Should I continue to interview for other jobs after accepting an offer?
August 26, 2020 12:45 PM   Subscribe

I lost my job in July. I received an offer for a new job today. The offer is good but not great. I also started interviewing for a great position earlier this week. Can I keep interviewing even if I accept the offer?

I had the final interview last Monday. Today, they made an offer. Earlier this week a recruiter contacted me about a position I'm really interested in and contacted me today to tell me the client wants to meet with me.

I need a job and can't say no to the offer. Is it OK to accept the offer and continue to interview with the other company? They are in two different cities and different industries so it is unlikely the employers would speak to each other about me.

A year ago I would have never thought about doing this but losing my job this year I realized that the employee/employer relationship is severely lopsided and I have to do everything I can to look out for myself.

Would accepting a job offer and continuing to interview be completely unacceptable or is it an understandable course of action in this day and age?
posted by Tevin to Work & Money (16 answers total)
Right up until the moment you accept an offer (like, signed on both sides if that's a thing, with a firm start date), you should keep interviewing. Once you've done that... it's over. If you can delay accepting the offer for a week (totally normal) and see if the people at Company B can speed up the process (a totally normal thing to ask, if you tell them you have an offer pending), then, that's a thing you can do, but while turning down an offer is totally fine, saying "just kidding" and backing out of an offer you've accepted is a bridge-burning, dick move.
posted by brainmouse at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2020 [12 favorites]

Yes, absolutely continue to interview. The company from whom you got the offer realizes that they're not the only place you ever interviewed. If anything, this gives you great cover to back out if the new prospect ends up working out. "This other place I interviewed with around the same time as you just came back with a better offer." That happens all the time.

Don't ever worry about hurting a company's feelings. They don't worry about hurting yours.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2020 [19 favorites]

This changes depending on industry/seniority. Consider the extremes: if you accepted a job bagging groceries and continued looking no one would bat an eye. If you accepted the position of CEO at a Fortune 500 and kept looking it would significantly damage your reputation.

You're probably somewhere in the middle of that, and I think the consequences are also in the middle. It's not a great look, but it's also not a career-ender. I would keep interviewing with this one in progress. If you end up getting a great offer, take it! If you don't get a great offer, no harm done.
posted by matrixclown at 1:06 PM on August 26, 2020 [10 favorites]

In this job market, I would continue to interview until everything is buttoned up with the background check and drug testing. Good luck!
posted by pumpkinlatte at 1:11 PM on August 26, 2020 [10 favorites]

Are you concerned about losing your signing bonus? What's that? You didn't get a signing bonus when you agreed to take the job? Weird, if it was so important to them that you take this job, you'd think they would have secured your arrangement with an employment contract backed by consideration for both sides. Sounds like they weren't that serious about it.

If a better opportunity comes along, you'd be crazy not to take it. This is your life, you can't fuck around and take a worse job so as not to piss off the HR department of some entity that exists solely to generate a profit. If you're working for a charity or an NGO, maybe cut them some slack. Otherwise, you gotta estimate the consequences of their hurt feelings vs. the consequences of taking a worse job, a worse career path, etc. You are in a good position to make those estimations and act accordingly.
posted by skewed at 1:21 PM on August 26, 2020 [20 favorites]

Yes, take offer and discreetly keep interviewing at least until your start date. Not just because the newer thing might be better but because, as you say, you need a job, and employers have way more power and choices than you do. You need to keep as many options open as possible in case something falls through.
posted by lampoil at 1:40 PM on August 26, 2020 [1 favorite]

Ask the offering company how long you have to respond. Then tell your preferred company that you have another offer but think they would be a better fit, so need to know by [a few days before before the true deadline]. Since they already have asked to meet with you, they should be able to do it quickly, and the fact that you have another offer reflects well on you.

(I had once had an application sitting in HR at company 1 and then got an offer from company 2, a close competitor. I told company 1 and they called me back to set up an interview within hours, I assume because they thought that I must have potential if company 1 liked me, though I didn't get an offer from them in the end.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 1:41 PM on August 26, 2020

In this situation, you need to work the timing. Negotiate with Company A for the farthest decision date you can secure. Tell them, if need be, you have other opportunities you are exploring as well. Then use the offer with Company A to speed up Company B's process so that you can have a decision from Company B before you have to accept/reject Company A's offer. This happens all the time and is totally acceptable, even in the Before Times and the Long-ago Times. In fact, the first adult job I had was with a Company B.

Unless you are willing to jeopardize your reputation and future employability, though, you really can't back out of an offer from Company A once you have formally accepted it. This has not changed, even with COVID. Just one week ago, a client's brand-new CFO backed out the day before he was due to start, citing a better offer. The normally-affable CEO was furious and went to great, and justifiable, lengths to blackball the CFO in the industry, among everyone he knew, and with the private equity firm that owns his company. If you are at a level where you are working with recruiters, backing out of an already-accepted position is Not To Be Done.
posted by DrGail at 2:40 PM on August 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

I disagree with folks who are advising you to ask for more time to decide, or to disclose at this moment that you have other positions you are considering. It's bad strategy to come across as anything less than 100% enthusiastic about the fact that you've now got this job, unless you actually have another better offer firmly in your pocket. You don't. You just have a possibility.

So instead of asking for more time to consider their offer, ask them for more money and buy time that way. You can be the judge of how firm the ground you stand on is here, but IMO there is usually a little room for saying, "Thank you, I am absolutely thrilled to be offered this role. Could we consider a slightly higher compensation package - I was aiming for [insert range such as "upper 90s" or "mid-50s", at least 10% higher than their offer], and I'm happy to negotiate bonuses or stock options to cover the difference. I can't wait to join the team and get started on [project]!"

And while THEY take their time thinking about your counter-offer, you can head off and chase your dream. Don't stop chasing it for as long as it's available, regardless of what's going on with this offer - keep chasing that (as well as other opportunities) even after you accept their offer, even after you're done with the background check, whatever. Heck, I wouldn't even think twice about leaving for a better job on Day 2, Week 2, or Month 2 after starting work. I myself left one of my first ever jobs in Month 4 because I got a much better offer that I hadn't even been looking for. I told my boss, hey, they're offering me more money, I gtg, you all were fantastic to work with. She totally understood and gave me references years down the line.

As you say, the power employers have over job seekers and employees is so extreme that nothing short of actual stealing or fraud would be unethical on your part. If they valued you, they shoulda offered you the money you were worth. You don't owe them a damn thing.

Good luck!
posted by MiraK at 2:40 PM on August 26, 2020 [28 favorites]

You can also simply hold off. They might be looking for an answer immediately, but you can buy maybe a couple of days by going camping in a cellphone black spot or having a poorly doggy that took all your attention - choose your preferred white lie as suits your purpose, or stretch a truth if you can't lie with a straight face. That won't work forever, or even for long, but it isn't a terrible place to start.

Any of the other tactics will still work afterward - I like the haggling approach, because slow can appear very like knowing your own value - but you know your own circumstances better.
posted by How much is that froggie in the window at 10:43 PM on August 26, 2020

On alerting the parties of the situation:
- Will you gain that much time in doing so? Hiring processes can take a long time so if this opportunity with the other company is just in early stages I don't see that the company that made the offer would practically be able to wait for you to go through a whole other hiring process.
- When are you likely to start the job you've been offered - do they want you to start immediately or would there be a gap in between (could you ask for a pause before starting the job?). If there is going to be a gap maybe that would work to your advantage without you having to tell people the whole story.

The whole compensation bargain tactic:
- Would that really buy you that much time? I don't feel like bargaining over salary has ever taken more than a couple of days for me - though I could see it taking a bit longer in different situations
- Comment on this tactic: you should probably be bargaining over your salary regardless of whether it is a tactic for stalling

Questions to think through in accepting the position and continuing to interview:
- I think you've already stated a number of them (burning bridges, higher interest in the second job etc.)
- I would add, since you say they are in two different cities, will there be logistical issues around moving one place and then moving somewhere else? Or are you already in one of the locations?
- What is the likelihood that something else will come along in the case that you turned the job down? Are jobs hard to come by in your industry, should you turn down the offer and not get the second job? How likely do you think you are to get the second job?
- Do you think you would be happy in the job that has been offered/do you actually want it/would your job search have been over if you hadn't gotten an interview for this other job?

Personally I don't see a huge moral quandry in continuing to interview for the second job while moving forward with the other - employers know that candidates interview for more than one position at once - but since it is a little bit of a dick move I'd just think through how much you really want the second job and whether you are actually serious about the first one/will be happy in it if you do accept it. I think the bottom line is there are factors in this equation that you can't control, like how long the hiring process would take for the second job, what the parties' reactions would be if you told them about the situation, or whether different stalling tactics would work - so it might be more worthwhile to focus on what you actually want. Maybe the best way to handle the situation would then become clear.
posted by knownfossils at 12:05 AM on August 27, 2020

You should always be negotiating your comp, but agree that it wouldn't buy much time and I'll also add that starting negotiations, getting everything you asked for, and then turning down the offer anyway is something I'd consider to be pretty much just as tacky as signing and not starting. And it's not uncommon that recruiters will want a verbal agreement that you'll sign if you get everything you're asking for, before they'll be willing to go to bat for you.

The best option is to be transparent with both companies and try to get them to make the timelines work. (I mean, not so transparent that you tell Company A that you'd drop them in a hot second if you got Company B job, but you'd tell them that you're interviewing there.). If you have good reason to think Company A would not be understanding about this -- like they've indicated that they need a decision because they have backup candidates who they'd make an offer to if you turn them down -- then, well...not starting is absolutely a thing that happens for legitimate reasons and while it's not a good thing to make a habit of, it's really not the end of the world. I think this is especially true given that the jobs are in different industries and cities.
posted by phoenixy at 2:55 AM on August 27, 2020

(PS missed the edit window, but I would actually not tell company A that you are interviewing at company B specifically, just that you have something else in the process. In particular, if companies A and B are totally different locations and industries, and company A knows you're interviewing at company B and are enthusiastic about it enough to want to push out the process because of it, they may doubt that you'd stick around if hired.)
posted by phoenixy at 3:08 AM on August 27, 2020

I don't know why "tacky" or "dick move" should matter at all to job seekers. This isn't to subtweet or argue against other commenters; I'm trying to note for OP's benefit that our notions of job seeker ethics seem to be soaked through with concepts that make no sense and are designed to hurt job seekers.

Nobody is going to blacklist an employee for quitting in their second week, at-will employment goes both ways. Sure, maybe some will find it "tacky" or "a dick move", but it's foolish to try to demonstrate "class" by sticking with a bad job when you found a better one! If you handle the exit process in a smooth and respectful way, letting these folks know you are bummed you won't be able to work with them, but you've been offered so much more money that it would be irresponsible for you to not make the jump, that you believe they are a spectacular team, it's been an honor, etc.? Yeah. Nobody's even going to hold a grudge. They all know they'd do the same thing you're doing!

But what really does have the power to backfire spectacularly is to let one's new employer know that you are still looking for other positions in spite of having been offered this one. After this if you do end up having to take the bad job, your employer now knows you settled for second best which means you might still be looking to jump ship AND that you weren't good enough to do any better than them!! So not only do you lose your new employer's trust, you also lose their respect.

An employer is not like a spouse. Employment is not like marriage. OP, you do not owe your employer the truth about your dalliances. If you can tolerate feeling "tacky" or "dick move" on the inside, or better yet if you can overcome that feeling by telling yourself that you do not owe your employer a goddamn thing, you'll be doing yourself an enormous favor.
posted by MiraK at 6:30 AM on August 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

MirkaK, I didn't say "tacky," and I agree with you that the OP doesn't "owe" the employer the truth and that there probably wouldn't be long-lasting consequences or likely any consequences to accepting and then backing out. But I think it can be seen as unprofessional to accept a job on good faith and then immediately a week or a month later back out, which is where the OP's question is originating from. And it does inconvenience the employer to have to potentially go through another hiring process, so it seems thoughtful of the OP to me to be posing this question, even if I agree that the OP should do what is best for them.

I say this as someone who has also done exactly what is being suggested before and continued to interview for positions I had previously applied for as I accepted another job offer, and left a job 2 months in because I got the other job.
posted by knownfossils at 8:14 AM on August 27, 2020

[Friendly reminder that AskMe isn't a space for back-and-forth discussion or debate among commenters -- just offer your answer/perspective/constructive advice to the OP and then trust that they'll be able to judge which answers are most useful for them in solving their problem. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:06 AM on August 27, 2020

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