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Accept A Job and Keep Looking - Ethical or No? You Decide

A recent listserv discussion posted this question/scenario to a listserv and gathered the following responses on whether or not its ethical to accept a job offer and then continue to interview and ultimately accept another job offer. (FYI - Our policy here at SI Careers is that it is not ethical to do so). But, you'll see that the opinions on this topic vacillate widely! Its an interesting debate to consider from all perspectives.

SCENARIO

I have a disturbing situation I would like your help with - I'm not exactly sure how to handle this. One of our '08 grads just accepted a job offer a week or so ago, through one of our vendor partners. He then received a call to interview with another company that has recruited through our school rather heavily in the past (5 of our alumni work there). He told them he had accepted another offer and they asked him to stop by anyway and talk about future possibilities. He agreed to the meeting,

Long story short, the 2nd company, knowing full well that he had accepted another offer, gave him an offer anyway, for $10000 more than the first company.

He wants to take that 2nd offer and we have been extremely firm with him, counseling him that under no circumstances should he do so. We can only counsel him though - we can't force his hand, although I would like to.

How would you suggest we handle this situation with both of the companies? Should we cut off all ties with the company that acted so unethically? Should we report that company to our recruitment vendor (I don't think they are a member)? Have you had this situation happen before, and if so, how did you handle it?

RESPONSES

I agree with you. Competition is great but when a recruiter knows an offer has been extended and accepted, I have a problem with that. I think we (career srvicews staff) are bound by morals, ethics and our recruiting vendor's policies. I think many recruiters feel that the students have to do their part to be ethical but they can do whatever it take to meet the goal. I have heard several professionals from Business and Engineering fields who would see no issue with what that recruiter did. I think simply letting that recruiter know that he put the student and your institution in an awkward situation may be all that you can do. Remind the recruiter that the student is going to renege and that other company may call and share that with you and ask you to address it. The recruiter with the higher offer would probably be upset if the shoe was on the other foot. There is really not a whole lot you can do.

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I'm curious about what's unethical regarding the employer's behavior. I thought I'd share another perspective of this - maybe more from the "other side" of the table. I don't think it's an ideal situation, but unethical? There are times when a competitive job market allows for multiple offers to be extended to the most desirable candidates-- an example of supply and demand. I know plenty of recruiters that this happens to them often-- and that it often comes down to the candidate choosing the option that works best for them. Maybe the first company should have made a more competitive offer.

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I would say this is the way the free market works, so this is a good thing for all, even the first company as it provides them information that they need to be competitive with salaries. I wouldn't say this is unethical, as this is the way thinks work.

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I used to work in HR for the 11th largest industrial corporation in the US, many moons ago. My experience working with this company involved a lot of competition with like companies. We typically offered more money AND benefits, and got the person. What the second company did is not unusual. It's really based on free enterprise. The student has the ultimate decision. This may not be what you wanted to hear, sorry.

Continue reading...

For what it's worth--both my husband (with over 30 years experience in business) and I (with over 20 years experience in higher education administration) feel that the student should definitely take the larger offer and have no compunction about doing so.

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I would suggest that you have the student call the first company and ask them what they would advise him to do. If the first company cares about what's in the best interest of people then they will suggest he take the position at the second company.
In the business world what the second company is doing isn't all together uncommon. I would suggest that you cut off ties with the second company and report them to the vendor. I agree with you that what they're doing is unethical. I would also suggest that you tell the second company that what they did was very unethical. I've never dealt with this type of situation but thought I'd still give you my thoughts on this.

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Unfortunately, we've experienced similar situations to this in the past. It is ultimately up to the student to decide, but we have created a participation agreement at sign-in (see View Terms at CCO Express sign-in box at https://www.cco.purdue.edu/Student/) to help us leverage our position. On occasion, we have withdrawn interviewing privileges to students who violated this agreement. As for the employers, we may have a few more restraints on actions that we can undertake given campus politics and our status as a public institution. However, I have had success in contacting the company's university relations manager (if one existed) and informing them of the issue. In two cases, it was a rogue line manager that pursued students already committed to other companies. The URM intervened to help insure that such circumstances did not resurface again with that company.

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You handled it beautifully and from what I read continue to do so. Although you can't stop the student from accepting the 2nd offer he certainly knows that if he does it would be unethical. You can only do so much :-) When it comes right down to it the student never should have accepted the offer to visit. My next step would be to send a formal letter to the 2nd company expressing displeasure in their actions and letting them know you will not allow them to recruit at Wabash if the continue to use such unethical tactics. Hope this helps and good luck!! Issues like these are so unprofessional and unpleasant to handle.

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As a recruiter, I share this perspective. It's a free market, and the best price prevails. It happens all the time. Unless the kid took some sort of sign-on bonus, his decision to make a change is not unethical. He will shoot himself in the foot with the first company, forever, but that is his choice. If he accepted a sign-on bonus from company #1, he should return it. Otherwise, the first company has a choice. They can either offer him more money or lose him. Competition is what it's all about, and recruiters, today, know that. (It's deftly not a reflection on you or your career center). The candidate needs to do what is best for him. Companies always do what is best for them, so it is his prerogative to let company #1 know he got a better offer.

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Maybe a student policy regarding interviewing after accepting an offer needs to be put in place? I hate always writing new rules every time a student screws up, but at the our school, we did exactly that.

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As the war for talent continues to heat up, you will find this situation happening more all the time. I do not agree that this is an unethical situation fpr the employer. If a candidate agrees to come in and meet an employer after accepting an offer from another employer, then he has invited the 2nd employer to consider him. If he is a good candidate, they would be compelled to make him an offer - he is sitting right in front of them. I think the situation is regrettable but it would never have happened if the candidate did not entertain the invitation to meet with the 2nd company. Employers are used to competing with their competitors for talent on a day to day basis - it is the nature of recruiting. I am certain many of your students are in the enviable position of having more than one offer to decide on. I think your distress is coming from the student accepting a second offer that is much better than the first offer - if there is a question of ethics, it lies with your student.

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Hate to suggest but you're pointing the finger at the wrong party. Your student was the unethical party by continuing to interview after accepting an offer. I had this happen while in an MBA career services role. While in your circumstance the company didn't care, in my experience, the company didn't know the student had accepted another offer and I almost lost a top employer.

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This happens all the time within the Federal government...with students/grads accepting an offer with one agency but then later declining and going to work for another (competing) agency. As recruiters, this is something that we understand and just move on to another selection. I didn't realize how it worked for private sector companies.....just wanted to say thanks for letting me see how others work.

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My gut reaction is that yes, you ought to refrain from letting the second company recruit through your system. However do you have anything in writing that would allow you to do just that? Do you have a clause that they sign or agree to when recruiting that states they will participate in ethical recruiting behaviors and if they violate that agreement, they may lose recruiting privileges? Certainly the student can go back to the first company and let them know what happened if he wants to negotiate a better salary, but I also agree he needs to work for the first company for a year or two and then can consider moving on. Your school will hear about it if he decides to go with the second company. Good luck, excellent question to pose to our group as you will get some great debate.

Posted by kkowatch at June 4, 2008 02:40 PM

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