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Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed | Reply
If you accept a job offer from a company (sign things, turn in papers, signal your intent to join and all that) and then get another job offer from another company, is it right to renege and accept the new offer if it is better? Legally, the first offer was at-will, but how is this considered in the community? Is it common? Would this 100% bar this person from working with the first company? If it's only a tiny bit better, does that matter?


(Totally hypothetical of course)
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by cep21) | Reply
Find a fair coin and toss it :)
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by cep21) | Reply
I've been in that position.

I actually told the first company, who ask me to tell the user (employee who will become my supervisor) directly. I did exactly that. He understood. I left peacefully. After all, my resume is not that good such that my absence is a total loss for the company.

Things might be different if you're very good at what you're doing or the company has commited so much resource to accomodate you.

So my suggestion is to just ask them. If they allow it, everything's fine then. If they don't, then come back and ask here again :-).
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by cep21) | Reply
If you haven't any formal agreement, you are not obliged to take up any offer. It might not seem polite, but getting a job isn't about being "nice" to your employer.
Of course, you should be professional and it is quite acceptable to phone them up and say "I'm sorry but I've had a better offer". But getting stuck in a worse job because you were too polite to take the better job is crazy.
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by d000hg) | Reply
If you haven't any formal agreement, you are not obliged to take up any offer.


When you say obliged, I hope you don't mean legal obligation because that's a dangerous advice. A contract may already be formed although there is no written agreement (probably this is what you mean by formal agreement). The other way also holds, a written contract may be considered legally void depending on circumstances (and jurisfiction), for example you signed a standard employment form where you're not expected to know what you're signing yourself into..

But IANAL so consult your own lawyer.
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by amitz.sekali) | Reply
Well the other thing is that even if you have entered a contract but not yet started work, no company in their right mind would force you to work for them if you told them you didn't want to. They'd invest a lot of time and money getting you set up. So again, the professional thing is to be honest.
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by cep21) | Reply
When this happens, I don't have words to describe how irritating it is. :) The hiring process is resource intensive. Once we have a candidate that has agreed to work, set a starting date, and then they doesn't start, it's problematic. At that point, we've probably stopped interviewing other candidates, and starting assigning work. It's really quite a problem.

I think it reflects extremely poorly on the individual. When something like this happens, the candidate has truly burned the bridge; they really have no chance of ever working here.

All that said, I'm sure others will say say that if you don't want the first job anymore, you're better off taking another. I would say that it's on very ethically sketchy ground. If you've agreed to do something, you should do it. You will be damaging your reputation with the first company. So, if you are working in a small market, that could affect your future. For instance, a friend of mine works in the networking hardware business in a small state in the US. There are only a handful of companies that do that kind of work, and basically all the engineers that can do the work have at one point or another worked at all of the companies. In a situation like that, my friend may not want to execute on your hypothetical because he doesn't want to move or change industries.
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by cep21) | Reply
We've been on the other side of this a number of times. Quite often the "other offer" is made by the company who's losing this employee and has now realized that's going to hurt.

This is frustrating, and it would likely hinder that person's chances of working with us in the future - but on a personal level it's hard to be mad. I think it's a fair and rational decision, unless the job market in your area is such that you're worried about burning a particular bridge.
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by dok) | Reply
At that point, we've probably stopped interviewing other candidates, and starting assigning work. It's really quite a problem.


Is it really quite a problem? (I'm probably gonna lost some bridges here.. :-)) In my experience the most additional problem is paperwork and having to call the other next available candidate that they are accepted. That's quite trivial IMO. But your mileage may varies depending how large your company is or how demanding labour regulation in your place.

The worst problem I experienced is the mixed feelings of a little betrayal (you just abandon all of our commitment), insult (I have admitted I need you but you don't want me), disappointment (it's gonna be nice working with you but you won't be working with me). In summary, I feel that the bridge they burn is of a personal level. That's why I begin to appreciate candidate who take the time and effort to reject me personally and unharshly, especially after I have personally accepted them.

As long as they ask permission to left and I allow it, I don't consider that as a lack of commitment. Yes, I will be more cautious when hiring him/her in the future and I will probably have limit on how much I'm going to like him/her, but (s)he is committed enough to ask for agreement to abandon commitment. Asking permission and I don't allow it but (s)he insist, now that starts to count as damaging the bridge. But the one way breaking of an already agreed commitment is not enough to justify burning the bridge.

Edit: Clarification.
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by amitz.sekali) | Reply
You have obviously never been part of hiring someone for the US government. They bring the art of paperwork, bureaucracy, delays and expense to new heights. You know the process can't be fast when the HR department occupies several complete buildings of their own. Even after the responsible manager has decided whom to hire, it takes forever to get all the approvals and get them in the door. If they backout towards the end of this process it may easily be a delay of one or two months before someone can be brought in the door. This could seriously affect millions of dollars of contract work or grant money on a tight schedule. It is even worse if they need to go through a lengthy background investigation after being hired but before they can start to work on their "real" project.

You can't just call the next guy on the list. He probably was sent a rejection letter ages ago and has gone on to accept another offer somewhere else, has relocated, bought a house, planted a new lawn and mowed it several times.

Of course this is the employer's own fault, and the prospective employees should not have to suffer because the employer is so poorly organized.

Smaller employers would have a completely different set of different issues. Each employee may actually be important to a small employer.
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by Rustyoldman) | Reply
Smaller employers would have a completely different set of different issues. Each employee may actually be important to a small employer.
It's a novel concept!
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by cep21) | Reply
New hires have done this to me twice as a manager. (At least the second person had the courtesy to call. The first one just didn't show up). I really dislike it. I think it's unprofessional and immature.

[Edit: I replied before reading the other replies. Doc really hit the nail on the head.]
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by dplass) | Reply
I may have learned something new here..

Please confirm,

I have a feeling that (for topcoders) asking for permission to turn down an already agreed offer, is still considered unprofessional and immature. Probably because the company will (without doubt) be burdened by the employee cancellation thus the permission asking is just sugar coating of unprofessional action.

By any chance you feel I'm being sarcastic, don't. I'm really curious. My perception on nature of agreement is probably different than others, that is for some topcoders, agreement must absolutely not be re-negotiable despite circumstances change (unless there is a force majeure or something like that).
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by dplass) | Reply
I can see it would be really irritating for an employer, but as an employee would you really turn down an amazing job in this situation? I suppose the most professional approach when you're offered the first job might be to say "I'm also waiting for a response from company X", but that's tricky to pull off.

I only have one personal experience in this area. In my final year at university I applied to company A and they seemed interested in me, I even got an interview which went well but they kept dragging their feet. I was applying for a few more positions as graduation approached and then got a concrete offer from company B. I immediately contacted company A to tell them and the asked me to come in for an interview immediately, where they basically talked about why I should come and work for them, not company B. I informed company B who then increased their offered salary but I ended up choosing company A.
As I remember (this was a few years back) I was pretty open with both companies, but perhaps this was an unusual situation.
Re: Ethics: Turning down job offers when you've already agreed (response to post by cep21) | Reply
I reneged after verbally accepting a job offer because my current employer offered me a better deal (technically and financially) when I attempted to resign.

Most employers know that this is one of the risks of the recruiting process.

I certainly didn't lose any sleep over my decision.
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