Ask the Headhunter: How to handle an employer giving you the job offer runaround

It's been a looong day!

When faced with delays on a job offer, it may be that just HR is screwed up, or it may mean the entire company is a mess.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: I interviewed for a job and 10 days later the company called me and made a verbal offer and followed up with a written offer that same day (a Friday). I signed and faxed the offer letter back the following Monday. (The start date was a week later.) That Wednesday I received a call that my background info had not come back yet and because it was a holiday week, we would have to push back the start date for a week.

Then they said they needed a copy of my diploma, which they had never asked me for. So I faxed that over promptly. I called them a few hours later to ask what was the next step. The HR person who originally made me the offer said he had to speak with the other HR personnel to make sure nothing else was needed — and my start date would be moved back another week. Two more days have gone by. I have not heard anything.

Now I feel like I am getting the runaround and I feel like they no longer want to hire me. May I add that the first offer said my pay would be $15 an hour/$32,000 annually. Well, $15 an hour does not add up to $32,000 annually, so they made a typo. A revised offer letter shows $31,200, which does equate to $15 an hour. I questioned them on it but I didn’t get a response. Here I am still waiting for a third start date. What should I do? Should I make this a legal matter? Thanks.

Nick Corcodilos: Unfortunately, I hear so many stories like this: A company makes an offer, sets a start date, then works backwards to check references, do background checks and all the stuff that should be done before an offer is tendered.

What does all this mean? This is a totally inept HR department that should be fired wholesale.

I doubt you have any kind of legal recourse, though you should talk to a lawyer if you believe otherwise. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t give legal advice, but I suggest you do take a look at what a lawyer has to say about a related matter: “What To Do When Your Job Offer Is Cancelled.”) Have you researched what it’s like to work there or spoken to any other employees? It may be that just HR is screwed up, or it may mean the entire company is a mess.

I’m sorry you’ve been put through such nonsense. You must use your own judgment and decide whether you think anything will come of this. My guess is that you’re wasting your time.

If you are willing to risk ticking them off, what I would do is send an email to the hiring manager and the HR executive at the company. Explain that you were ready to accept the best offer they gave you with the original start date, but because their offer was not bona fide, you cannot afford to keep waiting.

“If you can deliver a written, signed, bona fide offer to me by date X, I will accept the position – but it must reflect an accurate salary that was promised of $32,000. If no offer is delivered by that date, then I withdraw my application because I am considering jobs at two of your competitors.”

That last part might be true – and it might get them off the dime.

Situations like this really suck – there’s no polite way to put it. Actions like this reveal that the company is disorganized and that it behaves with no credibility or integrity. Personally, I’d never talk to them again. But that’s up to you. I’m the last person to suggest that anyone should walk away from an opportunity if they need to pay the rent and put food on the table. But please ask yourself: Do you really expect these guys to do what they said even after you start working there?

I wish you the best, and my best advice is, ON TO THE NEXT.

This article might be helpful: “I’m still waiting for the job offer.”

Dear Readers: Have you ever had a job offer pulled out from under you? What did you do? If you were this reader, would you keep waiting for a resolution? Would you even accept an offer at this point from this employer?

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

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