It is not uncommon for employers to carry out a search for candidates and conduct interviews, only to halt the process prior to making an offer.
Candidates may or may not be informed about why the offer has been put on hold. Some of the common reasons for a job offer being put on hold include:
- Budget concerns or the failure of a big project, product, or initiative.
- Unexpected restructuring, which could involve layoffs, the company being acquired, or work pausing in the area where you were going to assume responsibility.
- Reservations on the part of the hiring manager or other stakeholders about your ability to do the role.
- Internal competition for the role, or a decision not to leave the company by the person who was vacating the position.
Keep in mind that although there is a possibility of a job offer being placed on hold because of uncertainty about your fit, in most cases this situation arises because of exterior factors, such as a negative event at the company or a downturn in the overall economy.
What to Do When a Job Offer Is Put on Hold
If you are given a job offer, only to then be told it's on hold, your first step should be to assess the situation.
To get an idea about when a decision might be made, start by asking the employer if there is a time frame for determining the status of the job. Try to find out if the hiring process has been paused, or stopped.
If the hiring process has been definitively stopped, it's not a good sign.
During the discussion, let the company representative know that you are very interested in the job and would like to receive continued consideration. You can also ask for insight into why the offer was put on hold. Be aware that you may or may not get a response to this query.
Toward the end of the time period given by the employer, reach out to your contact at the company. If no feedback date has been shared, wait about three weeks to follow up.
How to Follow Up
Your follow-up communication should usually be in the form of an email unless the employer has suggested a phone call so that you avoid pestering your contact.
Your overture can be framed as "checking in" on the status of the search and should include an affirmative statement regarding your continuing interest. You might consider providing some new information of potential interest, such as an additional certification, award, or accomplishment.
Follow-Up Email Example
Here's an example of a follow-up message sent to check on the status of a job offer.
Sample Email Following Up on a Job Offer That Is on Hold
Subject: Following Up – Administrative Assistant Job
Dear Mr. Jones,
I’m just following up on the administrative position we discussed last month. Have you had any word on whether the company will be moving forward with hiring?
I know this time of year is busy, so I hope you’ll forgive my cluttering your inbox further. I’m excited about the role and wanted to make sure I didn’t let too much time go by before reaching out to reiterate my interest.
I’m particularly enthusiastic about the chance to use my research and organizational skills, as well as my five years of industry-specific experience as an administrative assistant, to help your company achieve its important mission. I also wanted to mention that I have significant experience with photo and video editing software, in case that would be useful in the role as the company grows.
I want to thank you again for your consideration and for taking the time to meet with me. I hope you’re enjoying the season.
7 Main Street,
Midtown, Ohio 44103
Keep Your Job Search Moving Forward
It is common for job seekers who have received some positive indications that they are a preferred candidate to halt their job search activity. That's not a good idea.
While you're waiting for more information on the job offer, and if it is to remain on hold, continue your active search for other jobs. You don't want to stop your search until you have a definitive job offer. That way, you won't lose momentum with your search even if the job at hand never materializes.
Keep in mind that you are not under any obligation—legal or otherwise — to wait around for an on-hold job offer. The company will expect you to be continuing your job hunt.
If you do get another job offer while you're waiting to find out about the offer that's currently on hold, you should reach out to the company and let them know. It's possible that knowing you have another offer available may nudge them to release the hold and officially make an offer.
Consider Offering to Work in a Contract or Temp Role
While there are some real pros and cons to this approach, you might want to opt to get in touch and offer to work as a contractor or temp.
If you are currently working at another job, this probably isn't the right path to take. But if you're unemployed, it's possible that offering to work in a temp capacity will show your passion for the company. The risk, of course, is that the company will never hire you on a full-time basis.
What to Do If the Employer Ghosts You
Sometimes, after the job offer has been placed on hold, the employer will withdraw the offer altogether. Again, this doesn’t necessarily reflect on you. Employers withdraw job offers for all kinds of reasons, including a reduced budget or a change in direction.
But what do you do if the employer doesn’t get back to you… or respond to your email at all?
Think Twice Before Following Up in Another Way
If you’ve followed up once via email and heard nothing in response, you might try following up via a phone call a week or so after sending your email. But you should understand that this is risky.
Although it’s always possible that your email is languishing in a spam folder, reaching out by phone (even once) can feel aggressive to some hiring managers in our phone-phobic age. Unless they’ve specifically said that phone contact is OK, it’s best to avoid it.
No matter what you decide, it’s important not to overdo your attempt to follow up. If you choose to call the employer, do so only once. Leave a brief message with your name and phone number and the reason for your call. Keep your tone pleasant and the content of your message brief and polite.
Don’t Stalk the Hiring Manager
Once you’ve followed up, twice at most, let it go. Continuing to reach out to the hiring manager won’t look professional.
Annoying HR is never a good plan when you’re interviewing for jobs. While you may be done with the interview process at this firm, you don’t want to run the risk of overdoing it and ruining your reputation in the industry. Most corporate worlds are very small; don’t become the candidate that everyone’s talking about, and not in a good way.
Consider Yourself Better Off
Ultimately, if a company extends an offer, puts it on hold, and then ghosts, you’re better off without the job than you would be if you’d gotten it. Imagine what it would be like to work for an organization that treats its employees like that.
Although it’s stressful to return to a job search when you thought you had an offer lined up, it’s easier than starting your search anew just a few weeks into a job.