One reader writes:

Well, it happened to me: the dreaded withdrawn job offer.

Everything went great at the interview for this job. I had reached the reference stage and informed five people who I knew would represent me well. The following week I received a call from the HR manager and she asked if the HR manager could speak to my previous boss.

My previous boss had a personal campaign of revenge against me and made my work for her really difficult. Eventually she transferred me to another team within the same department. When asked, I simply told the HR employee that my previous boss and I didn’t have a good relationship and I couldn’t rely on her as a reference.

After that interview, I received a conditional job offer subject to a background check and then a definitive offer with the following clause: “This definitive confirmation offer is subject to the satisfactory receipt of a reference from your current manager as of the date of this letter.” I inquired of the HR manager the new job, and she told me to quit my current position and then get my manager’s contact information.

It’s a done deal at this point, isn’t it? My current manager and I didn’t always agree, but I’ve always worked hard, professionally, and respectfully. I quit and asked my manager if she could give me a positive testimonial and she agreed. She seemed really happy to me that I was going to move on in my career and it was a positive interaction.

That was last week. This morning I received a call from the HR manager for the new position, who told me very quickly that the offer had been withdrawn. She couldn’t tell me why either, because she didn’t have all the information, but wanted to tell me straight away that the offer was off the table.

So now I’m in the embarrassing position of reclaiming my job – which is by no means guaranteed, of course – or desperately trying to find a new one. My question is what am I doing now? Do I contact HR and ask for answers? Do I ask my boss directly if she said anything negative about me? Do I have legal options to pursue? The state I live in is an arbitrary state, but the new employer basically encouraged me to quit while a contingent offer was in progress. Finally, what should I have done to protect myself and what should I do in the future to prevent this situation?

You can read my reply to that letter in New York Magazine today. Go there to read it.

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