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The hiring process can be long and involved. So, after making it through a phone interview, multiple in-person interviews and employment tests, it's only natural to feel relief and excitement when a hiring manager expresses interest in bringing you aboard.
But don't pop the champagne cork just yet. Hurdles can emerge even when you're in the homestretch of the hiring process.
The following are several sticky late-stage situations that you may encounter and advice on how to handle them:
Q: The hiring manager told me the job was mine and that a formal offer was forthcoming. That was two weeks ago, and I've heard nothing. What's my next step?
A: The delay could be due to any number of reasons: The boss is on a business trip, an internal candidate expressed late interest, a hiring freeze was instituted or the company is rethinking the position.
Instead of continuing to wait, wonder and worry, contact the hiring manager for a status update. Politely reaffirm your desire to get started as soon as possible. (It's also a subtle way to let the employer know you're not going to wait around forever.)
Most companies will stay in touch when there's a holdup in their hiring process. If you get the runaround or receive no response to your inquiry, consider that a red flag. If you've stopped looking for a job, resume your search.
Q: I thought the reference check process was a mere formality. Much to my surprise, I received a message from the hiring manager saying she wants to ask me some follow-up questions because one of my references gave me a less-than-glowing review. I'm worried the job is now in jeopardy. How should I handle this?
A: You gain nothing from being defensive or disparaging the reference. After all, you provided the person's name. While you might express some surprise, you don't want to get mired in a "he said, she said" debate.
The good news is the hiring manager is giving you an opportunity to alleviate concerns. Calmly correct any misinformation and offer assurances that you have the necessary skills and traits to succeed in the role. Counter the negative comments with positive anecdotes. If your people skills were questioned, for example, highlight a situation when you used your interpersonal abilities to successfully collaborate and build consensus in a team setting.
You might also offer up an additional reference or two -- assuming, of course, that you're certain those people will sing your praises.
Q: The details of the written job offer don't match the verbal one. The salary is a bit lower, and the vacation time isn't as plentiful. What's the best way to address the discrepancy?
A: Seek clarification before assuming the worst. Maybe there was a misunderstanding. For instance, the hiring manager might have given you a ballpark estimate, not a firm, final number, or you incorrectly assumed you were at the high end of the salary range presented. Perhaps the amount of paid time-off mentioned included both vacation and sick time. The "discrepancy" could even be a simple typo.
Details can easily (and honestly) get confused, so you don't want to come across as accusatory or demanding. That said, pay close attention to the employer's response and trust your instincts. Did the hiring manager seem genuinely sorry for the mix-up? Did the person try to adjust the offer -- or at least explain why she couldn't?
If you get the sense it's a bait-and-switch scenario, proceed with caution. When a company plays games right off the bat, it's safe to assume you'll encounter similar headaches throughout your tenure.
Q: I was set to accept a job offer, but a member of my professional network shared some unsettling details about the company's demanding culture that's making me reconsider. I'm conflicted because I was so excited about the opportunity. What steps can I take to help me make the right decision?
A: You owe it to yourself to look into the claim, but keep in mind that it's just one person's opinion. If you do some research, and it seems like a legitimate concern or confirms a sneaking suspicion you already held, tactfully ask more questions of the employer. Be upfront and specific ("I've heard that many employees put in 60-hour weeks. Will this be expected of me?").
Remember: Just as you've presented your best side, the company has done the same. You can't make an informed decision unless you get some additional insights from your boss-to-be.
In most cases, the final stages of the hiring process are straightforward and uneventful. But because unexpected roadblocks can arise -- whether it's a renegade reference or a major miscommunication -- you can't afford to count your chickens before they've hatched. Keep your guard up and your job search active until you're sitting at your new desk.
Robert Half International is the world's first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 400 staffing and consulting locations worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit www.roberthalf.com. For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at www.roberthalf.com/bloopers or follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/roberthalf.
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