Is it bad too be -too- wanted?
March 14, 2012 4:31 PM   Subscribe

Argh. Job opportunity collision. Got pinged about a second, possibly more desirable position (position B) the same day my offer letter for a first position (position A) was put in the mail. What to do?

Currently in the "start date set, letter in the mail" phase of a job switch to another company that seems like a good place to go, and will be a nice raise from my current position, but has a few potential drawbacks as well. Today, I got a call to come interview for position B, which I think I have a fairly good chance at, is closer to where I'd like my career to go long term, and is without the drawbacks of position A. I've set up a phone interview day after tomorrow with position B, but don't want to delay position A too long (start date is set for very early April). How to proceed? How up front should I be with position B about position A? Or should I just write position B off? Or tell position A I have a family emergency and can't get the packet back for a couple days? Or accept A, and if B comes through say, "Oops, sorry!" ?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total)
You've accepted an offer at the company A. In doing so, you priced in the risk of both getting an offer elsewhere and not getting an offer elsewhere. Constructively, if not consciously. Trying to hold one while interviewing at the other is dishonest. If you really wanted to explore company B before accepting at company A, you should have called company B and said "Look, I've got an offer somewhere else, but I'd really like to interview with you guys. Any way of making that happen soon?"

Having failed to do that, I think you're stuck with company A, for the time being.

This is not at all legal advice--IANYL--but it is my ethical take on the situation.
posted by valkyryn at 4:39 PM on March 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

Your description is a little unclear and inconsistent as to whether you have accepted the position with A. Ask yourself, first of all, is A bound to you, or could it decide to cancel the position or pass on you tomorrow? If A is so bound, it might mean that it has made an irrevocable offer to you, or it might be because you have accepted something. I just can't tell.
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 4:49 PM on March 14, 2012

A lot depends on your start date at A. Are you starting in the next couple of days? If not, there may be opportunity to see what B has to offer (if anything) and then politely decline A as long as the declining isn't a day or two before you're expected start there.

We've had it happen several times that someone's accepted an offer with us and then they tell us that they have to turn us down because of another opportunity that was presented to them. And as I say, as long as it wasn't the night before their start date we've always just wished them the best of luck and not thought badly of them for it.

So I'd say if you are for example starting at A a week and a half from now, and get through the interview and offer phase with B in less than a week, just call A up after you have B's commitment in writing and politely say you've been presented with another opportunity you can't pass up and thanks for the consideration, etc. Don't let A counter-offer.
posted by barc0001 at 5:00 PM on March 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

From the OP:
I have verbally said I'd like to move forward with position A, but am awaiting the actual binding offer letter in the mail at this time.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:04 PM on March 14, 2012

Someone backing out of an offer is not all the uncommon. It happens. Company A will understand, they probably won't like it, they may be annoyed, but they'll get over it.

If you have time before you start to really explore option B then explore away.
posted by magnetsphere at 5:08 PM on March 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Well, I think the issue is mostly when does Company A expect a decision/your returning the signed offer letter? Because you most likely can't delay that for as long as the interview process with Company B would take, even if you lie. I think you should wait until after the phone interview before making any decision, because you frankly don't know what might happen at that point. You don't need to make any production of lying to Company A; you are allowed to consider the written offer carefully.

People do back out of verbal and written offers, and it depends on the company/state/industry what the fallout is of that. I recommend avoiding it, but IANAL or your conscience.
posted by sm1tten at 6:00 PM on March 14, 2012

As someone who has done hiring, I would say go ahead and interview with company B and just tell company A to wait a few days. I've had candidates who I said yes to wind up with another job offer days later and then take that offer. No hard feelings and if they turned up to interview again I wouldn't hold it against them. If you're good enough to be hired by one company, you're likely good enough to be hired by another.

Note to those who might find this later: This advice applies only if you have not signed the offer letter. Once you've signed, even if it's at-will employment, my opinion is that you're stuck for at least a few months. Signing means I've started all the paperwork on my end to get you brought on-board, told other candidates "we've gone a different direction," and advised my management chain that the position has been filled. Turning back the crank on all that is very difficult and I would be put out if you walked away at that point.
posted by fireoyster at 6:50 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

The entire reason that most modern jurisdictions use the at-will employment regime is this: the occasional (temporary) inconvenience to an employee who gets dumped unexpectedly is enormously outweighed by the (lasting) efficiency from letting employers switch freely to employment arrangements that will do a better job of producing wealth.

This is the flip side of that. The (temporary) inconvenience to your employER from getting dumped unexpectedly is enormously outweighed by the (lasting) efficiency from letting employEEs switch freely to employment arrangements that will do a better job of producing wealth.

To the extent that doing so would not violate your legal obligations -- which I do not know, since I am not your lawyer and have no legally-significant relationship with you and know nothing of your jurisdiction -- by all means back out on day 5 or day 1 or day -1 with a completely clean conscience.

Will it cost your employer some $? Cost of doing business. Do you think they'd employ you indefinitely out of a misplaced sense of obligation?
posted by foursentences at 7:12 PM on March 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

Do you think they'd employ you indefinitely out of a misplaced sense of obligation?

This. Your employer can drop you at pretty much any time, if they really want to; why are you, who are not even working for them yet, obliged to worry about their paperwork/hassle of replacing you?

You don't have to be an asshole to them, of course, but if you can get a better position, there's no real reason you shouldn't try for it, even if you've been working somewhere for a week.

I really don't understand any expectation of gallant self-sacrifice by potential/current employees when there is no expectation of the same, whatsoever, on the part of employers.
posted by emjaybee at 7:29 PM on March 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

You need to take care of you, because god knows companies take care of themselves just fine. But do let B know that you have another offer in hand but you'd prefer to work with B. This will flatter them, make you seem even more desirable, and hopefully will get things moving faster. But even if you have to start at A and leave after a week, do it. They'll get over it.
posted by hazyjane at 11:36 PM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Employers can, and do, lay people off in all sorts of circumstances, and generally treat employees as a commodity. Employees should treat employers the same. Just act professional and be polite. The 1st employer may be cranky, but it's better for them if you leave before you start.
posted by theora55 at 9:42 AM on March 15, 2012

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