As employees in a career services office, the professionals in my department adhere to a set of principles of professional practice that ensure we act in the best interest of both the employers we assist, as well as the students and alumni we serve. In return, the career services office expects both employers and students to act professionally and ethically, and abide by the guidelines put forth in a participation agreement.
In recent years, however, both employers and students have thrown ethics out the window. With the economic downturn, some employers have rescinded offers and students, looking for the best opportunity, have reneged on job offers. While in some instances, extenuating circumstances cause these situations to be unavoidable, I’d like to address the ethical conduct of a professional job search.
At some point in your job search, particularly if you have had multiple interviews, you will find yourself in a situation similar to this:
You interviewed at Company So-So last week and now they have made you a decent offer. They have given you two weeks to decide. However, you have an interview later this week, on Friday, with Ultimate Choice Company. To complicate things, Not So Much has also made you an offer, which is way better than you could have ever imagined. Unfortunately, they want to know by Wednesday, two days before the interview with Ultimate Choice.
What do you do?
In an ethical and professional job search, once you accept an offer of employment, you should not only no longer interview, you should also withdraw from the interviewing process with all other employers and no longer pursue positions with other employers.
Let me be perfectly clear. If you should choose to accept either offer, from Company Not So Much or Company So-So, not only should you not interview with Ultimate Choice Company, you should stop looking for a job. You have effectively taken yourself off the market.
In this scenario, you have options. If you want to interview at Ultimate Choice Company, do not accept either of the other offers. Instead, ask Company Not So Much for an extension of their offer. The worst they can say is no. If they say no, you are forced to make a decision – one that you will have to stick to.
It is also likely that you will not get an offer from Ultimate Choice Company prior to the deadline for your decision with Company So-So. Again, you can ask for an extension of the offer. When doing so, it is best to be honest without providing too much detail. Simply state that you have received multiple offers and need more time to weigh each opportunity fairly. While they might deny your request, they will probably grant you some more time.
The job search is rarely a perfect place where everything happens neatly and easily. You will face tough decisions and might have to pass on your top choice employer due to the time constraints of the hiring process. In the end, you should consider the importance of professional conduct and ethics in not only the job search, but in your upcoming career. There are always consequences and rewards for the choices we make. Choosing to act ethically and professionally is the best choice.
Claudine is a Career Services Consultant for the Center for Career Opportunities (CCO) at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. The CCO is a centralized career services office which provides Claudine the opportunity to connect with students, alumni, and employers on a daily basis. Among other things, Claudine provides career and major counseling to students and alumni, assists employers with achieving their recruitment goals at Purdue, and oversees the institution’s post-graduation survey.