I turned down a job I'd accepted. Should I contact the hiring manager?
December 21, 2016 2:49 PM   Subscribe

I work in a smallish industry where everyone knows each other. I recently applied for a job at a competitor, accepted it verbally, but was then offered a counter from my employer, which I decided to take (essentially because they offered me a promotion to a level I realistically expected to achieve in 2-3 years time, plus more money than new job).

I know the hiring manager at the competitor organisation pretty well and really like him. Our organisations work together a lot on projects and I probably see him every couple of months and email him at least once a month about various stuff.

I wanted to tell the hiring manager myself, but the recruiter said he'd rather do it (I was totally honest with the recruiter and he understood why I made the decision). I don't know how the recruiter relayed the message to the hiring manager, but recruiter came back later and said the hiring manager felt a bit angry and let down, especially as he'd bent over backwards to accommodate my requirements with the contract (I did ask for a bit, but wasn't that demanding). He said the hiring manager was too busy to speak to me but may give me a call in the new year.

I'm not sure how best to approach this now. I really don't want to burn bridges, personally or professionally - I realise I will never be offered another job by this organisation and that our relationship will inevitably suffer a bit but I'd like to minimise this and we do need to continue working together. All my instincts say drop him a line to thank him for the offer, briefly explain my decision and the fact that it was difficult to make, and acknowledge that I've given him a headache he really doesn't need at a difficult time of year.

Do you think that would help in any way, or could I do more damage? Would it be better to let the dust settle and wait for him to call me?
posted by Britchick35 to Work & Money (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Writing him a brief note is a good idea. Writing him a brief note wherein you explain all the compelling reasons you made this difficult decision is a bad idea. It will simply come across as, "gee I am sorry I gave you my word and then broke that verbal commitment and didn't stop to think how it would affect you, but see it turns out it was best for me to back out of that commitment so no hard feelings amirite?" Writing him a brief note wherein you simply acknowledge that you backed out of your commitment and that you apologize for any inconvenience or problems your reversal caused is a good idea. Do NOT include justifications or excuses. Just own what you did, apologize properly, and move on. Hopefully he will forgive you and you will be able to work together again in the future on mutual projects without hard feelings.
posted by TestamentToGrace at 3:01 PM on December 21, 2016 [19 favorites]

Keep in mind as well that the recruiter might be embellishing the story. By accepting the promotion with your current employer, you also cost the recruiter their fee. Speaking from the side of the employer, I have had words from my own mouth completely bastardized by recruiters before. It wouldn't be the first time it's happened.

There is every chance in the world that your hiring manager acquaintance is let down but ultimately OK with your decision, and it's the recruiter who's saddlesore and giving you static by proxy.
posted by phunniemee at 3:25 PM on December 21, 2016 [14 favorites]

Honestly sounds like the recruiter is being emotionally manipulative, don't let him make you feel bad. Small industry or not, this is business. A manager getting mad (if he really was mad) is immature too. A good manager thinks: shoot I didn't get that candidate, what could I have done...

A note is nice, to keep future doors open, but don't let them make you feel bad, what you did was totally above the line.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 3:35 PM on December 21, 2016 [9 favorites]

The recruiter is full of shit. Next time don't let anyone else deliver your messages.

Yes write the note! Leave out the details, but definitely write the note.
posted by jbenben at 3:51 PM on December 21, 2016 [6 favorites]

Definitely write the note. I might also hand-deliver it with a nice little gift like scotch, wine, fancy chocolates, etc. Give the gift in private, don't wave it all over the office though. Alternately, if you can find a way to hang out with the hiring manager, make it happen, especially if you can buy him a drink and hang out a bit. No harm in making a little extra effort to smooth things over!
posted by pseudostrabismus at 4:10 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Absolutely contact via a note. Seconding what TestamentToGrace mentioned; state what your decision-making was and apologize. The sooner the better. Let him know you are open to talk later at his time.

You can't speak for the recruiter's words or actions, only yourself.
posted by mountainblue at 4:23 PM on December 21, 2016

DEFINITELY reach out. I did what you did once, and two weeks later, received a call on what was supposed to be my first day, wondering where I was. Recruiter just never relayed my withdrawal of acceptance and tried to blame it on me. Some recruiters (#notallrecruiters) can get really petty if they feel cheated out of their fee. They get nothing if you don't start. But that's how the cookie crumbles. Don't feel bad! Call the hiring manager and mend fences as best you can.
posted by pazazygeek at 4:25 PM on December 21, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's not clear to me whether this was an outside recruiter or the internal recruiter at the company. If the latter, I think you can take the recruiter at his word. If the former, you may be dealing with a disgruntled recruiter who may be embellishing things, but you may not. Since you can't know for sure whether you're getting the whole story, you should probably assume the hiring manager is, in fact, a bit miffed and proceed accordingly -- that is, absolutely send a note. Agreed with others that you should not try to explain your decision, though - but do apologize.

However, do NOT send scotch, chocolates, flowers, or anything else with the note, or try to hang out with the guy - that's pretty far outside the norms and will just send up a bunch of red flags about your professionalism, etc.
posted by devinemissk at 5:32 PM on December 21, 2016 [7 favorites]

Send your acquaintance a brief email along the lines of "Bob, I wanted to reach out personally to apologize for the trouble I put your hiring group to. I genuinely loved what I heard while interviewing for Company X and was excited about the offer; but things on my end wound up changing in a way I hadn't anticipated. If I think of someone who'd make a great match I'll send them your way*. Thanks again and best wishes."

Do not send gifts or attempt to hang out.

*don't say this if this could be interpreted as a conflict of interest with your job
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:37 PM on December 21, 2016 [9 favorites]

Don't feel bad, don't send a gift (!?), but do reach out.

"Hi Bob, I wanted to reach out and thank you again for the offer. I'm sorry that we weren't able to work something out and for the late-breaking change at the end. I was very excited about the idea of working for Inintech and with you personally. Unfortunately, the offer I received here was too compelling to pass up. I really appreciate all of the time you put into the process and wish you the best in finding a great candidate. Thanks again, and happy holidays. - You"

If you guys were semi social buddies, you could throw in "Maybe I can buy you a drink one of these days to make it up to you," if it feels right. Good luck!
posted by salvia at 8:03 PM on December 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh geesh, do not show up with a gift. Send the note, absolutely.
posted by Bretley at 8:34 PM on December 21, 2016

Definitely send a note, directly to the hiring manager.

FWIW this is also something I went through this year. In my case the "recruiter" was internal HR and I knew them both through our shared network. The hiring manager was a great guy, one of the best interviews I've had. They immediately came back with a counter-offer, which I gently turned down. They're still in touch a few months later.

Also FWIW? Have you got your current place's offers in writing with a clear timetable? I did that, and they reneged on it without saying anything (which is clear because of the timetable being past due and having had an annual review that was more like a vengeance opportunity on their part). Another offer came from elsewhere, basically a dream job of the realistically inspiring sort. In large part because my network is strong. Everyone knows each other in my corner of IT in France.

Get your current place's offer in writing before sending that note to your hiring manager acquaintance.
posted by fraula at 3:17 AM on December 22, 2016 [4 favorites]

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