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I applied for some IT position (remote work) and got a call from HR. It went well, I went to the second round, met the team, that went well too. Third round was practical work, I did well there too. The final round was a call with the department manager. It was just a pleasant conversation and he told me the next step is that they will send me an offer. He warned me that this usually takes a while, but I should receive the offer eventually.

Sure enough, a few days later, HR mails me that they are preparing the contract (since the feedback from the department manager was good) to sign and if I could tell the last salaries, so they can give a relevant offer. I did so.

Then I waited for almost three weeks and decided that something is off. I mailed the HR and a few days later I got the response that the department manager now wanted to hire someone overseas and that they will not move forward with my application.

I am not sure how I should feel about this. Is this a standard practice? What is a standard response in such a case?

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    @GregoryCurrie Seems to be typical in India workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/17159/… Apr 12 at 11:27
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    @BernhardDöbler Strange place. Is it likely to be India given they are looking to hire someone overseas? Apr 12 at 11:38
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    @user_000 doesn't sound like their priorities changed... sounds like their priorities became visible when they saw the salary the poster would expect. Sounds like the Poster dodged a bullet.
    – WernerCD
    Apr 12 at 20:57
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    " if I could tell the last salaries" don't do this, at least not for western countries. Your current salary isn't important, what is important is the salary for the new job.
    – Polygorial
    Apr 13 at 8:23
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    While "hire someone overseas" usually indicates "for less money", it's possible that your salary range was actually below what they were expecting and led them to believe, based on your salary, that you didn't have the experience/knowledge/whatever that they thought you did. Whether or not this is a fair way of judging you, this may be what's happened, and I've heard of it happening to others.
    – FreeMan
    Apr 13 at 14:15
103

It's impossible for us to know exactly what occurred.

What we do know is that every sign seemed good, until the point where you provided your previous salaries.

It's possible they realised they could not afford you, and instead elected to look elsewhere. In the future, make sure that salary expectations are managed from the start - just in case this was the cause.

Alternatively, it's possible you were an excellent candidate, and they were very certain they were going to hire you, but an even better candidate was interviewed later.

Or senior management wanted to hire from overseas.

Or the budget for your role was significantly reduced.

Or there was a screw up.

It's impossible for us or you to know. I recommend you email them back to confirm, ensuring the HR person has a very clear understanding that you were expecting an offer based upon previous discussion you had. They may volunteer some additional information.

But in any case, you just move on, and remember that until you have a signed offer, you don't have an offer, and should continue looking.

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    IMO it would be fair to ask in that followup call for feedback about why they decided not to go forward. The worst they can to at this point is say "no" and you may actually learn something helpful. Apr 14 at 12:21
  • Also, just because you have disclosed your salary expectation right from the start does not mean they will agree to it. I got into the same situation as yours before, and I told them my salary expectation from the first contact. The company retracted the offer at the last minute anyway. Things happens. Just move on.
    – Farid
    Apr 14 at 14:30
  • Or they decided as his salary was too low, that he was inexperienced for their needs. Yeah, there are obtuse people out there Apr 14 at 20:51
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I am not sure how I should feel about this.

Disappointed.

Is this a standard practice?

That depends what you mean by "standard".

It's uncommon, but not unheard of. Stuff happens.

What is a standard response in such a case?

The only thing to do is to move on and find your next job.

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    I've several times ended up with signed offers and between offer and start dates some level of senior management changed. That typically spells death to any in-flight offers. Apr 15 at 3:58
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It happens for all kinds of reasons all the time.

I thought I had a "job in the bag" once about 8 years ago, went out of town for the weekend, and came back to a voicemail saying that the person who was going to send me the offer had been fired.

Until you have a SIGNED JOB OFFER on your desk, the only thing you really have is a prospect.

There is no rhyme or reason to it. Their intentions changed. You were no longer their best option. You handled it well.

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It's not "normal", but it's not unheard of.

Most likely, it has nothing to do with you.

There are any number of reasons why odd things like this would happen.

  • The company has shifted focus to off-shore options, and nobody told the hiring manager.
  • A company reorganization is ongoing and hit the department during the interview/hiring process.
  • Hiring manager didn't get authorization/funding.

and a whole host of other reasons, I've hit two bizarre ones in my life.

1)The union blocked me at the last minute.

2)What was supposed to be my first day on the job turned out to be a final, FINAL ambush interview, which I failed as it took me off guard entirely.

It's a terrible thing to go through, I've been there. Go forward, don't think about it too much beyond the occasional musing of what jerks they were, and how you dodged a bullet. It may not seem that way now, but I knew someone who actually started at a business and was laid off ONE WEEK into her new job. Keep the proper perspective, leave them in the rear view mirror.

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    @WernerCD I was furious, but maintained my composure, and the same agency that sent me there sent me to another job, which went from 2 months to FT perm, and I've been there since. I think I dodged a bullet. Apr 13 at 10:43
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    @WernerCD it happens. you can swear if you want to but it does not put food in the kids' mouths. you need to move on.
    – emory
    Apr 14 at 12:10
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    @emory exactly. Never take the nonsense personally. Apr 14 at 15:25
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    @emory on one hand, yeah... it's a big world with plenty of opportunities for a programmer worth a grain of salt... on the other hand, assuming it's your "first day" of your new job and it turns out you're still on the interview train? I'm assuming also you've put in notice for previous job, 2 weeks, etc and you're ready for your new job - with all the excitement and fear that comes with it. I could be wrong on some assumptions but the premise is the same... I might not curse as much as I make it seem I would but I would not be timid in my response.
    – WernerCD
    Apr 14 at 15:39
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    @WernerCD if like Old_Lamplighter you were unemployed at the time then it is not that big a deal. OTH if you left a great job then I hoped you collected a nice non-refundable signing bonus
    – emory
    Apr 14 at 17:06
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Not a standard practice, but it has happened.

Usually salary discussions should take place much earlier in the hiring process.

But, in case they did not, IMHO, any question from HR regarding the salary should be met with question in response - what is this position budgeted for?

2

I've been on another side of this, where the 1st pick didn't work out and I got called back after previously being turned down. There really is no rhyme or reason for some things, only circumstances that can change for nearly any reason.

It's likely not your fault, so move onto the next opportunity. This is one of the reasons why people on this stack say not to turn down other offers until you have something signed and finalized.

There's really no way for you to find out the real reason, even if you ask them. They'll likely give you a non-answer such as "We decided to move in a different direction." Different direction? Which one? What does that even mean? Hint: It means nothing, which is why it's their answer.

As other Answers said, it's not normal, but it happens. Yes, it's oftentimes because of a decision made by upper management. One job I got as a 2nd choice was because the first pick failed the background check. Something they did put them on an internal "blacklist", but that wasn't determined until after they were offered the job. And that's really rare. Someone has to do something really bad, like deliberate harm to the company (such as corporate espionage or physically attacking a co-worker), for that to happen. If you haven't worked for this company before or haven't hacked their servers, this probably doesn't apply to you.

I worked one position for 7 months before the company decided to get rid of all the various contract companies and consolidate them to one. Unfortunately, I and several hundred others lost our jobs. The new company was supposed to hire the people already working the position, but the caveat was that it was at a lower technical level, so most of what we were doing was now going to be done by someone else anyway. I'm sure there were a few people in the hiring pipeline when that mess happened and it wouldn't surprise me if they ended up in the same situation as you. It wasn't anything any of us did, just that someone thought they could save money by getting rid of the various contracts. I guess they didn't understand they were going to cost the company all that domain knowledge. But I'm getting off topic here.

In the end, you probably dodged a bullet. It doesn't feel like it, but if a business is going to do something like this, they may have a history of bad management. This can lead to all kinds of bad things. Or all kinds of bad decisions led to a decision to not spend money on you. As others have said, there's no way to know what's going on, so it's best to just move on.

And yes, I realize that won't make you feel better about the situation.

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I would feel nothing about this.

Contracts are committed when both parties have signed. Until that moment in time, you are in the negotiation stage. There is no phase where the contract is not signed yet, but it somehow is already legally binding.

This is why the standing advice is to never leave a previous employer before you have the signed new contract in your hands. The same goes for other contracts. While there are some special cases (in my country there are some kinds of contracts which are legally binding orally/by a literal handshake, but this certainly is not something to generalize), in general, until you have a signed contract in your hand, you should assume that there is no contract.

In some cases this is even more intense. For example, in my country, if I sign an insurance contract as a private person, I often have 14 days in which I can back out of the contract (due to customer protection laws). So as a company, I would do well to indeed assume that this could happen at any time until the 14 days are over.

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