How do I handle this interview/job offer situation?
July 3, 2015 10:39 AM   Subscribe

I just went for an interview but they took it a lot more seriously than I did and now I have to tell them that I don't want the job (even though I am starting to be in need of it). How do I handle this?

I've been working as a freelance web developer for the past ~9 months. I'm getting some clients intermittently, but I'm really only advertising on Craigslist and some local bulletin boards so I'm not getting a whole lot of interest. I'm really not feeling up to going to public networking events yet due to depression and anxiety type stuff.

I'm also seeing a therapist twice a week for said depression and anxiety type stuff and I'm really hesitant to take an inflexible job and give up my ability to go to appointments. However, insurance is expensive and so is therapy. I'm running out my savings account and I'm starting to get worried. I've started to look for jobs but I'm only finding a certain type of 60-hour-week high pressure tech ones, and very little programming stuff that's part time. I really want something part time because I do still have some freelance projects that I need time to work on, and I need to be able to go to appointments.

I saw one listing a few weeks ago that looked good because it was a walk from my house, but I hesitated because it was a full time job and it sounded really rigid. I had a panic about money and applied for it yesterday, hoping it would take them a week or two to respond, but I heard back within an hour, saying they had already tentatively offered it to someone but liked my skill set better and wanted me to come in for an interview. I initially did not want to go at all but discussed it with my therapist, and she suggested I go in just to feel it out and find out if they'd be more flexible.

I just went in for the interview this morning. They didn't mention at all that they had tentatively offered it to someone else, and they made it sound very much like they wanted to hire me immediately. I would be the only remotely tech-fluent person at this company and they seem very driven by Google search results. Like, half of my interview was them asking me how to get people to find their websites on Google and how to improve their rankings. I can tell it's going to be the kind of company where they only really care about getting site visitors, and I'm a programmer, I have no desire to do marketing or spend all my time improving their traffic.

They said they were very happy with me and sent me an official application/background check/references to fill out. I'm panicking because I really really don't want to do this to myself (get myself stuck at a stodgy company that isn't even paying me very much and is going to make me miserable, and not be able to go to therapy on top of it), and I also don't even have any current references to send them, but I'm kind of running out of money and new freelance leads just aren't happening. But I could probably find another full time job fairly quickly, as there are a bunch of more technical ones that I haven't applied to yet... but it wouldn't be down the street from my house. I would also be turning this job down when they may have just rescinded an offer from someone else just for me, which just feels awful. The emails I'm getting are so friendly and optimistic and I don't know how I can turn them down when I just did this interview as though I was actually interested even though it was more of a "feeling it out" thing for me.

How do I deal with this?!
posted by ghostbikes to Work & Money (25 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
You always have the right to say no. "After some consideration I have decided this opportunity is not the right fit for me at time. Best wishes."
posted by PercussivePaul at 10:44 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

"Based on our conversation during the interview, I don't think this is a good fit for me. Good luck with the rest of your search."

You don't owe these people anything, and it's unlikely that they rescinded the other offer yet -- they would have just hemmed and hawed and delayed the other person.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:48 AM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

Take the job for awhile. You need the money, and if you're battling depression and anxiety you're currently not in the best shape to freelance. Freelancing involves having a tough skin in places regular jobs do not. The job may not be your dream, but it sounds like a quick read of "SEO for Dummies" and you can sling the jargon without too much hassle. Meantime, keep the CV dusted off and apply for things you do want. Given it's a web-based job, after you've shown you can do their job you'll have every argument to do some of it from home, on which you can progress to working up applications for jobs you prefer. Win win.
posted by zadcat at 10:48 AM on July 3, 2015 [16 favorites]

I would also be turning this job down when they may have just rescinded an offer from someone else just for me, which just feels awful.

Let go of this guilt. I don't think you actually know this to be true and, if you do, it's on them for being hasty. If you can find another full-time job fairly easily, so can the person to whom they previously offered the job.

Have you considered that they may be trying to figure out how to hire you both? Perhaps your part time preferences would be perfect for them too... it doesn't hurt to ask if that's still a possibility for you.
posted by carmicha at 10:49 AM on July 3, 2015 [6 favorites]

I would send them an email that says:

Hi X:

Thanks so much for the interview yesterday and for your enthusiasm. Unfortunately, I am going to have to decline to progress this as, while the role is great, on reflection it is not a good match for my current professional path.

If you would be interested in working together on a freelance basis to cover some of the same responsibilities we discussed in the interview, of course I would be happy to discuss that option with you. Best of luck moving XYZ Corp forward regardless.

Many thanks,
Ghost Bikes

This would potentially plug at least some of your freelance hole!
posted by DarlingBri at 10:49 AM on July 3, 2015 [21 favorites]

Another option is just to request the amount of money that would make this worth it to you, or a guarantee of flex hours that would let you still get to your appointments. The worst thing that happens is they say no... And thus, problem solved either way.
posted by permiechickie at 10:52 AM on July 3, 2015 [17 favorites]

If it helps you to feel better, for them to turn on a dime and hire you instead of their initial choice shows that they are desperate, and desperation causes companies to heap a ton of awful responsibilities on people who aren't qualified to handle them all alone. It doesn't sound like an opportunity to be excited about.

I went through a similar process recently (liked the job, but didn't love it) and ultimately told them, "Sorry, but I've decided to purse another opportunity." As kind as they were in the interviews, I didn't hear a word from them after I sent that email. Not very nice after all, eh? All you have to do is say "thanks, but I can't" and the situation will handle itself.
posted by theraflu at 10:58 AM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

First, you are in no way whatsoever required to take a job that you don't want. This especially applies if you're carrying the extra burden of anxiety.

The job interview goes both ways. They interviewed you, liked you, and at some point after that, asked you to complete some paperwork that does NOT seem to be part of a formal job offer just yet. You, in effect, interviewed them, wrestled with your conflicting feelings, and your gut says No right now.

I was approached for a full time job in my field a few years ago. I really wasn't sure about leaving freelancing, but they liked me, the work seemed interesting, and the money was awesome. But it was also a terrifically high pressure job and I didn't feel up to it, so I declined.

They came back to me a couple of years later and tried again to hire me in a very similar role that was less pressure-filled. I really liked everyone I met. It seemed like a wonderful place to work. But I still didn't want a full time job on site. This time I took DarlingBri's great approach: Can we make this a contract position with some flexibility? Can we make this 60% full time job with the ability to take on a small number of other clients? After some back and forth, they finally said no, we'd like to hire you full time -- and with great regret, I had to say no, this isn't a good fit. Again.

So as DarlingBri said, go back and ask for exactly what you want. Listen to them, and decide if you are willing to take what they have on offer. If you think you can tough through a few months or a year of full time work that will give you money and freedom, great, but it is perfectly OK to look for some of the other opportunities you mention in the close of your question.

Good luck!
posted by maudlin at 11:09 AM on July 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

I'm in the camp that if you're not feeling up to building a consulting business, and given that "insurance is expensive and so is therapy. I'm running out my savings account and I'm starting to get worried," then taking this job while you get your depression under control could be a good move. You can tell them you have standing appointments and negotiate a salary that feels appropriate. (This is speaking as someone who found a full time job a huge relief after consulting when I was mildly depressed.)
posted by salvia at 11:22 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

You tell them you need a month or two of flex time to wind down your freelance clients, and that you don't work more than 40 hours per week, and that the money they're offering isn't enough. In other words, tell them what you need to take the job. Negotiate.
posted by rhizome at 11:32 AM on July 3, 2015 [10 favorites]

Have you ever done a Ben Franklin Balance Sheet? Try it! I use it all the time to help me make up my mind and come to a decision.

I think the proximity of the office is a very big deal, since a quick walking commute would give you much more time to schedule your therapy sessions. Insurance and a regular paycheck might completely cancel out the negative aspects of the job. And you can always quit!

I also think you are not considering the strength of your negotiating position when you're looking at a job that you're not sure you want. Makes it MUCH easier to ask for accommodations, etc, on the front end. If you don't feel comfortable with negotiating, then go back to your balance sheet to help you decide.
posted by raisingsand at 11:41 AM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

thanks everyone.
a couple more details: it's a nonprofit and they said they can't offer to pay me any more than the hourly rate in their ad.
they also said they don't allow remote work, it is an in-office job only. The offices aren't that great either.

I'm still leaning towards saying no, but now i'm less sure. i just dread having to go to a job like this every day. this is why i'm trying to freelance in the first place, i am miserable in office jobs. but it's there, and if I can't step up my freelance game, I'm going to need it. ugh.
posted by ghostbikes at 11:47 AM on July 3, 2015

Why not try negotiating some more with them--if they can't pay more, then shorter hours or work remotely for part of the day, etc.? IF they want you badly enough, they'll probably figure out a way to make it work. And if not, then you don't take the gig.
I wouldn't stress quite so much about the awful office job part if you don't have the freelance stuff nailed down. I'm a career freelancer, and I'm always working or looking for work--it's not like I can knock off at 5:30 when I have multiple clients with multiple deadlines. Last summer, I took a job that required me to be in the production office, all day, every day (but paid well for it) and it was sort of nice to just come home and not have to keep working after dinner.
posted by Ideefixe at 12:02 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am a hiring manager for a web development firm. They didn't rescind an offer to anyone else. Unless they're blazingly incompetent (always a possibility, but not likely) - they have talked to a few candidates, you were their first choice, and the other ones are in a holding pattern until you say yes or no. An interview, even one ending in an offer, does not create an obligation.

And it sounds like you really dislike these people and are just thinking about using them, honestly, so do them and you a favor and turn down the offer.
posted by randomkeystrike at 12:11 PM on July 3, 2015

walk away.

can you imagine in ten years regretting that you didn't take a job with an SEO-obsessed company that didn't pay very well and forced you to work in their offices when you desperately didn't want to?

you are selling your time to your employers/clients. that is something you can never get back. other opportunities will become available.

my partner is a freelance web dev. he hems and haws over things like this too, and i always tell him the same thing: don't sell your time for a little bit of money when you know it will make you miserable.
posted by hollisimo at 12:18 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Due to other interests, I would only be available for 3.5 days a week. If that's acceptable to you, at the same salary and officially at 0.7 FTE, I would consider the offer."

This way you get some cash, you get to see your therapist, and you get to work freelance.

If they can't do that, you get an out. They might take some time to think about it, buying you some time. If they do do it and you take it, make sure the 0.7 FTE is written into your contract.
posted by porpoise at 1:20 PM on July 3, 2015 [9 favorites]

Talk to your therapist! You've got some stray emotions tangled up in your decision that shoukd be rational; that feeling that you're somehow obligated to take the job, for example. The therapist can help you sort out what's relevant and what's not.
posted by galadriel at 1:23 PM on July 3, 2015 [3 favorites]

You are still posting as if you have only two options. Several people have suggested a 3rd option. Is there a reason you don't seem to want to consider that?
posted by DarlingBri at 2:04 PM on July 3, 2015 [2 favorites]

it's a nonprofit and they said they can't offer to pay me any more than the hourly rate in their ad.

Well, that's assuming it takes you X hours to do the job. It doesn't seem likely that they know that, unless someone good just left. If you can get it done while working 80% as much, they can increase the hourly rate by 25% and hit the same budget. At a certain point, if they're well run, they'll have to consider payscale equity issues, but 25% might be within the range of what they could do.

You're including benefits in your "are they paying enough?" calculation, right?

DarlingBri, I'm confused, so maybe OP is too: what's this 3rd option? It seems pretty binary to me: work for them (under the best deal s/he can negotiate) or don't work for them (and seek consulting clients, including possibly them, though if they won't let the person work from home, I doubt they want a consultant instead, but it doesn't hurt to try).

I'm still at my original opinion, which is, if you're depressed and running out of money, any job is likely preferable to no job. But it sounds like you really don't want this, so maybe the best move really is to focus your efforts on building your consulting effort instead. There's certainly no obligation.
posted by salvia at 2:24 PM on July 3, 2015

DarlingBri, I'm confused, so maybe OP is too: what's this 3rd option?

Negotiate. Suggestions have included negotiating for a less than full time role or to suggest taking the job as a freelancer.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:43 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

To spin off of randomkeystrike's point -- if they "tentatively offered" it to someone else and then rescinded it, you do not want to work for them, because they will do a similar thing to you at some point. That's how they treat people, and that is not how they should treat people.
posted by Etrigan at 3:38 PM on July 3, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you don't want to get stuck, but need some cash flow, can you take it on a contract basis? Like negotiate a 3 month or a 6 month contract?
posted by vignettist at 3:40 PM on July 3, 2015

I'd negotiate for what you want. Even if they say in their ad what they are willing to do. If you really don't want the job what could you lose by demanding flex or part-time, and the pay you want? If they say no, then that was easy! If they say yes, then take the job, save up money and plan to quit as soon as you can to get COBRA (you are in the US?) while you launch your freelance career.
posted by Toddles at 4:02 PM on July 3, 2015

Well, you have a choice to make -- will you put in the work to advertise/market as much as you need to make your freelancing sustainable or will you keep doing the minimum there and let it push you into taking a job you don't really want out of desperation? I mean, it's not quite that black and white (there's some middle ground, and there are entirely different jobs), but pretty close.

Would taking this job part-time work for you? If so, negotiate there. It can buy you a little more breathing room to get your freelance business on its feet.
posted by ktkt at 5:41 PM on July 3, 2015

I'm really hesitant to take an inflexible job and give up my ability to go to appointments

From experience, flexibility to allow healthcare appointments falls so easily under "reasonable accommodations" that the employer would probably have difficulty arguing for why it wouldn't be possible. A letter from your doctor (who probably has experience writing such letters) saying something like "ghostbikes is under my care for an ADA-qualifying disability; I request that you engage in the interactive process as necessary to determine what reasonable accommodations will make it possible for ghostbikes to perform the jobs requirements, such as schedule flexibility to allow attending healthcare appointments up to several times per week" would probably take care of it.

Obviously that's not the only factor you're weighing in deciding whether to take the position, but don't let it be the thing that stands in your way.
posted by Lexica at 10:15 PM on July 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Are there rules for coin choice in returning...   |   Help me plan the best road trip ever Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.