A reader writes:
I've been working in a freelance position that is project based for a few months with a medium sized company. They have been working towards hiring me on more permanent part-time basis. The position would include working on an event basis but also office hours, and include similar but not exactly the same work as I am doing now by completing projects for all of the various departments.
My boss said once I had "applied" and references were checked, we could go over any details and negotiate salary. "Applying" was primarily providing references and contact information online - no resume, no cover letter. I received an offer letter with a lower salary than I am willing to take and no details about the position.
This offer was sent from an HR representative, and I sent an e-mail back asking about negotiating salary, receiving a job description, an outline of any benefits, the parking situation, and mentioned I would discuss a schedule with my boss. I tried to write the letter similar to examples I found online, as a proposal and to be further discussed.
The HR representative then forwarded my letter to my boss and one of the directors of the company. I was told by my boss that the director does not want to hire me as they "were appalled that I would email the HR person rather than talk to my boss directly" and I was "too demanding."
They were terribly surprised when I said with all other previous jobs I've been offered, I have been asked to send these requests directly to HR. In fact, on the online form sent to "accept" the job said to email the HR person with any questions. After sending the email to HR (in which I also asked if any of my questions should instead be directed to my boss), I even emailed my boss telling him I had sent an e-mail to HR with these questions.
Is it bad form on the part of the company to get angry and suggest not hiring me over asking to negotiate salary, obtaining a written job description and a more detailed schedule?
They are still willing to offer me the job, but when we sat down to talk about a schedule and job description, I was given general "ideas" of what they thought I would be doing and the hours. Essentially "playing it by ear" once I start.
It's a new position that only one person before me has held (for a month) - so I understand they don't know exactly what will happen. The company and position title would look impressive on my resume, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to live up to expectations that no one seems to agree on or is willing to put in writing. Is this a red flag? How would you turn down a job offer on something like this?
Um, wow. I don't know how badly you need to accept a job right now, but unless you're desperate, I'd probably run in the other direction.
They were "appalled" that you asked perfectly reasonable questions to someone who it was perfectly reasonable to ask them to? Even if there were something unusual about you directing those questions to HR -- which there isn't -- their aggressive attack in response is really weird and inappropriate.
And you're "too demanding"? What are these people going to say when you ask for time off or a raise or a new computer?
These are not good signs.
I'm not as bothered by the fact that the job is still something of a work in progress, but you'd want to make sure you were reasonably aligned on how your success would be judged and what their overall goals for the position will look like. Yes, they're playing it by ear a bit, but they still must know what they'd be happy with at the end of a year and what they wouldn't be. And if they don't know, now is a good time for them to figure it out with you.
I think I would say to these people something like this: "I'm really interested in this job, but there's something that I'm unsure about. I was surprised by the reaction when I emailed my questions to HR. I thought my email was pretty reasonable, and I'm trying to understand why you were appalled and found it inappropriately demanding. I'm a big believer that cultural alignment is important and can predict a lot about a candidate's chances of success once on the job, so I'm hoping you can tell me a bit more about why the company reacted the way it did so we can figure out if I'm the right fit for you or not."
And then really listen to the answer. If you're not comfortable with the response, you should have no qualms about telling them that you're turning down the offer because of that.