22

One company, let's call them Initech, made me a job offer. I didn't say anything like "I accept the offer" on the phone, instead saying "Great" (which one could potentially read as an implicit acceptance).

I know I probably should have said that I currently had a few offers on the table, and I would review their contract and let me know when I have made a decision, but I didn't.

I was also interviewing for another company, let's call them ACME, during this time and I asked them to accelerate their process after getting the Initech offer.

The recruiter from Initech called me to ask me when I was coming in to sign the contract. I managed to defer the signing of the contract until Friday afternoon.

Thursday afternoon ACME gave me a verbal offer.

How can I turn down the offer from Initech I implicitly accepted, without burning any bridges?

I was planning on doing it over the phone as that's how the original offer was presented to me, this is more professional and email seems like taking the easy way out.

  • 4
    It sounds like you may have only "implicitly" accepted their offer at first, but when set a date to sign the contract on Friday, you basically verbally accepted. – Nicole Oct 11 '12 at 19:35
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    You have accepted nothing. FIRST, get the contract with ACME signed. THEN tell Initech that you're taking your red stapler elsewhere. Best of luck. – Bob Jarvis Nov 28 '14 at 12:18
26

If you've been ambiguous in your responses to the more aggressive company to the point where they think you're ready to come on board, you may not be able to salvage their impression of you when declining. If you've said you're prepared to come in to sign the paperwork, that's quite a mixed message from what you're about to do.

Under normal circumstances, I always let people know when I am interviewing with multiple firms and I let them know I'd like to complete the process (assuming one party doesn't just drag things on and on for weeks on end) before committing to them, because I want to give them all a fair shot and come to my own conclusion about which firm is the best opportunity for me from both a financial and professional growth perspective. Some firms will react by giving you the time you ask for, and some just get more aggressive on the offer because they want to win; most of them will pressure you to answer you within X days since they want their position filled as quickly as possible.

But in your case, the best you can do is this: Say that you've unexpectedly been presented with an offer that you didn't think would come through before you needed to make a decision, and you're just waiting for the final paperwork to come through.

If you want to just focus on the preferred offer, let them know that you appreciate the offer and it's very attractive, but you think your professional interests are more closely aligned with the position at the other firm. They will be disappointed to lose out to the other firm, but most companies understand this is just how things sometimes work out.

On the other hand, if you are inclined to use the alternate offer as a negotiating lever (which may be harder if they had already been convinced they had you), you can say that you think the ACME offer is very competitive in terms of compensation and in terms of your role, and see if they open the door to further negotiation by asking you what it would take to get you to take the role.

I've been in both positions, both as an interviewer and as a candidate. It's not very surprising to me when we lose candidates to competitive offers, because the market for competent talent is fairly heated in my industry. As a candidate, I try to be as straightforward as possible without revealing my complete hand, so I wouldn't have gone the route you did. I'd decide what the minimum threshold for acceptance of either offer is, what the risks and benefits of each are, and make a gut-level decision that's based on known things, like compensation and role and apparent fit, and unknown things, like long term growth potential, apparent stability, and so on.

29

Just now (Thursday afternoon) I spoke to the recruiter from ACME and they have given me a verbal offer.

NEVER. DO NOT IN A MILLION YEARS take a verbal offer over a concrete offer. I was in a situation exactly the same as yours barely 2 months ago. See here.

Bird in hand, sir. I implore you to hang on to that offer as long as you can until you have a signed piece of paper from ACME. There's no such thing as a company that's too big to fail or disappoint, as I've learnt. They will do it with a straight face and move on. Like you've admitted, their process is slow, and they technically don't owe you anything until they've signed something with you.

If and when the offer from ACME does come in, you're just going to have to decline Initech in the nicest terms possible. The recruiter is there to make the kill and if it isn't you, he'll get another person. I'm sure you're not the first person to decline an offer, it's not a covenant or anything

3

I've been a recruiter, and I have also been on the job hunting side, If ACME comes back with a better offer, and you really want to work there, take it.

As kolossus said, you aren't the only fish in the pond, that being said, a verbal agreement doesn't hold up anywhere, especially in court. Unless you signed paperwork, you don't owe anyone anything.

Headhunters try to put you in a job in where their profit is over what you make by a specific percentage, in most cases they are looking for their next bonus. Don't let them say otherwise.

With that, it's in up to you, this is your life, we can offer a suggestion, but in reality you are asking, so I will say, take ACME and say sorry to the other company, they will not loose any sleep over you saying thanks but no thanks.

1

Verbal agreements are non-binding, therefore it is not necessary to renege on them. You only need to renege on a written agreement and must do so within 48 hours in most commonwealth nations.

  • 1
    must do so within 48 hours in most commonwealth nations This is a very very broad generalization. One that I'd be very cautious making. – Hi pals Nov 26 '14 at 23:27
  • @Hipals Please illuminate us on the correct generalization – Code Whisperer Nov 27 '14 at 14:47
  • In many places, contract law extends equally to both verbal and written agreements, however since there is usually no proof of a verbal contract, they are usually unenforceable, and therefore most people in such areas operate under the assumption that verbal agreements are not binding contracts. – bcrist Nov 29 '14 at 2:49
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    @bcrist: and in particular, if "I'll come in on Friday to sign the contract" could reasonably be taken as legally equivalent to signing the contract, then there would be no need to waste time and effort actually signing it :-) Courts are going to consider details like: what could reasonably be interpreted from what you said? Would the company consider themselves bound to sign a contract under the same verbal agreement? Did you receive any benefit as a result of a verbal undertaking which you didn't satisfy? (If so there could potentially be fraud.) And many other things. – Steve Jessop Mar 17 '15 at 0:55
  • I don't think the OP is worried about the legal ramifications of reneging on a verbal agreement (there are none here), but is more worried about preserving their reputation. – kleineg Mar 18 '15 at 12:48

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