52

After my interview with a very large company, I received a call telling me that I was being offered employment, followed by a written offer ... followed two days later by a letter thanking me for interviewing and wishing me success elsewhere.

How do I know which is correct?

  • 12
    Seems to me the best and easiest thing to do is ask them. – Keltari Sep 22 '15 at 16:54
  • @Keltari: Agreed, but I wanted to explain how this can happen so folks don't panic if it happens to them. – keshlam Sep 22 '15 at 16:56
80

Likely, the rejection letter was something auto-sent and there was a miscommunication in the process. However, this is a case where you have a clear path forward to find out what happened. Simply call up the hiring manager, explain the situation, and ask.

Offer letters are not usually accidentally sent, but rejection letters can be set up to send to everyone in a list. If your name was accidentally still in that list, you get the letter. So it's likely that is what happened. Likely isn't an answer, however, which is why calling the hiring manager is the appropriate next step.

  • 12
    My company has accidentally sent an acceptance letter once; HR made an error. We all felt awful (I'm sure it was nothing compared to what the applicant felt). But yes, it can happen. Best to follow up and contact them ASAP. – Shadow503 Sep 18 '15 at 20:04
  • 4
    Again an instance of it happening the other way round: a few years back I was applying for an academic job (a postdoctoral position in France, fwiw). It was a large process, covering many positions across several institutions, and so both rejection and acceptance letters were automated; and thanks to some, both went out to all applicants. From my end, the process went: acceptance email; 45 minutes’ wait; rejection email; 20 mins; apology email saying to disregard both the first two; c.3 hours; rejection email for reals. Fortunately I didn’t check my email during the first 45 mins. – PLL Sep 19 '15 at 11:03
  • @PLL and Shadow503 - Thus my statement 'not usually sent'. It can be the acceptance letter is a mistake, even though that isn't as likely. The only way to know for sure is to talk to a real person. – thursdaysgeek Sep 21 '15 at 15:10
39

It helps to understand how this part of the hiring process typically works. In some companies, including IBM at that time, your interviews start a time-out running in the HR office. If they haven't heard any of the managers say they want to hire you within some number of days, they automatically send the "sorry" note rather than rudely leave you hanging.

However, this means that when someone does want to hire you, there's a risk that they don't inform HR of this soon enough to stop that letter, with the result that both letters may be sent.

So if you get a rejection letter after bring told to expect an offer, and it doesn't apologise for withdrawing that offer, it may be worth making a phone call to check that the rejection is real. It may just be a communications problem inside the company.

Hope this might help someone, eventually...

(If my offer letter had been further delayed relative to the default rejection letter, my first job might have been with CDC instead. As it is, I framed both letters side by side as a cautionary tale.)

  • 4
    This reminds me of when I received a letter once apologizing that I was "no longer being considered" for a particular position. Personally, I thought it was rather obvious that I was no longer being considered for the position, because I had declined the offer they made me for said position several months earlier. Almost as bad as the acceptance letter I received to a graduate program on the second day of class after I had withdrawn my application (which hadn't even been completed) several months earlier. – reirab Sep 18 '15 at 18:41
  • 3
    @reirab Oh these hiring "processes" sometimes lead to amusing experiences. I once received a phone call from a hiring manager asking how soon I could join if they sent me an offer letter, which was great, except for one little detail: I had interviewed with them 2 years ago. I couldn't help responding, "I am sorry, I don't know what you are talking about." They eventually sent me the offer letter anyway, with the salary offered being what I filled up in the form 2 years ago! – Masked Man Sep 19 '15 at 17:21
19

This can happen if you apply for a specific job requisition but get an offer for another. The system sees you as not having been offered the one you applied for - even though you have an offer elsewhere.

If you apply for a "bucket category" (maybe college grads, etc) this happens when that req is removed/cancelled/etc. Because you were rejected for that req as no offer was made on it. No offer was made on that job, technically.

You might have an old application floating in the system that gets purged too, I've received automated rejection emails years later from companies I don't even remember applying for.

Also, remember job application software is pretty universally bad. When in doubt, talk with a real person - they will know what happened much better than automated systems.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.