38

I am currently a student in computer engineering looking for an internship or a job, which is mandatory to validate my year (both internship and regular employment for my school). I'm aware that enterprise tend to prefer choosing internship over a real employment, since it cost less.

I recently got approached in my research by some recruiter who is interested in some of my skills, but it's not really in the sector I plan to branch into. I'm planning to accept the best offer he can give me, to be sure that I got an offer when my school ask me to start working.

But even though I accepted the offer I would still try to apply to either a job that doesn't interest me much more, but which would at least pay me well or, regardless of the pay something that interests me more in the sector I am currently reaching out for. And if I get something that ticks any of those boxes I'll just call the company to tell them I found a better position elsewhere, even if I did start or signed a work-contract.

I won't start to work for two months anyway, so I would not resign, but just call them to let them know I won't take the position, even though I just accepted it.

The tricky thing is that if I have nothing before the start of my year, I get heavily penalized by my school for not having a job, so the number one priority is to get employed.

But should I stay with whatever answered first, or is it risk free if I just tell them I finally won't come to work?

Edit: For those who say that working in an unknown sector to learn a new thing while in school is good, I agree, but I already did an internship in this sector. They want to recruit me for the skill I already have, but I already find my first internship quite boring and that's why I don't really want to work there.

  • 7
    I am in a different country and many many years out of school, but I don't understand "penalized by my school for not having a job". I understand that some (private) schools "promise" employment when you graduate, and that their reputation in part depends on this. But not the other way around. Educate me, please. – mickeyf_supports_Monica Jul 23 at 20:17
  • @mickeyf I know in some places (in my country) there is a specific discipline for "internship" required to pass a year, however, If the student fails to find the internship themselves, the "school" is required to provide them with some alternative, so "penalized by my school for not having a job" may only happen in a sense that you'll have some less interesting activity. – Dan M. Jul 24 at 10:33
  • 3
    @mickeyf in my school, to validate the second, third and fifth year you must complete a 6 mounth internship, to gather experience. if i don't have this internship i would have to take several more class to make up for the loss – shas Jul 24 at 11:40
  • Aha - Thank you. This sounds like what is typically referred to here as a "coop project", the difference being that it is not considered regular employment in quite the same way as a permanent job, but rather something like "an opportunity to exercise and develop your skills in a real world environment." And for the company at which you are working, it provides free or low-paid (albeit inexperienced) workers. It generally is for a limited time, say a single school term or even less. I read the original post to be more like a regular permanent job. – mickeyf_supports_Monica Jul 24 at 12:09
  • There have been many cases where I've turned down interview requests because I had no interest whatsoever. This is a matter of personal taste, but accepting an offer without any intention of actually doing so is plain wrong IMO. – user22159 Jul 24 at 16:10

12 Answers 12

42

I'm not sure I understood well so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

  • You have an offer of internship from Company A
  • You don't really want to work in this sector but any offer is better than no offer
  • If you can land an other offer in a different sector you're likely to accept it.

If I'm correct you're describing a common state of looking for a job when jobless. And it's totally ok.

What you could do if you're actively looking for other offer is telling company A that you would like to accept their offer but need a bit more time (say 1~2 week see what's acceptable with them). This way you're not committing to anything in case you get an other offer.

Now even if you accept offer from A, if you get another offer before starting working for A you should still be able to cancel with A, just be sure to look into any contract of offer letter you'd sign if there are penalty.

  • 10
    This is the correct answer. Sadly, candidates don't always have the luxury of perfectly timed job offers, and this is especially true for soon-to-be graduates. It's not "nice" to retract an acceptance (and one should not make a habit of it), but these things happen all the time and that is even more true for offers that are made months in advance of start-date. – teego1967 Jul 22 at 12:47
  • 19
    I would agree that this would be acceptable if phrased this way ("I need a bit more time") however, probably worth noting that if Company A finds someone else ready to accept immediately, they may end up rescinding the offer themselves. It's a good way to approach the situation, but not without its own risks. – Steve-O Jul 22 at 18:46
  • @JayZ there are penalties to your everyone's reputation, even if they are not in the contract. This position appears to be through a recruiter--you're going to damage that recruiter's rep and possibly cost them a contract. You're going to damage your rep. You're going to damage your university's rep. – Mars Jul 23 at 0:34
  • I agree with @jayz answer. It's ok to take a suboptimal job. The simple fact is, you may never get that better job anyway. – dm63 Jul 23 at 13:34
162

This is a great way to burn bridges

Simply put; don't accept an offer if you do not honestly intend to do the job.

Especially when leaving school, your reputation is lacking and any bump against you can make life significantly harder.

When you accept a job offer, that company will often stop recruitment and inform the other candidates that they weren't successful. If you then go back on the accepted offer, you've left them in a sore spot and proven yourself to be highly unreliable.


I'd recommend looking for the job you actually want - or one that is valuable enough to you that you'll stick with it, and avoid selling yourself short so early on.

It's worth remembering while you're in school though - that often the day-to-day management makes the biggest difference in your job satisfaction and accepting a job in a slightly different field can give you valuable experience and an equally satisfying career.


(This following section does not apply to OP's situation in France.) Note that some countries laws may also make you liable for any damage the company suffers from you breaking the employment contract. Please always read up on such laws for your country, or visit Law.SE for specific advice.

  • 44
    @shas My understanding is that you plan to accept an offer (whether by email or actually signing a contract), and then go back on that decision before your actual start date. If that's the case, it will be just as damaging as resigning on your first day - and the answer still stands. If you plan to just have an open offer and not reply to it - that's a different situation, although I'd still recommend you do not do this. – Bilkokuya Jul 22 at 10:27
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    Good answer, but I would expect any reasonable company to sign a hiring contract with a new employee before letting other candidates know they've failed. So I wouldn't consider such a big issue for calling off after one phone call confirmation. Everything chances with pen on paper though. – Mefitico Jul 22 at 20:14
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    Additional note, renegging may be against school or dept policies as well and will most likely not end well if the company complains and/or blacklists your university – Mars Jul 23 at 0:30
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    In tech fields like computer engineering, it's common for workers to change jobs relatively frequently. More so for the first job out of school. Take the job and if it's not exactly what you're looking for, you can start job hunting in 18-24 months. – bta Jul 23 at 23:18
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    Note that some countries laws may also make you liable for any damage the company suffers from you breaking the employment contract. Since this is in France, this is not the case. In practical terms he is free to resign anytime, with a notice of zero days before he started, then gradually more as he goes though the probation period, and then three months. At no point he is "breaking the contract" EDIT: forgot to tell that the reputation part of the answer is on spot (+1) – WoJ Jul 25 at 7:43
72

What if a company you were interested in offered you a job but then rescinded it after finding a candidate they like more?

Don't do it.

  • 20
    Isn't that what the probation period is for? /sarcasm – Dmitry Grigoryev Jul 23 at 13:10
  • you mean a company will set up a contract, let somebody dive into the topic while keep on looking for somebody else? Unlikely. – Ben Jul 23 at 14:34
  • I've seen this happen before, and it is utterly rude. Once it was with me; a hiring manager was retiring, which he admitted to me earlier on, and I think his replacement called off the offer. Was totally uncool. – Aaron Jul 23 at 17:07
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    If companies will do it to you, it sure seems like turnabout is fair play here. – Adonalsium Jul 23 at 17:59
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    @Upper_Case more of 'If companies categorically have zero respect for workers beyond the bare minimum needed to avoid turnover and poor performance, then why should workers have anything but contempt for them?' – Adonalsium Jul 23 at 18:21
22

"I have a developer that's asking for a job opening I've got, but they want $5k more per year than I want to spend. Is it okay to hire them, and then replace them with a lower paid substitute a few months after they start the job?"

If that sounds obnoxious, it's because it is.

And you're doing the same thing from the other side of the fence. Knock it off.

  • 21
    That happened to me once, actually: I was hired for a new position, and then after a few months into my probation period I was informed that I would be let go at the end of next month. I then learned from colleagues that the reason was that the CEO found someone who was willing to do my job for less money, so they hired them instead. Karma struck though, when a week later, the same colleague told me over lunch that my replacement changed their mind, and that I wouldn't be let go. So I resigned myself for a better offer elsewhere. Apparently, it took them half a year to fill my position again. – Niko1978 Jul 23 at 11:02
  • it is not necessarely the same thing. The impact on a person when fired is usually bigger than the impact on a company when an employee decides to quit early. – user1841243 Jul 24 at 8:46
  • And the timeline is quite different too. On one side, we have someone who did not sign a contract yet, on the other someone who did a few months ago. – m.raynal Jul 24 at 12:01
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    Are you arguing that everybody should stick around indefinitely and never look or accept a better paid job? If not, where's the difference? – Relaxed Jul 24 at 23:04
17

There's a saying "you always meet twice", meaning in five years you could be applying for a job at your favorite company and the hiring manager you are fooling now will be responsible for hiring you then. Really.

6

The exact details of what accepting an offer obligates you to vary from location to location - in some (such as the UK) it technically enters you in to a contract of employment! So it's not something to do lightly, that said if you are planning that any change takes place before you actually start with the employer in question then it's unlikely to have much effect. Not many employers will want you to start when you are already leaving!

But that's not the same as it being "risk free" - at the very least I'd expect this to burn some bridges, if you aren't planning on working in that sector at any point then it's probably no big deal, especially since this is so early on in your career and we are talking about a job that is part of your education rather than a full-on career. But do your best to be as respectful of this employer as you can and give them as much notice as you can - and remember to check what the rules are in your location regarding what obligations you might be incurring by accepting the offer - even if they are minimal.

  • i should watch what in the contract, definitly. if that's any help im in france. – shas Jul 22 at 9:36
5

I had a friend who did just what you describe (and for similar reasons). Of course, they didn't get sued for breach of contract (there's no point in suing a poor student anyway), and nobody wanted them to work for a few weeks then resign (which would have been perfectly legal).

Just understand that your actions have consequences: you're closing yourself a door to the company in question for as long as the memory of their HR staff goes, which may be many years; and it's possible (though unlikely) that your reputation will precede your CV in some other companies as well.

5

The general answer would be "don't accept if you plan on reneging", but your case seems different.

First, recruiters don't give you offers, hiring managers do. Being approached by a recruiter is a long way away from having an offer. As it stands, a recruiter's interest has probably a 5% chance of leading to an offer. Maybe a bit more for an internship, since as a college student your skills are more commoditized. You're closer to a job than sending a random resume, but this still only a free pass through the initial resume screen.

Second, as an intern, your position would be inherently temporary, and you'd probably be one of many interns. This makes you more replaceable than a permanent employee, and less of a concern for the hiring manager.

As such, to the best of my understanding of your circumstances, the best thing for you at this point would probably be to go forward with the internship-hiring process. Learn more about the company, experience some interviews. Maybe you'll like them, maybe not. As long as you're willing to honestly work there unless you find something better, you're not in all that unusual a position. You're not committed until you have signed the paperwork.

However, when it comes to signing a contract - if your position has one - that's where you should stop and think. First, read that contract. Second, decide on whether you're willing to commit at that point. If you're not in the middle of another hiring process by then, it's probably not practical to just wait doing nothing.

3

You should never accept an offer unless you fully intend to go through with it.

I have a bit of a story from a similar situation I was in, but I did not do what you're implying.

I was in a somewhat similar position back when I was applying to internships in college. I applied to Job A, which I was really interested in, and then I applied to Job B, which I wasn't terribly interested in but would accept if Job A turned me down. Job B got back to me first, and told me that they wanted me to come work for them. I was given about a week to decide. I had already interviewed with Job A, so I decided to take a gamble: I already had an offer on the table, so I pushed my luck and essentially put that pressure on Company A.

I called them the next day and told them that I had an offer from another company but I really wanted to work for them, so if they wanted me, they'd have to decide soon so I can send Company B a response. Company A called me back the following day and offered me a job.

Now, granted, this does not always work out so well. However, the reason this was better was because a) I did not accept any offers, b) I used the offer I had to negotiate a better one elsewhere, and I did so within the deadline of the offer, and c) I was honest with the employers. I didn't lie to either one, I made it clear I was in talks with two different companies, and I told Company B that an offer that I was more interested in pursuing came up and I decided to take it. I didn't just say "No thanks, not interested" as that would make them feel like I wasted their time just for the heck of it. Most companies tend to understand that when you're actively job hunting, you tend to apply to a couple of different places, instead of betting on one application at a time, especially when you're a student applying to internships.

If Company A had not gotten back in time, I likely would have accepted the B offer otherwise, because I'm not in the business of jerking people around. Company A got back to me so fast that I actually only had been waiting two days out of the 7-day timeline I had been given.

So, in case this wasn't clear, don't accept an offer you don't want.

A couple of other people also mentioned something important: not only is that just a bad move and a great way to burn bridges, it's illegal in some countries as it's a violation of contract.

Instead, if you really are pushing for some other offer, at least try to use it as leverage for the offer you want. That being said, don't leave the other people hanging. At some point, you have to choose whether to accept or reject the offer and accept the consequences associated with that decision. You can't forget that it's their time that's being spent on this as well.

  • 1
    Breach of contract is never illegal (in most (all?) countries). The other party may sue you in some countries (unlikely, since they have to show damages), but it is in no way against the law. – BeB00 Jul 24 at 20:21
  • @BeB00 A breach of contract is in fact against the law in France (art. 1103 of the code civil) but it's not clear there would be any breach of contract in this case and, if there was, the contract would be essentially unenforceable against an employee (an intern!), among other reasons because it would indeed be exceedingly difficult to argue that the company suffered significant damages. – Relaxed Jul 24 at 23:18
0

You (predictably) got a lot of push-back based on the notion that you would accept the offer disingenuously but I am not sure this the best way to frame this. You do in fact intend to take the job if you cannot find a better one. That's also the way you should present your decision if you are ever asked about it.

The question therefore becomes “Is it acceptable to keep looking for jobs or take a better one after accepting an offer/starting a job?” and it's difficult to argue you would owe your employer any commitment beyond what's in your contract. The situation is not that different from, say, Leaving employer in the middle of a "big project", offering to help part time.

Note that it doesn't exactly apply to internships but most “real” work contracts in France would have a 2-to-4-month trial period during both the employer and the employee can terminate the contract with minimum notice and a 1-to-3-month notice period after that. So assuming the planned starting date is in a few months, I see absolutely no problem in changing your mind and declining to take the job after initially accepting it.

And even right after starting, leaving with 24 hours is typically perfectly legal (again for an open-ended contract with a trial period). Anybody arguing otherwise need to provide a good rationale for the appropriate length of work you supposedly owe your new employer (Is it 6 months? 12? More?) and why it would be so when the employer has absolutely no corresponding obligation and you're objectively creating less difficulties than a long-time employee leaving (even after their notice period).

In my view, the most problematic aspect of all this is that accepting this internship could deprive a fellow student (possibly someone who really wants to work in this industry) from this opportunity.

-3

Morally you should not do this. It is unfair and not considerate to the company's situation. Legally I can't say I am not sure and maybe it is based on where you live. I would come straight and look for another job you would like to do for experience and getting to know yourself better.

  • I'm not sure why you were down-voted for this. I came to make the same point: the fact OP even asked this shows they need to grow a moral compass - it's not right to lie and waste other's time; work or otherwise. Do this in any context and you risk it following you. – Chris Hatton Jul 24 at 13:22
-3

Be completely honest and more forthcoming than anyone they've hired before. Tell the recruiter the exact truth, that the offer is not really for the direction you anticipate going in your career, and that you would prefer to stick closer to your field, but that you would like to be assured a job for the school requirement. Then ask if they would allow you some time to explore other possibilities, without withdrawing their offer, and possibly a period of trial during which you can accept work from someone else with a short notice period.

Be not only not dishonest, but super honest, and see where that gets you.

  • pretty sure that, if i tell them, i won't get the job – shas Jul 24 at 11:44

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