What Do You Do After Your First Job Offer

I am always surprised, and frankly disappointed, when I hear about a student who receives a job offer from an on-campus recruiter, accepts it and then decides to take a better offer, turning down the first offer/acceptance.

It may seem to be to your advantage to accept a better offer even after you are “spoken for.”  You’ve worked hard in college (or grad school), you have loans to pay off and there is no way of knowing if you will receive more than one offer, so take the first offer and keep shopping around.  But is it right?  Is it ethical? And, is it practical? Oh, and a lot of your friends do it that way also.  So what’s the problem?

Before you answer, think about your personal values:  is it OK to lie, to break your word, to renege on a contract?  Would you respect someone who engaged in those activities?   Would you do business with someone who felt it was OK to go back on their word   Would you hang out with them, be their friends, work side by side with them on a project?   Probably not.

When you accept a job offer from a company that is recruiting you, you have entered into a contract – whether or not you have a written offer.   Even a verbal offer of employment, with a title, responsibilities, start date, and compensation was communicated to you and once you accepted you have agreed to that contract.   Turning it down for a better offer is literally breaking a contract.  The first company likely has no recourse – they aren’t going to sue you for breach of contract, and they we likely go to the next person in line waiting for an offer, so you really haven’t caused them much harm.

And let’s be practical you may say.   You need a job (see above) and a bird in the hand, etc….  So even if it isn’t the best offer, you accep it.  Then a  better offer comes along (see above again).   Yet there is a solution, one that is moral and ethical and right.

When you are made an offer from, let’s say, your second choice,  ask for a week or two to think about it.   Even perhaps tell the recruiter that you have also spoken with (another company) and feel you may get an offer from them as well.  Go further, explain why the other company is more attractive; enter into a dialogue.   There is a chance that you will lose the offer after that, or, there is a chance that the recruiter will gain added respect for your integrity and forthrightness.  Perhaps they will come back to you with a better offer.

Your first job offer won’t be your last.  But don’t start your career based on a deception.

James Abruzzo, Consultant, Consulting, Executive Search, Nonprofit Compensation, Expert Witness, First Job Offer

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