By Caroline M.L. Potter
It takes a lot of steps to get a job offer. Your network has to yield a connection. Your resume has to earn an interview. And your performance in the interview has to be impressive enough to produce an offer. But what happens when you've cleared every one of these hurdles only to learn that your impending offer is now on indefinite hold?
Read on to find out why offers get shelved -- temporarily or permanently -- and what, if any, due diligence you can to do to activate an offer.
It's Not You
Don't take it personally if your job offer is postponed. There are dozens of reasons for a delay. "The important thing is to not make assumptions as to why the communication has abruptly stopped short of the actual offer," says careers and resume expert Lauren Milligan of ResuMayDay. "It could have nothing to do with you. Perhaps a major company initiative went south, requiring everyone's attention to this specific project. Perhaps your internal contact won the lottery and now they're scrambling to replace her."
Consider, too, that an internal candidate may have thrown her hat in the ring at the last minute, temporarily derailing your offer. "In this case, a potential employer isn't going to give you much information beyond that they have to put it on hold," says Judi Perkins, the How-To Job Coach.
Remember that it's not a reflection of your qualifications, but, rather, that the company may give preference to current employees.
But Try to Determine What It Is
Rethink if you actually want to join this company. "Putting an offer on hold is usually a sign of a softening balance sheet," says staffing expert David Lewis of Express Employment Professionals and author of The Emerging Leader.
Jeanne Knight, a former HR executive turned career and job search coach, concurs. "Offers typically go on hold because the company has decided their financial situation is not as positive as they thought it would be, dictating that most, if not all, of their open positions be put on hold until the picture looks brighter," she says.
Executive career coach Beth Ross tells clients to ask their contact at the company for plausible reasons for the delay.
Lewis recommends asking several specific questions about the hold on the offer. "First, ask if the person making the offer is the person responsible for deciding to put the offer on hold," she says. "If not, ask who decided to put the offer on hold [and, therefore, could decide to unfreeze the offer]. And, finally, ask when you can meet this person and show her that you are worth hiring regardless of a blanket hiring freeze."
Decide What to Do Next
Even if you know the reason an offer has been temporarily tabled, Lewis urges job seekers not to get complacent about their job search. "More than 50 percent of the time, in my experience, the offer will not rematerialize in the next 30 days," he says.
Says Ross: "If it is indeed your dream job, you may elect to wait, but you should work with the company on a timetable that seems reasonable. Trying to nail this down might uncover what level of trust is there for both parties."
If you decide to continue to pursue a position that's on hold, Milligan says you have two tasks ahead of you: First, when leaving voice mails or emails, keep your tone breezy, cheery and upbeat. And second, forge ahead with your job search. "In other words, hope for the best and prepare for more interviews elsewhere," she says.
Perkins adds, "The more time that goes by with nothing happening, the greater the likelihood that your offer isn't going to become an actual job."