offer came in with a 7:30am start time, as I had thought everyone worked 10am-6:30pm.

      2. Umami*

        I had a similar experience with my current employer. I was a finalist and was flown in for an extensive final interview process, and all of their language was ‘you will this’ and ‘you will that’, and they showed me the (very nice!!) office that would be mine, which made me cautiously optimistic. I tempered my enthusiasm by telling myself they are saying the same thing to all the candidates. Turns out I did get the offer and subsequently learned that they were incredibly excited to bring me on even though they had an internal candidate. BUT you really have to be careful giving candidates the wrong impression,

    6. Umami*

      Definitely feels like a possibility. It’s incredibly rare that an offer would be extended after an interview, even assuming you are the last person being interviewed. Maybe OP is hearing ‘the offer will be made by Monday’ and assuming it means to her? 3 times is at least 2x too many for it to be an employer issue, it would seem.

    7. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I like this answer enough that I just copy and pasted it into my part of the notes I’m co-presenting (I’m the resting presenter right now) so I can use it when I get to the how to interview part of the workshop.

    8. BRR*

      I wonder if it’s “you’ll hear from us by Monday.” I also find it odd each employer is only emailing the offer letter because it’s really common to verbally present the offer via a phone call or in this case maybe in person (I know it’s not universally done this way, just three times makes it a statistical abnormality to me). The whole thing is just strange thought.

      And I really like the advice that if this happens again to ask if they need anything else to move things forward.

    9. Books and Cooks*

      I have been trying for years to remember the exact phrase I was given by a business owner I interviewed with once for an assistant position. I can’t recall it, but I know that I walked out of there thinking I had a new job and should call on Wednesday (two days later) to find out when my first day would be…and when I called, he told me they were still interviewing and no decision had been made.

      The boss sounded slightly uncomfortable saying it, so I’ve always wondered if maybe he realized that he’d definitely said I was hired or had definitely given me the impression that I was, too, and was trying to backtrack–we’d had a really long, fun interview, chatting about all kinds of things, so maybe he was just so enthusiastic in the moment that he forgot himself. Or maybe I was so enthusiastic that I didn’t realize “It’ll be great to have you with us,” or whatever, was just his way of saying “If we do hire you I’m sure it will be great, but we haven’t made a decision.” I don’t know. And like I said, unfortunately I can’t remember his exact words (I’d forgotten them by the time I called him, actually, because I was so excited about having a new job).

      The point is, I thought I was hired, and I wasn’t. You’re not alone.

      And definitely check with your references etc.–and, what did you say, when you attempted to contact these people? Did you say, “I was under the impression you’d be emailing me an offer the next day, can I ask what happened?” or, “I’m sorry, I must have misunderstood–I was under the impression that I was being offered the job?” Or was it just a follow-up-type email, without any mention of the confusion?

      I’m sorry you’re going through this. I understand how hurtful it is to have your hopes dashed like that, and to have it happen three times must be very painful. But this isn’t a sign that no one will ever hire you or that something is wrong with you as a person; “your job” is out there, you just have to keep looking for it.

      Just keep swimming, LW. Best of luck to you.

  11. Michael*

    As a hiring manager over the last 6 months I’ve had 2 finalist candidates that didn’t provide references that were reachable. I also had a finalist who kept delaying giving permission to contact the current employer – a local organizational reference check requirement – for over 3 weeks with a series of excuses. Even though they looked like a good candidates these are tell tail signs of a problem. “Don’t paint red flags green”. So I would confirm that your reference contact info is rock solid and that they are really going to give you a positive reference.

    1. WonderWoman*

      Wouldn’t you have extended an offer first, before reaching out to references? Or do I have the order backwards?

      1. Melanie Cavill*

        I imagine if a reference is poor, learning of it after an offer is extended is considerably more complicated than learning of it prior.

      2. kiki*

        I’ve heard both ways, but if the future employer wants to contact the current employer for a reference, that is almost always after an offer is given (so the candidate has some assurance that the employer is serious before their current boss finds out they’re looking for other jobs).

      3. DJ Abbott*

        When I got my new job they asked for references after my second interview and before the offer. I was unemployed, so current employer wasn’t an issue.
        This was good because it gave me time to text my references and let them know to expect contact, and to line up a new, more recent one from a temp job.
        Two days after that I got an offer letter via email. :)
        If it matters, my title is (Specialty) Assistant and it’s a combination of reception and administrative.

    2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      Requiring contacting the current employer is pretty bad form. I wouldn’t let my current job know I was hunting and for a lot of people that could put them in the position of being let go before they get an offer (or since you said 2 finalists being let go without an offer of employment to go to).

    3. Melanie Cavill*

      I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Someone with insecure employment or in a toxic environment may have very good reasons to be hesitant to have a potential employer speak with their current employer. It can very easily be to their detriment, especially considering the ratio of applications to offers a job hunter experiences on average.

      1. Emdash*

        If a reference was unreachable, are applicants given an opportunity to provide another one?

        Take higher ed in the summer. Many faculty don’t check their email or have an away message that says they are away until x date.

        I would hate for an applicant to lose out on a job because a reference being unreachable isn’t the fault of the applicant.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          One of my references being unreachable was how I learned my old boss joined a monastery in Spain and took a vow of silence. I’d e-mailed him before and hadn’t heard from him, which was 100% on brand for him. A potential employer let me know they couldn’t reach him, I found out where he was, and found a new reference

    4. Amtelope*

      Why would someone give you permission to contact their current employer before you’d made an offer? I wouldn’t risk my current employment for the possibility of a job offer coming through.

    5. What a way to make a living*

      These aren’t telltale signs of a problem at all, Michael.

      You shouldn’t be demanding to contact existing employers until an offer is formally made. In fact, I would consider it a positive sign that an employee wants to tell their employer that they’re leaving themselves, rather than them hearing it from you. That’s considered basic professionalism to many!

      It isn’t reasonable to expect people to want you contacting their employer before they have a formal offer. If anything, that will seem like a warning sign about you as an employer.

      And how on earth is it the candidate’s fault if you can’t contact their references? There could be any number of reasons for that.

  12. I should really pick a name*

    Have you ever reached back out to them for feedback?
    Shot in the dark, but it costs nothing to try.

    1. irene adler*

      OP did: “Each time I’ve been ghosted. Literally ignored when I follow up with the exec, the recruiter, anyone I can get contact info with. Ignored.”

      1. Eether, Either*

        Oops I did see she that she followed up. I would lose the recruiter and apply on her own, if possible.

      2. Miss Muffet*

        I’m curious if there’s something in the tone of the email/phone call follow-ups that causes the employers to ghost? I just find it odd that even if there was a misunderstanding (we’ll be emailing offers by Monday, vs emailing YOU an offer by Monday), that in three companies, not even one person responds back and just says, “we’ve decided to move forward with another candidate, thanks for your time and good luck.”
        OP, I know job hunting is super crappy and demoralizing, but I wonder if your trauma on this is somehow seeping through on your follow-up communication? Are you following up too soon/too frequently/coming on too strong?

        1. pancakes*

          I wondered about that too. “Anyone I can get contact info with” raised the possibility, in my reading of that line, that the candidate might be seeking out contact info for people who aren’t directly involved in hiring, and/or otherwise somehow coming off as a bit too aggressive or overly focused on their own wish for an answer when following up with employers.

    2. Eether, Either*

      Yes, I agree. I would definitely get in touch with them. Also, I’m wondering…are these small companies with no HR dept., and they just don’t know what they are doing? Still stinks, that’s for sure!

  13. WonderWoman*

    I’m really sorry this is happening to you, it is very strange. The only suggestion I have would be to ask more questions about the interview process/timeline, if you’re not doing that already. As Alison always says, you’re vetting them as much as they are vetting you. If the “offer to come” is really vague, there’s no harm in a follow-up question in the moment – such as start date and salary range (if not already discussed.) But it is definitely a crappy feeling!

    As an Exec Asst myself, I wonder if these companies are treating the position itself as less important which is why they’re being so flaky? It is unfortunate how often EA positions are disrespected/undervalued, and that can be evident from the very start of the process. (Obviously EAs aren’t the only positions that are treated this way.)

  14. Emdash*

    I agree with a lot of other commenter’s suggestions.

    One thing that came to mind was how legit these organizations are. There are sketchy job postings and organizations (even if their websites make them seem legit). Are they actually companies or organizations? Are they well-established or new?
    Is the company facing economic difficulties or are there layoffs? I would check

  15. Ama*

    I’m actually wondering if the fact that these were all for an EA position and it is the executives who are telling her an offer is forthcoming is part of the issue. I’m guessing they don’t currently have an EA since they are hiring for one (or maybe someone is covering for the empty EA spot and they are overloaded) and perhaps some of the process of notifying HR to make a formal offer is stuff the EA would help keep on top of, follow up if HR doesn’t respond immediately, etc. OR the executive is ignorant of some other admin that has to be done before a formal offer can be made (this is particularly likely if the executive is newish to the company themselves) and because they don’t currently have an EA they are having a harder time getting that done.

    I’d also double check your email spam settings just in case something strange is happening — I had a weird thing happening for a while with my work email where people who sent me attachments got automatically thrown into my junk folder, even when it was a reply to a message *I* initiated.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      This- if all your correspondence is by email it’s possible there’s something technical going on.

      If you haven’t already, I don’t think a phone call just to check your offer didn’t get lost in a technical error would be out of line. E.g. “I’m so sorry to bother you, but the offer letter you told me to expect hasn’t come through. Can I confirm whether it’s been sent in case there’s a problem on my end?”. My thought is that email filters could block emails with attachments or document links, like might be in an offer email.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      I agree. My first thought after reading this was that it sounds like these people really could use an Executive Assistant. Now, they may have decided that they don’t actually have the workload to support one fulltime (or one at LW’s skill level), but they definitely could’ve used one to at least close the loop on things like this.

  16. Pass the Just-For-Men*

    I don’t have any advice. I would think you know and can trust your references. If they’re not being good references, you would hope they would just say no to providing a reference and not be shady/passive aggressive about it.

    Either way, I just wanted to say that you have a total stranger’s empathy.

    1. Pass the Just-For-Men*

      OH! and luck. I wish you the best of luck in finding employment with solid folks.

  17. Ellis Bell*

    OP, I’m so sympathetic to the fact that you’re suffering and starting to anticipate this. Possibly the anticipation could be used as preparation? Are you checking Glassdoor reviews to see if these companies are generally respectful of applicants’ time before investing in the application? Also it might be a question to ask in the interview about their approach to respecting a candidate’s or employees’ time. Possibly you could ask if they’ve ever had to tell a generally good candidate that they weren’t a specifically good fit; this will tell you about the specifics of the culture, but will also reveal if they contact the people who are not the ultimate hire. Also, I know it’s poor consolation, but you don’t want to work for these people!

  18. Bookworm*

    I’m so sorry, OP. Am curious about the other comments re: background check (even then, I find it a little weird that absolutely no one will be in any sort of contact). This sucks and is not okay. I hope you find some answer somewhere.

  19. A Yellow Plastic Duck*

    The LW has nothing to lose at this point by calling the companies and asking.

    When last we spoke I was told I would receive an offer within the week. Instead, I never heard from you again. Was there a problem with a reference? Was there a problem with a background or credit check? It would really help me to find out there’s something I don’t know about. Would you help me?

    The “Would you help me?” line is important. People are hesitant to brush someone off when directly asked for help.

  20. Yvette*

    A lot of people myself included, seem to think that perhaps something is coming up in the background check. How would they go about running a background check on themselves? I know you can Google for companies that do this but I am sure that a lot of sketchy/shady ones will come up. At this point it might be worth the investment.

        1. KatEnigma*

          Hopefully you have a contact to ask. My friend’s son is a recruiter and when I needed one for an EA my nonprofit (board member) was hiring, I asked her if her son had a recommendation for background check companies.

          One other time, the church diocese where I was (and hiring within) mandated a specific company for background checks.

  21. lost academic*

    I’ve only been seriously ghosted once, by a reputable firm where the process was numerous interviews and phon calls, and sounded from day 1 like I was getting an offer, but I didn’t consider that real until the external recruiter who’d found me literally said in writing that I should expect the offer that week because HR was literally just pulling the paperwork together. Several reassuring emails of “it’s in the mail”. Then nothing. Then a few weeks later they were ‘going in another direction’. I was livid. It was a LOT of time spent interviewing for a senior leadership role. And I never figured it out. The same company came to me this year and I politely said I’d really appreciate some closure on the previous process from five years before and … they couldn’t figure out what happened. I eventually decided it was most likely that the role was mine until they had to get the very final approval and I didn’t fit the bill of someone with 25+ years of experience (that didn’t exist) and the final decisionmaker just said no. But either way it wasn’t handled so well and it’s colored my impression of the firm for years. I’m not eager to get back on that train.

    I would have said this was something similar for OP except for two details: one, these are EA roles, which while critical are not quite so unique in background requirements, and two, 3 times in rapid succession. I agree with others that something is happened at the offer stage that’s slamming on the brakes and I’m assuming a reference or background check is derailing if that’s the case. It is also possible that something similar to my experience is happening – the final decisionmaker just doesn’t have the right feel for the candidate and decides not to make the offer. Three times is a lot but it’s not THAT many.

    Would love an update!

    1. I should really pick a name*

      That sucks, but I wouldn’t call it ghosting if they said they’re going in another direction. Ghosting is when they just disappear without saying anything.

  22. Umami*

    I’m so sorry this is happening! As a hiring manager myself, I try to be very clear about next steps, especially with finalists, and I hope I never imply during an interview that an offer is forthcoming. That would be an unusual circumstance, even if you are the last person interviewing in that round, because of course there needs to be discussion before an offer can be made. But I also do not reach out to finalists who aren’t selected because in my organization that is an HR process. I only contact the finalist and make the offer, and they are supposed to notify everyone else. It’s terrible that no one is letting you know that you aren’t the final choice. I would definitely respond to a candidate if they said they haven’t heard anything at all.

  23. Fluffyfish*

    Aside from what everyone has said about references or background checks, and while we believe LWs ( and I do absolutely believe this is her assessment of what’s happening), since it’s happened 3 times recently that is a little bit odd. Not impossible of course. but enough to wonder what else is going on.

    So I wonder if there is any possibility OP is misunderstanding? There is a difference between YOU will be getting an offer and we will be sending an offer this week/tomorrow/what have you. The latter being sharing the next step in the process, albeit in a way that is easily misinterpreted where a reasonable person would take it to mean they were in fact getting an offer.

    Even in 1 or two cases, because again flat out ghosting 3 in 3 months is not a typical result.

    1. MicroManagered*

      We just made basically the same comment at the same time. I don’t think you are off-base :)

  24. MicroManagered*

    OP I can’t help but wonder if you are misinterpreting how close to a job offer you were. I have heard of (and have had) interviews where you meet the higher-ups, and they talk about the job with you as if you have it, or explain next steps as if they will definitely be happening for you. So they might say “you can expect an offer by X date” as if you are getting the job, but what they mean is that they plan to notify whoever gets the job by that date.

    It’s a crappy way for those employers to conduct their hiring, and if you’ve been interviewed you should at LEAST get a rejection email or something, but the only thing you can do is adjust your expectations next time and not get your hopes up so high until you really have an offer.

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I think this could be it MicroMangered”!
      They mean, “candidates can expect an offer by X date” but what they say is, “you can expect …”

    2. WonderWoman*

      Agreed. But OP should still receive some communication that they *didn’t* get the position then. But we know how increasingly common it is for employers to ghost if they aren’t moving forward with someone, so that could be what is happening here. :(

    3. Liz T*

      Ah I should’ve skimmed better, just made a nearly identical comment. Yes, thoroughly agreed!

      I’ve definitely had CEOs talk to me like the job was mine, but I knew not to take it seriously until I heard from HR. They might be vibing on you in the moment, but then they look at the other finalists and realize they want someone else for some other reason. And most of them just don’t view it as their job to deal with the unpleasantness of turning you down–they do the “fun dad” thing and act like you’re the best thing since sliced bread, then let an admin be “mean mom” and actually reject you.

      The fact that LW’s getting this far and not getting the rejection emails, is, of course, appalling.

  25. eveningsummerbreeze*

    >If they had made you a formal offer…a legal concept called “detrimental reliance” could potentially be in play…However, those claims historically have been difficult to win…

    People often say “it would be difficult to win” when litigation is brought up, and maybe I’m just vindictive, but the fact that the company would have to go to the trouble to defend itself in a lawsuit, regardless of whether I won or lost, would bring me a lot of satisfaction.

    1. Liz T*

      But if it’s just a nuisance suit you won’t be able to get a lawyer to take the case on contingency. You’d have to pay your lawyer if/when you lose.

      1. pancakes*

        More likely you’d have to pay them at the outset if you want them to work on a matter they don’t think is winnable. There’d have to be some reason to put the work in, and something to outweigh the risk of them being sanctioned for it. There are some reckless lawyers, but those aren’t the ones who are good at what they do, and spending one’s own money on a lost cause doesn’t seem all that effective in terms of vindication – you’d be hurting yourself.

    2. KatEnigma*

      And then when potential employers Google you, that vindictiveness is made crystal clear, and you would be lucky to even get an interview moving forward, for fear of being the one who is sued next time.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I would not necessarily call it vindictive. Decades ago when I was young I had two bad experiences I still remember.
        1. I interviewed for a job at a restaurant/bar and the manager told me he would hire me and I should call at a certain time for details. When I called he pretended he had never said any of that.
        2. Interviewed for an entry-level office job and the manager indicated he would hire me. When I called to follow up he wouldn’t take my calls.
        It’s not vindictive, it’s a normal response to be extremely angry about being treated this way. They should be held accountable but sadly, the current system doesn’t have a way to do that. :(

  26. Liz T*

    I’m a little confused as to whether you actually made it to the offer stage (i.e. received an offer), or just made it to the final round. It’s pretty unusual to receive an offer IN an interview with the exec you’d be supporting. Is it possible you’ve actually been a *finalist* three times, and the executives have kind of garbled their messaging about timeline? (Like, maybe “you’ll receive an offer tomorrow” was supposed to mean “an offer to whomever we choose will go out tomorrow.”)

    In my experience, the offer usually comes from an admin or HR (usually whoever did your first interview). I would never take an executive’s word about hiring, tbh–they usually aren’t involved enough in the logistics of these things to know exactly what they’re supposed to say. That’s part of why they need EAs!

  27. I just work here*

    I also agree. People hear what they want to hear. The OP may actually be blown off at that stage. And not hearing it that way. When I am not interested in going forward with a candidate. I’d say” we’re interviewing through Monday. Then we’ll be making a decision by end of next week.” Then. In the middle of the week I’d send rejection letters.

  28. Michelle Smith*

    I’m so sorry. This ghosting has happened to me before. I was terrified about resigning from my last job because I didn’t trust the offer even after I’d gotten it via email and accepted. Based on the horror stories I’ve read, the offer isn’t really real until you’ve started working there. It’s just too much.

  29. CLC*

    Yeah this may be a references/background check issue since it has multiple times at the end of the process.

  30. GythaOgden*

    The last few months has been incredibly turbulent in economic terms. The jobs appear, but during the hiring process, something — increased prices, a sudden drop-off in demand, whatever the next shock is — happens to derail the whole financial foundations of the job you applied for.

    You’re incredibly unlucky to have had this happen, but the crapshow that is 2022 economics is leaving many companies with an inability to plan. Unless you’re unemployed right now, I would be inclined to ride out the summer and see where things go over the winter. With the current war, pitting a major food exporter against a major energy exporter, the uncertainty and cost of fuel (on which lots of businesses depend) is only going to get worse. Seriously…everyone is hurting now, just like at the beginning of 2020.

    Unless someone topples Putin, this economic climate is not something anyone can ignore, whether they’re looking for a job or a pay rise or whatever. If corporate belts have to tighten, then you’re going to come across as tone deaf (or much worse) if you start trying to fight these ghostings.

  31. Erika22*

    I’m not sure if anyone else has mentioned this, but are you sure you’re not having a technical issue with your email? If either any documents coming via DocuSign or other secure doc software, or funky attachments/links are meaning emails are being sent to your junk or caught elsewhere so they’re not hitting your inbox, or any mailbox rules you’ve forgotten you set up that have sent it elsewhere? I know you’ve reached out and not gotten a response, which suggests it’s not technical since presumably you were communicating via email before, unless your email server ended up blocking the company email domain after receiving what was deemed a suspicious email? It’s a long shot but three ghostings in a row (whether you receiving an offer was misinterpreted or not) is very strange!

  32. toolittletoolate*

    One thought is the type of job that you have been applying for. It’s been the executive that has told you to expect an offer. It is possible that the executive is not actually the decision maker–depending on the type and size of the company you are interviewing at, the EA’s may actually be hired and managed by someone other than the executive they support–in a sense they are ‘assigned’ to the exec. You might have gotten caught in this kind of scenario. Be sure you know who the decision maker actually is.

    I agree with others who have suggested also checking with your references and googling yourself.

  33. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

    I feel you, OP. I was a final candidate for a senior position at a major company whose work is all about job seeker and hiring best practices…after the final interview, I was ghosted for a month. I emailed my recruiter at one point…nothing. Finally, I received an automated “how was your hiring experience with X Company?” survey…I was extremely honest on it. A few hours later I got an automatic rejection email, not even a message from my recruiter. It’s incredible how even the industry leaders have so little regard for candidates!

  34. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

    Yeah, this — the piece that seems most strange to me is the recruiter isn’t responding. Recruiters reject people all the time and have no qualms about communicating it.

  35. Elizabeth West*

    One company’s CTO scheduled a Google Meet interview with me for a different job than the one I applied for, did not show up, and never responded to my concerned email. AFAIK she is not dead, just rude.

    There is no excuse for ghosting in a professional context. I understand not responding to 100+ applications, although that’s easier than when people sent out actual letters (nowadays you can just do an email blast). But when people take time to prepare for an interview, even a phone screen, and the employer just blows them off, that employer sucks.

    I pretty much put companies that do this on a naughty list and never apply there again. If they ever contact me later, I will say no and tell them exactly why.

  36. His Grace*

    If three companies have ghosted you, I would start looking into what your professional references are saying about you. If the references are the issue, you may want to find other people who are willing to advocate for you. I would also look at Glass Door and see what others are saying about the hiring (oh, excuse me, talent acquisition) process for these companies in particular. The comments there may give you some insight into if this is a “them” thing. But whatever the root cause is, ghosting a candidate is a horribly inconsiderate thing to do and if any of these companies come calling in the future, I wouldn’t fault you for sending a polite, but frosty “no, thank you”.

    All the best to you in your job search, and I hope it’s successful.

  37. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    I strongly recommend two things….

    1) NEVER regard an “employment offer” as existing until you receive a letter in the mail OR a phone call offering it OR an e-mail you can print out. A lot of weird things can happen after you leave what seemed to be a great interview session with an expectation of a job offer. Look for the best BUT prepare for the worst.

    2) If you can find it – the 2010 movie “The Company Men”. It’s available on NetFlix, and several other streaming sources (Google it) but it serves as an excellent tutorial as to what can happen to you during a job search cycle, especially if you’re unemployed. A lot of what happened to Ben Affleck’s character in that film happened to me during my unemployment period. And a whole lot more bad stuff. I suggest seeing the film, not as a downer, but to prepare yourself for an “anything can happen” adventure.

  38. What a way to make a living*

    I’m so sorry that this has kept happening, and that you’re taking it this hard.

    This may be way of base, but there’s something about the extent to which you seem to feel this really deeply, and personally, to the point that you compare it to PTSD, does make me wonder whether there’s any chance you are coming off slightly intense? Somewhere during or after the phone conversations where they suggest an offer will come, could you be somehow sending a signal to them that you’re going to bring a level of emotion, or drama, or difficulty into the working dynamic?

    I’m not saying they’re right to feel that way but it does seem worth considering. Three ghostings is extremely frustrating but to experience PTSD levels of distress suggests something else is going on with you. I honestly don’t think that would be the standard response to this. It seems to be bringing up something else for you.

    If you’re investing a lot in these jobs, or inadvertently communicating a level of intensity that you don’t realise, that could be part of this.

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