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I was unhappy at my old job so I conducted a brief job search in which I got a very good offer quickly (and therefore didn't pursue other opportunities).

Shortly after leaving the old job (but a few weeks before the new), I discovered information about the new job that materially changes the nature of the position; had I been aware of this I would not have applied at all. I'm now in the awkward position of either accepting a position I don't want or applying to other positions with the "unearned disadvantage" of being unemployed.

Under the assumption that I turn down the offer and look for work elsewhere, how should I explain this to prospective employers? Should I forestall negative assumptions by bringing it up myself, and if so, when?

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You are already unemployed. Unless the reason is legal, why wouldn't you accept the job, and start looking again? –  mhoran_psprep Nov 18 '12 at 12:49
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It's an option, but I'd much rather work at finding something else directly. I don't want to go into a job wanting to leave it as soon as possible. At some point I need to explain that behavior to a new employer. –  Anonymous Nov 18 '12 at 13:29
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up vote 9 down vote accepted

Depends on how long the break is. Typically employers only raise a brow if you were sacked from your last employment which isn't the case here (right?). So if anyone asks why the gap in your resume (which honestly a couple of weeks isn't terrible), you could give any number of valid reasons for the wait :

  1. You wanted to evaluate all your options before entering another long term commitment (which isn't far from the truth)
  2. The truth, an offer was extended shortly after you left your position (which makes you look desirable) but the employer withheld vital information from you until the last minute and you had to pull back
  3. You wanted a break to catch your breath after X number of years with the last shop

I wouldn't worry though, as long as you didn't leave destruction in your wake on your way out from the last position, no one should harass you for a couple of weeks of unpaid vacation

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I wasn't fired, and they told me to keep them in mind if things didn't work out. But the problems would be the same so I'd rather not try to go back. –  Anonymous Nov 18 '12 at 13:28
    
@Anonymous, that's all well and good then. The point is you have nothing to worry or lie about to whoever hires you next. Relax and put yourself out there –  kolossus Nov 18 '12 at 16:44
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This will depend very much on your field. My daughter, who is a chef, left a job of many years to take a new one that lasted only a few weeks before she realized she needed to leave. She continued to use the same resume, changing let's say " Sept 2009-present" to "Sept 2009-Nov 2012" if she were searching right now. This wasn't a lie. Not one place asked "are you employed right now or not?". She never listed the few-weeks place on her resume.

What I'm saying is that you're the one who feels you are applying with the unearned disadvantage of being unemployed. Places that are considering hiring you will not know and don't need to know. Your current employment status is really only going to matter when they ask how much notice you will need to give at your current employer. You can answer that based on how much notice you have left to work - just say 2 weeks for example - or even say "well, the way things are with them at the moment I think I could join another firm on as little as a few days notice" and don't explain why. (Of course, if you'd like a few weeks to catch your breath, and can afford a pay gap, go ahead and say 3 weeks or whatever other number you want.)

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