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I have been made an offer by company A, whilst still going through applications with companies B and C.

Company A has asked me to verbally accept an offer, and as part of that, to cancel all other applications.

They haven't sent a contract yet though, so I think that it would be against my interest to withdraw from other applications.

My thinking is that I should only withdraw from the other applications when company A has sent a contract and I have signed it. Thoughts?

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190

You are absolutely right. Company A is trying to improve their odds at your expense, because if you drop everything else they can low-ball you and you'll be pressured to accept due to lack of alternatives.

Definitely do not stop searching or drop anything until you have a signed offer.

Perhaps even move company A a few steps down the list for trying this, because it speaks to the character of the company that they would suggest it. But that's up to you.

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  • 6
    “it speaks to the character of the company” — maybe. Companies aren't people though, they're organisations. It might not speak to anything more than them using a stock offer letter. Jan 15 at 11:33
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    @PaulD.Waite someone picked out that stock offer letter, and everyone else seems okay with it, so it still speaks to some of the character.
    – Erik
    Jan 15 at 12:03
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    @PaulD companies do have a distinct culture, and if it's acceptable to trick new hires into weakening their own position, it's a red flag. The lack of respect for employees might extend elsewhere.
    – dbkk
    Jan 15 at 16:20
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    Someone still had to write that stock offer letter, and someone (else?) had to approve it in order to get it into the procedures. Jan 15 at 16:33
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    @PaulD.Waite is there the possibility that it doesn't reflect the current company as a whole? Sure, but it still is evidence that points into a bad direction. The answer does not say "throw off the list" but "perhaps ... move ... down the list". I.e. this is after all a probabilistic evaluation of how likely one will enjoy working there, and this is a small piece in that estimation that pushes it into the "wrong" direction. And even if companies aren't people, you only get them to get their act together if you react to the pieces that seem wrong so those pieces have a cost to the company. Jan 16 at 17:46
71

The tricky part here is "what do you say to company A".

You should continue your search until company A is fully committed, i.e. you have a written offer in hand. The question is: how to best communicate this to A without jeopardizing your offer?

Some options.

  1. Lie. Say "sure I stopped all other applications" and then still pursue them. DON'T DO THAT. Lying is bad on principle.
  2. You can try to ignore it and see if the press the issue or just let it slide. Not great, but might work.
  3. Be open: "I love the offer and I'm looking forward working with you. I will withdraw all other applications as soon as I have a written offer". If asked "why"? You can reply "Sorry, but I can't fully commit before I have seen and studied all the details of the contract". Mention details like salary, benefits, policies, work expense & policies, work from home, relocation, bonusses, etc. That's a perfectly reasonable request. If they have a problem with this, so be it, and you may be better off working elsewhere anyway.
  4. Discuss it: Ask them why they need you to withdraw before a written offer has been issued and the company has fully committed to you. If they have a good reason, maybe there is another way to address their need.

This may be harmless: Creating a written offer can be process heavy, i.e. take a lots of time, effort and money and they simply want to make sure that this effort isn't wasted if they kick it off.

Still, it's a bit of an odd request, so some care is advised. Personally I would go with option three and see what happens. If this kills it, it's probably for the best. A company can NEVER stop you from looking, so it's kind of a dumb request.

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    @ignoring_gravity If you do go with option 3, I wouldn't worry about being sued. "I like the offer but want to see it in full, in writing" pretty explicitly does not constitute the "unconditional" acceptance that link warns about
    – BThompson
    Jan 14 at 22:08
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    Sort of a nitpick, but I think it'd be useful to specify that you shouldn't call off your search until you have accepted a written offer and had it countersigned by the company. It's not likely to matter, but I could imagine someone getting excited by receiving an offer, calling off their search, and then while reviewing the offer, they find out something about e.g. the benefits that makes the offer unacceptable.
    – David Z
    Jan 14 at 23:13
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    "Lying is bad on principle" - not always. There are many times when it is perfectly acceptable to lie - basically any time you're asked a question that is itself unreasonable and that they should not have asked. For example, if an employer asks "are you considering leaving for another job?" then until the day you hand in your notice, any answer but "no" would be a terrible idea, true or not. The OP has another example. It's nobody's business whether the OP still considering other offers, they shouldn't have asked, lying is fine. Jan 14 at 23:44
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    Shouldn't you reorder your list so the best comes first...?
    – Passer By
    Jan 15 at 0:32
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    You can also phrase it more enthusiastic and still put the ball in their field like:'thats great! looking forward to work with you; please send me the contract ASAP so I can cancel my other applications'.
    – lalala
    Jan 15 at 8:46
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DO NOT ACCEPT THOSE TERMS.

Any serious company I've ever interviewed with understands that a good candidate is going to have multiple offers, and tries to be the best one, not the only one left. It's perfectly normal, and in fact polite, for the company to ask if you currently have other offers extended so they can decide whose interviews and contracts need to be scheduled soonest when working out people's schedules. It's also normal to have some sort of a deadline when an offer is presented (ie. if you accept this offer, you must do it no later than X/Y/2021), and companies I've interviewed with that wanted to give me an offer always made sure to inform me when they needed to have a response and to work with my schedule to allow me to finish other applications I had ongoing and compare offers.

It is NOT normal or acceptable for them to demand that you stop searching elsewhere before they actually give you an offer. That is a very serious red flag, and signals that they either don't treat you seriously, and are going to lowball you and try to force you into a disadvantageous contract, or are a toxic workplace that relies on churn and underpaying people, and are going to lowball you and try to force you into a disadvantageous contract. I'd be extremely wary of that company and treat any offer you receive from them with suspicion and consider it dishonest unless proven otherwise. If you haven't done this before, now is the time to research them as a workplace on Glassdoor and similar, and look very hard for any indication of this being a problematic workplace. Chances are, their pre-offer tactics aren't the only thing that's off.

An important thing that many people seem to forget is that, unless you're in a really desperate position and forced to accept any job, a job application is a two-way process. You're trying to convince the company to hire you, but the company is also trying to convince you to join them. If they don't treat you seriously, it means you shouldn't want to work for them.

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Never say that you will stop your search. If you say that, you will be back here in a couple of weeks wondering why they're so slow to send you the actual written contract. I've seen that kind of scenario play out on here too many times (See this example).

No, instead. Ask that they overnight you a copy of the contract, then you'll make your decision then.

By a copy of the contract, I mean that you need to know the final terms, salary information, starting date, job title, the benefits package, any probationary period, possibly the employee handbook (if the contract refers to it), etc. This way, there are no last-minute surprises. Do not accept anything less than that.

Again, if you're too eager to accept a "verbal" offer, expect to be placed on the backburner and to have some of the terms changed by the time they're written into your contract (just like in this second example).

Let me ask you a question. If you were selling a house, but a nice couple wants you to stop you from showing the place to others to give them enough time to put their paperwork together. Would you? Of course not. At least not without a deposit, a firm price, and a written deadline, this would only incentivize them to delay the paperwork as much as they can, while they continue to look at other houses. It's psychological. Once you remove the possibility of losing you, then you become their backup plan and they can continue searching for a better (or cheaper) option elsewhere with less fear. Do not become anyone's backup plan.

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  • I agree with the main crux, but not the reasoning. Companies looking for someone to hire aren't going to artificially slow their process down simply because one of their candidates threw away some of their options. Delaying doesn't get them anything - it's not like delaying the hire actually benefits the company. Instead, the reason they might do this is because they can offer far less salary, since the person they're offering it to has taken their BATNA behind the woodshed and axed it.
    – Kevin
    Jan 15 at 19:19
  • @Kevin, I agree with your interpretation too, but I do have two objections. The extra delay doesn't have to be willful. Sometimes, it can just be the HR person juggling 10 different tasks at the same time. If you give your verbal acceptance too prematurely, don't count on them to drop what they're doing and fedexing you the contract anytime soon. Starting the job quickly and getting paid so you can feed yourself may be your very top priority, but to the HR person, getting you that contract is just another task in a long list of tasks. Furthermore... Jan 15 at 22:06
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    Furthermore, a good HR person will keep on stringing along other candidates, and moving them slowly through the pipeline, even after receiving a verbal acceptance, because if nothing else, that HR person also needs to anticipate the small chance that the original candidate doesn't work out (even after having said "yes"). And if that's the case, it becomes that much easier to interview and lowball other potential candidates (knowing that you already have someone who said "yes" to you informally) just to see how far lower you can take it. Jan 15 at 22:15
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In addition to the other answers, I would be very worried about this company. Either they want you or they don't.

I once rejected an interesting job offer because they put in the contract that I will provide the payslips from my previous company. WTF? I asked them why and they said it is normal, they want to make sure I was telling the truth. I told them not to call me anymore.

It may be something that exists somewhere in the world, certainly not in my country (they are from here as well).

Such unusual requests are an alert. It means either lack of experience, or some kind of trick. You do not want to start on that foot.

If I were you I would simply ask "why?"

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  • So far the best answer. It's not just whether you stop other applications or not, it's a red flag. It's not their business at all whether you apply to other companies or not. Jan 15 at 12:51
  • Just to note that there are some jobs where you would be expected to provide payslips and financial statements, and possibly a lot more. But it would usually be obvious if the job involved vetting, and in my experience it'd be stated clearly in the job advert.
    – SusanW
    Jan 17 at 19:02
  • @SusanW: interesting, would you have some examples? I am familiar with such requirements for some military clearances, or legal requirements (in France - for some political positions for instance) - but not for "normal" jobs.
    – WoJ
    Jan 17 at 19:34
  • @WoJ Yep, that's what I had in mind - Developed Vetting in the UK includes a "full review of personal finances". But some jobs in financial industry may expect them too. I had to disclose my detailed financial history some years ago for a banking contract that had regulatory aspects, where they were keen to know that I was living within my means.
    – SusanW
    Jan 17 at 20:56
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They haven't sent a contract yet though, so I think that it would be against my interest to withdraw from other applications.

The concern I have is that you're only submitted an application to the other company. You're only showing interest of the other company's job posting so it's not like you're going to follow through it or they're going to follow through it.

I also never heard of withdrawing your application from a company. Usually you just apply and wait to hear or not hear from them. There's no "withdrawing" it unless it is very far along and you have a written offer from them.

It's sort of like finding someone on a dating app and they want you cease all communications with others on the app. They're not asking you if you have a relationship with someone but rather preventing you from even pursuing others before they even tentatively commit to going on a date with you.

My thinking is that I should only withdraw from the other applications when company A has sent a contract and I have signed it. Thoughts?

I'd be a little concerned of Company A's direction. You're right that you don't have a written contract/offer yet, but at the same time, you also don't have one anywhere else. So you're kind of stuck in the middle of no where.

I would ask Company A why they want me to cease all my applications. I would write the email as follow:

"Company A, I am very interested in employment with you. I am waiting on a written contract prior to ceasing my job search. Thanks."

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  • "The concern I have is that you're only submitted an application to the other company" what I meant was that I have had initial interviews but have not yet reached the final stage Jan 14 at 15:12
  • The advice at the end seems contradictory? You say, "I would ask Company A why they want me to cease all my applications", and then suggest language for an email that doesn't ask that. Jan 14 at 22:53
  • @DanielR.Collins, I think he meant "I would ask myself why they would want me to cease all my applications." Jan 15 at 6:03
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You can answer "OK, I will."

It seems reciprocal to give a verbal response to their demand, containing as much detail as their verbal offer contained.

If their verbal offer contained concrete details for salary, benefits, and conditions of employment, then this approach doesn't seem fair. But if they didn't include any details, then your general statement that you "will" is true as long as you intend to withdraw from other applications after you come to a concrete agreement for this job.

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    If he says that, then expect him to be back here in a couple of weeks wondering why they're so slow to send him the actual written contract. I've seen those posts too many times and it's always been because the job-hunter too prematurely accepted the verbal offer, so then the potential employer didn't feel rushed to send him the contract anymore. Jan 15 at 0:50
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Any upside of you shutting out other companies only has an upside for Company A. There is nothing but downside for you. Be very wary of accepting a lopsided win-lose situation.

You have to do what's best for you. You're interested in Company A, but it would be unnecessarily risky for you to shut down alternatives before things have been settled with Company A.

There's nothing wrong with telling them that, either.

"I'm very interested in working here at Company A, and I'm looking forward to having an offer letter. Until then, I'll be making sure that my job search can move forward in case for some reason things here at Company A don't work out. I'm sure you can understand my situation."

Pushing back will probably advance the conversation, too. They might say "Our concern is that we're very interested but we can't give an offer today because..." Go forward from there.

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I guess like all of these questions the answer is "it depends".

The answer really is about what the company wants and it's true that they do this to make it more likely that you will accept their offer. Be warned though that this is often a show of commitment by you so saying "no I'm not doing this" may lead them to withdraw their offer. This might leave in the position of no job offers.

In terms of verbally accepting the offer you have a few things you could do:

  • Ask them to send the offer via email and if they ask why you could say that an email offer would give you more confidence in the offer. This might allow you to make a better decision (is this a good offer for you)
  • Tell them you don't accept verbal offers and that you would only accept a written offer. Could work, although they might withdraw, it's risky to take this approach
  • Just tell them you are in the process of recruiting and would like to give the other companies the same chance. If they don't like this answer you could fall back to the email option to stall for time
  • Just tell them that you verbally accept the offer but are not withdrawing from the other offers be careful to say that this verbal acceptance is subject to you agreeing to the terms in the written offer. I think this could also be an option they might just withdraw the offer
  • Agree to everything they want. I wouldn't do this but if you are desperate for a job the only risk here is they lowball you with the offer

My suggestion is to just tell them that as you are in the middle of the application process of the other companies you wish to at least finish those processes as it would be unfair if you were to quit those processes half way through. I've done this myself and the company was willing to hear me out. Some companies may be unreasonable and withdraw unless you accept immediately. To me this is a red flag as it shows the company doesn't want a fair process when it comes to recruitment.

There is a risk that if you don't agree exactly to what they are asking for they will pull the offer but during any recruitment that's always a risk. It's up to you if you what risk you wish to accept

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  • Is there any risk to verbally accepting an offer and then declining it when the contract comes through? Jan 14 at 13:16
  • @ignoring_gravity, yes there is. More details here: gov.uk/job-offers-your-rights. Also note that a verbal offer is just as binding as a written offer. It's unlikely that an employer would do this as it will cost them more money than they will make off you but not impossible.
    – Dave3of5
    Jan 14 at 13:32
  • Isn't that for unconditional offers? Any offer they would make me would be subject to references anyway, so without even having signed a contract I don't think I'd be running into a huge risk. But I'll avoid doing that anyway as it feels unethical, thanks for your answer Jan 14 at 14:52
  • @ignoring_gravity, Many contracts have a clause that says: "pending a reference check". That's fine. It doesn't prevent them from sending an actual contract. Jan 15 at 0:53

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