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I just received an offer letter contingent on a background check. I think the check will be alright, but this also might take up to 6 weeks.

I'm not working now, so my question is what happens if I sign and send it in, and get a better offer somewhere else. Am I liable at all to company 1?

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    See my comment below, what are you being asked to sign, acceptance of role or contract or just receipt of offer? Answer will vary greatly. – The Wandering Dev Manager Mar 11 '16 at 8:49
  • @JoeStrazzere jobs that need a security clearance could easily fall in this category. – mikeazo Mar 14 '16 at 15:43
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If it may take up to six weeks for them to make a firm offer, I think it's reasonable to continue interviewing with other companies in the meantime... unless they're asking you for a firm commitment, in which case you need to decide whether you're content with waiting for them.

(Personally I'm inclined to say contingent offer merits only contingent acceptance, if nobody makes you a better firm offer sooner... but they may not be happy with that answer.)

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I'm not working now, so my question is what happens if I sign and send it in, and get a better offer somewhere else. Am I liable at all to company 1?

It depends on the local employment laws, and depends on the wording of the contract you signed.

In most locales, and in most circumstances, you are not liable at all.

You certainly should continue to look for a job while your offer is still contingent. And should you find a job that fits your needs, you can accept the new one. As soon as the new one becomes official (not contingent again), immediately notify company 1 that you have accepted another offer. Make sure you thank them for their consideration, and indicate that unfortunately, you couldn't wait for them to finish their process.

Company 1 may not be happy, but you simply can't wait forever and hope that everything works out.

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You are not obligated to accept any offer, contingent or otherwise.

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