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A month and a half ago I relocated to a new city about 2-3 hours away for my wife’s grad school program. I had a handful of successful interviews, mainly at employer #1 and employer #2. #1 was easily my top pick, but #2 got back to me basically the next day with an offer.

The problem was that the hiring manager for #1 was out of the office for two weeks immediately following my interview (I was aware of this beforehand) and #2 wanted my answer by the end of the week. I contacted the HR person in charge of the position at #1 and she said that they wouldn’t have a decision at least until the hiring manager was back in the office. She congratulated me and wished me luck and that was the last I heard about it – I was never really sure if they took me out of consideration or if I was never in the running to begin with. In hindsight, I probably should’ve just accepted #2’s offer and if #1 made an offer, I could break it off with #2. Declining #2 and waiting for #1 was never really an option, as my wife barely gets paid as a grad student and I wasn’t comfortable moving to a new city without something lined up.

So fast-forward a couple months, I’m working at #2 and it is a very poor fit for me. I saw that #1 has a posting for the same position on the same team, and I want to re-apply for it which leads to my main question:

Should I address the fact that the offer I took isn’t a good fit while applying or will that just come up if they decide to call me again? I also have the HR partner’s email from earlier, but I’m not sure if contacting her directly would be awkward or inappropriate (she is still the poster on the listing).

I feel like the interview with #1 went well – I felt good about the programming skills test and our actual interview went about a half hour longer than scheduled.

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    Possible duplicate of How long should you wait to re-apply to a company? – gnat Aug 20 at 19:34
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    @gnat I think that's asking a different question. I plan on re-applying soon, I just dont know how to address the situation or if I even should address it. – Sh'dynasty Aug 20 at 19:53
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    @gnat I think the difference in this post opposite to the question you reference is that Sh'dynasty never heard of company #1 again while in the other post the application was denied. – Bobstar Aug 21 at 13:23
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Your main question(s) were,

Should I address the fact that the offer I took isn’t a good fit while applying or will that just come up if they decide to call me again?

You likely won't need to bring it up. If it's a small company, they'll probably remember you. If it's a large company, they'll probably have a talent database that will remind them that you just applied.

The real question here is, how do you explain this? Because, if you're lucky enough for them to call you, they will almost certainly ask why you're re-applying after such a short period of time.

When answering questions like this, first you need to be honest. Interviewers can tell when you're trying to give a canned, expected answer. More than anything, doing that for a question like this just gives the impression that you're trying to hide the truth.

Of course, while being honest, you don't want to be ugly. In other words, you don't want to say things that will make you look difficult, or unemployable, or risky, or unskilled. So, think carefully about how you can balance honesty with a positive delivery.

Of course, you can always just give the generic, "it wasn't a good fit" - but given how unusually short the tenure was, interviewers are almost certainly going to want to know more.

Instead of saying,

The work is painfully boring

You can talk about what does motivate you. And, mention that you understand that any job will have some tasks that are boring, you were able to determine that your job with #2 lacked any tasks that were motivating.

Instead of saying,

I’m very isolated in my department in just about every way

You can talk about the kind of culture you find to be a good fit, and ask questions about their culture.

Instead of saying,

I didn’t want my entire job to be maintenance

You can talk about the reasons why "new" development work is exciting for you.

Of course, by giving honest answers to this sort of question, you're tipping your hand so to speak - you're giving them information which they may "use against" you in terms of not offering you the job. So, you may want to carefully consider which of these aspects you do address (even in the most positive light possible) and only mention the ones that are truly 100% dealbreakers. Because at the end of the day, if you give the impression that you will only work in a certain culture, or on certain projects, the employer might decide that doesn't fit well with them and your answer could be directly responsible for you not getting the job. Many people see that as a bad outcome, but based on your recent experience with #2, you will probably already realize that sometimes, not receiving an offer from a company that would be a bad fit is the better outcome.

  • I removed the info about why #2 was a bad fit, as I think it detracted from the actual question and did kind of give the impression that I would be negative about it if it came up. My question is more along the lines of physically how do I address the situation initially (i.e. do I bring it up or just wait and see if they bring it up, assuming they contact me at all) – Sh'dynasty Aug 20 at 20:52
  • Fair enough - I hadn't intended to imply that you would actually mention those things, but rather just give some ideas on the talking points. In terms of what you're clarifying here as your actual question, it will almost certainly be asked. if they call you - volunteering it before they ask won't really do you any good and may come off as you still being fixated on the issues you had there. – dwizum Aug 21 at 2:33
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From my HR experience I can tell most people are too nervous about switching jobs and calling to a company they want to work for. Don't make these calls bigger then they are.

I would be happy, and embarrassed, if a good candidate calls me with the message we forgot about him, but he is still interested. Think about the opposite, maybe company #1 is scratching their head how they could forget about that one good candidate...

So, make the call! You have terrible job to lose and a good job to win.

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