Job hunt fallout - is this situation recoverable or do I need to move on?
September 25, 2011 5:02 PM   Subscribe

How do you ask for a job after rejecting it the first time?

Is this situation recoverable or do I need to move on? I am a senior engineer, and started strong in my job hunt two months ago. My experience opened a lot of doors, and I have had a lot of interest from employers. One in particular was an attractive position at a small company that would have required uprooting, moving to another city, in a different industry.

To make a long story short, I turned down this company as there were other prospects that looked more attractive. Unfortunately, the other prospects have fizzled out, and I'm rueing my early rejection of the first company. I'm having an informal conversation with the hiring manager today, to discuss something unrelated.

In retrospect, I should have handled the process more elegantly, but didn't, and am afraid that I've lost some credibility in the way I handled it. For example, I took extra time to consider the offer, then told them that it just wasn't the right fit, and rejected the offer hastily. This was met with an icy reception by senior members of the team, and they've since moved on in looking at other candidates. I have a good relationship with the CEO, but can't think of a way of re-introducing my interest that won't get blocked. I realize I lost a lot of leverage in negotiation as well. I think it will be tougher for me in my day-to-day work because people will wonder about why I rejected the company in the first place.

What do you think, Mefites? Is there a way to pitch my interest that will mend bridges? How do you convince people that you've had a change of heart, that doesn't make people questioning your judgment? On another note, the company culture is a bit more cutthroat than I'd prefer, and should I take their handling of my rejection as a signal that it's probably best to have walked away from it all?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total)
I have a good relationship with the CEO, but can't think of a way of re-introducing my interest that won't get blocked.

Don't mention the first rejection. Keep it simple, something like,

"I keep coming back to how much of a good fit I'd be with your company, and was very impressed with the associates I met and the culture the company projected. I really feel as if it would be a strong, long-term fit for me. Is the opportunity still available?"

Businesses aren't petty and strong engineers are in demand. I think you get some (some) leeway in the social graces department as you're an engineer.

Just remember, you weren't rejecting a date to the prom, you were exploring opportunities and things didn't quite line up correctly. The worst they can do is say no at this point.
posted by geoff. at 5:14 PM on September 25, 2011

Geoff is right, but depending on what you mean by "icy," you may have been lucky to escape. When a company can't even be professional in the recruitment process, when they should be do everything possible to make a good impression, that's a HUGE red flag that working there is probably a nightmare.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:18 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]

Everyone involved will recognize that you're trying to salvage a mistaken rejection here, so anything that smells of trying to gloss over that ("You know, on second thought, you guys are awesome!") will likely get an even icier reception.

I'd be very direct and upfront about what happened: At the time, you thought you had a better option that you wanted to pursue, but it didn't happen, and you handled turning them down badly. Be humble--it's obvious to everyone what's going on. Man up, admit it, and ask to be reconsidered for the position. If they're not grudge holders, they may actually admire your forthrightness. Be prepared to discuss what made the other option better, in terms that don't denigrate the smaller company.

As a hiring manager, my concern would be that you're only taking the job as a stopgap until another better offer comes along. You need to find a way to reassure them that you're considering their position as a serious one to which you'll really commit yourself.
posted by fatbird at 5:18 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

It certainly won't hurt to ask, politely. But, expect it to be a lot rougher then it was, and those in charge of hiring may well pass you over for someone else equally qualified.

But, there is no harm in pursuing it. State something along the lines that you had reservations about the moving part, but really liked the company, which is what made the decision so hard the first time.

good luck, it's not an enviable situation to be in.
posted by edgeways at 5:19 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

I agree with geoff, except to recommend that you DO briefly address your initial rejection, just as you mentioned here. A little humble goes a long way. Keep the conversation focused on what you guys could build together in the future, not on the past.
posted by pomegranate at 5:20 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

This may be a naive suggestion, but is there anyway to approach it by stretching the truth a little - tell them that something has come up in your life that has opened up the possibility a permanent move to the city where they are located, and now you're wondering if the opportunity to work with them is still available - framing it as if you rejected them earlier because of life logistics that have since changed? This might help reassure them that you didn't reject them because of the company, and that you're not just looking for a stopgap job.
posted by stray at 5:52 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm not sure I understand what you said that was so bad. Did you actually heckle them or did you just turn them down?

I guess saying "it's not a good fit," well, why would they hire someone who doesn't think they'll fit in, so maybe they have a point there which requires you to backtrack and say "um well actually it is a good fit because this has changed", as stray suggested.

Even so, it's a bit odd that their response would be "icy". Companies turn down hundreds upon thousands of people a week; if they can dish it out, why can't they take it? They'd rather be the dumper than the dumpee?
posted by tel3path at 5:18 AM on September 26, 2011

I'd say that you've been thinking about the opportunity and you've been able to make some changes that make the company a good fit with you. Or something like that - vague enough to let them feel like you didn't reject them because they weren't good enough or whatever. You can always fall back on how you couldn't really swing the move but now you can. If anything, the extra time you took may work in your favor in terms of circling back.

I'm not sure you want the job though. I get that you want *a* job, but I'm not sure it's this one. Company culture is a big thing that doesn't seem big until you get into a situation where you realize that it's a big deal because it's a bad match. A bad environment can make every day unpleasant.

Are you making a hasty decision here too? I would take the time to think through why you want this job in particular before you try to go get the job back. There's a reason you rejected it in the first place, you know? If they were really crappy to you after you declined the job, that seems off to me.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:04 AM on September 26, 2011

I like how geoff is advising to approach the situation.
posted by BuffaloChickenWing at 7:25 AM on September 26, 2011

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