Rescinding Job Offers

I know its been a while since I posted a casual little tid bit here, but I was thinking about all of our blog readers and YSN members this past week in New Orleans when a very juicy hot topic popped up relating to job hunting. I was speaking at the annual convention for the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) – the trade association for all the career centers in the US and the companies/employers that want to recruit their students.

Well, anyway, my presentation on “What Students Don’t Understand About You, Your Company, Your Opportunities…And What You Can Do About It”, was well received and very interactive…which is always a great thing. I must say though, the meatiest discussion of the two hours was on a topic I’d never have expected – recent graduates rescinding job offers AFTER they’ve accepted them!

Apparently, a bad trend is emerging here. Students, eager to get the best opportunity, and loaded with confidence about their marketability (even without any real work experience) are dragging contract negotiations with prospective employers out sometimes over a period of months while they decide if it’s the right fit, or worse, formally accept offers and then keep interviewing. Many times, they’re finding something else and leaving the recruiters who expended a lot of time, energy and money into them in a real bind.

Now you may be wondering how big of an issue this really is. For whatever it’s worth, about 70% of the room I spoke to said that this had happened to them…and that it was a growing trend.

A lot of interesting dialogue followed this discovery, but to summarize some of the highlights:

1. If a recruiter offers one student a job, they often have to turn another qualified candidate down. When a student rescinds an offer they’re previously accepted, not only does that company lose the new hire, but also the next best candidate – who might have genuinely wanted to be a part of that company. So, by rescinding, students are not only hurting the company, but a fellow job hunter.

2. The cost of recruiting is high. Advertising, exhibiting at career fairs, give-aways, corporate web sites, recruitment tracking systems, flying candidates in for interviews, assessments, etc. Not only are candidates making an investment in a company they chose to work for, but the company is making a significant investment in them, even before the first day of work. In my opinion, everyone in this mix needs to be more respectful of this mutual investment – particularly students who need all the support they can from their first employers to get their careers started on the right foot.

3. Burning bridges in business is never a good thing. Students probably don’t recognize the bad taste they’re leaving in the companies mouths by backing out of deals like this, or how it can come back and bite them. As companies continue to get burned by this, they very well might seek out new ways to discourage this – by blacklisting candidates from ever pursuing an opportunity at that company or affiliated companies, by blacklisting other students from that particular school, or urging career centers to refuse access to services and resources to offending students.

Heavy stuff! Bottom line, we can all appreciate someone trying to get the best job offer or shopping opportunities, but there’s a serious question of ethics here to be considered. Is it ever okay to enter into a contract and pull right out because something better came along? What does this say about a person who is just starting to establish their professional identity, launch their career, make that big leap into “adulthood”? Should employers and recruiters rethink the level of investment they are making into young people for fear that they might not stick? Or is this just another example of how the dynamics of the working world are changing – not to mention the relationship between new or emerging talent and their employers?

I’d love to hear what you all think! Students, young professionals, recruiters, even parents….what’s your perspective on this?