A reader writes:
I’ve been job hunting for a few months now, and in the past few weeks I’ve received a number of interviews all at once. I interviewed for one position last week, but in the meantime I also scheduled two interviews at other companies for this week. The other day I received a job offer from my first interview and they needed an answer ASAP. It was the job I most wanted so I accepted, but since my other two interviews are for this week and there isn’t much time to let them know I’ve already accepted a job, would it be completely wrong to just go to the interviews and then if I get any job offers from them let them know I’ve accepted a position somewhere else?
Another reason I want to do this is just to find out a bit more about those roles so I never look back and wonder “What if I made the wrong choice?”
Well, there are a bunch of potential problems with doing this:
1. There’s a chance — a small chance, but a real one — that your new employer could find out. You wouldn’t be the first person to interview with someone who just happens to know your new boss, for instance. Realistically, that risk is low, but it’s there. And if it happens, there’s a very high risk that your job offer would be pulled (because it would look like you were actively trying to renege on the commitment you just made to them) and that the other person wouldn’t hire you either (because that’s a sketchy way for you to operate) … thus leaving you with no job. And you’d likely never be eligible for future hire at either company, because you’ll be marked as someone who doesn’t operate with integrity.
2. You could end up wanting one of the jobs you interview for more than you want the one you already accepted. Then what? Are you going to back out and take the second job? If not, why are you really going in the first place? (You said there’s not “much time” to let them know you accepted another job, but there’s plenty of time. You can send an email right now explaining you accepted another position and wish them well — that takes 60 seconds and then you’re done.)
3. Both of the above point to the biggest problem: Your word should mean something. And the fact is, you’ve already committed to another job.
Now, some people will tell you that it’s fine to renege on that commitment because your employer could fire you or lay you off at any time, or even rescind your job offer before you start. But the reality is that rescinded offers are rare. And very few employers continue interviewing candidates after they make a hire just in case someone better is out there. It’s highly, highly unlikely that your new employer is continuing to look at candidates for your role and that they’d boot you if they found someone better. That just isn’t how it normally works.
And if you think about how pissed off you’d be if that did happen, it might help you look at this differently. You made a commitment, they made a commitment, and you should act in good faith. Because you want to be someone whose word has meaning and who operates with integrity.
4. One last point which people often don’t consider: If you go to these interviews with no intention of accepting a job offer, you will probably be taking an interview slot from someone who actually wants the job. You might not figure that’s not your problem, and perhaps it’s not … but it’s certainly not a particularly kind thing to do.
If you’re really not sure you want the job you accepted anymore, deal with that issue straightforwardly. But that doesn’t sound like the case here.