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I am graduating with an industrial engineering degree in May, and I got a job offer from a military branch up in Maine. The military flew me up to the base, and I just felt at home and like I could see myself working there long-term. I felt like I was a good fit for the team as well as the culture. However, I live in the South and my boyfriend lived across town. I rejected the offer just because it would be far away from him and I didn't want to leave. When I rejected the offer, the branch head told me to let him know if I reconsidered the offer.

Then, my boyfriend unexpectedly passed away a month later due to heart complications. I have been in a funk since he passed, and I would really like a change. I want to see if maybe they'd still be willing to extend the offer. I know I'm a good fit and skills match, I just don't now how to approach it. I've had several local companies that I had promising interviews with contact me and tell me they aren't hiring until business picks back up due to COVID-19. So, I'm honestly getting a little desperate for a job.

Update: I contacted this employer and he seemed really interested in having me back onboard! He's getting with the government HR(who are pretty slow,tbh) to see if they can re-extend the offer. Thank all you for your comments, they were very helpful.

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    "When I rejected the offer, the branch head told me to let him know if I reconsidered the offer." - suggests they'd even explicitly invited you to reconsider and get back to them, leaving an open line of communication available specifically for this purpose. – Steve Apr 15 at 13:11
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I am sorry for the loss of your boyfriend.

Regarding your job issue, there is no need for over-complication.

Just contact them and tell them what you told us. Normal English language should do it. Explain how the situation is now different compared to the situation some time ago, when you discussed the last time. Let them know that you are now ready to take the job, if it is still available.

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    Sometimes the simplest answers are the best. – Gregory Currie Apr 13 at 14:53
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    I'd add to this that not wanting to move away from your boyfriend who (presumably) had health issues is very reasonable. It's highly likely that they'll understand. – dbeer Apr 13 at 15:00
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    Thank you for your kind words and advice. I will send that off and let you know if I hear anything. I don't know if I've ever rejected a job before, so asking for it back is a really new thing to me. – Leanne Apr 13 at 15:05
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    @corsiKa: I understand you very well about "HR is not your friend" - been there, done that. However, we must remember that HR is a corporate unit, so they must be on the corporate side. Therefore, as long as one does not have a conflict with the company, HR has no reason to misbehave (unless there is something pathologic happening there). – virolino Apr 14 at 5:51
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    @virolino And, you know, HR are human beings too. The way people talk around here you'd think they were all hawkish vogons with no feelings and a psychotic demeanour akin to a cross between a lawyer, a vulcan, and a bad cop. Really, if there's a genuine issue with human consequences, they're just as human as everyone else and can be just as understanding. This is not to say that using good judgement isn't necessary, but I feel HR gets unfairly pigeonholed here sometimes. – J... Apr 14 at 15:35
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Being transparent and straightforward is all you need to do here. This goes for virtually every situation where your circumstances have changed and you're reconsidering a past decision. The key element is to explain why you've reconsidered.

In the case of pursuing a rejected job offer, that means:

  • acknowledging the reasons you rejected the offer
  • explaining why those reasons are no longer valid
  • highlighting why you'd now be excited to accept an offer (if it's still open)

The main reason you need to address your reason for changing your mind is that any hiring manager worth their salt will want to be sure that you're happy to accept the job. Hiring and training is expensive and managers expect people to stick around for a while. They generally don't want to hire someone who's not excited about the job or is likely to move on quickly when they find a better position. So if you can address those concerns, you absolutely should.

There are some reasons people have for not accepting an offer that make this harder. For example if you reject an offer because you expected a significantly higher salary, going back to accept it later is going to raise questions. A good reason to give then is that you had the wrong idea of your market value or that you didn't account for a lower cost of living. A bad reason would be that you've since been fired and are now desperate for a job. In a situation like that you may want to come up with alternative reasons even if they might not ring as true.

Of course none of that applies to your situation. How you explain it depends mostly on how comfortable you are with talking about the loss you suffered. A straightforward "I didn't want to leave my partner but he has unfortunately passed away." is fine. So is being more vague and instead referring to ties to your current location, a changing personal situation, losing a family member, ... The only thing you want to avoid is using non-answers that are (stereo) typical of candidates hiding performance issues or being fired. Ultimately this is just very personal so I recommend you find a way to word this that feels right to you. Some people are more comfortable talking about this kind of loss than others and that changes over time so it helps to have a sentence prepared to explain what happened and that either invites or discourages follow-up questions.

So that's the main message you want to bring. When it comes to the window dressing of how to put this all in an email, it's again pretty straightforward:

  • open with the usual platitudes,
  • explain why you're reaching out: to see if they might still be interested in extending an offer
  • explain why you've reconsidered (as per the above)
  • close by inviting a response from them via mail or phone as well as acknowledging that you'd understand if they're not able to renew their offer

As part of this I would also recommend mentioning the current COVID-19 situation. You shouldn't assume that every employer has instituted a hiring freeze but you should be prepared for the possibility that they have. Ignoring the elephant in the room isn't a major problem as it really won't impact whether the manager will want to extend an offer, but it shows a bit of extra professional polish and that's never a bad thing.

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First off I want to extend my sympathies with you, I'm sorry that you had to go through the death of a loved one.

I agree with the general consensus here that you should simply approach them and explain the situation, and I can speak to this from recent experience. I went through a somewhat similar situation last year when I was diagnosed with epilepsy and broke both of my shoulders during one of my seizures. During that time I was also in the midst of applying to a new job and while it seemed like a good fit, I wasn't in a good place medically or emotionally to be moving away from a stable job to something new. I told them that openly and honestly, and while they were disappointed, they understood.

A few months later the company I had been working at went through significant layoffs (most of the company in fact) and I found myself without a job. Since I was in a better place medically I reached back out to the company I had applied to and asked if they were still filling a role that I would be a good fit for. I told them what had happened, and that I was now in a good place to be able to work with them. They were happy to hear from me, and offered me a position right away.

I'm not saying that that will definitely be the same result for you, but I want to encourage you to reach out to them and be honest. People understand that life circumstances change, and generally respond well to honesty. If they liked you for the role before then they probably still want to hire you. They may not have an open position anymore so they may not be able to hire you, but even if that's the case they will know that you are looking to work with them if something opens up in the future.

Best of luck to you, I hope it all works out!

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  • Thanks for sharing your own personal experience with a similar situation. :) – V2Blast Apr 14 at 16:58

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