I Got an Offer…But Why Didn’t I Get the Job Offer I Wanted?

Readers often want to know “Why didn’t I get the job offer?” Although I wish with all my heart I had an accurate crystal ball to see exactly what happened and what the person needs to do next time to get the offer, that’s a tough question to answer. Many factors on both sides of the interview desk play an important role.  And in some cases it can come down to little more than a feeling – even if you do all the right things (listen carefully, do your best to be real, stay in the moment, etc.) sometimes it’s just a matter of mutual chemistry and NOT a reflection on who you are as a person or how much you have to offer an employer.

But recently, I’ve been seeing a different type of question: I got a job offer, but why isn’t it the job offer I want? Deciding whether or not to take an offer can be excruciating. Here are some of the ways your offer can leave you wondering what to do.

Is it a good offer or a bad offer?

While I know most of you are still caught in the waiting game and hungry for any job offer at all, for those of you in the following situations a whole new misery begins:

  • Timing problems – You get an offer for a job you’re less interested in before your preferred job offer comes through – assuming it ever does come through. How do you handle a poorly-timed offer without leaving yourself without any job at all?
  • An offer without commitment – You get an offer, but it’s not what you had hoped for. Instead of coming through with the whole package, they want to try before they buy (more and more common nowadays) and suggest a consulting stint first so they can see if there’s a fit. (Except when you hear this, you have the fit!)
  • A different job completely – You interview for one job, but they decide you aren’t qualified for that one. Still, you made a good impression on them and they offer you a lower level job (at lower level salary of course.) Is it bait and switch or is it opportunity knocking?
  • Salary, salary, salary – They love you and tell you how much they want you to be part of their team, but they come to you with an offer so low your eyeballs freeze up in disbelief.
  • Bait and switch for real – You get the offer for the job you want, but they decide to change the scope of your responsibilities, adding some things you were not counting on doing.
  • Simultaneous offers – Within a few days of each other, you get two offers, but neither of them is your dream job. How do you compare them? Which one will be best for you in the long run?
  • Your boss counters – You get a good job offer and when you tell your current boss, s/he starts looking for a way to keep you. How do you decide whether to stay or go? Is there a point when it’s too late no matter how good the counter offer is?

Of course there’s no way I can tell you what to do or how to decide which if any offer to accept, but here are a few articles I hope will help with your decision:

Two Job Possibilities But Wrong One Offers First

Here’s a Q & A with Megan, who found herself in the position of having an offer in hand but wanting the one in the bush. In my answer, I tell her about the time I had a similar choice to make – and how it turned out in a way I never expected. So often we get caught up in an idea of something, but there can be so many unknown factors at play when it comes to making life decisions like accepting a job. When it comes right down to it, all you can do is make your best guess and then roll with it.  😉

Does Size REALLY Matter When It Comes to Your First Salary Offer?

In this article, I discuss different ways of looking at an offer which may help you think through whether to accept a job or not. Sometimes, the job you get offered instead of the job you wanted can open up doors you never imagined, even at a lower level. This is a time to put ego aside and think strategically. If it’s really a crummy job that’s one thing. But please…before deciding, think about any new skills you might learn, connections you may make, areas of the business you might get to deal with (even tangentially).

Sometimes a job can be an interim step to a new direction you’ll enjoy even more. So if the offer isn’t quite what you expected, take a deep breath and consider your entire career and not just a moment in time.  Then again…if you’re sure the offer stinks and holds no possibilities for you to creatively carve new paths for yourself, don’t be afraid to let it go if at all possible.

What Makes a Job Good?

Some more ways to look at a job and determine if it’s right for you. This can be just as useful when thinking about jobs to apply for or even new career paths. Take a look at the comments too. I have the smartest readers!

15 Job Search Tips from a Guy Who Just Got a Job

In case you’re interested, this post offers tips from John, who after a long, drawn out interview process was asked to come in as a consultant first and see how it worked out. Although he was tired of being strung along (or so it felt) and wanted an offer NOW, he made a smart move and let them try before they buy. And he wound up getting an offer!

Having done it many times myself, starting as a consultant or free-lancer can open up all kinds of possibilities. My suggestion is don’t wait for them to bring it up. If they seem interested but hesitant, think about making your own offer – propose a “try before you buy” arrangement as a way of getting your foot in the door.

I Got the Job Offer and My Current Job Countered

We should all be so lucky, huh? Some thoughts on what to do if you get an offer and your current employer wants to get into the bidding.

Job Offers: 10 Reasons You Didn’t Get the Job Offer

I’m including this because it may help give you some perspective on why you might not have gotten the offer you want – or any offer at all.

Hope that helps you with your decision. And since some of you are still in job search mode, I want to close with an excerpt from that last post:

An interview is never over until it’s over

Even if you get the feeling the interview is going south or was never a real interview to begin with, you still want to give your strongest, most naturally likable interview no matter what. Don’t decide to reject them before they reject you.

Why? Because there may be someone you meet during the process who remembers you for another time.  In fact, I just recommended someone I met a year ago who was wrong for that job but may be exactly right for the position they’re looking to fill now.  It always pays to turn on your best interview charm until you are out the door – and out of the building. Remember…each person you meet counts. Even impressions made on receptionists or doormen matter!

Whether it’s a job interview or anything else – all you can do is your best

If you don’t get the job, it just wasn’t meant to be – at least not this time. Use each rejection as a chance to redouble your determination to get the next one. Or the one after that. Your job is coming.

Good luck!

~ Ronnie Ann


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Love this! It’s so comprehensive and so simple…and I think it’s brilliant that you refer everyone to other related articles to tie it all together. 🙂 Happily, I know a few people who can benefit from this right away. Their common complaint is the bait-and-switch, which job seekers need to be extra aware of…that’s why you have to walk in there knowing exactly what the job entails. Better safe than sorry.

    Karen, The Resume Chick (on Google or Twitter for questions, comments or violent reactions)

  2. I am certain that others share my fear… my fear is that I begrudgingly accept my 3rd choice job offer and I start working there. Then a month in to my new job; lo and behold, I get a job offer from my dream job/dream company… my #1 choice. Now, will there be a professional way to exiting this job to accept your dream job? Will it depend on what you have signed with your current company… at will employee or non-compete or whatever else is out there companies make you sign and you never bother to read? Can these companies sue you? Or can you just make up some excuse and give 3 week notice and leave? Or be honest and tell them you got a dream job offer and you just have to take it? My worry is… will there be some legal thing that we could overlook that may prevent us from leaving to take our dream job? Thanks.

  3. Thank you Karen! Really appreciate your kind words. Also good to know your clients are definitely coming up against bait and switch. Yes…knowledge can be a most powerful ally in the interview process.

    Hi Jonny! Of course each situation is different and I am not answering EVERY one of your questions ;-), but if it’s any comfort…I was consulting to a major company a couple of years ago and a woman started in a key job for a new department. Everyone was really excited about her joining the company and a lot of the plans had been worked around her availability.

    Within 3 or 4 weeks she gave notice and went back to her OLD company (a vendor for my client), at a much higher salary. Although it certainly ticked people off, they also understood and would probably have done the same. I believe they still have a good working relationship and do business together. Now I know that is not the case everywhere, but with the right relationship skills in many cases it can be achieved.

    But seriously…there is nothing gained by worrying now!! If the time ever comes, you will have more information then than you do now and you just make the best choice at the time.

    All we can do ever is make our best guess, and then throw ourselves fully into what we are doing – and if we need to undo something…well, things like that happen in business and life. Just do your best to keep relationships going where possible.

    Also sometimes a job that seems like less now, turns out to be more later, so don’t jump too quickly. Good luck getting the job you want – or one that you can turn into one you want though what I call job morphing!

    Job Morphing: 20 Career Tips to Help Improve Your Job and Career

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  4. Reading this post gives me extra appreciation for how complicated the current job market has become. For some the offer marks the end of their search for others, a new starting point.

  5. Thanks DC Jobs. Nicely said. And all too true! Although I must admit I’ve made it almost that complicated my entire work life. I like to call it research now. 😉

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  6. I agreed to salary, relo, and a start date. I waited for the written offer. After two days I called and was told the job was on “hold.” When I called HR, the HR person acted as if were trying to sell time shares instead of a person who had been told an offer was coming.

  7. Hi JS!

    Wow. That sucks. Could it have hurt for the person to treat you with respect? After all, one day they may be coming to you for a job. 😉

    No excuse for that kind of behavior – especially since you are someone they liked and may want to come back to when the freeze is off. Only thing I can say – and this is not to excuse the rudeness – is there’s no way to know how bad things are there right now. For all we know, the HR person is getting fired or is spending his/her days delivering lots of bad news. But still…no excuse.

    Thanks for sharing! Hope another BETTER job comes your way soon. Maybe you lucked out in the end. 😉

    ~ Ronnie Ann

  8. I am going to my second interview for Company B. They knew I was interviewing with Company A. On Friday I learned that Co A has gone with another candidate (my headhunter said it was money). When I am in my second interview today with Company B, do I tell them that I am no longer in the running for Co A?

  9. Sorry for the delay Gigi. Unfortunately, I usually am not able to answer comments the same day. 😉 Curious what you decided. Hope it went well!

    It would have been fine not to bring it up unless they did. Usually, I find the truth to be best if asked – especially since sometimes they find out anyway. It makes your negotiations more awkward to have this happen, but if you’re a strong candidate and can convey that this is the job you wanted anyway, you should be ok.

    So if you are willing to share…how did it go???

    ~ Ronnie Ann

    • More than happy to share – it’s a wonderful ending! Right before I walked in for the 2nd interview at Company B, I received a call from another recruiter. I did not take the call, so I was able to use that to my advantage when Co B asked what was happening with my search. I didn’t need to say that I lost out on Co A because I was able to talk about Co C already being the next possibility for me. And the happy ending is that Co B offered me the job at the salary I wanted. They wanted me as much as I wanted them! I was honest, but selective, in promoting myself .
      Although my job search is over, I enjoy getting the Work Coach Cafe emails and will continue to follow your quest to help others. Thanks for replying. And sometimes it makes things clearer in your own mind when you write it down, so I encourage others to post here.

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