should i take this job if i might have to change my plans?
June 11, 2009 6:52 PM   Subscribe

Should I take this job if I'm not sure I will actually be able to do it? I could commit or not commit for sure in 2-3 weeks, but they are requiring a decision NOW.

I'm doing a temporary position that I really really like that I have been given the offer to extend for a year. The problem, though, is I may need to move from the area for personal reasons.

So, I've been applying for jobs in the place I may have to move to. I've been offered one that sounds really great also but they are requiring I commit within 5 days of being offered the job. If I do end up needing to move, it would be perfect. But overall, I would rather continue doing what I'm doing and not move, if it turns out I don't have to.

How bad is it professionally for me to accept this job offer (the position does not start until sept.) and then possibly tell them I can't do it 2-3 weeks from now? What sort of consequences could you imagine? I know it's technically a bad thing to do, but I'm new to the workforce and I don't have a concept of HOW reprehensible it is or if it's more common than I think.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Are you talking about accepting the temp-to-permanent job offer, or the one in the new town?
posted by box at 7:11 PM on June 11, 2009

Well, first of all, I would look very suspiciously at this job situation. A five-day ultimatum is not a professional way to do business and shows a real lack of respect for the candidate, unless there's some extenuating circumstance you didn't mention.

The concept of "commitment" is bogus, unless you are signing an actual employment contract, which is almost unheard of for most types of jobs in the US. Companies can and do rescind offers at any time for any reason. You are within your rights to do so too, and unless you work in a very very small industry I can't see anyone ever finding out about it.

How you feel about it ethically is up to you. Again, I can't give a good answer without knowing more about why they're asking for this "commitment" so quickly.
posted by drjimmy11 at 7:14 PM on June 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'd say the biggest risk to you, if you accept the job and then don't go, is getting a reputation for being unreliable. That reputation could then affect future searches. And, in a worst-case scenario, you might burn bridges with the folks at the new job. How tight-knit is your field? Is it a risk worth taking? Are there other jobs out there in potential-new-town, or is this the only fish in that pond? Those are the questions I'd consider when making a decision. Personally, I wouldn't feel too bad about accepting the offer (if it doesn't require signing a contract) and turning it down in 3 weeks, knowing they'd still have 6-8 weeks to find someone else to fill the position, if I was confident that it wouldn't burn my reputation beyond repair.

To echo drjimmy11, though, how you feel about the ethics of the situation is entirely personal.
posted by amelioration at 7:22 PM on June 11, 2009

I would think that if you do end up accepting and then leaving, you're not going to list this job on a resume. Therefore, any future employer would not contact the employer in question, and so your ctrl+z wouldn't come up.

Clearly it's ethically up to you, but my personal opinion on these things is that companies have no loyalty to their workforce anymore, so any expectation that the workforce should be loyal in return is unacceptable.
posted by HotPants at 10:55 PM on June 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

How sure are you that the commitment is really a requirement? When my organization sends out offer letters, we include an expiration date, which is normally five working days from the date the e-mail goes out. We do it because 1) we want to close the hire so we can release other candidates and get a bunch of administrative prep done before the person starts, and 2) prior to including an expiration date we occasionally found ourselves waiting many weeks for a response. An expiration date --on the rare occasions when it's necessary-- allows us a semi-graceful way out if the person turns out to be too flakey to respond in a reasonable timeframe.

But in our case, we really intend the expiration date as a form of fairly soft expectations-setting. A couple of times, I've had candidates ask for an extension, and I've always agreed to it. You might want to try asking, if you haven't already.
posted by Susan PG at 1:26 AM on June 12, 2009

You should talk to the employer about your need to wait 2-3 weeks, there's nothing wrong with that. Contrary to someone's post above, its not uncommon at all for an employer to ask for a specific commit date, we bureaucrats got shit to get done, yo; nor is it uncommon for an prospective employee to ask for a few more days to work out personal stuff before making a decision.

I think the worst choice you could make is just accepting the job, then backing out, for professional reasons. Communicate with your potential employer, it will also give you more information about them. If they are unreasonable or not understanding, maybe its not the place for you.
posted by RajahKing at 8:01 AM on June 12, 2009

Professional recruiter talking, here. 18 years experience watching people take/love/hate/leave jobs.

Contrary to what drjimmy11 says, a five-day ultimatum is NOT unprofessional. And, consistent with what Susan PG says, it is not uncommon. As far as the employer knows, he has given you all the information you need to make a decision. So, why should you take longer than five days?

Clearly, however, not all the information is on the table. You haven't told the employer the rest of the story surrounding your own decision-making. The fair and honorable thing to do is to explain your situation. That gives the employer the opportunity to say, "OK. We'll wait." Or, "Sorry, we're moving on."

Either way, you've both made an informed decision, which is the best way to approach the situation. Also, though you have not explained the circumstances around the 2-3 week wait, my sense (again, from watching lots and lots and lots of similar scenarios) is you may not have as much certainty at that point as you think you will. Factor this into whether a delay will actually serve you.
posted by John Borrowman at 9:28 AM on June 12, 2009

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