On the Job

Navigating Job-Offer Limbo

By Kenneth Bredemeier
Special to washingtonpost.com
Thursday, May 15, 2008; 3:27 PM

When you're mulling what you think may be an offer, but it hasn't quite materialized, you're left in job limbo. Throw in the possibility of other offers and it becomes even more confusing.

But what do you do?

I interviewed with a contractor a couple weeks ago. I had what I thought were some good conversations with the two guys I spoke with and afterward I met with the internal recruiter who contacted me in the first place. She commented on how long my interview was and said how it must have gone well. Anyway, the position is contingent on them winning a contract, which they expect to and were supposed to hear a week ago. Then they would contact me. So yesterday they called, but just to say that the award date was pushed back. Is the fact that I am being kept "in the loop" about the contract a good sign? I figure if they had no interest in hiring me after the interview they would have already told me so. Second, is it okay to just come out and ask the recruiter if I am indeed high on their list? I only ask because I would like to take this position should it become available but there are some other opportunities in the pipeline that I may hear from soon as well. I would hate to miss this opportunity, but also hate to miss others if I am kidding myself with my chances here.

Patricia A. Miller, who heads her own human resources firm in Seven Valleys, Pa., says it is "definitely a favorable sign" that this contractor is keeping the applicant abreast of the status of the pending contract.

At the same time, Miller says the applicant ought to keep in mind that the firm might not get the contract and that then there won't be a job for him. Still, she says he ought to feel free to call the contractor and ask about his standing, voice his continued interest in the job and yet note that he is continuing to look at other options as well.

"That may make them move quicker," she says.

Miller says he can ask reasonable questions about the pending contract, such as how soon the company expects to hear about it and what it thinks are the prospects for winning it.

That information could give the applicant a sense of how long he ought to wait to hear about the contract, or whether he ought to move on to another job if it materializes.

And lastly, Miller says he ought to write thank you notes to the officials who interviewed him at the contractor and specifically note "what skills or attributes he'd bring to the job," to "reinforce" what an important hire he could be.

Kenneth Bredemeier has six years of experience writing about the workplace. On the Job, a column addressing real worker questions about office relationships, corporate policies and workplace law, is written exclusively for washingtonpost.com. To submit a question, e-mail onthejob@washingtonpost.com. We reserve the right to edit submitted questions for length and clarity and cannot guarantee that all questions will be answered.

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