Is it ethical to accept a job offer if I may accept another position before starting?

A company extended to me a job offer; they offered median compensation for my field and area. I am also a candidate for a second position which would open new career opportunities and offer incomparably greater compensation. The search for the second position will be complete before the starting date of the offered job. If I am selected for the second position I would accept it. Is it ethical to accept the offered job even though there's a not-insignificant chance that I would retract my acceptance?

Closely related: Leaving a job very early to accept another offer

  • 1
    If you're concerned about the ethics, tell them you're very interested but are want to hear the results of one more interview, and ask when they need you to commit by before they offer the job to the next candidate. That may let the situation resolve itself without having to decide between settling for the lesser job or breaking your word.
    – keshlam
    May 1, 2015 at 17:38
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    @JoeStrazzere That's not an entirely appropriate analogy. We like to pretend that employers and employees are on equal footing and, as such, would be interchangeable. However, the consequences of an employee being unemployed and an employer having a vacant position are quite different.
    – user34716
    May 1, 2015 at 22:50
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    If you make someone else's life harder to make your own life easier, ethics exist to tell us "you shouldn't do that". Is it tantamount to burglary or worse? No, certainly not. Is it often a question of degree and extent? Yeah, it usually is - if you are quitting McDonald's to join Google, I think you should apologize for the inconvenience and then sleep soundly if you can't find a nicer way to handle the situation. Everything else is a matter of degree, and you should certainly be careful of minimizing the cost to someone else to rationalize doing what is easiest and most profitable for you.
    – BrianH
    May 2, 2015 at 3:15
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    Basic principle: if you are asking whether something is unethical, that means you already know the answer but are hoping to find an excuse.
    – keshlam
    May 3, 2015 at 18:34

3 Answers 3


Unless the company has changed the offer, or there is a crisis in your life it is unethical to accept a job, then renege. I've know a few people that did this, and while they are all gainfully employed, I would not hire them.

You will be surprised by how small the world of jobs is in a city. Don't burn a bridge this way unless you have a REALLY good reason to.

I believe a much better course of action is to write to the first company explaining the situation, and seeing how flexible they are when you accept. Also inform the second company of your offer and they may be willing to speed the process up a bit.


Personally, no, I wouldn't consider it ethical.

As someone who has been doing some hiring recently, theres a lot that goes on once a candidate accepts your offer - you start telling the second and third choices that they had failed to achieve an offer, and you start killing off adverts etc. So if you later turn around and say "actually, no, id much rather take my other offer" and we have already let other candidates down, that puts the company in a difficult position.

Its much more ethical to simply say "thank you, but I am waiting to see what the outcome of another interview is before I can accept or decline your offer". Dependent on how long the company may have to wait for an answer, they will probably be perfectly fine keeping the other candidates alive until they have your final decision.

Remember, the company probably has another choice, much as you do - you wouldn't find it ethical if the company offered the job to multiple candidates and after they have all accepted only then make an actual choice.


What you are suggesting is accepting the offer on the contingency that you do not get this other offer, but telling the company that you accept it without reservations. In plain speak, that means you're lying. So, no, not ethical.

This differs significantly from the other question in that you are going into the situation hoping to leave within a week or so. If things pan out the way you hope, you might get paid for a week of onboarding and knowledge transfer, and then leave, with little to no benefit to the company.

If you wish to be ethical, tell them that you accept their offer contingent upon not receiving this other offer.

You can do this in a diplomatic manner, tell them you want to wait and evaluate the other offer.

This risks their withdrawing their offer, and you almost certainly won't get paid by them in the meantime, but on the upside they may increase their offer.

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