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The Interviewer Said I Have the Job, But No Offer Has Appeared

Dear Evil HR Lady,
I'm currently unemployed, but I interviewed with a past colleague heading a new company department. I was told after the interview that "they wanted me" and I just had to talk to a couple of other guys. At that interview the guys seemed like they were indifferent. They were preoccupied and knew little about me. After the interview, I was told by HR that I was it and they stopped looking for others. I was also told that although I would start as a Project Manager, that would be fast-tracked to Associate Director.
I would be contacted that evening or the next day. Two days later, I finally make contact and things have stalled. They have to assess the skills of ALL of the candidates to determine the right mix. And they thank me for my patience.
They know I am looking at another company and ask me to keep her informed so she can keep the team informed. A couple of days later I get an update that they should know more about next steps this Wednesday. I am wondering are they considering another candidate OR are they considering a restructure of the department to take advantage of getting me or am I not going to get the role due to extenuating circumstances?
What's the best play?
Personally, I think the best play is the 39 Steps. I swear I've never laughed so hard in my life. But, let's stop talking about the theater and talk about what you should do here.

First, some background. You interviewed with a former colleague. Great job on the networking! Really, honestly and truly. The only problem here is that either your colleague doesn't have the authority to make the final hiring decision, or your colleague is a wimp who didn't want to tell you that he couldn't hire you, so he's slinking off into the sunset letting others do the dirty work. I can't tell from here.

Actually, I confess, there is a 3rd possibility--there was a position, they did want to hire you, and now that role has changed and you may not be the right person after all. It happens. Sometimes, the hiring process is not smooth. In fact, sometimes, it's a complete mess.

They could have more candidates. The uninterested people you interviewed with could have opposed your candidacy. The position could be changing. It's all possible.

Because you have a former colleague that recruited you in the first place, I would call him up and ask him what the status is. If he hems and haws and says things like, "I'll have to get back to you," then don't count on the position. If he says, "Gosh, everything is stuck on the VP's desk, waiting for approval and he's on vacation," then don't count on the position. If he says, "I'm not sure where we stand, but I'll contact HR and see what the hold up is," then don't count on the position.

Do you notice a theme here?

I'm not saying anything bad about your colleague. I'm just saying that if he wanted to hire you and if he had authority to do so you'd already be hired. Because it's obviously not all up to him (or it is up to him and he's holding out for someone better), he can give you some insight, but he can't guarantee you'll get the job.

You have other companies that are interested in you. Great! Pursue those as well. If you get a job offer from one of those, and it's satisfactory, take it and withdraw your candidacy at all other companies you've applied for. Why? Because it's polite and leaves people feeling positively about you. And, from a personal note, you don't need the psychological torture of getting a job offer after you've already started your new job.

And one more note, if the original company comes through and offers you a job and tells you that you'll be fast-tracked for a higher position, don't count on that higher position coming through. I'm not saying that it won't. I'm just saying that if you won't be happy in the job offered, don't take the job. You cannot be sure that any future position will become available. There are too many variables at play here. Most managers can't predict next week's cafeteria offerings, let alone how the company will be structured in 6 months. You may truly be fast-tracked, but you may also find yourself at a dead end.

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar, Flickr cc 2.0
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