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Firstly, I am from Germany so maybe there are some things that are treated differently concerning jobs.

I got to a job interview and got the job really quickly. They sent me the contract and I didn't like many of the points because to me it seemed like the company tries to leave a back door open concerning judicial questions. So they told me I could say what points I didn't like and then we could discuss them and maybe change some points.

After a long discussion via email, I finally agreed with the contract. So they said they would send me the changed contract as soon as possible. After a few days I asked again when they will send me the contract. They said it would come next week but nothing happened. As my deadline for quitting my current job expired and I haven't received or signed the new positions contract, I didn't quit my current job and thought maybe they changed their mind.

So after a whole month (I know I could have asked too) they send me an email concerning my first day at work the next week. I was a bit surprised because I haven't got a contract or anything. I told them that I haven't quit my current job and couldn't start next week. I think they weren't too happy and said they will send me the final changed contract. I read through it and was okay with it. After a few days I asked when are they going to send me the contract for signing with the date changed as I could only start in a few months. Up to now they still haven't replied again.

Now I am really concerned. I don't want to run after the company to ask again and again for my contract. At the moment I feel like I don't want to go there any more because they seem somehow unprofessional but I don't know if it is too embarrassing if I say I don't want the position any more after these long discussions.

What can I do to clear this awkward situation?


UPDATE

I got an email now that they will hire another candidate because he is available next week. I don't have to do anything any more but all in all I have the feeling it is my fault but I know it's not...

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Sep 1 '16 at 22:43
63

First, consider that while an incompetent HR department is indeed a red flag and a possible deal-breaker, it doesn't necessarily mean that the job wouldn't work out for you. For some people this would be enough to retract their acceptance of the job offer, for some doing that will be an outrageous response to "normal delays in the hiring process." This company's HR department is highly likely to be in the latter group so be aware that you're probably burning a bridge if you decide you no longer want the job.

That said, here are two sample scripts that touch on the points you want to make and do so tactfully. You'll want to address these to HR or the person handling the contract if there's no HR department. If you still want the job:

I'm contacting you once again to finalise the contract for the X position. As you know I have yet to receive the final version of the revised contract (see attachment) with an updated start date for signing. I haven't heard from you since X and I would need to receive the contract by [the #th / the end of the month]. If I haven't heard from you by then I'll assume that you've moved on and wish you the best of luck in filling the position.1

If you no longer want the job:

Given the numerous problems in finalising the contract I have decided to withdraw my acceptance of your offer for the X position. While I understand that there are delays involved in processing or updating a contract, given the [radio silence I have gotten from you / lack of clear communication] and the repeated confusion regarding [my start date / contract] I no longer believe that [this would be quite the right fit / this would work out / this move is in my best interests]. I regret that this hasn't worked out and wish you the best of luck in filling the position.

Note that these scripts are not suitable for contacting the hiring manager (the person you'd be reporting to), assuming he's not the one (mis)handling your contract. You'll also want to contact him separately to express your regret that this didn't work out and apologise for withdrawing your acceptance.

A third option would be to contact that hiring manager directly and ask what's going on. If they want you on board, they can do a lot more than you to spur HR to action if that's indeed the blocking factor.


I got an email now that they will hire another candidate because he is available next week. I don't have to do anything any more but all in all I have the feeling it is my fault but I know it's not...

It's not your fault. There were some things you could have handled better. You could have followed up more closely with the contract issues. You should have called (not emailed) when the deadline for you to resign approached instead of let it pass unnoticed. Those are important lessons to learn, but the real problem here was HR screwing up royally. I'd still recommend reaching out to the hiring manager if you had any sort of rapport with him to express regret that it didn't work, but beyond that all you can do is move on. There will be plenty of interviews or job leads in your future that don't pan out for a variety of reasons.


1 - If you don't want to go with an ultimatum just yet, you can instead focus on the consequences of their inaction by saying something like: "If I haven't heard from you by then it will delay my start date by a further month" (thanks to thelem for that wording)

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    In the first script you wrote: "If I haven't heard from you by then I'll assume that you've moved on and wish you the best of luck in filling the position." That means if HR continue to be slow, you're automatically refusing the job, which may not be what you want to do. I guess the intent was to add urgency, so I'd say something like "... if I haven't heard from you by then it will delay my start date by a further month". – thelem Sep 1 '16 at 16:33
  • @thelem: Kind of, but if they really do want the OP, that line may add urgency through the "scare factor", even when it's not really true. – Lightness Races with Monica Sep 1 '16 at 16:42
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    @thelem True, I'll add that wording as an alternative. I went with the ultimatum because let's be honest, if they wouldn't have solved it by then, OP should have walked away anyway. – Lilienthal Sep 1 '16 at 17:15
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    "so be aware that you're probably burning a bridge if you decide you no longer want the job" and then it turns out that the company rescinded the offer anyway LOL. Well I guess it's a good thing that companies don't have to worry about "burning bridges" like normal people. – industry7 Sep 1 '16 at 20:06
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    Top quality answer! +1 – Sidius Sep 2 '16 at 10:09
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You might call it a lucky escape.

So someone in the company wants to hire you, but someone didn't manage to get a contract mailed to you in time. So someone there is highly incompetent. Or they are really clueless and didn't think that you would have to give notice. (On the other hand, if you had told them that you are currently unemployed, it would be quite Ok to ask you to come to their office on Monday morning to sign the contract and start work).

With the way this is going, are you sure that you would have a job with them if you received a contract, send it back signed, and put in your notice? As unorganised like they are, I'd say there is a distinct possibility that there is no job when you turn up. It's always possible that things go wrong; in this case chances of things going wrong would be too high for my taste.

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    Yep, HR seems very incompetent – Kilisi Sep 1 '16 at 8:27
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    I wouldn't accept a position at that company, if the contractual points are dubious and they can't send a revised contract even after several reminders then that is a distinct red flag in my book. – Charles Borg Sep 1 '16 at 8:52
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    "As unorganised like they are, I'd say there is a distinct possibility that there is no job when you turn up" Not possible in Germany as far as I know. We use actual contracts on this side of the pond and they can't break them lightly. There's probably a trial period during which the OP could get fired if they want to get rid of him but I believe they can't act in bad faith. Of course, you're right in that that's just one of the possible issues that can go wrong in a chaotic company. – Lilienthal Sep 1 '16 at 9:26
  • Concerning your last paragraph, they couldn't just tell the OP there is no job for him after all. They'd have to compensate him for the minimum probation period which is usually 2 week or 1 month. Still, it would not be great news for someone who just quit their job. – Dmitry Grigoryev Sep 1 '16 at 15:22
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    My thoughts exactly. The new company is probably quite horrible. – Pete B. Sep 1 '16 at 16:56
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Another possibility comes to mind here:

They aren't actually willing to revise the contract as you want--hence not sending you the modified contract. If so, you dodged a bullet.

  • My thoughts exactly... – Mehrdad Sep 2 '16 at 8:27
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At the moment I feel like I don't want to go there any more because they seem somehow unprofessional but I don't know if it is too embarrassing if I say I don't want the position any more after these long discussions.

This seems really strange to me. Your career is in flux and you are worried about seeming rude to people you've never even met. The thought of bothering them or being annoying or embarrassing shouldn't even enter your head. Contact them every other day if you have to, make it clear what the circumstances are.

Without more information I think everyone saying you dodged a bullet is assuming too much. Maybe there is a language barrier. Maybe they are a huge company that moves at a snails pace with hiring. Maybe someone in HR is going through a divorce. Maybe something else.

At this point, if the opportunity is lost I would make a final attempt (if you still would consider it). Explain the situation in detail, maybe even with a timeline/documentation of your contacts. It is possible they think you are incompetent, for some reason. Maybe you could clear that up.

Miscommunication should not be a cause of failure here, and it seems likely to me that is what happened.

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    "This seems really strange to me. Your career is in flux and you are worried about seeming rude to people you've never even met." Are you only polite to people when you know them and/or your career isn't in flux? – Mehrdad Sep 2 '16 at 8:27
  • @Mehrdad: no, he's worried about it only when he doesn't have bigger things to worry about. It's not whether to be intentionally rude, it's whether to lie awake nights fretting that you might appear rude and conclude that it's best never to speak to anyone ever again in case you're intruding. – Steve Jessop Sep 2 '16 at 11:39

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