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Company Stringing Me Along?

Company Stringing Me Along?

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

March 03, 2010

A reader writes:

I interviewed with a company earlier this month and for the first time in the year I have been unemployed, I knew I completely killed it. I was myself, I clicked with the people, and the technical portions of the interview could not have gone any better. The next day, my feelings were confirmed when the head of their HR team called me to tell me that the team really enjoyed meeting with me, wanted me to know I was the clear “front runner” but because they were early in their interview process, they would have to get back to me in two weeks when the interviews concluded. She also asked if that would be okay with my time line, and of course I said yes, and hung up very excited.

Well, two weeks passed and no word, so I emailed her to see what was going on. According to her, the snow in the last two weeks has pushed back some of the interviews and they won’t be able to make a decision for another “few weeks,” yet she reiterated that I am at the front of the pack with regards to candidates, the team really likes me and she hoped that I could accommodate their timing.

Maybe it’s because I have had a lot of crushing disappointments this last year, but I don’t know if I can believe her. It seems (and this happened to me once before) that I am being strung along while they look for a better candidate. Am I paranoid or are my concerns valid?

I guess I feel like if I was truly the best person for the position, they would make me an offer ASAP, especially since they have two other positions open on the team, though in a slightly different role than the one I preferred (though I, and I assume all candidates, interviewed for both). Obviously there’s nothing I can do to speed up their process, but I am expecting to get an offer from another firm at the end of this week and while I am far less interested in that position, I have been unemployed for a LONG time and I don’t know that I can turn down a credible offer in the face of really great feedback with no clear action. What do you think? Am I being too anxious or could there be something to my paranoia?

Actually, there may be something you can do to speed up their process, but we’ll get to that in a second.

First, I wouldn’t assume they’re stringing you along at all. Some companies really take a while to move through the process. Some are just slow. Some have policies or conventions that require them to interview a certain number of candidates. And lots of hiring managers aren’t comfortable hiring a candidate right off the bat, even if the person is an obvious rock star; they still want to see a reasonable number of other candidates, because the responsible thing to do is make a good faith effort toward ensuring they really do have the best candidate, no matter how great you are.

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So while you shouldn’t count on this until you have an offer in hand, it doesn’t sound like there’s any reason to doubt that you’re in the strong position they say you’re in. I would never tell a candidate she was my front-runner unless she really was; you just don’t say that to people if it’s not true. It would be weird and gratuitous, like saying “I love you” to a date you’re not sure you even want to see again. Again, none of this is a guarantee — but they don’t sound like they’re intentionally stringing you along.

Now. If you do get another offer in the meanwhile, here is what you should do: Ask the company making the offer when they need to hear back from you by. Best case scenario, you’ll get a week — but be aware that a few days is not uncommon, so you want to move quickly. (And if they ask how long you need in order to make a decision, don’t ask for longer than a week; they’ll start questioning your interest level.) Then, contact the other company immediately. Explain that they are your first choice and you really want to work for them, but that you just got an offer that the clock is ticking on. If they’re as interested in you as they seem, they may expedite things so that they don’t lose you.

A variation of this: You can contact them right now, without the other offer, and tell them that you’re expecting to get one within days. That may get things moving too.

Good luck!

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