Debug your design interview journey, stage 4: Offer

Catt Small
5 min readDec 10, 2023


This post is part of a series about the design interview journey. You can learn more here.

The offer stage is the final moment in the hiring process. You’ll first receive a verbal offer, which may include their intent to hire you and a breakdown of your proposed pay. The company will send you a contract to sign once you hash out details like your salary and start date.

This is an awesome moment. Congratulations! However, mishaps can still add friction to the beginning of your new chapter. Offers get rescinded for various reasons, and the practice has become increasingly common.

While I hope you’ll never have to worry about an exploding offer, it’s good to be prepared. Let’s talk through common reasons offers fall through and how to avoid them.

Salary expectations were mismatched

Companies and individuals often have very different expectations around pay. At this stage, you should be able to negotiate your salary or other forms of compensation such as a hiring bonus. While you should make it to a signed offer, you could still drop off if negotiations stall.

The best way to avoid getting rejected during the offer stage due to mismatched expectations is to communicate your needs before you get too far into the process. Nowadays, recruiters fully expect candidates to ask about pay during the initial stages. Corporate salary transparency is also required in many parts of the USA and has gained traction around the world.

Determine your income requirements before getting too deep into a job search. Consider your monthly bills, debt totals, and savings goals. This will help you find your minimum.

Once you have a minimum, you should check how that lines up with the industry. Don’t accidentally undervalue your work! Use sites like Glassdoor and to see if you need to inflate or shrink your expectations. Ideally, your required salary will be well-researched and therefore quite reasonable.

To be clear: I’m not saying you need to give your number before the offer stage. However, you should know — and be happy with — the company’s intended budget for the role. If you wait until the offer stage to discuss their number, you might be disappointed.

Checks didn’t pass

Many companies perform reference and background checks that can impact the status of your pending employment. These kinds of frustrating, anxiety-inducing checks often come from a place of privilege and introduce bias. Companies assume that one’s past experiences reflect who they are at the moment — and who they’ll be in the future.

While you can’t control a lot of this process, you can certainly make a positive impact with your selection of references. Choose them wisely: a good reference has personally worked with you and is your biggest fan. A bad reference feels neutral about you at best. The worst is someone you didn’t have a good relationship with or someone you didn’t collaborate with professionally.

Contact your references in advance to confirm their availability and feelings about your time working together. Check what they plan to say about their experience working with you. This will help you present the best version of yourself to the hiring team.

Sometimes employers want to hear from your most recent manager, not just peers. If you didn’t have a good working relationship with that person, it might be worth following up with your future manager to see if anyone else can give them the same insight. We’ve all had a bad management experience before, and it shouldn’t stop you from finding your next role!

Internal org changes

The last bucket of issues is organizational. There are several ways that an organization’s changes can lead to the deletion of your role. Any of them can happen during the weeks between your accepted offer and the first day of employment.

Budget cuts

Corporate mismanagement and lack of planning can result in your role being made redundant. The only way to avoid this issue is to assess the likelihood that your future employer will need to lay people off. While any company can decide to do layoffs for any reason, cash-negative operations are at a higher risk of triggering surprise mass departures.

Check out details about their business model. If the company is public or planning to IPO soon, you should also be able to search for documentation of their income in quarterly profit and loss reports or SEC form S-1. Ask the hiring team questions about profitability and runway; it’s quite common to discuss the potential for layoffs since they’re everywhere.

The work you were going to do no longer exists

Major re-orgs, which can happen up to several times per year at some companies, can cause roles to change or disappear. In my experience, corporate restructuring usually results from a change in strategy, leadership departure, or both at the same time. Re-orgs are more likely to happen at the beginning or end of a fiscal year. If you’re lucky, you’ll still have a job but potentially a new team or manager.

Agencies can also have short-notice reductions in workload due to changing client needs. When I worked at a consulting company, we had constant fluctuations that impacted our need for full-time support. I once had to push back a contractor’s start date because their planned workload suddenly disappeared; luckily, I was able to find additional work for them with another client in just a few days.

These situations are challenging to predict. The most you can do is consult the hiring team about your future employer’s strategy. And if the company is an agency, you can dig into more detail about their client workload.

That’s it!

As someone who went through the gauntlet at the beginning of this year and came out only slightly scathed, I empathize with everyone who is looking for a new gig right now. It’s a rough economy, but you’ve gotta believe in yourself and your worth. I hope this advice helps.

Got questions? Grab time with me on Merit. Good luck, friend!

Originally published at on December 10, 2023.



Catt Small

Product Designer, Programmer, Game Developer, Artist, & karaoke ♥er. Bronx-born & raised. She.