A reader writes:
I have a question about what I should do after, I feel, I have been lied to in my job search.
I applied for and was interviewed at a local university. During the interview I was unable to meet with the head of the department because she was recovering from a surgery. The next day they set up a telephone interview for me to have with her because she was unable to meet in person. At the end of the phone interview, she said: "We are very impressed with you, I would like to tentatively offer you the position providing your references check out" (well that is pretty much what she said). Then she continued to say she would call my first two references that were not my current supervisor, work with the university to put together a job offer, then she would send me the offer, if I accepted she would call my current supervisor and if everything checked out, I would be hired. I was really excited!
I provided her with all my references knowing they would check out. Two days later, a Friday, she emailed me to say she had not gotten a chance to call my references, but would call early next week. Two and a half weeks went by, one of them was during a huge snow storm, and I decided to follow up to see if she was able to contact my references, etc. I know these things take time.
She answered that they had decided to hire someone else who had a different skill set then me. I was angry, I replied and told her I was under the impression I had the position contingent on my references; I asked if she had contacted them and if it was something they said. She replied and said it was not that at all, they were still interviewing when she had talked to me and thought the person they hired was a better fit. She then said everyone really liked me and I should continue to apply to jobs in their department.
I have not followed up yet. I know I should not think I have the job until I have an offer and was prepared for some possibilities, but not that they were interviewing other people still! Should I follow up with her? Is this normal, should I get used to it and I actually have no reason to be angry?
Ugh. It's true that you shouldn't count an offer until you have it writing.
She was sloppy in how she handled this though. She was sloppy in her language when she let you think the job was yours, pending a reference check, and I can't believe that she didn't apologize profusely to you when she then had to deliver a different message later on. Your account here makes it sound like she was weirdly cavalier, like she thought it was no different from any regular job rejection. I really, really don't like that.
(Plus, what's up with her not even bothering to tell you until you called her to check in? I am not a fan of this woman.)
In response to your question of whether you should be angry, I'd say that you don't get anywhere by being angry in a job search. Take in all the information you're receiving about an employer treats people, but don't get angry. Use that information to make good decisions for yourself. Maybe in this case you decide that this woman is flighty and you wouldn't want to work for her. Or maybe you decide this was bad luck, or even a miscommunication, and that you're open to future jobs with them.
And always, always assume you don't have an offer until you're reading it in writing.