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Commitments Matter

Scenario: You had been searching for a job and, finally, were offered a position, which you accepted. A week before your start date, another firm you had been talking with (and at which you would prefer to work) contacts you and invites you in for a second interview. What do you do?

The old adage, “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” comes to mind. Just because the second company has invited you to interview doesn’t mean they are going to offer you the position. It might be tempting to take the second firm up on its offer and at least do the interview. “After all, exploring my options can’t hurt,” you think to yourself. Unfortunately, that exploring might hurt more than you think:

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• The first company might hear that you interviewed with the second company after you had accepted their offer. That certainly wouldn’t look good for you.
• The second company might hear that you had accepted a job before coming in for the interview. That, too, certainly wouldn’t look good for you.

Backing out of the job you have accepted in order to do the interview with the second firm is even riskier business. There is no guarantee that you will succeed with the second company. And, even if that job comes to pass, you have certainly cut off any future opportunity with the first company and with the people there whom you have left hanging. You don’t know when or even where you might run into the person from the first company who originally hired you. It could be five years down the road at another firm. There’s a pretty good chance they’ll remember you, and it won’t be favorably. You also can’t be sure that your new employer won’t hear about the way you left the first company in the lurch. That action could leave a negative impression of your integrity with your new employer.

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Commitments matter. Once you make a commitment to a company, you shouldn’t put yourself in the position of being sought after by another company. The best course of action is to avoid the situation altogether. As soon as you accept a job offer, contact any other companies you have been in contact with and let them know your status has changed and you are no longer available for hire.

In the above situation, rather than accepting the second company’s invitation, the appropriate response would be, “Thank you so much for asking me to interview. Unfortunately, I have to decline. XYZ Company has offered me a position, and I have accepted it.” It’s the ethical choice, and the one that shows you to be a person of integrity.

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Since 2004, Peter Post has tackled readers’ questions in The Boston Sunday Globe’s weekly business etiquette advice column, Etiquette at Work. Post is the co-author of “The Etiquette Advantage in Business” and conducts business etiquette seminars across the country. In October 2003 his book “Essential Manners For Men” was released and quickly became a New York Times best seller. He is also the author of “Essential Manners for Couples,” “Playing Through–A Guide to the Unwritten Rules of Golf,” and co-author of “A Wedding Like No Other.” Post is Emily Post’s great-grandson. His media appearances include “CBS Sunday Morning,” CBS’s “The Early Show,” NBC’s “Today,” ABC’s “Good Morning America,” and “Fox News.” Follow Post: @PeterLPost.

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