What does please let us know if you need a decision from us mean?
March 21, 2008 2:19 PM   Subscribe

[Job Interview Filter] What does "please let us know if you need a decision from us" mean?

So I had an interview a few days ago for what is more or less my dream job. I've been going to grad school and working part time and it has been very difficult for me to find a job for after graduation (which is approaching fast!). The job market is horrendous and this is the first interview I've had in six months. However, this place seems to be under the impression I am likely juggling multiple offers (the other candidates probably are) and asked several times how my job search was going, to which I responded that my current employer was interested in hiring me (which is true) and then quickly changed the subject. By all the interviews I was repeatedly told to contact them if I had to make a decision on another job and hadn't heard from them yet. They said they were going to try and make a decision soon, but given how busy they have been....

So is this them trying to feel out how sought after I am? (this isn't unheard of in my field)

Will not having a competing offer hurt me?

Should I try to get my current job to make me an official offer (even if I have no intention of taking it) so I can get them to make a decision?

Will pressuring them into a decision hurt my chances?

Or am I just reading way, way too much into this?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (14 answers total)
I think the company is taking their sweet time about it, but they don't want to lose you if another offer comes along with a short deadline. In other words, sometimes Company B will say, "Here's our job offer, please look it over and get back to us within one week." Company A wants to be notified if you're in this situation, so they can make their decision before they lose you to Company B. Company A definitely wants to avoid calling you two weeks from now with an offer and finding out that they waited too long, and that you've accepted another job.

Does that make sense? It's a little weird to articulate it. I don't think they necessarily want you to have a competing offer, but they certainly expect that you're interviewing at lots of places.
posted by muddgirl at 2:31 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

It sounds like they're worried you're using their potential job offer for leverage to your current employer. They don't want to be all set to bring you on board and then have you back out...it sounds to me like not having a competing job offer isn't going to hurt you here. You can be coy about it, but if they are concerned that you aren't serious about the job, it could backfire. If the job market is crap and you want the job, you should try to make your interest in them clear as possible.
posted by SassHat at 2:33 PM on March 21, 2008

I just went through this. I got an offer from Company A, and let Company B know. I think Company B planned to take a bit longer to decide, and had to regroup quickly to make their decision. They decided in my favor, and I am starting at Company B next week. I don't think they think badly of you if you don't have another offer, but a good company will want to do what's best for you as well as themselves.
posted by sweetkid at 2:35 PM on March 21, 2008

I don't see anything wrong with saying "I would appreciate a decision with two weeks", whether there is another offer to back it up or not. You're not willing to sit in limbo forever, right?
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:41 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

They like you but for whatever reason don't want to hire you just yet unless they think they are going to lose you to someone else. They'd like to keep their options open as long as they can. If they needed you to start SOON they would not be asking this. I've hired a lot of people in my life but I can't say I ever found myself actually saying this to anyone, so I guess I think this is a little odd. I do not think they are playing some game trying to figure out what their competition is however.
posted by thomas144 at 3:16 PM on March 21, 2008

I will offer up another possibility here from the ones given above. Sometimes it is clear to a company that a candidate is EXTREMELY interested in them, while they do not have those same feelings about the candidate. Usually companies will wait until an offer is made and accepted before they will notifiy all the rest of the candidates of their status. The person who said this to you may have sensed how much you liked this opportunity, knew in fact that you would not get this job, but didn't want to see you say "no" to someone else while you were holding out for an offer from a company that had no intentions of making an offer to you.

If I were you, I would make a call to the person who said this to you. I would tell them again how interested I was in the position, and ask them for some honest feedback regarding how good the fit might be for the two of you. If you get a general answer that could have been said to anyone who applied, I would suggest that you not count on an offer here. If on the other hand they say that they are extremely interested, yet not quite finished with their recruiting process, well then you are still in the ballgame. If repeated attempts to get through to this person don't work, then I think you also have your answer.
posted by LiveLurker at 5:11 PM on March 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'd just wait while occasionally checking in with them so they know you'd really like to work there. But since I'm killing time, here is a thorough over-analysis:

If the reason they said that is that __[they are doing what?]__ and __[you wait/don't wait]__ then they are likely to __[do what?]__. Is that strongly positive (++), slightly positive (+), neutral, slightly negative (-), or strongly negative (--)? (Totals are at the bottom.)

* They are trying to save $ by hiring you later / you wait / hire you later. (++)
* They are trying to save $ by hiring you later / you pressure them / look at their budget and maybe hire you but not if they can't find the money. (-)

* Think they can find someone better but are not sure / you wait / more likely to find someone better. (--)
* Think they can find someone better but are not sure / you pressure them / quickly decide whether or not they think you're good enough. (neutral)

* They are super-busy / you wait while letting them know you're very interested / think you're easy to get along with and hire you. (++)
* They are super-busy / you pressure them / make Senior Exec Suzanne call in even though she's traveling and it's totally inconvenient, think you're pushy and a pain in the ass OR grudgingly think "that's the kind of person who knows he has to be the squeaky wheel to get things done in our busy environment." Since you could show that you're a squeaky wheel without making them hold an emergency conference call, I'm listing this as barely negative: (-)

* They are waiting to hear back from someone else they offered the job to first / you wait / give the other gal the time she needs to decide to take the job OR to find a better job offer elsewhere and turn them down. (neutral)
* They are waiting to hear back from someone else they offered the job to first / you pressure them / pressure the other gal to decide quickly OR tell you "well, we offered the job to someone else, so yeah, it's probably not you" and then write you off and not call you back even if she turns them down. (- ? neutral?)

[unlikely] * They want to know if you have another job offer / you wait / they think you are not competitive. (--)
[unlikely] * They want to know if you have another job offer / you pressure them / they think you are competitive. (++)

So, listed in what I consider to be the order of how likely these things are, here are the totals:
super-busy ++
find someone better --
save $ ++
second choice (neutral)
do others want you? -- [unlikely]

Pressure them
super-busy -
find someone better (neutral)
save $ -
second choice - ? neutral?
do others want you? ++ [unlikely]

Looks to me like waiting wins. I'd wait, while expressing a desire for the position, and I'd check in with them regularly, so that they know that you're a persistent person who keeps track of outstanding issues and is proactive enough to get things done (not pushy, but almost). If you also give the impression of actively looking elsewhere, then you cover the "do others want you?" issue. The only reason not to do this if you think they're trying to find someone better. Anyway, you may disagree with assumptions I'm making, but you could just modify this approach to make your own decision.
posted by salvia at 7:58 PM on March 21, 2008

LiveLurker has clearly done this before. I'd go with his plan.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:59 PM on March 21, 2008

There are some places with complicated HR policies. I've worked at places where the time from interview to offer was measured in months (and, in a few cases, years) UNLESS the manager responsible for hiring spent a lot of time goading HR into doing its job.

We routinely warned candidates about this and fired up the HR cattle prod as soon as we had a viable candidate, but I can imagine that others in a similar position might just leave the task to HR unless it was likely that the candidate would give up and go elsewhere.
posted by brokengoose at 5:19 AM on March 22, 2008

Recruiting can be a pretty painful process, especially at large companies with multi-week processes and a largish number of candidates to go through. Even if they aren't well-qualified or even appropriate, internal candidates and those recommended by existing employees (think the VP of Muckity Mucking's useless nephew-in-law) need to be considered and worked through the process.

Under certain circumstances, the whole shebang can be expedited and one of those circumstances is that a good candidate is taking herself off the table and going to a competitor.
posted by cCranium at 5:20 AM on March 22, 2008

You are getting some pretty goofy advice, some of which my aging middle-manager brain can't even decipher, but the bottom line is if you want this job, why don't you ask for it?
posted by thomas144 at 7:05 AM on March 22, 2008

Follow up from OP
Thanks for all the advice so far. I think I should clarify a couple of things. First, the job wouldn't start for several months so saving money wouldn't be an issue. I've sent a thank you letter reiterating my interest in the job, so they definitely know I am interested. Also, I was told that if I hadn't heard from them that I shouldn't take that as a negative. So while LiveLurker's comment makes a lot of sense, that statement from them is giving me some ray of hope. Also, given how insanely busy they are (scheduling the interview alone was a nightmare) I'm hoping it's more of a case that they are busy. I should also say I sent them my resume months and months ago (not in response to a job posting, just that I would be interested in X job with them) and heard nothing until a couple weeks ago. So I hope the fact they held onto my resume for that long until they had a job opening is a positive. I am uniquely qualified for the position, even though I may not have the typical requirements (sorry I know I'm being vague). It's also a very small place, so I don't think there are any HR impediments. Thanks again for all the advice!
posted by jessamyn at 7:53 AM on March 22, 2008

Hiring is a big chore, and usually has to be done on top of whatever regular work those people have to do. So, you can see why they would put off making a decision until they have to, especially if it's for a position that won't start right away anyway. Also, the longer they can put off making a decision, the greater chance that someone better for them might come along. But in the interim, they don't want to lose the candidate they think is good enough.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:58 AM on March 22, 2008

I don't think you've said what sort of a company/institution this is, but I know that at the university where I went to school, it can take a month, or longer, *after* the department has made their decision, for the university to get around to actually telling the candidate they're being made an offer, and the department isn't allowed to tell the candidate they want to hire them in the meantime. (In the case of an office I worked in while I was a student, the department had made their decision, but then it had to go through Library HR, and then once approved by the library, it had to go to University HR. . . . It took over a month from the time I heard that the department had made a decision, to when HR actually hired the guy.)

So, it may be the case that "let us know if you need a decision from us" is not only code for "let us know if you need us to light a fire under HR's collective ass", but "we may be able to tell you our decision in confidence, hush-hush, under a table in a dark back alley at midnight if it'll get you to wait long enough for HR to get their asses in gear and actually be willing to talk to you themselves, but we're really really really not supposed to."
posted by FlyingMonkey at 6:29 AM on March 31, 2008

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