How do I get them not to hire me without getting them to fire me?
April 9, 2013 8:07 AM   Subscribe

I want to withdraw from consideration for a new full-time position at the company I'm temping at. How do I initiate that conversation? If the leader at this company asks why I want to stay on as a temp instead of taking a full-time position what do I say that will not burn bridges when the actual answer is "You're a bad boss and you should feel bad"?

I'm working as a sort-of temp, sort-of freelancer on site for this company. It's a 1099 situation (in the US that's an independent contractor agreement) but it's functionally a temporary employee situation. (This is not a question about how the IRS defines such things, I know what their criteria are and I know that from the IRS's perspective I'm actually an employee.) The company is creating a full-time job which is essentially three jobs rolled into one, because the scale of their operation is not large enough to warrant three full-time positions for the separate jobs. The temp/freelance work is doing what would be the most entry-level component of the full-time job they are creating.

They need me more than I need them. The idea of showing up and logging a bunch of hours is pretty attractive, but if it doesn't work out I'll be OK.

The company is using these temp/freelance engagements to evaluate candidates for the full-time job. I was told explicitly that if I didn't end up with the full-time position for any reason (my choice or theirs) they would still be able to engage me on the freelance side to help clear their backlog of work. They have not been providing tasks that deal with any but the entry-level aspect of this job. They've already burned through a bunch of people whom they have ruled out, and they are now under a lot of pressure to fill the position. They are, to invoke the immortal words of Adam Ant, desperate but not serious.

After being there for a few weeks I have determined that their workplace culture is not healthy and that I would be miserable working there full-time. Their executive decision-making is sabotaging their ability to hire for the new job, and in my opinion they have a culture where the person who takes the full-time gig is virtually guaranteed to fail.

I could just keep doing what I'm doing and then say "no thanks" if they offer me the job, but they are now asking me and the other temp/freelancer (who I guess I'm supposed to be competing against for this job) to do consulting-level work to define their SOPs, protocols and workflows for the nascent department. These tasks are actually defined in the new job description as duties belonging to that job. I think it's a very poor way to handle things, but that's not really relevant. It might be a test as part of their evaluation, or it might just be another manifestation of the bass-ackward way they do things around there. In any case, I don't want to participate in that part of things because a) I don't want the full-time job, b) it's not an effective way to do what they want to do and c) my rate for such consulting would be three times what I'm making as a temp-lancer doing the entry-level work.

So I want to gracefully but explicitly take myself out of consideration for the full-time job without destroying the possibility of continuing to work as a freelancer.

1. How should I tell them to stop considering me for the new job? Do I take the exec aside and just tell her?

2. What do I do if she asks me why? I can't really be honest because the answer is "You're a bad decision maker who is making your own problem worse instead of better, you behave inappropriately and your work culture is sick, but I think I could tolerate being a grunt here for a while." What can I say if asked that will not sound like total BS, but will not burn the bridges I want to use to get to work?
posted by under_petticoat_rule to Work & Money (13 answers total)
If you're a freelancer, you can say that your commitments to other clients/projects means that it wouldn't be possible for you to give a full time position the sort of commitment and attention it deserves. You can mention that you love working there and wouldn't ever want to commit to something within this company if you couldn't give it your best effort.
posted by eisenkr at 8:15 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

1. Yes, just tell the exec in an email.

2. Don't overthink it. In the email from 1., just say that you appreciate the opportunity to continue to support the organization in a freelance/temporary capacity, but you have other commitments and are not looking for a long-term full-time employment.

They're not going to take this personally. You're a temp, a free-spirited vagabond. You're not like the rest of us office drones. Turning down the full-time gig is not going to read like turning them down for the prom. You're on a whole different employment track.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:19 AM on April 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

At the very most, I might consider saying something on the lines of, "I don't think it would be a good fit." If they press, you could say, "The temporary position works well for my current situation and that wouldn't be the case for the full-time position." The missing subtext here, of course, is that it wouldn't work well because the place is a disaster.

If you don't want to participate in the consulting level work, either turn down those additional tasks or let them know what your consulting rate would be (and make it so high as to be "worth it" to you).
posted by Betelgeuse at 8:20 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm unclear whether you initially said "yes I want to be considered for something full time", or you didn't and this is all from them. If this is all from them, then you are perfectly within your rights to say, if they approach you about whether you're interested in going full-time, to say that no, you'd rather stick with temping.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:25 AM on April 9, 2013

Best answer: I would wait for them to make an overt move before telling them no thanks, using a script like those above.

As for the consultant-level work, I would tell them my rate for work like that is higher than the entry-level work. If you really don't want to do it, make it much higher.
posted by ottereroticist at 8:32 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm with the whole, "I'm a freelancer, I'm not looking for a full-time gig" line of patter.

As for working with the definitions, etc. Tell them, "Oh Gosh, that's totally different from the scope of work that I'm doing for you here. My rates for that are $XX."

If you want to beg off, just say, "Frankly, I'm not in a position to take that on right now."

You are right to see the red flags, and to run.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:36 AM on April 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also mention that you don't want to waste their time considering your application. See what a nice person you are?
posted by theora55 at 8:40 AM on April 9, 2013

I'm a big proponent of keeping my options open. I agree that saying "Thanks, but I'm not/no longer looking for full time work." but you might want to add in "currently" in there. I say this for the friend of mine who kept repeating that to eBay until the finally strong-armed him and then they went public...
posted by plinth at 8:41 AM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've been on the employer side of this, we have a great freelancer who declined our offer of a full-time permanent position, largely (I think) because she has other clients & other unrelated gigs. We were disappointed, because she is very good, but we certainly didn't axe her, and as it turns out, even after we hired a full timer, there was still some work for the freelancer. If the employer is sane, they'll understand. But that's a big if...
posted by mr vino at 8:47 AM on April 9, 2013

Years ago, I was unable to get a full time job to carry me over the summer till I moved to go to grad school ...I managed to get a job and when they told me I seemed overqualified for the lowly position I told them i was a writer and looking not for advancement or for promotion but just for a steady weekly income. They hired me pronto. At summer's end, i told them personal problem and resigned.
posted by Postroad at 10:08 AM on April 9, 2013

I've had people withdraw from competitions before. They simply sent emails that said "Please be advised that I wish to withdraw my name from the competition for X position. Thank you."

If anyone asked why you're withdrawing your name you can say, "A full-time/permanent position doesn't fit well with my current life plans."
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 1:40 PM on April 9, 2013

Tell them your rates for the consulting level work. Don't say anything about a permanent job unless they are asking you direclty if you're interested,then use the line about it not fitting with your plans, but happy to continue temping.
posted by canine epigram at 7:28 PM on April 9, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Your comments have been a big help. Many of you provided similar answers, but I marked ottereroticist's as best because it summed things up so concisely. Plus, awesome username.

Now if I can just manage to keep my mouth shut and my head down I might be able to bank some decent cash....
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:41 PM on April 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

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