In the April 30, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader questions a CEO’s advice about interviewing.


interviewingI just read an article where a CEO warns that it’s unethical and dishonest to keep interviewing after you’ve accepted a job offer. “It’s not cool.” He calls it lying and says you’re just damaging yourself! Moreover, you’re causing damage to the company because it stopped recruiting after it hired you, and having to restart recruiting will cost it a lot of time and money. So you should behave with “class and grace.” Then he drops the bomb: It’s “all Millennials” doing this — ghosting employers. (I’m 29 years old so I guess he’s talking to me.) Is it so wrong to keep interviewing or to take a better offer if it comes along?

Nick’s Reply

You should absolutely continue interviewing with no qualms whatsoever.

I think that CEO is 100% wrong when he suggests that if you continue to interview for other jobs after you have already accepted an offer, you’re being “unethical,” “dishonest,” or “damaging yourself.” That’s nonsense. Hedging your bets is simply prudent business.

Interviewing? Hedge your bets.

As for the CEO’s contention that the company stopped recruiting after it “hired” you, that’s pure bunk. I started headhunting a long time ago and I can tell you that a Human Resources department (HR) will probably routinely continue interviewing more candidates not only after it makes you an offer, but after you accept it, and — often — after you’ve started the job.

Why would HR do that? To hedge its bets.

For example:

  • HR might give you that verbal offer, then run a background check and decide it doesn’t like what it found — even if it’s a minor problem that it never discloses to you. The offer you accepted is rescinded without explanation. (Don’t believe me? See Behind the scenes of a rescinded job offer.)
  • While HR obtains the necessary signatures to complete the hiring process, some manager might change their mind about you, or funding for the job could be cut. (I’ve seen both happen many times.) There will be no written offer. Or, your written offer will be cancelled. Because employment is “at will” in most U.S. states, you can be terminated at any time, for any reason or no reason — including on day #1. Now you’re on the street. “It’s not personal.” (See Protect yourself from exploding job offers.)
  • HR worries that you might change your mind — just like it might change its mind — and wants to have one or more backup candidates. You’ve probably already experienced this, when an employer tells you you’re a finalist and that it will “get back to you” in a week — then they keep delaying. They may be “keeping you warm” until they are sure their #1 candidate actually shows up for work. (That means you may still get the job.) Some employers will even issue multiple offers to ensure they get one viable hire. You’ll never know.
  • HR believes it might find a better candidate while your offer and hire are being processed — because it’s got several more impressive resumes to work through but is trying to stick to a deadline. HR will have no qualms about telling you “something has changed and we will not be able to proceed.” Meanwhile, you may have already resigned your old job. (See Quit, Fired, Downsized: Leave on your own terms.) HR will tell you, “It’s nothing personal, just business.” Unless you’re willing to hire a lawyer, you probably have no recourse.

Interviewing: The double standard

More obviously — and I’m sure you’ve encountered this many times — while that CEO calls you “dishonest,” his HR office will leave a job posting up long after the job is filled. It’s “ethical” when he’s hedging, but you’re “lying.” It’s a double standard that employers use to gain an edge.

When you continue interviewing after accepting an offer — even if it’s in writing — you’re being prudent, not dishonest or unethical. Unless you sign an agreement to the contrary, what you’re doing while you wait to start the job is no one’s business but yours.

Should you be cavalier about it? Of course not. Act as responsibly as possible. But play your cards close, keep your options open, and continue to develop your alternatives. Always hedge your bets — just like the employer is doing.

Is this business or is it ghosting?

As for the CEO’s suggestion that if you back out, the employer will have to restart its search, costing time and money, that’s true only if they’re inept. What company doesn’t plan for contingencies in the event a deal goes south?

Any good headhunter can share stories about “fall offs” — people who accept jobs then quickly quit or get terminated for any of a number of reasons. Every good headhunter (and employer) has a backup candidate ready to fill that job. It’s not unethical. It’s prudent business.

Worried about being accused of “ghosting?” The employer should be worried about its own ghosting behavior — every time it interviews a candidate, promises a decision, but then ignores you completely. See Ghosting: Job candidates turn tables on employers.

Anything can go wrong

I understand that CEO’s perspective. It’s self-serving, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you, as a job seeker, take his advice at face value, you’re not serving yourself best in a highly competitive hiring market where too many employers demonstrate an astonishing and callous disregard for job seekers. Let the CEO think like an employer. You should think like a job seeker.

Just like an employer keeps other candidates on the hook until a new hire actually shows up for work, you’d be wise to keep working on other job opportunities until you are firmly ensconced in your new job. You are absolutely right. Anything can go wrong. And that’s why the company that “hired” you is likely to continue recruiting and interviewing other candidates while your “hire” is being processed. (Many readers have complained about companies that make job offers then withdraw them. In that case, the company doesn’t “fire” them — because they’re not yet employees!)

Who’s not cool?

Now I’ll tell you what really troubles me: That CEO is “not cool” when he makes generalizations and reveals blatant bias against your cohort. Millennials are no more likely to ghost employers than CEOs are likely to pontificate about right and wrong like sanctimonious jerks.

You can behave with class and integrity — and still protect yourself. Keep interviewing if you want to, until you’re actually on the payroll at your new job. It’s good business. I’ve seen countless people stranded without jobs because they didn’t understand that employers hedge their bets during the hiring process every day.

Knowing what to do when you get a job offer is just one of many ways to have an insider’s edge when job hunting. For more tips, see Ask The Headhunter Secrets in a Nutshell.

Is it unethical or dishonest — or not cool — to continue your job search after you’ve accepted a job offer? Should you trust that you can take a job offer to the bank? And even if the job offer is bona fide, is that any reason not to hedge your bets to ensure you get the best deal possible?

: :



  1. I had that exact issue. It was in December, I had gone through several rounds of interviews Director QA at an Aerospace company. My contact was the VP of HR. They had us come over for a 3 day weekend, My final round of interviews was on a Friday afternoon, went great, it was with the VP of QA, he said I had the job and was looking forward to my start date right after the first of the year.

    On Saturday, the HR Vp took me to the local golf club to meet people and for a Lunch, where he gave me the offer, relocation package sign-on bonus and stock package. It was all verbal and he said that he expected I would have the offer letter at the end of the week. At the same time his wife took my wife out hunting for houses in the preferred neighborhoods. The ones where other Directors and VP’s lived. She found a place, but told the Realtor we had to wait until the letter came in before putting down the down payment.

    That evening they picked us up for dinner, A – Z great restaurant. Sunday we went home.

    I heard nothing by Friday. I called the HR guy on Monday, he said the person who had the final sign off the group President was out of town and it should be less than a week. This was pumping up against the Christmas shutdown. A couple of days before Christmas, I called again, again told that something came up but I will hear from him on the 2nd.

    We talked on the 2nd, 3rd, 4th. On the 5th, he said the Group President decided to reorganize the division and that the position was eliminated.

    Thankfully I did not turn in my resignation, nor did I go back and put money on the house my wife loved (the realtor was pressing us for a down payment).

    It seemed to me that the HR guy who started interviews with me before the previous Thanksgiving was more upset than I was.

    So the rug does get pulled out from under you. Don’t stop until you’re sitting on a chair with your knees under your new desk!

    • @Joseph: What’s astonishing is that HR was helping you find a house and they were wining and dining you as if you were hired. As if they believed the deal was done.

      Now, what does it say when the head of HR gets it wrong? Is the company screwed up? Is the VP HR a dope? Are the other execs dopes?

      In the end, it doesn’t matter. I can’t feel sorry for them. Who I feel sorry for are people who have been in your position — who trusted the big dinner out and the visits to new houses and put a down payment on a house or quit their old job.

      Because everyone was acting like the deal was done.

      I wonder. Did anyone ever say to your wife, “By the way. You certainly should not put a down payment on a house until everything is signed.” Or was that HER prudence?

    • A job offer isn’t a job offer until you have it in writing, with full benefits details described.
      An acceptance isn’t a contract until you sign the offer letter and return it.

      Anything short of that is just a conversation.

      The CEO described in Nick’s newsletter and blog is incompetent.
      And he has evidently hired an incompetent HR department.

      Should you keep interviewing, so long as you don’t have a contract?
      You need to ask?

  2. Speaking as a millennial, it may be true that we’re more likely to pull this move… but the main reason for that is that we have seen our parent’s generation get screwed over by companies repeatedly. As a result, we grew up knowing the importance of protecting yourself against your employer and not putting too much faith in any promises they make you. I understand why the CEO is frustrated, but anyone who has read this column for a few years has read a lifetime’s worth of horror stories about bad employer behavior including rescinded job offers. It just isn’t safe to put all your faith in an offer.

    • @Erin: I’m not a millennial. And I can tell you people in every generation have “pulled this move,” for right or wrong reasons. Every generation truly is the hope of the world, but every generation has more in common with its predecessors than it has differences. When I see a CEO burbling about “Millennials” I want to scream.

  3. My story:

    After accepting the offer, a background check had to be completed. For some reason, mine took weeks longer than they said it would.

    Of course I told everyone and put off interviewing. And after a couple weeks I started thinking I called off my search too early. It was embarrassing to stat talking to my network again.

    Thankfully they completed the check and I am with the company today. But if I am on the hunt again, I will not stop until I have started. Maybe even after starting, in case things really do not work out.

    • My current company, after they gave me my initial offer (in writing) said very plainly, “Please do not resign from your current position until we complete the background check.” Once the background check was complete, they confirmed a start date with me. I signed on the dotted line, then I gave my two week’s notice to my former employer who tried to counter offer. Too late!

      Employers: If you don’t like people being able to leave like this, then please for the love of humanity stop with the “employment at will” doctrine.

      • @Kevin,

        Kudos to your employer. There oughta be a law because HR is often stupid: Always advise the candidate not to resign until the hire is complete!

  4. The advice given by the CEO is just naive and doesn’t take into account that companies no longer are employing people for decades at a time and have cut back on raises, training and promotional opportunities. Of course this causes people to be constantly looking for better jobs.

    I once heard it said that the time to start looking for your next job is on the first day of your current job because, as Nick points out, offers get pulled or people quickly get laid off or fired for good reason or no reason at all and may not even have a warning.

    One irony here is when I took my recent job, I updated my profiles on the web. Of course, this lead to a rush of phone calls. The ones that answered would inevitably ask “Um it looks like you just started, why are you looking to leave so soon?” A few times, I straight up said, “I don’t know, you called me, why is this an issue for you?” Nearly every time, they had no answer and it basically told me what I needed to know: They were simply dialing for dollars.

    There’s some additional things to consider: I’ve had companies try to pull the “exploding” offer, as in “we have deadlines and we want an answer in a unreasonably short amount of time.” Of course, if someone has other irons in the fire, the other companies may not take too kindly to being rushed. I’ve heard of stories of people getting screwed out of jobs because they wanted to extend the decision deadline for company A in order to get some sort of closure for company B. It ends up B drags their feet and declines and A wouldn’t budge and the deadline passed. I’ve heard some advice to accept A while waiting for B, especially if B is a significantly better option, and both A and B are better than your current situation (like if you’re unemployed).

    • @David: Here’s an employer who took it to the other extreme:

    • Absolutely! I am sure the same CEO would have no issue pursuing an existing employee with a counter-offer after they had accepted a position with a new company. So, in that case is it unethical to back out of an accepted job offer and accept the counter-offer? Mind-numbing advice from someone who thinks they have way more power than they have. How are others going to know you backed out after accepting a job offer anyway?

  5. In my case,I accepted the offer. 15 days after I started, the parent company told my boss that the funds had been cut for the project. He had to let me go along with the four other writers on the project.
    So yes, you should still be interviewing after accepting an offer.

    • @Wm: I can beat that. :-) There’s the story of a guy who accepted an offer he had in writing. Gave notice. Attended orientation. Left his old job. Showed up for training for his new job — and was told he had been re-assigned to another job that paid $20,000 less.

      If that’s not a reason to “keep interviewing,” I don’t know what is!

    • In today’s working environment, I’d say you should always be networking and interviewing. It’s how you determine a way to get from where you are now to where you may want to be and it can help you decide if that’s really what you want!

  6. Interesting set of issues this raises and of which i have seen happening in my career. I know of two different bankers who constantly interview for job openings to the point of accepting offers and then ghosting the bank because they took the offer back to their present employer to get a raise and even a promotion. They always had a potential job in case they didn’t succeed in their goals for the year. I also know of several banks that always had a job posting for a certain job going in the marketplace. After they get 5 decent candidates to interview, they would close the posting and then several weeks repost the job to get 5 more and build a database of candidates for other jobs if they needed to staff up an office or a marketplace team. They would ghost those interviewed so no one would know what they were doing. It took me some time to see the pattern and use my contacts to verify the facts. Sooner or later the word gets out on the people or the company to the best potential candidates and it becomes common knowledge amoung those of us “in the know:.

    • I know a guy who accepted a job, told his current employer he was going on vacation (he had quite a lot accrued)… then with two weeks left on his “vacation” told his new employer he was quitting.

  7. In terms of having a bona fide offer, look at it this way:

    Why not interview and expand your network? If you make a good impression, someone may remember. That could help you in the future when/if you move on again. Yeah, you’ll have to eventually tell them that you’ve taken a new job, but big deal. It happens all the time. If anything, it’ll teach a slow moving company that they have to strike while the iron is hot, not dilly-dally.

    I’ve kept on interviewing after an offer, and it’s never hurt me. In fact, I’ve often had companies/recruiters call me up after a month or two to see how things are going. (I obviously withdrew once the new job started.) I’ve no doubt that if I had said that things weren’t working out, they’d have called me back in to continue the interviewing process. Why close that door until absolutely necessary?

    If you’re set to start a new job on a Monday, and a recruiter or company calls you the Friday before, answer it. Talk shop. Hell, schedule an interview. You can always cancel….but if you get the “something came up” speech at 8 am on Monday, you’re one step ahead of the game. And the bonus is you don’t have to explain to another company or recruiter what happened to your new “job”.

    • @Chris: Here’s what seems to elude people. There’s really no difference between taking an interview:

      1. 5 years after you’ve been on a job
      2. 1 week after you’ve been on a job
      3. 1 day
      4. Or the day before you start the job.

      In each case, you’re exploring a potentially better opportunity. Now, if you take 5 jobs in 6 months by doing 2, 3 and 4 above, you may create a problem for yourself! But in the big scheme of things, you never know when a good opportunity will come along. It’s prudent to carefully explore when one presents itself.

  8. Or what about when you accept a job and find out the environment is poisonous? In my case, I found out almost immediately after I left my job and started the new position, there had been 6 others that filed through this same position. Because the woman I worked for was a monster, because the department I worked in treated its employees like disposables. I was literally told within the first two weeks that I was slow and had a hell of a lot of nerve suggesting I make up for time taken off for the purchase of a new house – by staying extra hours. I was reprimanded because I requested a space evaluation; I was sitting at a single desk (24″*36″) that was taken over with a large computer screen and stacks of file. I did not even have space to pull my chair out from under the desk without backing into another person in back of me. Did the Hiring Dept. have the obligation to tell me these conditions before I quit my job, bought a house – and before they had me train a replacement and then fire me within 3 months? Listen and learn.

  9. I’ve had two experiences related to this. (At least somewhat.)

    In one case, I was choice number two for a position. I found out a couple of weeks after the offer had been made to and accepted by the “other guy” that he left after only ten calendar days for a better paying position. I was still available but the organization had a policy of not (re-)considering candidates that had already been turned down. Heck, I would have jumped at an offer if they’d come back and told me that “Yeah, that other guy turned out to be a schmuck… Still want the job?” This happened years ago and I’m pretty darned sure that I’d still be there had they been able to swallow a little pride and bend their “policy”. (I ran into one of the interviewers some years later who said that several people involved in the interview process had qualms about the guy they made the offer to but were overridden by someone with more clout.)

    In the second case, I was in a contract-to-hire situation that had moved into the “to-hire” phase. After a week of onboarding activities to transition to a full-timer, I was shepherded into the conference room to sign separation paperwork. No reason given though, frankly, I was a little shell-shocked by the development so I didn’t push very hard for a reason. My mistake in that case was not keeping up with interviewing while I was in the “contract” phase of that engagement so I had zero irons in the fire when this happened. Lesson learned. (I’m still more than a little leery of contract-to-hire positions that come my way.)

    • @Rick: “We can’t find qualified candidates!”

      Where have we heard that refrain? Possibly from the employer that rejected you and then passed again due to a silly policy?

      Sheesh. And that CEO wonders why people keep interviewing??

  10. My previous employer merged with another company and reorganized. An entire department was fired/let go and then invited to interview for their old job. What a de-humanizing, debilitating process.

    In that environment, continuing to interview is a must-do, not an option. Always have a plan B.

    The CEO is showing how out of touch he is. If you don’t know how to recruit Millennials, you will miss out on some very talented people.

  11. Sometimes you find out about companies you’d rather not deal with again in your continues interviewing.

    I had moved cross country and was already working when I was contacted about a position. Of course I interviewed.

    The VP of IT I’d be working for was the owner’s daughter. She cut me off every step of the way through the interview. Certifications? She didn’t believe in them. Trouble ticketing system? I literally heard one of her co-workers snort and choke back a laugh. “I’m a foot stomper and a yeller.” was her response. IT would drop everything to fix her PC. Up to date networking? As long as she could access the printer, she was satisfied. No one needed access to company data, and she had it all on her PC anyway.

    I wasn’t getting this one anyway, so when she asked if I had any questions I had just one: Who was the novelist who had written the posting for her?

  12. Sometimes you find out about companies you’d rather not deal with again in your continued interviewing.

    I had moved cross country and was already working when I was contacted about a position. Of course I interviewed.

    The VP of IT I’d be working for was the owner’s daughter. She cut me off every step of the way through the interview. Certifications? She didn’t believe in them. Trouble ticketing system? I literally heard one of her co-workers snort and choke back a laugh. “I’m a foot stomper and a yeller.” was her response. IT would drop everything to fix her PC. Up to date networking? As long as she could access the printer, she was satisfied. No one needed access to company data, and she had it all on her PC anyway.

    I wasn’t getting this one anyway, so when she asked if I had any questions I had just one: Who was the novelist who had written the posting for her?

  13. A lot of the problem stems from two sources:

    1. The MBA mentality where people are nothing more than interchangeable, utterly replaceable, and non-unique tools-of-the-moment. People used to be an asset to be nurtured and developed – now they’re a cost to be minimized.

    2. The loss of honor. It used to be that a person’s word was their bond, and that if a person gave their word – an offer – that was it. Now, not only do people break their own word whenever it’s expedient, they’ll cause someone else to break theirs without a single concern about how it makes that other person look, or whether their own reputation suffers.

    • I’m some Xbox games you get “honor” points. Too bad the CEO isn’t playing these games as millennials do.

  14. I’d love to see a link to the article where the CEO said it was wrong to keep looking, if for no other reason than to ensure I never waste my time with that company. He’d fire me in a heartbeat for any of several reasons – and I’m unethical if I want to ensure that I can pay my mortgage come the first of the month?

    • Me too. I’d love to see if he says that he follows through on every offer he makes. As if.

  15. The CEO is out of touch, not the new hire. I bet if profits went down and the CEO had to “restructure” the company, he’d have no qualms about firing/laying people off. “It isn’t personal, it’s just business” would be his response. He wouldn’t care whether you had to move across the country or across the state, if you had a mortgage, etc.

    And how many times have we seen jobs pulled for all kinds of reasons (funding gets cut or goes to another department or another job, company decides to hire a temp, company decides to outsource that job and/or department to another state or country)? Too many to count!

    When my brother was looking for a new job, he contacted a former colleague and told him that he was looking for a new job. The former colleague told him that they’d had an opening, had hired someone, sent the written offer, which was accepted, the new guy had given notice at his job and was all set to start within a very short time (like a day or two). But the former colleague told my brother that he’d rather hire my brother, so he rescinded the other guy’s job offer and hired my brother. I don’t know what kind of reason the former colleague gave to the other guy; I asked my brother and he said he didn’t know and didn’t care. He had the job, and that was that. The other guy must have been shocked and stunned. Everything is great, he got the written offer, accepted it, gave notice, attended new employee orientation, had filled out on-boarding paperwork, then a day or two before he’s supposed to begin, the job disappears. This was through no fault of his except that my brother fell out of the sky onto the former colleague’s desk, and former colleague was in the position to do the hiring and firing, and he preferred my brother. If that isn’t a reason to continue to interview (and maybe not to quit your job until you know your new job is really yours), I don’t know what is.

    I bet the company in this week’s Q&A continues to take applications and probably even interview. They THINK the LW will work out, or hope he does, but that isn’t a guarantee either. And what if the company is toxic/nutty? You’ve done your due diligence, but still missed it. If you have a chance to leave, you’ll leave. Then the company is back to square one re this job.

    Many of today’s employers don’t treat employees well, as David Hunt noted, supra. It seems they expect complete loyalty from employees, but don’t provide loyalty in return. So no, always keep your eyes open, and if you get an interview, go.

  16. Should you continue interviewing after accepting a job offer?

    I’m thinking, the morning after election day 2020, is the beginning of the Presidential campaign of 20204.

    • Arf, 2020 to 20204 is a really long time for a Presidential campaign:)

      I assume you meant 2024.

  17. This is an example of the shenanigans employers get up to:

    I’m a director of a department and when I resigned yesterday with three weeks notice, my boss told me that they are going to combine another related department with mine and have that department’s director take over as director of the newly-combined department. They asked that I wait several days to announce my resignation to colleagues so that they have time to solidify the transition plan.

    Now, my boss is saying that later this week, they will put the combined departments into effect and I will be demoted from director to a lower-level position with a pay cut — and I’ve found out through other channels that there will be a meeting tomorrow to present the reorg plan to the rest of the management team (excluding me) and that they’re positioning it as that I’ve quit in response to the impending demotion.

  18. CEO suffers from a cranial blockage of the lower intestine.
    corporate recruiters (HR, hiring manager) have a term…”butt in seat” Because per NIck’s point you wisely hedge your bets. It ain’t over til it’s over and the applicant is sitting there with a badge..and then it still isn’t over as it may not work out.
    That door swings 2 ways..There’s ample horror stories about people who’ve accepted offers in good faith, only to get the shaft.
    As a recruiter I assumed people continued their search. In fact it’s not uncommon for someone to tell you they have other interviews in their pipeline. Which is somewhat moot anyway. Recruitment and job applications can be thought of as planting a garden. You plant seeds (networking, applications on one side, and advertise, use job boards & if smart network etc on the other, and you get some good hits. Some of which may sprout after the offer goes out, after you’ve accepted, and after you start.

    Seeing something you’ve invested in to it’s conclusion isn’t unethical. It’s common sense.

    And CEO’s narrow view aside…You may not look at it this way…but recruiting and job hunting is also networking as well as a learning opportunity (about other companies, vocational contacts, ideas). It’s a means to meet people in pursuit of opportunities. to hire or be hired. Why would you walk away from them? After investing your time to find them? You don’t…Both to hedge bets..and with the future in mind.

    And even if you strike gold and you & the company just love each other…By exploring your hedges, & learning about other can strengthen & grow your network by helping someone(s) out with what you’ve learned. For instance..when you’ve comfortably insured you’re on board that company and the offer was as advertised…you can refer good candidates to your post-offer HR/recruiting contacts. This is a double networking win where you’ve helped a personal contact, AND someone(s) in a company of interest. And savvy HR Managers and Hiring Managers can likewise get a head start for their future needs by picking up some good contacts.

    CEO doesn’t understand network building nor express confidence in his/her company. Offer a welcoming recruitment and on boarding process in an environment managed by people that applicants want to work for and you really don’t have to worry about no shows or attrition. which is CEO’s real problem. Not ethics…inability to compete.

  19. Love to know who that CEO was so I know not to apply there. Root cause analysis > the CEO is clueless and should be fired for a inept hiring policy that does not create long term value for the company.

  20. I had been offered the job by the hiring manager over the phone, pending one final interview with the VP of engineering at a semiconductor company (I was assured it was a formality, as I was very well qualified for the role and a perfect fit). I, not being not-so-far along in my career, agreed to the proposed interview date and changed international flights for myself and my spouse (at a cost of $1,500 each) so I could make the interview that was scheduled on the last day before their Winter Holiday break. I was there on time, dressed to the nines, and ready to impress the VP. I sat there, in their lobby for 3 and a half excruciating hours before the admin at the front desk told me that the VP’s admin was out for the day and hadn’t told the VP that he had an interview to attend. The VP was golfing instead. The hiring manager called me later that day and apologized profusely, and like another reader, told me to contact him on the 5th of January, when they’d be back from holiday break. I called at the designated time so we could discuss and reschedule. The hiring manager couldn’t remember me by name. I refreshed his memory about the role and the situation with being stood up for the interview that I spent thousands of dollars to attend. The hiring manager said, “Sorry, I am a little bit scatter-brained right now, I just laid of half of my staff, we’ll get back to you when we are ready to re-engage.” If you’re reading this, David (former VP, now CEO of TWO startups) and Paul (R&D Director), you owe me 3 grand.

    • Whoa! That’s a “red flag” moment right there. You should have said “sounds great, can you set up the travel arrangements?” No way should you ever pay for your own T&L during an interview process.

  21. I went through this same scenario right out of college. I had had a very good first interview for a management trainee type of program in the merchant banking division of a prominent international bank in Chicago, and was really hoping I’d make the first cut. Around the same time, I had also interviewed for a staff accountant position with a major property management firm, but wasn’t excited about either the position or the firm.

    The RE firm made and offer, which I accepted because I was very concerned about the job market at the time. Shortly afterwards, the bank invited me for round two. I was too noble and all high and mighty about being a man of my word, and very regretably turned down the 2nd interview for what surely would have been a better job and company. My father thought I was nuts, but my notions of integrity caused me to stick with the first firm.

    I wouldn’t do that again. To far too many companies, employees are viewed as being a commodity. Even if they’re not that cynical about it and are really good employers, it’s just business to them, and not a loss if somebody backs out (unless there was some personal relationship or favor involved). By contrast, there’s only one of me to give away and devote to a company, and we all need to put ourselves first.

    My life would have been different if I had ultimately been offered and taken the bank job–whether for the better or worse, who’s to say? That would entail pure speculation, and why look to the past, especially with any regrets? As Heinlein said, “When the ship [sails], all bills are paid. No regrets.”

  22. An executive contact of mine who’d lost his job, accepted another one several weeks later.

    Good company, but known for low pay, and sure enough, the guy told me the money was low.

    Because he’d been actively looking, the calls continued to come in after he’d started the new job.

    And because his pay was quite below his market value, he selectively took some of these interviews.

    Soon enough, another company made him an offer. Above what he’d been making before, and twice what he was making now.

    He accepted. And when he gave notice, he got a whopping counteroffer – 20% above what the new job would pay, way more than 2x than he was currently earning.

    He was torn, but in the end declined the counteroffer, keeping his word and honor. The new company actually raised their offer, and laid out the plans for the guy, which will include a promotion and a further 40% increase in his package in the next few years.

    None of this good would have come to the candidate had he stopped interviewing.

    Of course none of this misfortune would have befallen the company he’s leaving, had they made him a market offer in the first place.

  23. @Dave PSC: The story you related also suggests that the first company low-balled him because they knew he was unemployed, and possibly had an idea of what he had previously been making. This again raises the issue of salary histories or even divulging what your target is.

    • Agree, especially in the pandemic environment. When on unemployment, you have to have a good reason to decline an offer or risk losing and paying with interest what you earned. Taking a pay cut of over 30 % is required and many employers know this, not going with the market value of that role.

  24. My late father used to say “you’re responsible for yourself, and yourself only”. I believe you owe employers a good faith effort and integrity only. Several times in my life I accepted low ball dead end job offers after long termed unemployment, but disregarded requests for interviews at other employers shortly after starting. Big mistake. Grass is greener on the other side? Possibly. But as the saying goes “its not over until the fat lady sings”.

  25. Companies hand candidates (and employees) fecal-matter sandwiches, expect them to wolf them down and smile and say “Thank you sir, may I have another?”… companies shaft people on pay, benefits, and meanwhile the C-suite gets six-figure bonuses.

    And when people complain about this treatment, they are told they are “angry” and “unmanageable” and so on.

    Please understand that I abjure violence; I am not calling for it, I would and do absolutely condemn it. But the abuse of the average working man and woman by the suits is getting people angry. Very angry. Drag them from their oak-paneled offices angry.

    A few years ago I had a meeting with a Harvard Business School professor – a professor of HR. He counseled me to take down and hide any essay critical of hiring and management practices. I challenged him “OK, but am I wrong in what I said? Where are the flaws in my logic and/or evidence?” One essay, “The Omen of Lost Shirts,” discussed a physical attack on some executives by workers angry and being laid off even as the company itself was doing well… and warned that this was a portent of worse.

    Silence. Then “Just take them down.” My being right was not at issue, indeed it was implicitly confirmed.

    So yes, I would condemn revolutionary string-them-up violence without reservation. But I’d understand it.

    • Excellent and logical points, Mr. Hunt. Be careful they don’t 86 you off this site for your candor!

  26. But how do I act at the interview? I’m a terrible liar and I hate being dishonest.

    Last month, I was promised a job. I was supposed to start on Monday 14th. The Monday before, I was supposed to sign the contract. That day, I received a call from a different company asking for interview, which I declined because I was supposed to be signing my contract that day. I also called another company, with whom I had an interview scheduled on Thursday, that I accepted a different offer. Later that day, I got a call from “my” company that the director isn’t present and the signing was rescheduled for Thursday. Wednesday evening, I got a call that the company got a visit from mother company and are forbidden to hire anyone.
    I had no job and I declined the other offers.

    A month later, I have accepted another job and am promised to start on the 15th. It’s Tuesday and I accepted the offer last Friday. I want this job, but today I have a second interview for a different job.

    I know this will be answered too late, but I have to ask.

    How do I act at the new interview? I don’t want to lie. Do I tell them I have an offer? But that could make them speed up the process thinking I haven’t accepted already. Do I tell them I accepted the offer? But that tells them I am wasting their time. Should I not mention anything? But that makes me feel dishonest…

    • In a similar situation I never told them. Wasn’t afraid of feeling dishonest. I liked the job I interviewed for after I had already been hired for another company. I didn’t really like the job I was hired for and quit it hoping to be free of it and get hired by the second company I interviewed with. I am now jobless almost a month later as the company I interviewed with ghosted me. Perhaps I should have stuck the first one out I hated. Or perhaps I am more selective and will get something so it all works out. But play the game and forget about feeling dishonest as you will be steamrolled by life if you do.

    • Hopefully you didn’t tell them, you don’t have the job until you do. Learn from the first time.

      • I think I did mention something about having another offer to consider when asked when I could start. I don’t know if it was a factor, but after I signed my contract with the first job, I got a call from the second one that I’m basically too green for them. I didn’t really want that job and maybe it showed. Whatever the reason, it turned out the best way it could for me.

        I think now it would be easier for me not to feel dishonest, because now I have some experience behind me and not just theoretical knowledge and university projects. But I always have problems with this, even if my dishonesty doesn’t hurt anyone.

  27. Nick,

    Thanks for this article. How about this twist in the tale? Final year undergrad student, accepted an offer at X (start date still months away), interviewed at Y (interview was scheduled before the offer from X came, much better company than X), when asked (verbally) about outstanding offers, told them that “offer deadline in 2 weeks”, got an offer from Y. Should they accept Y? How do they decline X’s offer which has been accepted?

    • @Mohan: Unless you signed a contract with X that precludes you from changing your mind (I can’t imagine this), if you want to switch to Y, I believe that’s entirely up to you. But be careful. Make sure Y is sewn up before you notify X that, regrettably, you have decided to accept another offer that was pending. You don’t need to explain, and I would not disclose who Y is. Will X get upset? Possibly, but that’s part of the cost of changing your mind. The key question here is, is Y really better for you? If it is, do what’s best.

      • Thanks a lot for the quick response Nick! Just to be clear, fact that the candidate had not disclosed to Y at the time of interview that she had already accepted an offer from X, does it matter?

        No, there was no legally binding contract with X and she feels Y is indeed much better for her.

        • You just happened to post at the right time :-). I don’t believe it’s any of Y’s business that she had already accepted an offer. I would not disclose it, simply because the information has no material effect on her ability to do the job for Y. Best wishes to her!

  28. Thank you so much, Nick, for the very timely advice. With COVID-19, things have slowed waaaay down but there’s still market for good workers. I’ll take your advice to heart and continue interviewing!