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I have committed to taking on a summer intern and am supposed to fill the intern position by mid-March.

In the meantime, I am in the final stages of a recruitment process elsewhere. While I know that the organization wants to hire me as soon as possible, the start date cannot be determined before my background check is completed. This can take 4 weeks or more. When the screening is complete, I will negotiate the start date with the hiring manager.

Here is the tricky part: I do not want to resign before having an offer in hand and signed - just in case the background check does not work out for whatever reason. But at the same time, if I wait, I am past the timelines for hiring an intern. But I know that I may not be around to actually manage the intern. What's more, the position cannot be scrapped, and if I do not manage the intern, someone from our head office will have to take over (I am in a regional office). I want to be fair to my employer and bow out of the commitment to manage an intern without signalling that I may leave. How can I do that?

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Over the years, I have heard about, and even encountered personally, these sorts of situations.

My advice is that you proceed as though what you know to be true today will be true tomorrow and beyond. You have been asked to hire, manage, and presumably train an intern. Do that.

You should absolutely, positively NOT resign from your current position until you have an offer in hand. As you said, you have no idea whether you will get an offer or not. More than once, I have gotten to the final round of hiring, where they were signaling that they wanted to hire me over other candidates, then poof everything vanishes for whatever reason. Management can change its mind at any time for any reason over anything.

If you do end up in the enviable position of having a job, and having an offer in hand from somewhere else, you can afford to be very selective. If the offer you receive is unacceptable for any reason, then you politely decline and resume life as normal in your current position. Of course, you do have the leverage to negotiate for better terms.

If you get an offer you can't refuse, then once you resign, your current employer is in the position of deciding whether you are valuable enough that they offer you something to stay--usually money. Occasionally this happens, but it's been rare from my perspective working in IT.

There is no law that I'm aware of requiring two weeks notice anywhere in the U.S., but in giving two weeks notice you are providing that which is generally accepted as the accepted standard amount of advanced notice--thus not burning any bridges. If you are able to give more than two weeks notice, so much the better. Results may vary in other nations.

  • 1
    This is a generic answer and has little to do with the specific question. – Amy Blankenship Feb 17 '16 at 15:54
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    Seems clear to me, it isn't a done deal until the contract is signed, so don't bow out, behave as normal for the moment. – The Wandering Dev Manager Feb 17 '16 at 15:59
  • Iittle to do with the specific question, but good advice. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 19 '16 at 16:42
  • +1 particularly for the second paragraph. This thinking makes life so much easier in these situations. Yes while it may be advice that applies in many situations, it certainly applies in this specific situation. – Tim Malone May 15 '16 at 4:22
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Don't bow out of anything, your current employer will smell a rat, and then if the offer does not go through, you've damaged your reputation at your current firm.

Get everything in motion, and give two weeks notice as it is the professional thing to do. This maintains your reputation both with the new and old employer. Nobody will fault you for moving on, but they will if you pull the "goodbye! tomorrow is my last day". It also sends a very bad message to your new employer that you are not trustworthy.

It is noble to want to make sure your old employer isn't stuck short-handed, but if they were that good, would you be moving on.

Remember what every manager has said when he's laid someone off "It's just business". Be professional, be above board, and be classy, but remember, it's just business.

  • It is possible to bow out of or push back on a work task you are assigned. It's tougher and more suspicious if you've already, previously committed to the task. It's also tougher if there is literally nobody else to take over for you. – stannius Feb 19 '16 at 16:44
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One thing to consider is that if your employer is unable to cover your responsibilities after you leave when you've given them two weeks notice, that's extremely poor resource management on their part. What would they do if you were in an accident and out of work for months?

While you are an employee of the company, you have an obligation to perform your duties to the best of your abilities and, to some degree, protect the interests of the company. You don't have an obligation to put the company's interests above your own. I guarantee you that if the shoe was on the other foot, and the company had some information that made them think they were going to have to lay some people off, they would not take any action until they knew for a certainty that it was going to happen.

Continue your work as if you were going to remain at the company until you're prepared to give your notice, then give your notice and work to make the transition as smooth as possible. It's entirely possible that you won't be leaving the company, so shirking your previous commitments would be pointless and make you look bad.

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