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I have received two internship offers. One company (company A) gave me a deadline (tomorrow) to accept or decline - although, it's not a formal offer letter. Rather it's an "expression of our intentions regarding your employment and should not be considered an employment contract".

Another company (company B) selected me but an offer is contingent on funding which will "likely" be provided. I should hear from them in the next week. I prefer company B. Would it be unethical for me to accept company A's offer and then back out when and if company B provides me with an offer? I figure most companies wouldn't hesitate to rescind an offer so I should look out for my best interests.

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    It does not seem, to me, like you have any legal binding offers. A is not a legally binding agreement and B is a 50:50 shot at best. Do you have any official letter of offer or expressly written agreement of employment from either? Seems pretty clear cut to go with Company A considering B has not given you an actual offer (or one where you would be expected to wait long for). What's your time table for an internship/job? Are these paid? What country? Considering these are internships, I think it's premature to look at it as "forever jobs".
    – David
    Mar 8 '21 at 22:55
  • @David I do not have any official offers but I do have a tentative written offer from company A. I've been told that I've been selected by company B but that an offer is contingent on funding which I'd put a 90% chance on being provided based on what I've been told. Both of these are paid summer internships (10 weeks) in the United States. I'm not too concerned about burning bridges with company A for what it's worth.
    – Remy
    Mar 9 '21 at 4:54
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Would it be unethical for me to accept company A's offer and then back out when and if company B provides me with an offer? I figure most companies wouldn't hesitate to rescind an offer so I should look out for my best interests.

Unethical? No.

Unprofessional? Burn bridges with Company A? Perhaps... I would have said "yes" but you said this isn't a formal offer letter yet, so things are a bit intangible/informal still to be considered "unprofessional".

This is part of the "art" of dealing with multiple offers at the same time, so check the pros and cons of each offer, and make a choice.

Further reading: How do I coordinate the process of pursuing multiple job opportunities at the same time?


That being said, on a more personal note, seems that you don't really like company A, so why accept their pseudo-offer? If you like company B better you could perhaps focus your efforts on landing that one.

Still, I suggest you keep your options open and continue job-hunting and searching for other options if neither of these result.

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  • Thank you for the advice. Company A isn't one that I am particularly interested in having a permanent job with upon graduation so I think my best course would be to accept their tentative internship offer.
    – Remy
    Mar 8 '21 at 22:55
  • @Remy updated my answer a bit.
    – DarkCygnus
    Mar 8 '21 at 22:56
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    In the US at least, you're not "obligated" to work for anyone for any specified period of time. Employment is "at will" so it is not uncommon to be hired and then shortly after take another offer/opportunity. Assuming there is not a weird contract.
    – David
    Mar 8 '21 at 22:57
  • @DarkCygnus To your last point, it's just a summer internship which I'd use as a resume builder. I think company B would be a better choice for boosting my resume. There is nothing further I can do to increase my chances with company B at this point. I've been selected by a researcher but his project proposal needs to be approved (which it likely will according to him).
    – Remy
    Mar 8 '21 at 23:01
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Letters of intent can be binding. It really depends what is written.

Even though a lot of America is at-will, certain types of employment can have contractual arrangements. For instance, if there will be a lot of training (like in an internship) they may "lock you in" to the role for a period of time. Or you are viable to essentially pay for the training. But this is something that will be in the contract.

If you're feeling a bit uneasy signing a letter of intent that you may not follow through, you can just detail in your acceptance that it is contingent on not getting a better offer.

Obviously they may not accept that condition, and revoke the offer, so you have to do the maths on if you think it's worthwhile adding that clause.

They may also ask you when you'll know about any other offers, and they may elect to push the deadline back by a week.

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