Why Job Offers Go On Hold and What You Should Do about It

December 9th, 2011

It’s a mistake even experienced job-seekers make. An offer gets put on the table, you accept and–nothing happens. Days, weeks, even months go by and you don’t hear back from the company that once said, “You’re the right person for the job.”

Why does this happen?

According to recruiting experts, there are several reasons, including:

Budget priorities change. These days, most businesses operate on limited or restricted budgets. If a new initiative emerges or the company faces an unexpected crisis, resources once reserved for new hires can get shifted elsewhere.

The process takes time. You may be primed and ready to go, but the same may not hold true for the business you plan to work for. Approval of new hires often must come from numerous layers within the organization, an obvious time-consuming process. This gets more complicated if high-level managers–with barely a minute to spare–must sign off before a job offer is made.

The internal candidate wins out. Some companies make a show of interviewing external candidates, when they really have an internal person in mind. Or it may not start out that way, but an internal candidate throws her hat in the ring and suddenly everything changes. You may be the last to hear when such things happen.

The company is looking ahead. In today’s highly uncertain economy, businesses aren’t hiring as much as they might want to. But they still want to keep their pipeline full of eligible and qualified individuals, so that when things turn around, they can hire new people quickly and efficiently. Sometimes job interviews take place and tentative offers are made, when in fact the time to move forward just isn’t right.

What’s important to remember is, it’s not necessarily a case that they’re just not that into you.

So what do you do? Again, experts urge job-seekers to keep all of their options open.

In a situation where an offer has been made or appears imminent, try to stay in touch with your contact person at the company while the process plays out. Take time to learn more about the business and related industry trends. From time to time, drop an email to your contact attaching articles you’ve read about the industry, along with your comments or suggestions. And if you have gaps in experience or knowledge, now’s the time to plug those gaps so you appear even more qualified later on.

If you’re intent on pursuing a position that’s been put on hold, always be professional about it. No one responds favorably to constant and haranguing voice-mail messages. Instead, keep your contact brief, upbeat and confident. You’ll demonstrate your ongoing interest while at the same time come across as someone with a genuine interest in following through.

Most importantly, keep your job search going. The more time that passes with no new developments, the greater the chances are that it’s just not going to happen. You can’t afford to delete your resume, file all your contacts or abandon your network. Keep these activities in motion, so you’re not caught unprepared when the expected doesn’t happen.

Remember, nothing is certain until you have received a job offer in writing, signed and returned the document, and actually been on the job a week or two. Everything else is “maybe” or “maybe not.”

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