Accepted a job, haven't started, don't want to anymore.
June 30, 2010 4:01 AM   Subscribe

This all happened in a week - I verbally accepted a job offer from A company at the beginning of this week on the agreement that I bring in the rest of the signed contract next week when I start. Since then I've had an interview with B company (I applied to B before I accepted A) and received another offer which I prefer. I think I want to take up B's offer, what do I say to A company? I know it's bad practice, is there anyway to make it better?

This question sounds quite similar, except I feel like my acceptance of A company was more absolute and binding, especially here in the UK and I'm in a small industry where it would be best to keep good relations with everyone. I'm risking a burnt bridge because B has offered much more pay, better conditions and is in a country that enjoys continuous sunlight for more than 5 hours a week, on the down side there will probably be less responsibility and it won't look as good on the CV as A company (but not by much).
posted by doobiedoo to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: There is no good way to do this I'm afraid, except quickly.

Priority 1 - accept and get a written contract signed for Job Offer B - you don't want to turn down A only to find B is not what you thought it was.

Priority 2 - Return your contract, unsigned, to Company A, saying that, as you were interviewing with other companies before and during your process with them, you have been offered another opportunity that is more in line with your personal and professional priorities and have decided to accept that.

Apologise for mucking them around and say that you hope there may be an opportunity to work with them in future. Make it clear that this is not a ploy to try and wangle a better offer. If you know of anybody in your small industry who might be a good fit for Company A, recommend them, as it's the annoyance of having to restart a costly and time-consuming recruitment process that is the real gripe for Company A, rather than you personally.

Also, be prepared for a counter-offer from Company A, or questions about what pay, benefits and opportunities are being offered to allow them to make a counter-offer. Be clear in yourself about what you want and stick to your guns if you really think Company B is a better choice for you.
posted by Happy Dave at 4:16 AM on June 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, you've accepted a contract. You may be able to give notice at A immediately on turning up; check the minimum notice period in the UK for the first month. I had an employee do this to me once; it was irritating, but legal and the right thing to do.
posted by scruss at 5:03 AM on June 30, 2010

scruss, check the original post. The agreement is verbal only. While they can be binding, they are incredibly difficult to enforce.

I'd also be very surprised if the minimum notice period is more than a month - it's fairly usual for their to be a 3-6 month probation period in most contracts with notice set at 1 or 2 weeks.

If you want to cover all the bases, get in touch with B, explain the situation and that there may be a delay. Then get in touch with A and explain you are returning your contract. If they insist on you serving your notice (pretty unlikely in my estimation unless they're in a real hole and just need a body at a desk ASAP), then you're already covered with B and can get it over and done with.

Check your contract, don't sign it, contact both parties.
posted by Happy Dave at 5:36 AM on June 30, 2010

It sucks, but it happens all the freaking time. All the time. Any recruiter will experience it on a monthly if not weekly if not daily basis.

The company will be disappointed, and move on, as should you. Be polite, apologetic, don't make a big deal about it. Happy Dave is right on the money.
posted by smoke at 6:02 AM on June 30, 2010

Happy Dave, I know it was verbal. Still binding, though. There's still an obligation to A - especially since doobiedoo said “I'm in a small industry where it would be best to keep good relations with everyone”. Minimum notice period in the first month of employment is typically a week.
posted by scruss at 6:41 AM on June 30, 2010

As the old joke goes, "A verbal contract is not worth the paper it's written on". In practice verbal agreements of this sort are impossible to enforce and so are not. Besides it would be a very strange company that would force a person who wasn't yet an employee to work their against their will. Company A will understand that these things happen - and I wouldn't worry about your obligation. Get a binding offer from B and then say sorry to A, with all the stuff that Happy Dave says.
posted by rhymer at 6:51 AM on June 30, 2010

I doubt anyone cares too much about the validity of the agreement. Its not worth anyone's time for you to come in and work for some amount of minimum time and then leave. As smoke pointed out this happens all the time - its a common occurrence. Tell A you have a better opportunity elsewhere and move on.
posted by bitdamaged at 7:15 AM on June 30, 2010

It's okay to say you had a change in circumstances. We hired someone two years ago and she initially accepted the offer, but then was offered another job in SF, which she took. I appreciated her honesty and can't blame her.
posted by anniecat at 7:15 AM on June 30, 2010

Contract or no contract, Company A does not want you to start if you're going to leave immediately, because starting an employee costs them money and time.

This sort of thing does happen more than you'd expect -- I'm at a 40-person company now, of which 30 have been hired in the last two years, and we've had 3 or 4 instances of this in that time. The first few times it affected us we were pretty weirded out, but now we really recognize it as a timing problem: if company B had reached you a week earlier, then there wouldn't be any problem, and Company A would just go "aw, too bad, lost that candidate" and keep searching.

Happy Dave's steps are pretty much the best we'd expect from a candidate who got a better offer after contracts were moving around.
posted by mendel at 7:33 AM on June 30, 2010

Someone did this to our department a couple months ago. Neither my VP-level boss nor the HR folks took any legal action against the person who withdrew (a couple days before her start date). The only actual result was staff in our department were cranky about having to start a new search, and of course we spoke disparagingly of the faceless person who blew us off, but that hardly affected *her* life.
posted by aught at 8:21 AM on June 30, 2010

I recently hired a low level research analyst. She was here for a week, then decided she'd rather take a different a different firm in the same small building. You'd be surprised how much eye contact someone can avert when put in the right circumstances, like an elevator. Then I learned she got laid off.

Anyway, I'd much rather have you back out before you showed up for work and wasted my time for a week. Which isn't really an option for you, OP, but the point is that the more of a hiring manager's time you waste, the worse the trash talk will be. And that's really the only risk here.
posted by uaudio at 10:37 AM on June 30, 2010

"I'm terribly sorry, but my personal situation has changed suddenly and I'll be unable to take on the job you've offered because I will be moving abroad."
posted by NortonDC at 10:50 AM on June 30, 2010

In the UK this is common and its not normal to show up and work the notice period. Let them know as soon as possible - if you act quickly they may be able to hire one of their previous candidates which will make it less of an issue for them. NortonDC has a good suggestion of what to tell them.
posted by Laura_J at 2:29 PM on June 30, 2010

Response by poster: I just called the HR guy and he was very understanding, thanks for the advice guys.
posted by doobiedoo at 4:40 AM on July 1, 2010

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