In the September 21, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks:
I am in this dilemma and read your article about Juggling Job Offers. Yours is the only one that says to accept the first job offer, and when the second job (which would be a better offer and more suitable) presents itself, then retract acceptance of the first job offer.
However, the other articles and guidance suggests not doing this at all as it is unethical and can damage one’s reputation in a given industry. I have gone back to the first company and gotten a decision window of one week to decide. The timing is off as I need one more week for the second job’s response and possible offer.
Do I ask for yet another extension? Any thoughts?
Here’s the short version of my reply. (You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)
Sorry, but I don’t buy the ethics angle on this. As I point out in the article, if a company lays you off six months after hiring you, is it behaving unethically? No. It’s a business decision. What if it lays you off a week after you start, due to unexpected financial setbacks? What’s the real difference?
The fact is, in a situation like this, you are not making a choice between two job offers. You are making a binary choice: Yes or No to one job. While I hope the other offer comes through, I can tell you that in many years of headhunting I’ve seen most “sure thing” offers go south. Either they are delayed indefinitely, or they never come through.
I agree that accepting then rescinding your acceptance can have an effect on your reputation. But likewise, a layoff has an effect on an employer’s reputation. Still, sometimes it happens out of necessity. It doesn’t make the company (or you) unethical.
I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of rescinding an acceptance. But to behave as though the second offer is a sure thing is to put the first offer at risk. Is it unethical to continue to ask the first company—which has stuck out its neck and and made a commitment to you—to keep extending the decision deadline?
How many times will the second company need “one more week” to produce the offer, if it produces one at all?
In today’s edition a reader asks how to deal with one job offer when a more desirable one is “in the wings.”
In the wings? Sorry, but a bird in the hand is the only bird you’ve got! Decide about that, and then deal with the future later.
Am I being unethical?