Is it bad to accept one job while holding out for another?
December 8, 2004 4:58 PM   Subscribe

I am unemployed. I recently applied for 2 jobs. I'm much, much more interested in Job A. I will find out if I got Job B on Monday, while the application process for Job A will drag on until early March. Would it be unacceptable for me to accept Job B, while holding out for the potential of Job A? Job B is a full-time, junior position at popular website with a small, close-knit staff.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total)
I'd take Job B. You have no idea what might happen with Job A. If March comes and Job A is offered to you, make the decision then. I've had too many "sure thing" jobs fall out from under me.
posted by soplerfo at 5:10 PM on December 8, 2004

Take Job B. If, in March, you are offered the better job, make your exit with as much professionalism as possible and your honor will be intact.

But in the meantime work well for Job B as if Job A didn't exist.
posted by dness2 at 5:27 PM on December 8, 2004

A bird in the hand, and all that. Yes, take B, unless leaving to take A in March would raise breach of contract issues. IANAL, but I think you need to disaggregate "unacceptable" in your question into separate categories: e.g., "unethical", "legally questionable", and "unwise from a burning bridges point of view" (assuming you did, eventually, leave B.)

If your only question is "is it unethical to take B while intending to leave for A if it's offered", I think the answer is "No. Everyone needs to look out for Number 1 in the job market, and if it's a popular website, they'll find someone to take the junior position in short order."
posted by stonerose at 5:30 PM on December 8, 2004

I think stonerose has got it exactly right here.

Even iif they ask you straight-up (at Job B) whether you are considering other positions right now, I don't think a little white lie would be "unethical."

Pretend Job A doesn't exist until you get the offer.
posted by thirdparty at 5:50 PM on December 8, 2004

The above is particularly true if you are American and live in an At-Will Employment/Right-to-Work state (of which there are many), where employees can leave a position at any time for any (or no) reason.

Unless you have a compelling reason to stay, your professional interests vastly outweigh those of an employer who would likely replace you on a moment's notice if they felt it necessary.
posted by Danelope at 5:59 PM on December 8, 2004

I've seen people get hired and then laid off in the same stretch of time. It sucks, but it's all part of "at will" employment. Follow your own sense of ethics. There's no authority for something like this.
posted by scarabic at 6:06 PM on December 8, 2004

I see everyone's point here, but I have to say that I am the person from Job B. I hired someone in a similar situation last spring (obviously, he didn't mention Job A) only to have him decamp 3 months later. It really bit. Rehiring was a drag, retraining, yet again, was a major drag, and this drag fanned out and was felt by all of us unlucky souls at Job B. We are a small close knit group, like your Job B, and the whole revolving door thing made it difficult for everyone, since it basically turned what should have been a 3 month process (hire, train, get up to speed) into a 6 or 7 month one. I do not think kindly of the person who put me through all of that, and should the unlikely day come where he needs a reference from me, he won't get a glowing one.

So. . . I think, if you really really want Job A and you don't much want Job B, if at all possible you should wait tables or something for a couple months and hold out for Job A.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:11 PM on December 8, 2004

Yeah, having been the employer in the case of Job B, I'd be really pissed if somebody did that to me. OTOH, if somebody applied and fully disclosed Job A, and I wanted that person and figured it was worth the crapshoot, I'd hire 'em anyway, hoping the convince them to stay even if they get the offer.

Sure, you're legally on the right ground not disclosing your desired other job, but when working with a small bunch like that, it's just crappy not to call it up.
posted by waldo at 7:18 PM on December 8, 2004

Well, pissed you may be Job B, but I totally agree that in an "at will" job market, the job seeker looks out for number one.

Job B, if it doesn't want to be a revolving door, needs to find a way to compete in hiring and keeping the best staff, just as the jobseeker competes to get those great jobs. Dog eat dog world, and all that.

I would also say take Job A. Leaving B may suck, but not being able to pay for food & shelter sucks a lot more.
posted by Salmonberry at 7:40 PM on December 8, 2004

Take Job B if offered. There is absolutely nothing unacceptable whatsoever about it. Heck, you have no idea if you will even be offered Job A. And there is something which appeals to you much more about Job A - better pay, more interesting, better opportunity - whatever. So as Salmonberry said, too bad for Job B, they need to learn how to compete if they want to retain people. Forget the notion of a small, close-knit staff. Let the company start talking about lay-offs and see how many knives are in your back from your "close-knit" co-workers. Companies feel no loyalty to employees, I never understand why employees feel any sense of loyalty for a company. All you are to them is an expendable expense on the bottom line. A company's job, large or small, is to maximize profit. They don't give a sh*t about people.
posted by sixdifferentways at 7:58 PM on December 8, 2004

As someone who has been both Job B and wanting Job A over Job... uh, C, I have to agree with those who say look out for your own interests. Not as a rule, but in this case. The party you are dealing with (which is a disembodied company) would very willingly dump you if a better situation developed - say, they could get someone else to do it for less money. So, if you find a better situation, you are free to do the same. The only reason companies ask what your long term commitments are is to further maximize what they can get from you. They don't ask in an interview if you plan on sticking around because they have taken a real shine to you and just enjoy having you around...
posted by Slothrop at 8:11 PM on December 8, 2004

Also understand that your views about Job B could change during the process of working with them for three months. By that time, Job A may not seem quite as attractive.
posted by Jeff Howard at 8:12 PM on December 8, 2004

The way I see it, I don't apply for any job I don't want. I also don't like to job hop unless I step into a really bad situation. If company B happens to hire me first I work for company B. It is fine to look out for yourself, but I'd like to maintain my integrity while I'm doing that.

Some companies hire and fire freely. Some do not. Some people begin and end jobs freely. Some do not.

Job B sounds like a decent job. Give them a year of your time and then make a less rushed exit into another job if you want.
posted by joelr at 8:56 PM on December 8, 2004

If you can hold out till March, then maybe Job A is for you. If you have no job, though, I bet you can't wait that long, and if it turns out that Job A doesn't come through, you're screwed. I would take Job B, but only if I thought I might decide to keep it for the long haul, even if A comes through. I just went through something similar, although the two offers came within days of each other. Turning one down really bit the big one. It would have been even worse if I had started for one and then left. It's a really tough call, at least if you have any integrity. If you're like me, you gotta put food on the table, you feel loyalty to one or both positions, and you hate to simply use someone and throw them away. (Take it from someone whose been laid off four times... getting thrown away sucks.)

I don't think you will find a final answer here; only advice. In the end, this is no one's decision but yours. That's what I found out during my recent search.
posted by Doohickie at 9:41 PM on December 8, 2004

And then there's the issue of what happens when March rolls around and Job A tells you they just lost a major account and cash flow is light, and maybe June will be better for decision-making, and all the while you're waiting and making a buck over minimum wage, without benefits, when you could have been sitting pretty--and improving your resume and maybe even enjoying yourself--at Job B.

I've had employees leave me after too-short periods, and it can be frustrating. But I also quit my very first salaried job at noon on my first day in order to accept a far more appropriate offer that came up the Friday before. Take at-will employment at face value and do what's best for your career, wallet, and peace of mind.
posted by werty at 10:12 PM on December 8, 2004

If you're collecting unemployment (you don't say), then I'd say you are morally obligated to take the first decent job you can get. That's not to say you should take a job you know you'll hate, or one that won't pay all your bills, but if you could live with Job B, then you should certainly take it. And who knows, you may end up liking it a lot.
posted by kindall at 10:46 PM on December 8, 2004

This is easy. Take the first job, if offered. If the second job comes along, give proper notice, and take it.

You need to look after you own interests, no company will ever put your interests before its own, why would you put your its interests ahead of your own.

It's business. Treat it as such. corporations do. .
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:59 PM on December 8, 2004

Take Job B; jump ship and take Job A if it's offered to you.

It's not unprofessional; it's just life in the big city.
posted by ikkyu2 at 5:38 AM on December 9, 2004

I am the person from Job B. I hired someone in a similar situation last spring (obviously, he didn't mention Job A) only to have him decamp 3 months later. It really bit. Rehiring was a drag, retraining, yet again, was a major drag, and this drag fanned out and was felt by all of us unlucky souls at Job B.

If you were going to fire (or even lay off) someone, how many weeks notice would you give them?
posted by Danelope at 7:46 AM on December 9, 2004

I've been an employer, and it's a drag to have an employee leave after a short time.

I've been an employee and my employer is perfectly willing, and legally able, to lay me off, for any, or no reason, at any time.

Fair's fair. Take the job, and if you choose to leave later, that's perfectly legit. You owe them a good job while you're there. Employers have no loyalty to employees, so I don't think they should expect it.
posted by theora55 at 10:12 AM on December 9, 2004

Well, in the 4.5 years I've worked here, Danelope, we haven't fired or laid off anybody. But I recognize that that isn't commonplace. People have quit, sure, and I totally understand why, hell, I want to quit myself & make better money. That doesn't change the fact that the whole staff (all 7 of us) here ended up doing someone elses' work for months due to this Job A, Job B stuff. Sure, it would be better for Anonymous to take Job B and then quit in three months, but let's not pretend that that isn't going to negatively impact the people at Job B.

Just sayin'.
posted by mygothlaundry at 11:23 AM on December 9, 2004

It's been my experience that working for small firms with close-knit staff is way way way more enjoyable than working for large firms that only see me as a Human Resource. If I were you, and Job B looked like something I could do, I'd join Organization B and stay there.

If Organization A has the kind of processes that make it take three months for them to hire somebody, it seems likely to me that they will also have the kind of management structure that will drive you batshit crazy once they have you in their clutches.
posted by flabdablet at 6:30 AM on December 10, 2004

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