In the September 21, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to deal with two job offers, when you accept one then a better one arrives a few days later.


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?

Nick’s Reply

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?

How many job offers do you really have?

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.

Is this about ethics or business?

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. It’s a business decision.

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?

Sorry, but a bird in the hand is the only bird you’ve got! Decide about that, and then deal with the future later.

For more about this thorny topic — and how to deal with job offer challenges — see Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master Of Job Offers.

Am I being unethical? Is it wrong to accept an offer then change your mind because a new offer is better?

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  1. Totally agree with Nick on this issue. Consider taking job offer #1 on its own merit, completely forget about potential offer #2 fir the time being. If you decide offer #1 is a good offer, then accept it by the deadline agreed if nothing changes (ie if offer #2 does not appear) and don’t try to extend the deadline.

    IMO, extending the deadline hurts you reputation more than recinding your acceptance afterwards. By extending the deadline without good reason, you are telling your future boss you have trouble meeting a deadline, or making important decision, or worse, both.

    If you recind your acceptance, which I would rather put as resigning soon after your are hired, that’s just because the situation have changed (ie offer #2 appeared). Well, things like that happens all the time in business – price suddenly fluctuates, companies suddenly go bankrupt, disaster suddenly strikes, etc. Business people should understand this. If the boss of your offer #1 cannot handle a small thing as the resignation of a new hire, then you probably shouldn’t be staying there long anyway.

  2. Apart from anything else, dealing with one offer at a time is surely a lot easier on the nerves than getting lost in a maze of “what-ifs” and “mights”.

  3. Nick, I wish more of my candidates would read your newsletters! I absolutely agree with you. One of the greatest gurus of all times, Ghandi, was interviewed and asked the same question only a few weeks apart. He gave a completely different answer the second time. Thinking that he finally exposed Ghandi to be inconsistent and telling untruths, his interviewee pointed out the different answers to the same question. Ghandi responded to the effect that: “I have learnt something new and changed my mind”.

  4. “I have gone back to the first company and gotten a decision window of one week to decide. Do I ask for yet another extension? Any thoughts?”

    Based on what you’ve stated you were given a decision window of one week. If you were to ask for an additional week why would that be “another extension?” “It would be “an extension.”

    Ask for an extension.

    Speaking as a search and placement consultant, if you accepted an offer with a company that I introduced you to and then left that company out of the blue shortly thereafter to join another firm (whether I introduced you to the second firm or not), I would professionally interpret your actions as a lack of integrity and not work with you in the future.

  5. I don’t think lack of integrity or ethics have anything to do with leaving one job for another. Even using those terms implies that an employee has a moral obligation to remain at a job for a specified amount of time.

    There is no moral, ethical, or legal obligation in the US for any employee to stay at any job except in the very rare situation where there’s a contract specifying a time period.

    You do have an ethical obligation to do good work while you are accepting a salary from a company, but the company can lay off any employee at any time and the employee can quit at any time. Many employers and agents will try to guilt you into feeling an obligation to the company but it’s always one-way: Companies lay off hard-working and loyal employees all the time.

    That said, if you did quit a job after a week or two because of a better offer you’ll look like a jerk. It’s not an unethical thing to do but it is obnoxious.

  6. Nick, this is very strange, but I find myself in total agreement with you on this. You have covered all the bases of this issue very well and with integrity.

    I have over 20 years as an independent recruiter, representing hiring companies all over the 48 connected states. And I am now in my 5th year as a corporate recruiter for one company. I have seen this happen more than once, both as an independent and as a corporate recruiter.

    For me, the integrity issue is mostly reflected in the way one communicates to all parties.

    As an independent, I had an applicant accept an offer with my client, then on the Friday before he was to start employment with my client he calls my client to rescind his decision to accept a counter offer with his current employer. And, to this day that applicant has never spoken to me about it, will not return my calls, and will not even say “thank you” for the work I did to get him “hired” by my client.

    For me he has no integrity.

    When this happened in my corporate position, the applicant was very communicative, very professional in his way of communicating with everyone involved. I see him as an honest individual who is only trying to do the best he can for his career and for his family. He actually came to me to talk face to face to say
    “thank you” for the opportunity we had extended
    to him and we shook hands and we both know that the door of communication remains open for both of us.

    Just my thoughts . . .

  7. I had almost the same scenario occur once a year back. I burned myself pretty hard in the process and am still paying the piper for it.

    If you are given a solid offer in two positions at the same time then the choice is simple – whatever makes the most fiscal and career growth sense for you as an individual.

    If you have one offer and one pending, the idea of gaining some time is certainly an option, and if afforded the opportunity use it very wisely. Then see above…..

    If an offer is out there, and no other offer is pending….well you know the old saying ” a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”

    In my case, I had an offer, and the belief that another was forthcoming, based on some very positive indicators from references who spoke of the enthusiasm from official inquiries from the “pending” prospective employer – incidentally they were the same organization

    The organization rescinded the offer – without a lot of clarity, and some very questionable and unethical business practices that have soured me from ever seeking employment there again.

    Admittedly, I could have tried to handle things more diplomatically, but so too could the HR Director, and other officials…..there was indeed a lot of immaturity going on from both sides of the table… I agree with G above, and I also know that my cards will be played, not only closer to my chest, but with a greater level of strategy next time…..

    Twice Shy

  8. While companies might be perceived as faceless entities ready to hire and fire at the drop of a hat, hiring managers are human beings that are on the line to achieve results. Please consider the impact on the hiring manager when a new employee leaves shortly after starting in a key position. Just last week I had a hiring manager tell me that given the training that they’re going to give a new hire, they’re hoping to get a 2-3 year commitment to the job at hand. After that he’s cool with the employee’s wanting to seek an internal transfer or to leave the company. A revolving door hire could easily set a hiring manager back a quarter or more given the effort involved to find another qualified candidate in many instances.

  9. I sympathize with Alan Geller. I’ve lost placements when a candidate I thought was settled on the job suddenly turned around and took another. That hurt – I’d done a lot of work and represented the candidate as someone who really wanted the job to my client. I was even angry. But that was my problem and I got over it.

    As Volkswagen points out, and as I tried to suggest in my column, a person’s integrity is revealed when we see how they handle the outcome of the situation – not in the decision they make. What, we’re going to tell people they cannot change their minds or adjust to changing circumstances just because we (and our clients) don’t like it?

    When I originally wrote the article “Juggling Job Offers” on my website, I thought long and hard how I’d explain myself to a client or to a candidate that I was exhorting to make a decision and to stick to it. But the truth of the matter doesn’t change, so I published the article. A job candidate has the right and even the responsibility to change his or her mind when the circumstances change. Volkswagen’s second candidate demonstrates the way to take responsibility by being forthright about it.

    The Ghandi quote is perfect for this topic. Companies tell us they want progressive employees who can think out of the box. If changing your mind for legitimate reasons isn’t those things, I don’t know what is. The problem lies with people who feel guilty or angry as a result – that’s when integrity in behavior goes out the window.

  10. @Alan,

    The hiring manager’s position is to take the “qualified and selected” employee through the process of orientation to the new company…It strikes me that if an employee in a key position left so shortly after hire, that something was not made clear and they chose to bail before things got out of hand….why should an employee stay in something that will not keep them motivated and engaged? I’d say that the idea of expecting a commitment from an employee comes with greater responsibilities on the part of the organization as a whole ….make the employee WANT to stay….not through contracts and deceit, but through opportunities, culture and well structured planning and strategy.

  11. I agree with Nick. It keeps it simple and for all the reasons he cited, an in-hand job offer is very tangible, what else in the pipeline are hopes. Any recruiter has seen the hoped-for offers just vaporize.
    Let’s look at it from the hiring manager’s standpoint, not the company, the company’s recruiter/HR but the hiring manager who by the time you reach offer status is your advocate, & the one who’s really impacted by the possibility that someone they recently hired bails. Makes them look bad. But as many have point out, it’s not personal it’s business & we get over it.
    I’ve hired a lot of people & in reality I think it’s probably happened a few times. As a recruiter it’s happened a few times. and no one’s mentioned the integrity flaw of a candidate using a search with a hidden agenda of leveraging a counter-offer.
    From a hiring manager & a recruiting standpoint, I’d rather avoid the juggling scenario.
    As a manager, I know you’re looking for a job, & if I think you’re a good find and fit, it’s likely someone else will or has. And we recruiters definitely know.
    What I much prefer is the candidate level with me, let me know what I’m dealing with. interviews pending, offers in the works etc. I tell them (both as hiring Manager & recruiter) if anything changes let me know. That means if someone pops you an offer with a deadline, tell me. If I haven’t already got an offer in the works, I’ll speed it up and give you the security of my good faith. If it has a drop dead date, I’ll extend mine. Not forever, but for a reasonable time. No problem.
    Why? it’s usually not a big risk for the reasons Nick mentioned. The anticipated other offers have a way of disappearing. 2nd the candidate will notice I didn’t play hard ball and gave him/her some breathing room. It will be remembered. 3rd, if the person’s a good choice this week, they will be a good choice a month from now. Rarely, if ever is my need a dire emergency, I want the person to come aboard with all that angst cleared up looking forward & I’ll wait a bit for that. If I have already extended an offer of course I won’t rescind it. If I haven’t, & I’ll tell the candidate this, I’ll keep the slot open for him, but not forever. On my end no offer means I’m still looking too. Key is my point offer or not I want by this time enough trust to have an open dialogue. the integrity lies in the dialogue. No one’s jerking anyone around.
    Even if they get that other offer I’ve given them a lot to think about in how they were treated. If my competitor plays hard ball (e.g. some I’ve run across that basically tell you up get one offer & one week or one company that says you have to tell me right now) I can still win.
    If they decide to take the other offer, you’ll be remembered for referrals, and in some cases candidates who took the other job, to find all was not as advertised, realized they made a mistake, and reconnected and came aboard later.
    sorry for the long winded/cursored input, but I think there’s a lot to be said about derailing the juggling

  12. @Once Burned:

    The context of my post is of an employee who accepts an offer with a firm and then shortly thereafter leaves because another company that he or she interviewed with in the past came through with an offer. I don’t see where “clarity” and “things getting out of hand” have anything to do with the first employer’s actions.

  13. point taken…

  14. @Once Burned: I think it is true that companies sometimes hire people without going to the trouble to clearly depict what the job and the environment is really like. The company will poke and prod at the candidate until it knows what it wants to know. But it will not always present the facts about itself fully. It is of course incumbent on the candidate to ask the right questions, but if a company does not want to suffer the costs of an early resignation, it will do the job of full disclosure itself. I think you make a very good point.

  15. I wanted to also point out that literally all the points written here have validity. The process of employment in and of itself is complicated by a lot of policy/political and indeed personal crap that detracts from the real point of filling a void with a well qualified candidate that has proven worthy by past performance which generally indicated future behavior. We all have a job to do, currently, mine is to find a great employer…who places value on human capital before other assets, so that I can then do mine, with an eye to managing all other resources to grow the organizations bottom line.

  16. I really liked your article this week. Yes, as a career service professional, I usually tell people to avoid rescinding acceptance of a job offer, and the major reason was to protect their reputation. But I think what you are suggesting does make a lot of sense, and job seekers should know this risk before they decide how to approach the first offer.

    I also think that in a situation where the second offer seems to be on its way, I would push the second employer instead of the first employer. Since they are the one who is competing with the first employer for “me” and they came into the “game” late, so they have to make up the time for it…even though they might offer a better position, the job applicant can still bargain for time because he/she already has an offer in hand. I’m not sure if that make sense. Please let me know what you think.

  17. Nick, Business Ethics is that not an oxymoron? I agree with you , take the first offer, IF & WHEN the second comes through, make a “business” decision. After all “it is not personal just business”

  18. @Jia, my brother recently did exactly what you suggest. He received a good offer from Company X, and had interviewed well with Company Y.

    His preference was Company Y, even though the top of their salary range was about $15k lower than his offer from X. He called Y and said, “I have an offer from Company X at [salary]. I want you to know I’m not trying to leverage more money, especially since I don’t have an offer from you. I just want to know whether you’re seriously considering me for the position. I’d much rather work for you, even though the salary range is lower than X’s offer. I have one week to notify X of my decision. If I’m not in the running with your company, I will take the position with Company X.”

    Company Y called him 2 days later and offered him the job at the top of their salary range. He accepted on the spot.

  19. @Larry: People like to say that business and ethics are a contradiction. I look at it this way. There’s good business and there’s bad business. Good business is based on sound relationships. Sound relationships imply ethical behavior. So I treat every business experience like it’s going to grow into a good relationship, and I go out of my way to be ethical with the person or people. If they turn out to lack integrity, I “fire” them whether as clients or customers. Life’s too short. It’s so much easier and more enjoyable to work with good people. So why not make it a requirement for yourself and for others?

  20. I completely agree with Nick. Take the 1st job and IF the 2nd really makes an offer, then make a “business decision.” That’s what companies do, and what is good for the goose makes a darn fine sauce for the gander as well. As far as the employee’s “reputation”— any company who would hold it against an employee isn’t worth working for. An employee has the right and responsibility to protect his / her own best interests. In the end, an employee works for no one but himself / herself. Companies let go of loyal, performing employees all the time without concern for their business’ reputation and without regard for the fate of the employee. Of course, thank business #1 for their offer and their time and any other instrumental people need to be acknowledged and thanked. If they are really business people, they will understand, even if they don’t like it.

  21. I don’t mind people taking other offers if I have one on the table for them. What I mind is none-transparency and wishy-washy-ness.

    1) If you have an offer on the table, tell your other opportunities this, and state a deadline (acceptance date). Then it’s up to them to either tell you to go away, extend an offer now, or wait past the deadline and hope you’re still around.

    2) If you are waiting for other offers, tell your current offer this, it’s up to them to decide to extend, hold firm, or revise the offer (in an effort to get you to accept now)

    3) If you accepted an offer and a better one comes in, let the original one know, and state clearly your reasons. Just not showing up on day 1 is bad. (Probably worse than showing up and quitting in 1 week.) At this point, try to avoid a bidding war. It might be good for your pockets, but it’ll probably be very bad for your reputation. Make your decision and stick with it. As long as you’re transparent, things will turn out ok.

  22. @Jeff Wang: Excellent comments. Echoing Volkswagen, it matters how you handle it. Just not showing up isn’t acceptable. Where the dilemma lies is in deciding whether you want to disclose details about your dealings with one employer to another. I believe an argument can be made either way.

    In the end, it’s up to the candidate to think about the consequences of sharing information and making choices – and to be ready to accept those consequences. Will I make more money? Is it worth a few more bucks? Or if I leave a few bucks on the table, will that pay off better in the long run?

  23. Look at this from the back – end. Lets take the job offer at company #1. Then 2 weeks later the job offer at #2 comes through. The personal integrity is do you like the work at job #2, and will it renumerate well so you can look after yourself and family. If so go ahead.
    That is personal integrity.
    Ethics is a slightly different matter. You are leaving job #1 to take job #2.
    1) Did you give enough notice to company #1?
    2) Are you helping to find some candidates?
    3) Most important – no matter how little time you spent there is the position in better shape now, than when you arrived? Can someone smoothly walk into “your shoes” and start walking? Then your ethical responsiblities to company #1 are complete. (Note: this is a lot more than most companies do when announcing sudden lay offs).
    Now look after yourself, family and what work you really want to do.

  24. I visit an HR community bulletin board regularly and have seen that hiring managers do get offended by this. But I remember a recent discussion about how to tactfully retract an offer to a less qualified candidate when a better one became available. It seemed like none of the posters seemed too worried about integrity or reputation (the discussion was focused on the legality – not surprised since that’s the HR mantra, battle cry and rasion d’etre!).

    It turned out that the company found a way to employ both, no foul and no potential lawsuit.

  25. I’d suggest just telling company #2 that you have an offer and you need to give them an answer before a certain date. “I’d really like to work with your company, but I have an attractive offer from company #1 and I don’t want to leave them without an answer longer than X”.

    Sure it’s putting pressure on company #2, but it’s honest and as an employer I’d much prefer it to just being told “sorry, I took another job already” because I was “late” without knowing it.

  26. Another addition:

    As someone running a small business I strongly disagree with the “it’s just business” attitude. Maybe if you’re talking about MegaCorp, but even then the people involved are … people!

    In our little business (~15 people) we hire basically whenever we manage to increase revenue long term or otherwise save up so we know we can sustain one more employee. Basically we take every offer and every employee we pick up very seriously. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t work out and to some extent it’s “just business” — but we try pretty darn hard.

    So yes, if someone accepts an offer and then leaves without giving it a fair shake we’d understand it’s just business — but for us it’d also be “just business” never to hire or recommend that individual again.

    It’s a small world – don’t be a jerk.

    – ask

    – ask

  27. I absolutely disagree with Nick on this one. If the question was, “what’s the smart move for me to make to protect myself?” then I would agree. But this is a question of ethics. To knowingly accept a job offer knowing that you are actually going elsewhere as soon as the paperwork clears is unethical. And to compare that situation with a company that lays you off 6 months later is disingenuous. If the company hired you KNOWING that they planned to lay you off in short order, then it would be a comparable situation.

    Is “a bird in the hand worth two in the bush?” Absolutely. But you are lying to your new employer when you accept a job under false pretenses. If I was the hiring manager at the second company and found out what you did, I would not trust you and would not expect you to stay at my company over the long haul.

  28. What’s the difference between this and accepting a job and then turning it down in favour of a counter offer from your current employer? None that I can see. The whole question of whether you should accept a counter offer is another subject in its own right but there is no fundamental difference, you accepted the job then changed your mind. Situations change and as many comments point out, the employer would have no qualms about letting you go if their circumstances changed.

  29. The last time I changed jobs I faced a similar situation. I was interviewing a company where my ex boss was a manager. They told me that they had an opening and expected to fill it. The second interview went well, but I didn’t receive an offer in the time frame I asked for. Meanwhile, I interviewed at another company, had a second interview a week later followed by an offer in three days with a three day acceptance period. I always admired the ability of an organization or individual to make a decision quickly with limited info.
    So I called the hiring manager at the first company and told him I needed an answer pronto meaning that week. He said he couldn’t make the decision that fast. I always admired the ability of an organization or individual to make a decision quickly with limited info.
    I took the offer on the table and never regretted it.

  30. “Try to avoid a bidding war?” What are you kidding?

  31. Let’s reverse the situation.

    Company A hires you. On your 3rd day the boss walks into your office and tells you that you are being dismissed. “Why?” you ask, “Did I do something wrong?” “No, but Monday morning Mr. Smith applied for the job and agreed to do it for $10K less than you.”

    Is it better for the company to hire Mr. Smith and save $10K?

    Can you offer to do the job for $15K less and get into a bidding war?

    Is it ethical for the company to interview and hire someone for a job that they had offered to you?

  32. @David R Meyer: You say <>

    And that’s the point. If I have one offer and I’m waiting on another that is uncertain, and I have to make a decision about the first – all I KNOW is that I have one offer. How am I unethical if I accept the only offer on the table?

    My point in my posting is that much as a person might wish for the second offer, it’s not real. It cannot play a role in your decision if there’s a deadline.

  33. @ John Zabrenski
    You did make a wise choice by observing the speed the first company did thier due dilegence and making you an offer.
    I like to work for people who can gather the information they need fast, and decide. It tells me I will be working in an open atmosphere I can get work done in.

  34. I’ve had several employers who laid me off with less than one year on the job. Did those employers worry about their reputation? I doubt it. Conversely, I’ve quit on employers with less than a year on the job to take better offers. Did I worry about it? No.

    Employers act in their best interests. And so should you.

  35. I work in university career services and just the other day had a recent alum who started a new job a month ago. However, she just got a call from her boss at her summer internship position. She was offered a job there. She didn’t know what to do. Does she stay at her current job even though the day to day work isn’t as interesting to her or does she take a position that is much more interesting and in line with her career goals (and which seemed like a better position IMO)? Only she could make the decision and I helped her evaluate pros and cons. There are definitely two sides to this and all these kinds of situations and it is quite a dilemna. I advised her that if she does quit her job, to be very honest with the employer. I also suggested she acknowledge to the organization she might leave that she’s putting them in a tough spot and offer to help them find a replacement by getting in touch with my office to post the position or collect resumes.

    I’m inclined to agree that it is business, these things happen all the time and that if an opportunity presents itself that you feel you can’t pass up, try to act with integrity to all employers involved by being honest. Sometimes people don’t know what will happen and they make the best decision they can at the time with the info they have. But other opportunities do arise.

    Does it really damage your reputation that much? Are people really going to put that much effort into spreading a bad word about you or just simply move on and deal with it? If they are that sensitive, maybe they need to assess how they react in business situations, whether they take things way too personally and whether they are being vindictive.

  36. @Erika

    Not kidding. Don’t get into a bidding war after you’ve accepted. It’s bad form, and leaves a bad taste in the mouth for everyone involved, even the winner.

    I’ve go no problem in saying (and have said) I really like your offer, but company #2 has offered me $X, and you’re offering me less. I’d sign with you if you match company #2’s offer. Or some such thing. But to turn around and make the other company bid higher, that’s just crazy talk.

    You should know (roughly) how much you’re worth and how much you can get. Action-response is fine. Bidding wars are not. As an employer, I pull out of any bidding wars that develop, it’s not worth it. I’m willing to match offer, but that’s it.

  37. @ Jeff Wang,
    If 2 employers are getting into a bidding war, they obvious left themselves some wiggle room and really like that candidate. My job as an employee is to get as much as I can and your job as an employer is to pay me as little as you can, and still have me come back tomorrow. So of course we will never see eye to eye. And like you said, you will deal yourself out if things get too rich for your blood. For some, it may be worth offering a couple grand over the competitor. Of course, money is only one aspect of the job for candidate and employer alike, but in a capitalist society it isn’t insignificant.

  38. We’re discussing this topic mostly from the job hunter’s side – what a person should do when faced with competing choices.

    But there’s the employer’s side, too, which some folks have commented on.

    Here’s my take on Why you should offer job applicants more money. (You might disagree if you’re an employer.)

    Please chime in!

  39. @Erika,

    If you get into a bidding war, it tells the prospective employers that you will make desicions based on salary and little else. Which makes you likely to jump to the next place that offers you some bucks more. I think the work, job environment, company strategy etc is at least as important as a few extra $.

  40. I have been on both sides of this.

    I accepted a job to build a business unit for a securities firm. A head-hunter found me another position a few weeks later that I probably would have preferred had it been made before I made a commitment to the first. I did not even consider it because, well, that is what it means to make a commitment.

    My advice: if you are not able to commit to something, then rethink whether it is the right thing for you. If you are taking a job you can’t commit to out of desperation, then, sure, go ahead and take one you can commit to because you aren’t going to get much done on the first one without committing to it.

    Years ago, I made a job offer to a friend. He accepted it in writing, and I told my other candidates that the position was filled. He rescinded, after leveraging my offer into a counteroffer at his existing employer. Having to go back into the market hurt my reputation (my candidates all came from a tight-knit community of programmers). Would it be ethical for me to have told that community, “Knowing what I know now, I would never trust his word, and I recommend you don’t either.” (BTW, I did not do that, took the hit to my reputation, and we’re still friends.)

    Today, I spend much more time hiring people, and I won’t make an offer until we can empathize and care about each other. The last time I hired, my first three candidates withdrew because once they realized how much of a commitment I make to my employees, they knew they could not reciprocate. Those people have become friends.

    We just ran a story on this at entitled JOB HUNTING IS LIKE DATING, where the question is: Is it a seduction or a search for true love? We interview an expert on the topic of trust, along with two of the candidates I did not hire.

  41. @Karsten, I agree that those other factors are approx as important as salary. But what if both offers are substantially similar and the main difference really is about money? As an employer, you may be angered at the idea of having to pay a couple more bucks, but if you are going to instantly stereotype a potential employee as someone who cares only about “salary and little else,” that is not a plus for me or other potential employees. (It’s NEVER been just about the money, but I do need to survive.) Does senior management shy away from evaluating financial packages? It just doesn’t pay to be cheap with a good candidate, because most of the time, people get exactly what they pay for.

    On the flip side, what about employers who, when seeing a voluntary employment gap, automatically assume the candidate will work for 20-30% less than they’d offer someone without a voluntary employment gap? That’s their wrong guess. Believe it or not, not everyone in America lives paycheck to paycheck!

    @Brooke Allen, I don’t recommend that you trash the reputation of someone who worked for you but didn’t pan out. You could be sued, or they could simply do the same to you. Just give the position title and dates of their employment and leave it there.

    Look folks, the days where the employer held all the power are over now, whether you like it or not. Employees are seeing themselves as people who have as much right to know about the employer, their ethics, strategy, financial health, and offered compensation and benefits, as the employer knows about them. The info age cuts both ways. Websites are springing up to level the playing field. Employees talk to each other and look around. So do employers. So, respect your candidates and you stand the best chance that they will also respect you.

  42. One thing that we should all keep in mind here is that “employers” are actually human beings as well. So while you are “negotiating” with your new company, you are also talking to a human being who may feel that you are trying to “play them”. Rational or not, they may decide that your attempts to take good care of yourself is a sign that you lack loyalty and are interested only in yourself. This may be especially true in the example given where the individual is not unemployed but is searching for a new job, and now trying to play to employers off against each other. So while he is employed at company A, he accepts a job offer from company B, only to turn them down for a better offer from company C. It might be worthwhile to think what that human being who made you the offere at company C would think of their new employee who just quickly job hopped. Might they think that you will leave them just as quickly when something slightly better comes along?

  43. I think there’s a big difference between rescinding an acceptance to take a better offer that came only after you accepted the first, and “playing employers against each other.”

    Perhaps somewhere in the middle is negotiating among multiple employers for the best offer. It may indeed involve bidding. So what? One employer might refuse and walk away. So what? Another might decide it’s worth upping the ante. Is one better than the other? I don’t think so. The right applicant-employer pairing works itself out.

    In the end, I think both companies and people act in their self-interest. Self-interest to one may mean getting a bigger salary; to another, it might mean getting a new hire for less money; or getting the new hire because you spent the most money; or it might mean feeling satisfied that you did the right thing by keeping the first offer in spite of a better one that came along.

    Standards vary. I think the larger point is that birds of a feather belong together. And I think the process we’re talking about shakes people and companies out into groupings that belong together.

    When my agent took my first book to publishers, she invited them all to bid on it. I met with them all in advance. There was only one I didn’t like, and I had the agent dis-invite that publisher from the bidding. (She was stunned; no author had ever asked her to do that before.) I liked all the other publishers I met. They all bid on the book. It was an exciting but orderly process. I contacted all those who lost the bidding war and thanked them for their faith in me and my book – they understood, but each told me I was the only author who ever thanked them after the fact.

    When I prepared the acknowledgements in the book, I thanked them all again by name, publicly. Business is business, but how you behave through it is up to you.

  44. Nick,

    As a market professional, I am 100% in favor of competitive bidding. In an ideal world, I would like to know that I am your best choice, not your only choice at the moment. I’ve written about this in: Why Do I Want to Teach You to be Good at Finding a Job Before I Will Hire You.

    However, after the bidding is over, it is time to move from self-interest to common interest. After the book contract is signed, the bidding needs to stop.

    I also like the fact that you acknowledge the loosing bidders. The hiring process is a two-way market where both parties are evaluating alternatives. You know about my hiring process so you know that I try to help my best candidates who I did not hire to find work elsewhere. After putting all the effort into vetting them, I can usually find another employer who can benefit from my effort.

    The market clearing price is not set by the best bid, but by the second best bid. We all owe gratitude to those who we don’t choose because they give us a very valuable thing: a choice.


  45. Similar situation:

    1) Commuted about 5 hours/day. Asked employer if he’d let me telecommute but was told, “No”.

    2) Six months later, got unsolicited call from HH and offer of a job with much shorter commute.

    3) Offered my resignation.

    4) Was told if I stayed with company, I could telecommute. Asked why the change of heart and was told, “You weren’t going to quit six months ago”.

  46. It far easier for a company to replace an employee than for an employee to replace a better job. So yes, absolutely take the better offer. And the sooner you bail out, the easier for your former employer to recover from your departure. More than once I’ve seen companies relocate people halfway across the country, and then lay them off a few weeks later because of financial problems, takeover, etc. I never heard any apologies offered.

    We’re talking about balancing a relatively minor inconvenience for an employer versus improving the quality of your life and career. In my book, that’s no contest. Particularly now that employer loyalty has vaporized. Will your “sacrifice” to the first employer be rewarded? The question answers itself.

  47. @ Of course Nick is right,
    Well-said! I’ve seen that too.

  48. Wow…I am surprised at both Nick’s stance on this, and the amount of people that don’t think it lacks integrity and ethics to accept and offer, commit to a company then rescind.
    While I agree that employers make certain decisions (layoffs) based on business and not personal reasons, I think this is completely different. The layoff would compare to me telling someone that they should not worry about leaving a company – feeling indebted personally to their employer, and that the employer wouldn’t; but I would always tell the employee, AS LONG AS you do it professionally and with intergrity, you owe them nothing else.
    Accepting an offer then rescinding it, totally different story and very unethical IMO.
    In this situation, you need to put on your sales hat and figure out how to strategically buy yourself some time. If this does not work, you need to be strategic in letting company 2 know that you have another offer to accept or decline, and unless getting an offer from them (company 2), you will be accepting company 1 (I mean, can’t you figure out how to use this to your advantage to potentially increase your value/offer from company 2?). I think in some cases it’s ok to tell a white lie to company 2 such as “at this point, you are my lead choice but I’m still working through the process.” (similar to telling a white lie to spare someones feelings). This to me is different then making a committment to someone then rescinding.
    I’m so surprised (and dissapointed) at the amount of people out there that think this is ok. You can (and should) look out for your best interest, but do it without lacking integrity, professionalism and ethics.

  49. By the way….starting a job and realizing you were sold a bill of goods (or heck, having something unexpected come up and having to relo for example) and leaving abruptly is different then knowingly committing to something and rescinding as part of your initial tactic.
    Man up and learn how to juggle and negotiate professionally and with integrity.

  50. @Craig: I appreciate your concern about ethics. But I think you’re playing this two ways, because you realize underneath it all that there is no way to deal with an unknown (the second “possible” offer).

    You say “leaving abruptly is different then knowingly committing to something and rescinding as part of your initial tactic.”

    I agree. But who said that rescinding is part of the initial tactic? I’m saying that if you have just one offer, you have just one choice to make. That’s not a tactic. It’s reality. The two events (accepting one offer when only one is real, and rescinding that acceptance when another, better offer comes along) are separate at the time you must decide on the single offer.

    You also say “I think in some cases it’s ok to tell a white lie to company 2 such as “at this point, you are my lead choice but I’m still working through the process.” (similar to telling a white lie to spare someones feelings). This to me is different then making a committment to someone then rescinding.”

    Sorry, but now I’m the one who is surprised. What’s a white lie, and what’s a black lie? Where is the line?

    I’m suggesting that there should be no lies. Don’t misrepresent anything to anyone. Just make a decision based on the information you have.

    I do agree that a person should do what they can to keep their options open. But at some point, both companies reach their limit and you must make a decision. It seems to me that people just don’t want to have to make a decision until they have all the options “live” in front of them. That just doesn’t happen very often. People have to make a choice based on what they’ve got in front of them.

  51. Actually my stance is crystal clear, no two ways.
    And white vs. black lie (whatever that means) sounds great philosophically, but everyone knows what a white lie means. It is telling little johnny that you can’t come out and play today (to spare his feelings), vs. telling him you don’t want to come out and play because you’re sick of him. It’s a company telling a candidate that the other candidate was better qualified, rather than telling him they thought he was ugly (please don’t go there, just an example to make the point that you seem to be trying to twist to take focus off of your stance here).
    I agree you can’t control the unknown, but you need to figure out and work your strategy up front – because at the time you commit, you should commit and cease all looking around. It’s time to put your head down, focus on being successful.
    What a terrible thing to advise people on, so the world becomes more and more non-committed and inconsiderate. That people take jobs and as soon as something better comes along, they’re gone. As is the same in personal life, the grass isn’t greener, but many people think it is – take the easy road and jump ship, only to find they made a mistake or could’ve made it work in their favor, or, have a new set of issues with the so called greener pasture.
    I would like to see a world shifting more focus on committment, integrity and consideration for others…in a time when things seem to be going faster and faster the opposite way. That’s why I come across strongly on this issue I guess, it seems as though you are advising all your readers to be more on that dark, selfish side (which is different than looking out for your best interest – which I agree you should, but tactfully and with consideration).
    Sorry Nick, I just disagree on this one.

  52. @Craig: I haven’t read one comment from anyone on this thread who agrees with my advice that suggests they are dark or selfish or inconsiderate or non-committed. I do see that people are looking out for their best interests. Who said making this kind of decision is the easy road, or that such an action should be done inconsiderately and without tact?

    What happens to the first employer when the candidate sticks to his first choice in order to “have integrity” – and then the individual loses their motivation and the quality of their work suffers because they realize they’re in the wrong company? Is it ethical to keep a promise when you suspect both you and your new employer will suffer from the consequences?

    I wish difficult decisions were always cut and dry. But when a job hunter tells the first employer that he’s rescinding his acceptance because another employer is offering a better job – to me, making that difficult decision quickly demonstrates integrity.

  53. Craig,

    You are asking employees to do more for their employers than their employers would do for them. It was employers who moved away from loyalty in the first place!

    They are the ones who will out-source our jobs to China and India if they think they can make more money. (Sometimes they are as wrong there, as the employees looking for greener pastures that you cite!) It is employers who in-source, demanding unlimited H1-B visas to ensure those in science, engineering, and IT are perpetually “over-supplied” and therefore have no negotiating power. It is employers who are stealing employee’s pension monies. It is employers who are rescinding job offers. It is employers who are trying to make many of us un-benefited temps working for desperation wages. It is employers still looking around after they hire an employee. It is employers telling lies— black and white. It is the employers (top execs) who pay themselves ever higher ratios of pay relative to their average worker. It is the employer who relocates an employee to a different state, often at the employee’s own expense, knowing full well that they will spin off that business unit within 6 months, leaving the loyal and trusting employee unemployed in a state where he / she knows no one!

    Your complete failure to acknowledge the regularity of the employer’s “dirty dealings” listed above, is very telling. You make it sound so one-sided, “Employer good. Employee bad.” Sorry. The employers started this and now it is a 2-way street. You get what you give!

    I had a firm job offer from an employer who made great hay over the fact that he was a man of high integrity and ethics. I was to start in 3 weeks, so I quit looking for jobs. He called the Fri before the Mon I was to start, and left a voice mail saying “Someone I liked better came along, no need to come in on Monday.” No apologies. No compensation. No way to make up for 3 weeks wasted! Never again!

    You also repeatedly miss the point about how the employee only actually has one firm offer in hand. They may believe (correctly or incorrectly) that the 2nd company may make an offer, but until or unless they really do, they only have 1 offer! It is nice to think that we can hurry the 2nd company up or leverage offer #1, and sometimes we can, but not always! So, that premise isn’t a given.

    I certainly agree with you that employees should “tactfully and with consideration” look out for themselves. Sometimes that means, IF the other offer comes in, saying “I really appreciate the opportunity you have given me. Unfortunately, my circumstances have changed and I will be resigning. I start on xx-xx-xx; is there anything I can do for you to ease the transition for a new employee between now and then?”

    That is not a lack of commitment, integrity, or consideration. It is business and it is the responsibility of the employee to make decisions based on his / her own interests. Because Lord know, the employer will do the same!

    I think we will just need to agree to disagree on this one! You are in the minority here, because you are not recognizing the typical behavior of the modern corporation, or the true dilemma of an employee with ONLY ONE job offer IN REALITY, but who hopes for another offer (without any guarantee that it is forthcoming.)

  54. A suggestion:

    I have discovered the power of, “If you were me, what would you do?”

    In 1995, I was negotiating my contract with my current employer and they asked me what terms I wanted. I said, “Put in it what you would if you were me.”

    I brought their offer to my lawyer who asked, “Who negotiated this for you, it is the best contract I’ve ever seen.” I told them that I hadn’t negotiated anything.

    A young relative took a job paying only $25K. When the apartment he wanted required $30K salary, he asked me to cosign his lease. I said he should just ask his boss what he should do. He said he couldn’t ask because he had been there only 2 weeks.

    I refused to cosign, and he was stuck with no option, so he did what I suggested. He did not ask her to cosign, and he did not ask her for a raise. He did not tell her to do anything, and he did not say what he would do or what he wanted. He just described the problem.

    She found a cheaper apartment for him. Then she renegotiated the rent on the original apartment. Then she sent a letter saying the base pay would become $35k in 3 months. She had the power to negotiate, and she had the power to pay him more. She did all this in less than an hour.

    If I received a second offer I really wanted after I’d already accepted one, I’d just go into my boss, describe my situation, and ask, “If you were me, what would you do?” Then I’d shut up and listen.

    Before you dismiss this as unlikely to work, try it and see what happens. I’ve never had it not work, and I have used it in many many circumstances, some with much higher stakes than these two examples.


  55. @Brooke Allen: Now, there’s the most elegant solution. Ask the employer what he would do. I have no doubt it’s always worked for you. I suppose on the off chance the employer tells you off, well, there’s your justification for taking the other offer!

  56. Precisely. It is like a test of whether the current boss is empathetic, or an asshole. You probably don’t want to see yourself as qualified to work for an asshole. If he is an asshole, problem solved. If he is empathetic, then you know something very valuable you might not yet know about with the guy with the 2nd offer. Perhaps you want to ask him the same question.

    Once a venture capitalist (his name is Al) wanted to buy a big stake in my business for a few million. I had an alternative bid to move as a unit into another firm as employees. I told Al that, if I accepted his money, we would become business partners. I introduced him to the other party and told them all to be totally honest with each other. Then Al was to report back to me on his recommendation on what I should do if he were me. I said that if he recommends that I should take him on as a partner and later it turns out that was not my best decision, then he would have one pissed off partner.

    Al and the other guys spent a day together, and then he produced a very thorough analysis showing that, while it would be in his best interest if I went with him, it was not in my best interest, so he recommended against accepting his offer.

    Al and I are now great friends.

    I’ve discovered that flushing out honorable people like Al is worth much more than the few marginal $2K in pay. And being such a person is worth vastly more than that.

    And, of course, I always want to know what is in the other guy’s best interest.

  57. I have a similar situation that I would like some comments on. My son is a senior in college getting his Mechanical Engineering degree. He did an internship over the summer and from his hard work was given an official job offer (in writing) when he graduates in the spring next year that he must respond to by the end of this month. He likes the company and offer ok, but has nothing to compare it to. He was hoping to have other interviews at least to see what other opportunities are out there being Mechanical Engineering is a very broad job field. It sounds like from most of the posts here he should accept the offer and if something better comes along he could rescind the acceptance.

  58. @George Bold: Congratulations to your son. The company that made the offer has bought itself an early option. I’d take that very seriously. Read the offer carefully: Is it guaranteed? If it is, I’m not sure what the guarantee would say. Does it obligate him in some legal way? It might. (Compare to agreeing to making an “early decision” on college acceptance. If you later renege, there are consequences among schools that participate in early decision.) Though I don’t know what penalties might be included.

    The bottom line is, this is a good thing. But as you point out, as your son gets nearer to graduation, he might get better offers. If your son isn’t particularly motivated by this job, I’d probably turn it down with a polite note saying it would be inappropriate to accept a firm offer at this time, but that he’d like very much to revisit opportunities at the company closer to graduation. If he’s pumped about the job, then due diligence is called for, as with any job offer. Then decide.

    Just make sure that if your son might consider rescinding later on, he’s not putting himself in some kind of legal bind. There could certainly be other repercussions. A few years out, he might find himself dealing with the company again, and it might remember what he did. There’s a cost to every decision, even if it’s legitimate.

  59. Thanks for the thoughts Nick. The offer does not contain any obligation legalese. The internship was not setup through his college, my son applied online to many companies and got the hookup outside the system. We have discussed this is a business decision, but he feels it is personal too so I would say he would more than likely try to extend by politely turning down the offer as opposed to trying to extend, which we thought about, but would not know how long to extend, could be 10 months. I just worry that if he turns down the offer and they don’t extend, the economy today is so iffy, he could have nothing when he graduates. Thanks

  60. Hi everyone,

    I am an exchange student at Schulich Business School. For my marketing research class, I need to do a survey asking graduate students how they’ve found their first job. I need as many answers as possible and as quickly as possible. It only takes 5 minutes, and I would be very grateful if you could help me! Thank you very much!


  61. Nick one more question for you. My graduating son (Mechanical Engineer) has decided accept his offer but would like to negotiate the salary and sign on bonus of $60K, $2K to $65K and $5K. What is the best approach, to ask for the specific amount or ask for higher numbers to get a middle ground #? Thanks

  62. Nick your analysis is bang on. At the end of the day, being hired is a pragmatic, linear process: accept the first offer (assuming you sincerely want the job at proposed terms) and begin working if necessary.

    If/when the second offer comes in later (it might never materialize) and it is superior all-around, bearing in mind the potential negative impact on your “reputation”, then take it.

    I’ve experienced this dilemma twice now. I hear the pains expressed by hiring managers and recruiters when an employee reneges after accepting an offer. This is not an ethical dilemma so much as one about “loyalty to employers” as a concept.

    Loyalty is not instantly awarded, it is EARNED over many years with a company and its people. Thirty or forty years ago, the concept of breaking one’s word to one’s employer was anathema, because you were with that one firm for 30 years. Today, unconditional loyalty to a brand new employer represents an opportunity cost that must be factored for.

    I have been laid off three times in thirteen years. In my experience, the American business climate is strongly biased against employees. In California in particular, most employee agreements are “at will”, meaning the company can let you go without cause, without reason or explanation. How is that model conducive to loyalty?

    It’s nothing like most EMEA countries. No one in the states bothers to ask if layoff decisions are “ethical” or “disloyal”. It’s strictly business. Last hired, first fired. Thanks for your loyalty. Welcome to the 21st century.

    Yes. You are burning a bridge with offer #1 and you have to decide if that risk of harm is enough to keep you there. Make no mistake, though. Executive management and the Board will let YOU go instantly if it means keeping the company alive, or an attractive buyout in an acquisition. They will not meditate too long on the ethics. Or worry about future relationships with dismissed employees.

    I would reserve loyalty for the people (and companies) you’ve known and trusted for years, who have been faithful to you. YOU’RE the one who has to live with the job (and rep) for the long term, not the headhunter (sorry Nick).

    Truly professional hiring managers do not behave like Scrooges trying to “cut a deal”. They make excellent, market-appropriate offers that pose a barrier to competitive offers and ultimately retain people who know they are valued.

  63. The article was great, however, it’s the comments to the article that made me want to comment so thank you to Nick and the commenters. Here are my thoughts on all this based on personal experience as a job hunter both during times of being employed and being laid off. Any follow-ups are greatly appreciated.

    I’m approaching 30 years old and it’s been about 7 years since graduating from university. I’ve been laid off twice in the past 7 years. From my experience, loyalty to a company and/or employee is non-existent. What remains constant is one’s integrity and being as transparent as possible. People speak of reputation? Please…Ethics? Pleese……reputation and ethics has nothing to do with it. It’s about integrity and transparency.

    A good friend worked at a very well known top marketing agency and moved half way across the US for this company to work closer to their client. After two months, he was laid off and was forced to move back in with his parents.

    A few years ago, I was interviewing while still being employed. I received a verbal offer from this company. After following up a few days later and requesting a written offer via email, they rescinded the offer on the spot with no explanation. I’m guessing they found a candidate locally for less money during the few days I took to follow up for a written offer.

    I’m now in a situation where I have an offer in hand halfway across the US. The offer is solid. I requested an extension and the only reason why I’m hesitant is relocation. Whether they grant me my extension is insignificant as I’m trying to handle this with integrity and transparency letting them know of my reasons as well as letting them know that I’m entertaining other opportunities. If they grant it, I thank them for considering my extension deadline; if they don’t, I’ll accept on the deadline provided and decide on the other opportunities when the time comes. If it means relocating, starting the job, and then resigning because the second offer I was hoping for came through and I have to relocate yet again back, then yes, that’s what I will do. The key is how you handle the situation with your current employer and the commenters here have provided solid advice.

    I graduated from a well known university and one of the first rules that they tell students is to never renege an offer. Fast forward 7 years and times have changed a great deal. As many commenters have mentioned, it’s a two way street. Unless you’ve experienced being laid off and/or getting an offer rescinded, you don’t know what it’s like. My advice goes along with the majority of commenters; do what’s best for you. If there’s only one offer, accept it and if you feel that another offer is better suited, then be respectful, act with integrity and transparency, and take the other offer. Trust me when I say this, employers can easily replace you. Like another commenter said, it’s much easier for employers to replace you than it is for you to get another offer. Take advantage of receiving job offers.

  64. @Thanks: Thanks for sharing your story. This raises a good question: How can an employer with integrity avoid hiring someone who might renege on the offer? Easy: Be forewarned. A smart employer gets an acceptance, and immediately engages the candidate, even before they start the job. The manager calls and talks to her. If she’s nearby, she’s invited in to meet the rest of the team and to inspect her workspace. The manager takes her out to lunch, and provides materials via e-mail to help her start coming up to speed. That is, the manager solidifies the relationship and make the new hire feel important, welcome, and part of the team. I think a person is far less likely to renege when another offer comes along in the meantime.

    As an added precaution, the employer can tell the new hire (prior to her starting work), “If anything comes up in the meantime, please get in touch. We try to be candid and frank, and we hope you will, too.”

    It’s all about encouraging cooperative behavior by demonstrating the same.

  65. I am in this exact situation today, so this article and feedback is excellent. I have an offer from company #1 which I have negotiated to the point that it is compelling. I also am in second stage interviews with two other companies. The biggest issue I have is that company #1 needs me to start in a week, and the interview / offer process with companies #2 and #3 will carry on for another few weeks.

    While I do not feel great about it I am going to accept #1 and start working, because 1 in the hand is better than 2 in the bush and continue to interview. If and when the others come in I will be faced with another hard decision. I do not want to burn bridges but myself and family come first, I do not believe there is any other way to do this. It has really been making my head spin !!

  66. I have a slightly different situation. I left one company 3 months ago to go to a competitor. Company #1 would have matched the salary but I felt that Company #2 was a better fit/culture. I just found out that one of the “problem” employees that affected my comfort level there, just left for another competitor. If Company #1 were to offer me my position back at the salary that I am making with Company #2, how unethical would it be for me to consider it? On a side note, a CEO that I worked for for 15 years arranged my interview with Company #2. Thoughts?

  67. @Cheryl: Don’t take this the wrong way. I know you’re trying to figure out how to do the right thing.

    But this is a judgment only you can make. Either choice will exact a price. I’d make very, very sure that going back will not diminish the respect the old company has for you. Some may resent your return for more money. Are they hiring you back because they like and want you, or because they’re stuck and really need you? If the latter, you may be marked in the future.

    Likewise, leaving the new company may cost you in terms of your reputation. Are you close enough to that CEO to go ask for insight and advice about this?

    (It all may be moot if #1 doesn’t come back to recruit you.) I wish you the best. The point isn’t to avoid all downside and anguish. It’s to understand and consider the ramifications now, and to be prepared to live with them afterwards. If it’s worth it, then go for it.

  68. @Nick~Thank you for your feedback. True that it all may be moot and I really haven’t given the new company enough time. They do say that the grass is not always greener on the other side and I do need to remember why I made the change in the first place and it wasn’t because of this one person that I mention above, but many additional reasons. Although, I do know that I did not burn a bridge with Company #1 and may be an option sometime in the future.

  69. There’s one thing that those against the idea of accepting offer #1 and rescinding it if a better offer comes along are not taking into account: Employer 1 has all the option in front of them when they make the decision to hire you. They have met all the candidates and have chosen their top picks. Unlike a person who’s interviewing with a few companies and *has* to wait until a company decides when it is ready to extend an offer, Employer #1 is not waiting around on candidates. It just doesn’t happen.

    The person is at a disadvantage when it comes to making the decision far more than an organization, because the person doesn’t have all his options in front of him, like the hiring company does.

    This is what justifies acting on the information you have, as it comes in. If offer #1 comes in, you accept it. No need to pressure Company #2 who might hire you, as they might think you’re trying to “play” them. If Offer #2 comes through before you’ve started working for Employer #1 than you have the choice to rescind. It’s not a matter of integrity, it is a matter of making a decision based on information which is not all available upfront.

    Employers already have the advantage of seeing all the cards on the table as it is and picking their preferred choice. We, the job seekers, may not have that luxury and holding us to some higher ethical standards that preclude us from making a better decision for ourselves, just doesn’t make much sense.

    This is akin to proposing to a girl you like, coming accross someone you *really* like and breaking off the engagement to be with your real love. Or staying with a spouse you no longer love. I don’t think there’s integrity in “sticking with your initial decision” The integrity part comes in how you handle it. If you tell Employer #1 “I am very sorry, this isn’t how I wanted this to play out” they ought to understand where you’re coming from. If they don’t, they’re probably not someone you should be working for anyway.

  70. Very well stated, Leart! I completely agree.

  71. OK here I am back on this topic. As an update I did accept the job offer I had in hand, Job #1, and started work last week. In some ways it is my dream job with the kind of role I want, in the industry I want. Company #1 is a very small upstart company and the benefits are not great.

    So now of course along comes Co #2, let’s call them large market leader with great benefits. Co #2 is in the process of putting an offer together for me. As back ground I used to work for Co #2 in the past so I would officially be a re-hire. It will take Co #2 from now until end of March to officially get the written offer into my hands. The job at Co. #2 is not exactly the role I dream of, will have much more travel, higher stress, etc. The salary based compensation is identical, the commission plan has the same total but a different makeup.

    I do believe I did the right thing when I accepted the initial offer. But again I am torn by the thought of “screwing” Co #1 who took a risk by hiring me to go back to Co #2. Why would I do it ?? Right now the answer is really around the benefits package and stability of a larger company.

    I guess for now I have to keep my head down at Co#1 and do my absolute best for them until I get the offer from Co#2. It feels good to be wanted, but man I feel like my life is a mess at this point !!!

  72. @By Exactly My Situation
    I know exactly how you feel. I’ve been working for Comp#1 since mid-December. I just had lunch with my former boss, Comp #2 that I left for Comp #1 and she said that they would hire me back in a heartbeat…that the entire sales team would accept me back. She said that many of the reasons that I left are now being changed. She is going to speak w/the CEO to see if she’d be able to match my current base which is $20K more than before. I told her that I am going to give this job 110% until I hear from her. I am finding out that Comp#1 is not all that it was supposed to be..great people but the technology is not where Comp#2 is and I don’t think that they sold much last year..compared to the $7m that I sold on my own last year w/Comp#2. Such a dilemna! It would be nice to get an offer to be re-hired in the next 6mos or so and be able to resign with some integrity…Is that possible?

  73. @Exactly: Don’t forget to factor one thing in favor of #1. Did they spend almost 2 months producing an offer? Did they act quickly?

    That matters a lot. It’s usually reflected in how nimble and supportive a company is once you’re on board.

    That’s part of the “funny money” good companies pay. Funny money has no current cash value, but neither is it taxable. It puts a silly, knowing grin on your face and keeps you working at your job.

  74. So now Co#2 has a fully approved offer in writing on the way to my home. In the interim I have been working my tail off at CO#1 as if and in case the offer fell through. Any suggestions on how to talk with my current employer when / if I decide to leave after being on board for 4-5 weeks ?? I know I will feel like a real jerk, but I do feel very comfortable in the decision to go……..

    All I know is I want this time to be over !! and know that I will need to buckle down at the new new job and stay for quite awhile because I have really created a mess on my resume !

  75. Very interesting thread. I wonder if the same “it’s just business” logic applies in the public sector, specifically teaching? Aside from it not being a capitalistic enterprise, the other distinction here is that hiring is necessarily seasonal (also, there is no salary negotiation–each district has a set scale). And after the severe contraction of state budgets a couple years back and accompanying mass layoff of teachers, it is a very tough environment for freshly minted teachers like me who have zero years of experience on their resumes.

    In my case I got my master’s in education a year ago and was unable to find a teaching position for this school year, so I have been substitute teaching. Now it’s the season for hiring for next school year, and I know all too well from last year that there is no guarantee I’ll get a position. And if I don’t have one by the summer, it’s another year’s wait for the next round.

    So: a couple weeks ago, I had a really good interview for a teaching position in a small town 35 miles away from my home. Due to my stepkids’ school situation and my husband’s agreement with his ex-wife, I will have to commute from here rather than relocate to that town if they hire me. They are planning to notify me later this week as to whether I got the job.

    The same day they plan to notify me, though, I have an interview scheduled for a teaching position here in town. This is the position I would rather have: not only would I avoid the long commute, but the salary scale is higher and I’m already familiar with, and comfortable with, the school district.

    I’ve never received a “grownup” job offer before (other jobs I’ve had were just part time minimum wage type deals), and I don’t know how to proceed if the town 35 miles away gives me a verbal offer on the phone. A friend in another state told me a horror story about how her husband was verbally offered a teaching position by the school’s principal, but then before the paperwork was signed, the superintendant overruled the hiring, allegedly because of something he didn’t like about her husband’s resume (I wonder if it was because he had a friend who needed a job or something like that, but who knows). So this makes me fearful of even asking for time to consider the job offer from Faraway Town if they offer it on the phone. What if they say to themselves “wow, there are lots of laid-off teachers out there who would jump at this chance, so we’ll just go hire someone more enthusiastic”?

    On the other hand, I do have a concern that taking the Faraway Town job and then potentially rescinding could be unethical. In the OP, Nick Corcodilos says doing this “is a crummy thing to do” yet still insists that it is “ethical”. For me, a “crummy thing to do” is inherently unethical the way I define it, so I find that advice confusing.

    I had thought of trying to hint in the upcoming interview for Walking Distance School that since I might be getting a job offer from Faraway Town and can’t pass up an offer given the high unemployment rate for inexperienced teachers, maybe Walking Distance School should offer me the job on the spot (I do think that they have observed me enough subbing and doing my student teaching in the district, that they know I’m a stronger candidate than most). But Mr. Corcodilos seems leery of this strategy, and I acknowledge that it too is fraught with peril.

  76. @Similar Dilemma: I appreciate your concern about what’s ethical. And I’m not trying to talk you out of your position. But I’ve thought about this matter a lot, and I think it’s important to separate what’s real from what you would like to be real. If you have just one offer, and you take it, then rescind your acceptance because circumstances changed — I don’t think that’s unethical.

    Again — this is not an effort to corrupt your own philosophy. But it is an effort to get you to think about this in more fundamental terms.

    Suppose the changed circumstance was that your spouse took very ill and you were needed to provide care around the clock, and could not work. Would it be unethical to back out of the job?

    Suppose someone offered you a million bucks a year to take another job. Would you still stick to your acceptance of the first job?

    Sometimes considering extreme examples helps us identify the nut of an issue. I think the nut here is this: We are sometimes faced with difficult choices. One choice is crummy for the other party, but good for you and your family.

    Then we must separate reality from wishful thinking. If you have one offer in hand, then the choice is binary: Yes, or No? If you delay your decision while waiting for the other offer to pan out, and you thus lose the first offer, how does that play with your family if the second offer doesn’t materialize?

    What would be unethical, I think, is to have both offers in hand and accept one. Then change your mind. You had all the information in hand. In that case, I believe you have an obligation to stick to your first choice. How many choices do you actually have at the time you make this decision?

    I wish you the best.

  77. I appreciate this discussion greatly. I am torn inside because I terminated an employment contract after receiving a much better offer in terms of interesting work, work-place dynamic, ability to launch my career goals, salary, benefits, and location. However when I terminated, the employer was livid, called me unethical, and included some of his colleagues in the discussion. I understand, this is not good for my reputation, but at the time I had no other offers on the table, did not expect the offer from the very competitive position I was offered second, and I was also in a very vulnerable place where I went through a round of medical residency interviews with no offers. I had received promises and assurances that I would be offered a residency, but in the end, it did not manifest this year. As a medical intern, I have been treated as though I am replaceable and that there are many willing to take my position for less in return. The fact is, this is true. With a large amount of debt from my training, and knowing that I am easily replaceable, I truly underestimated my role in accepting the first job offer. Unfortunately, I have upset my reputation within a small network of important people of influence. I explained my circumstances to the first employer with much apology and offered to help find candidates (in fact, I know another person they interviewed who would consider their offer), as I gave 4 months notice & was within the contractual guidelines, but I believe my explanation (reviewed & approved by a mentor and a colleague) worsened the relationship. I feel terrible, and I know my decision has affected others. At the other end, if they had offered a sustainable salary for the location, if they had any benefits to offer, and if a true relationship had been established at the interview, I would not have considered the second offer. Working in medicine without my own medical insurance? I would do it if I had no other options- especially since I can’t take offers outside of the field I want to obtain residency in- as that is looked on poorly, but surely, I feel that my decision is reasonable. There are candidates who takes positions like this for no pay because they have family to support them; but I do not have this option. Am I wrong in thinking that my decision was reasonable? Either way, the lessons I am learning through this process are so important. As a true geek genuinely focusing on my interest in my studies and research, apparently with some blinders on, I never thought about these dynamics and business relationships. But oh how important they are!

  78. Nick, thanks for your reply.

    Jennifer, I think your case sounds actually easier than most (at least in terms of ethics, even if not in the way it was received). It sounds like they are angry in large part because they are frustrated in not having gotten the chance to get the far better end of the bargain. If a job (whether in the medical field or any other, if you ask me) does not offer benefits, no one should fault any employee for instantly bolting for greener pastures if they get offered a job with benefits.

    I look at the employer who doesn’t offer benefits as being on the shady end of the stick from the get-go. But even if we are more charitable in saying “hey, it’s just business”, they should understand that in being an employer that tries to cut corners by not offering benefits, you enter into a risk-benefit tradeoff. The benefit is, obviously, saving money. The risk is that you can more easily lose quality employees to the competition if they do offer benefits. Why shouldn’t businesses be rewarded, by having more loyal employees, if they offer benefits? Why should those who don’t offer them expect or get the same loyalty?

  79. Oh, and I forgot to update my own situation.

    I did not get the job offer from Faraway Town (which I would have had to accept, clearly). Subsequently I *did* get offered the job I preferred, from Walking Distance School. So in this case it turned out to be fortunate that I got passed over by Faraway Town, because I would really be struggling with what to do if I had taken their offer and then had this other one tempting me. (Unlike Jennifer’s case, both include decent benefits, so I wouldn’t have had that easy “out”.)

    My sympathies with anyone else facing this quandary! It’s a toughie.

  80. Thank you for your helpfulness. Similar scenario: Companies A and B offer me positions and want a decision by 7/12/12. Company C says I am a top candidate, but has not made an offer, stating this is due to delays on the new project. Company C says they are very interested in and requests I notify them if I receive other offers. Company 3 is the job I am most interested in, but Company A and B would be okay if Company C did not follow through. An issue is that I don’t know if Company C will follow through. It is important to do this well. I am a little rusty at this sort of thing; I have not been laid off for many years. It is important to treat everyone as I want to be treated. I know this sounds old fashioned in today’s world but elements of treating others well, despite the circumstances, has led to longlasting collegial relationships. I would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks.

  81. @Amazing: It seems to me you can notify Company C that you have two offers, as they requested you to do. This may make them act. If they do not act, are you mistreating them by taking one of the other jobs? As you point out, C may never materialize. It’s almost a distraction to you right now.

    The real (and only) question is, if C did not exist, would you take either A or B on their own merits?

    Start there. I wish you the best.

  82. Nick,

    Thank you for all your helpful thoughts to other members’ dilemmas, and here is my situation…
    I am currently unemployed waiting for a job offer to come through. The problem is, my job preference #1 is moving very slow (it is a government job), they do express a strong desire to hire me, but simply because of the long process have not yet produced a written offer. Hence, I do not have a written contract, only a strong desire.
    Now, another company I used to work for (I am unemployed now due to personal circumstances – moved to a different country w my husband, we got divorced, he is back to the US, and I am temporarily with my family in a different country. I am also NOT a citizen of this country and hence, due to visa restrictions, cannot get a job here either), who respects me, is giving me the written offer now. The job is ok, but the pay and the other circumstances make the job #1 more desirable. Problem is, I could have waited for offer #1 to come through, but I am simply running out of money and I am absolutely uncertain as to when the offer might come – would it be a week, month, several months…

    Have to add that I am a naturalized US citizen, but do not have any family in the States who could support me in any financial way (i.e. provide a place to live and other living expenses). I have to go back to the States (which is culturally my home now) in two weeks.

    So, as much as I hate to be in a slightest possible way unethical or untruthful, I also realize that I perhaps have no choice but to accept the offer #2 and then rescind or quit if and when offer #1 comes through. I feel horrible though, but with my current savings left I can only afford living in the city for 1 month after my return.

    Just need a piece of advice on how to handle this situation with the employers at #1 and #2.

    Thank you!

  83. @Torn Apart: You have one offer. Decide whether you want to take it.

    The other company may come through later. Then you have another decision to make. Or, yet another company may come along with an even better deal. You have to deal with reality. Imagine what reality will feel like if you reject #2’s offer while you wait for #1, and #1 never materializes. How’s that for “unethical?”

    I feel your pain. But you should also consider that #2 has demonstrated its respect for you and has come through when you need them. Even if #1 tenders an offer later, which company is the better employer overall?

  84. Nick,

    Thank you for the reality check. Indeed, I do not have a luxury of declining a firm written offer in the hopes of another (albeit strongly promised one).

    Re which employer is better. On a human level, both recruiting managers are very sympathetic of my situation. The difference is that #1 is a large bureaucractic machine subject to many regulations, while #2 is a small flexible company able to move really fast.

    Other aspect (and perhaps I am being too demanding here, especially in the current economic environment) is that I know that at #2 I am severely underpaid, while #1 offers the pay at my level. I also have no power to negotiate higher salary at #2.

    Again, thank you for the reality check and sympathizing with my situation.

  85. @Torn: I know this is difficult. But it’s important to step back and ask yourself why the hot red roadster you really want is not yet available for delivery from the manufacturer, and just seems to keep taking longer. There are many factors that contribute to “availability.” All of them can affect your quality of life. You must use your own judgment — I know only some of the details here. I’ll reiterate the caution I frequently put out here: Don’t take anyone’s advice. Use your own best judgment. And if anyone someone else suggests helps, then that’s good. But only you have all the factors in mind. I wish you the best with this.

  86. Nick, I’ve been working for Comp#1 for 16 months now…the offer to go back to Comp#2 did not come through~they are going through alot of internal changes. I’ve been giving 110% but the position is still not what I expected..I am literally bored. A position at another company came to my attention from a long time former colleague. It seems to be exactly what I’m looking for: sales/account management evolving into a Dir of Biz Dev position for a highly motivated CEO. The additional bonus is that they have an office in a location that my husband and I are considering retiring in in about 4-5 years so I can continue to work virtually. It’s looking very positive. I should know by the end of the month. In the meantime, I will be attending a conference with my current company and my potential future colleagues will also be there. Awkward! I feel guilty being there, knowing that I may be moving to another company. The people at Comp#1 are very nice and want me to be successful but it’s just not the right fit. How do I gently resign without burning a bridge?
    Thanks for your advice.

  87. @Cheryl: I’d watch my behavior at the conference and I’d disclose nothing to Company A until you have a firm, written offer from B. If you’re willing to risk it and quit before you have an offer, that’s up to you. But I’d wait until the deal with B is done. When you resign, you keep it short, simple, and friendly without disclosing where you’re going until after you’ve been on board for two weeks. See this article:

    Don’t fret so much. One step at a time. Enjoy the new opportunity, and don’t feel so guilty. As long as you are delivering 110% while you’re at A, you have nothing to be ashamed of. This is business. Keep it on that level. After your new job is rolling along, reach out to your old friends. Stay in touch. I wish you the best!

  88. @Nick: Thank you for your response. Absolutely nothing has been said to Company A. I should have firm offer in hand at the end of this month. I like that you said not to mention where I’ve gone for a couple of weeks and I assume that would also mean updating my LinkedIn profile as well? I’ve noticed that some people wait even longer to do that. Thoughts?

  89. @Cheryl: The odds that something bad would happen if you disclosed where you were going are probably very small. But the consequences could be huge. I’ve seen former employers try to nuke a departing employee’s new job. Like I said, very rare. But best to play it safe while being very polite, friendly, and diplomatic. Never burn bridges :-).

    I’d hold off on updating LinkedIn, as well. I hope all goes great!

  90. I’ve a question:
    the situation I’m in now: while being an employee in company A, I made an interview to be accepted in company B, with a good offer, better salary, good environment, international company with a potential for career growth, good training etc, good compensations etc.. Then after accepting the offer, Company A gave me a great counteroffer, with great training, career growth, salary increase, etc..
    As I gave a promise in company B, I gave them my word, I’ve to refuse the counteroffer, how to do it gently without burning bridges? or should I consider the counteroffer? I’m afraid to leave a good enviornment etc for the unknown.. What do you think?

  91. So I know this is a touchy topic but please hear me out (and keep in mind that I’m just finishing my undergrad)

    I’ve been interviewing with company A for the past few weeks. This is a decent company, but I’m definitely not comfortable with the culture and the team I would be working with. Company B, my dream company, called me right around Christmas and said they were extremely interested but would not be starting interviews until mid-late january.
    I got a job offer from Company A a week ago. I let company B know that i do have a job offer and would appreciate it if they could speed up the interview process. They told me that no matter what, they would not be able to make a decision until end of january.

    I decided to play it safe (hey I have no savings and am almost 40k in debt from undergrad) and accept Company A’s offer. Within an hour of me accepting the offer, Company B calls me back saying they can shuffle things around and interview me this week and give me a decision by the end of this week. I told them that Company A refuses to wait past today and Company B assured me that the chances of me getting an offer is very high and to let them know if I change my mind.

    I am trying to be fair to both employers while still holding onto my dream. Is there any way I can do this gracefully?

    Thank you!

  92. @Rachana: As I said in my column, I don’t believe the choice is an ethical one. It’s a business decision. So step back and look at the facts:

    1. You have a bona fide offer from A.
    2. You have no offer from B.

    I don’t care what B is telling you. There is no offer. At some future time (a few days or weeks), there might be, or there may not be. You just don’t know. Don’t pretend. If you’re drowning and a stranger hands you a line, while your best friend tells you he thinks he’s got a line in the trunk of his car, do you refuse the stranger’s line and wait?

    We can also say that A is making a commitment to you quickly while B is not. What’s that worth? Does it suggest that B won’t be so reliable in the future? I really don’t know, but consider this.

    What would I do? I’d continue interviewing with B. If you get an offer, then stop and calmly compare everything. Make a choice. And don’t look back. I really don’t think there’s a difference between rescinding your acceptance of the A offer today, and quitting your job with A after 3 years. Both are business decisions.

    Will A get ticked off at you? Of course it will. Could this impact your reputation somehow? Sure it might. Balance this against the wisdom of going to work for B. Decide and live with the consequences.

    I’ve seen employers rescind job offers after the candidate quit his or her old job, leaving the candidate in the lurch. The reasons are all about changes in the employer’s business that occurred at an inopportune time. It’s rare, but it happens. I’m not trying to convince you to rescind one acceptance for another. That’s up to you. But consider the facts, not the timing.

    (It will be interesting to see whether B delivers an offer, and how that offer compares to A.) I wish you the best. This isn’t easy, I know. You just have to make an informed decision and then move on. I wish you the best.)

  93. Nick – i have a 4 way juggle. I’ve been working at company A since i joined as a Graduate just before the recession and have progressed to a mid senior level. We are currently undergoing a reorganisation due to a de-merger where i have the choice to stay with A or leave to new company B. I am due to have mandatory internal discussions with both in the next week. I have also been in discussions for a number of months with company C regarding an opportunity that i had been planning to say yes to, I currently have a verbal offer from them and i am expecting a written offer to come through prior to my discussions with A and B. To complicate things further I also have an interview next week with company D for an equally attractive but more senior / better paying position than i am currently being offered with any of A, B or C.

    I do not wish to join new company B at all, and it is C that really turned my head until D rather came out of the blue. Unfortunately i need to commit to my current employer in writing that i do not wish to transfer to B within a tight defined timescale while at the same time managing my options with C and D.

    I want to be candid with my current employer about what i want should i stay (not my current role) without letting on about C/D partly this is a hedge should things fall through with C but I also want to maintain the good relations I have with my current employer and I want to handle this in a way which means it is not seen as disrespectful if i accept an offer from C/D a few days or weeks after the discussion.

    All of the above is gathering pace and Company C are likely to be surprised if i suddenly prevaricate over signing a contract so my opportunity to delay them while interviewing with D is likely to be limited, It’s a complicated picture so i would appreciate anyone’s thoughts.

  94. Wow, so many comments about my current dilemma. Wish I had found this thread earlier.

    I will be proceeding with the bird-in-hand and ignore the one in the bush until it makes an appearance. I wouldn’t entertain a counter-offer or engage in a bidding war.

    I asked for an extension on the offer of 3 days but did not receive one, so I accepted within the deadline. If something happens within the 3 days hence causing me to change my mind, I will not feel any remorse.

    Having a general loathe of recruiters, I find it ironic that any guilt I feel about backing out of this role will be towards the one that put me forward. She kept encouraging me to make the best decision for myself.

    I am a company man and I don’t see a problem with companies hiring someone and letting them go if plans change. That’s just business. I have a very hard time doing it to them though.

    Outright scheming or dishonesty on either’s part is just bad form.

  95. Hi,
    I have gone through the discussion here and have found some valuable insights.

    I’m currently unemployed and the way recruiters have sought to take advantage of my situation has left me with very little empathy for hiring companies. I was offered a job by a firm but the compensation was well below my compensation with my previous organization. Realizing that I was unemployed, this firm refused to discuss the possibility of compensating me better in line with my previous compensation.

    With no choice available, I accepted their offer. Now, I’ve a better offer from a different firm in the final stages of approval.

    My question is, why is it ethical for recruiters to offer a clearly sub – standard compensation but it’s deemed unethical if the employee tries to benefit from the situation when a second attractive offer comes along.

    As I see it, it’s a free market. If hirers have the right to exploit the situation when it suits them, then employees shouldn’t feel as if they are in the wrong when they pay back in the same coin.

  96. @job-seeker: I see nothing unethical at all in your changing jobs for a better job and more money. My guess is that if your current employer treated you better, you wouldn’t leave for just a few more bucks. And we already know it has no qualms about paying you less money because you really needed a job. Caveat emptor.

  97. Job seeker, I agree 100%. Take the new job and forget the 1st employer. The 1st employer was unethical to take advantage of you and pay you below market rate. Now they will have to go through the time and expense of hiring again when they should have just been more reasonable in the 1st place. But, that is THEIR problem, not yours. Your problem was finding better compensation and it looks like you solved it. Congratulations!

  98. Yes!

    This happened to me last months… I had an offer for an internship in company with a big name. Then, they revoked the offer, because there was a strategical change ‘they wanted to hire less interns’… Then, they proposed me again a temporary contract. I accepted this offer. At the day that I wanted to go to talk about the details of this temporary contract, a ngo called me to say that they wanted to offer me an internship too. In the end I chose for the ‘real job opportunity’. My supervisor promised me all the time a fixed position , but in the there was no budget (although ‘you are so good’, ‘you’re work is amazing’ and blablalbaa). She didn’t have the guts to tell it in my face, but she had the guts to ask me if I would like to work as an intern. (Yeah, suddenly saving money was more important, then creating jobs.) I politely declined this offer. Now, an intern replaces me. They expect her to work as a ‘real employee’, but she is paid almost nothing. I heard that my supervisor thinks that she made a mistake hiring her… I want to say that employers like this one change their minds all the time.

    Now, I have a job offer at a big-4 company A. In the end the last round was cancelled because I was the only suitable candidate. So the whole process was accelerated. The headhunter gave me less than 12 hours to accept the offer. I couldn’t think unclouded, so I accepted. I had to sign it after 5 days, while I still have another job offer pending B (and the headhunter knew that). I couldn’t postpone. The pressure that he put on me felt terrible.

    If I’ll have the second job, that is similar to the first one (but includes more responsibilities, a better life-work balance and a nice hiring manager), I won’t feel bad to stop the contract at company A.

    There are laws for this you know… If I’ll have to pay a severance, well I’ll pay that money. And that’s it. It’s part of life.

  99. Interesting read, but looking for advice. I am in a strange position and have two job offers on the table.

    I accepted the first offer that came in and would really love the job, however it requires an interim security clearance be granted before starting. I was told it could be “several months” to receive this, and even then it is not guaranteed. There is a 20-30% denial rate on interim clearances.

    Since accepting that offer, I have received another offer that does not require a clearance. I would prefer the first job for multiple reasons, however since I may not be granted a clearance I am considering taking the second job.

    What would you do?

    1. Deny the second job and hope that the clearance is granted?

    2. Accept the second job and forget about the clearance issue altogether?

    3. Accept the second job, and if clearance is granted, make another job change?

    I am leaning towards #3. Obviously I would feel bad about leaving a job weeks or months after starting, but at the same time, there is nothing stopping them from firing me if I am not a good fit there anyways. Of course, I may take the second job and love it altogether, so who knows?

  100. Xaero: (Are you any relation to my nemesis in Quake Arena?)

    Here’s the deal: First, an offer contingent on a clearance that’s not certain is not a certain offer. If the clearance does not come through, you pay the cost of not having another viable option – especially if you let the second offer expire.

    (Play this out farther: If you did not have the other offer, would you continue job hunting to hedge your bet? That is, would you pursue other offers just in case? If yes, then you clearly do not trust that contingent offer.)

    Second, every choice has a cost. If you do #3 and tick off the second employer, are you willing to live with the possible ramifications to your reputation? If yes, then #3 is a viable option.

    You have to make the choice and assume the costs. There’s always a cost.

  101. Xaero, go with #3. You do not know if you will get that clearance, and can you go “several months” without pay even if you do eventually get it? If /when you get it, you have another decision to make. If you really want the job with the clearance, go for it. Employers have no loyalty to workers. You are not ethically bound to be loyal to some entity with zero loyalty to you. Say what they would say, “It is a business decision.” Never apologize for maximizing your career options.

  102. I signed a teacher contract for August 2015. Four months later, I received a better offer at another school. Since I haven’t booked a flight, started working, no paycheque, no visa stuff, can I legitimately turn down the first offer siting distance, family, location, etc.?

  103. @marlene: I think you have to do what’s best for you and your family. Employers always do what’s right for them, including rescinding offers after they’ve been accepted. I try not to be a cynic, though. Keep in mind that rescinding your acceptance may have some consequences for your reputation. But every choice has a price. Just be ready to live with it, and to enjoy the choice you make.

    Usually, there’s no contract. Since you signed one, you should read it carefully to see if you agreed to any penalties for canceling it unilaterally. You may need to talk with a lawyer to protect yourself. Keep in mind that penalties are sometimes worth paying so you can move on with your life.

    I wish you the best.

  104. @Marlene,
    I agree with Nick’s advice, especially reading and understanding any penalties in your contract, and deciding if paying them is worth it. I do not think you should cite a false reason, or any reason, for rescinding the contract, if you decide to do so. You knew the distance and location when you accepted, and you knew you had no family there when you accepted, so that would seem extremely disingenuous. Just state that you must unfortunately rescind your offer and that you are sorry for any inconvenience. That is all that needs to be said. If pressed, say you received a better offer. It is the truth. It is a “business decision.” Companies make them all the time. You don’t need an excuse to do the same.

  105. My position at a small startup was eliminated with no notice at all. Ironically, 6 months ago I was exploring another opportunity and worrying about giving my then employer enough notice to not leave product development in the lurch. Now I’m 60 and looking for work in a field known for age and gender bias. I’m in interview process for 3 different jobs and this thread has been really helpful. I will decide based on actual offer but if a preferred offer materializes I will accept that one. I will be as transparent as possible with all involved but ultimately I have to make the best decision for me, just as the last employer did. He knew in advance of the day I and another person were RIFed that he couldn’t carry our salaries and gave no notice. I would’ve avoided some spending if I’d known.

    • @Anne: I’m sorry you had to go through that, but I’m glad you’ve found this thread helpful. I wish you the best!

  106. It’s wonderful how helpful a thread like this can be, even years after the post. I’ve been researching a bit to try and prepare for this situation as I may well be in this spot later this week. I have been interviewing busily after relocation and have had two final or near-final round interviews. I should hear from Company A, which is a solid if…uninspiring job in corporate sales training this Wednesday or Thursday. I know they’ll want an answer very quickly as the position is slated to start on August 5th. (The short lead time is on them, it took a month to schedule my round two interviews, so I already have concerns with the company, but I’m also not in a position to be picky.)

    My preferred job with Company B – a non-profit doing work I find inspiring, and doing onboarding-type training, which is my wheelhouse, has a final skills demo, scheduled around the end of the month. I recognize neither is a sure thing as I have no offers, but have gotten very strong indicators to expect offers from both.

    Assuming Company A does come through with an offer, is it reasonable to then contact company B and let them know so they can potentially expedite things, or better to simply wait it out, and professionally withdraw from A if the offer from B comes through? The additional awkwardness here is I could potentially be out of state at Company A’s headquarters for my initial training, on their dime, when Company B’s offer comes through.

    • @Mark: Sorry I missed this. Has it come to a head? My basic approach is to protect your interests and your degrees of freedom first. Using an offer from A to press B into moving faster could hurt you, thought it could also work. I don’t think I’d take that bet. If you’re prepared to accept A’s offer while you wait, and then depart if B comes through, then I see no benefit in notifying B of A’s offer. B could withdraw from this entirely, and might be justified. I’d let it play out. Control yourself, and let A and B exercise their prerogatives. I wish you the best on this and I’d love to know how it turns out.