It’s one of those “good problems”: getting more than one job offer. But navigating the relationships and making a decision can be tough.
A Wall Street Journal article tells the story of a man faking his own death to avoid telling a company that he didn’t want to take the job after accepting an offer. According to an executive at the staffing company Robert Half, “ghosting” a prospective employer is most common among people out of school between two and six years. More and more, employers receive last-minute text messages or no-shows on the first day of work.
A management consultant believes the trouble is that college students lack the communication skills to handle these situations more professionally: “This is the generation that breaks up by text message, so in a professional context, to have to let someone down or give bad news was terrifying.”
Twice this past semester, students asked me for advice in reneging offers. Overall, I’m not a fan of the tactic. To me, it’s an issue of integrity: when students make a commitment to one employer, they shouldn’t change their minds when a better offer comes along. I also worry about their reputation in the industry—and whether their expectations will be too high for the new job, and they’ll end up disappointed. At Cornell, students also give up their access to career services in the future when this happens.
But students do what is best for them. What matters after the decision is how it’s communicated. I always suggest a phone call rather than an email, which takes courage. A direct, honest approach is best, with an apology and some understanding of how the decision affects the employer, who’s left with an unfilled position and additional recruiting time.
Ideally, students get offers at the same time with the same decision deadlines, but of course, that’s not always the case, and comparing offers becomes challenging. The WSJ article recommends these practices for evaluating and accepting job offers:
* Make clear early what you’re looking for in a new job.
* Ask employers their timeline for making a decision.
* Express appreciation and enthusiasm when receiving an offer.
* Take time to assess each offer carefully, weighing both financial and quality-of-life factors.
* Communicate important decisions by text or email.
* Try to pit one employer against another in a bidding war.
* Respond to a job offer by announcing that you already have a competing one.
* Base your decision solely on pay.
Have you been in a situation of having multiple offers? How did you handle it?
Have you reneged on an offer? How did you communicate the decision, and how did the employer react?
What other advice would you give students who have multiple offers?