Deciding on an offer, and ethical issues
The process of deciding on a job offer should be taken very seriously and handled in a professional and ethical manner.
Receiving job offers is not like the process of college admissions, when you might have received multiple offers of admission within a close timeframe, and had one deadline by which to make a decision.
Employers each have their own processes and timelines. You might receive one job offer and be asked to give a response before another employer with whom you interviewed is ready to make a decision on whether to offer you a position.
Employers should provide a reasonable amount of time to make a decision. NACE, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, provides an Advisory Opinion on Setting Reasonable Deadlines for Job Offers. Virginia Tech endorses this, and recommends all employing organizations consult this Advisory Opinion. NACE has created principles that are intended to:
- Maintain a recruitment process that is fair and equitable; and
- Support informed and responsible decision making by candidates.
You may read more about requesting an extension of time to consider an offer.
During your job search process you owe it to yourself and your future employer to be as informed, prepared, and self-aware as possible. Consider the following:
- Your values and preferences
- Research on geographic location and cost of living
- Your short- and long-term goals
- The type of work you truly desire
- Culture and personality of the employing organization
- Comfort and compatibility with potential colleagues and supervisors
- Your family considerations
Know the ethical issues involved in accepting a job offer.
Your acceptance of a job offer is binding.
Don't accept a job offer, even verbally, until you are certain you are committed.
Don't back out after accepting. That's called reneging, and is unethical.
An employer should never pressure you to renege on another employer. That is also unethical conduct.
Once you have accepted a job offer, notify any other employers with whom you are in discussion about employment that you are no longer a candidate. Cancel any upcoming interviews by courteously explaining that you have accepted another job offer. For details and sample letters, see accepting an offer and withdrawing from the job search.
The employment world is small, and if a candidate does renege, employers report this. They tell other employers, and they make phone calls to faculty and the career center director. It is considered one of the worst possible behaviors and will damage the reputation and future employability of the person who reneges. It also damages the reputation of the candidate's academic program and the university.
If you are in a difficult or confusing situation that you are not sure how to handle, we encourage you to talk with an advisor with Career and Professional Development. We are here to help you.