should I keep interviewing after I already accepted a job offer?

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 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.

{ 106 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth West*

    Point 4 especially. You’d be wasting the interviewer’s time, and someone who maybe has been looking longer than you and is really desperate might not get in there.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. Don’t waste anyone’s time here and don’t waste someone else’s potential interview slot. You’ve accepted a job. Move on and good luck!

    2. Jessa*

      Exactly some places have limited time to interview, and every slot taken means someone else gets shut out. If they only have a short timeline to hire for a critical position, it’s not fair to the next person they could give that slot to.

      1. Jo*

        You are both wrong. I failed to understand why employers can do that (going through multiple candidates) but you can’t. After all most information will be disclosed in the interview and in most cases will not even know the pay until the offer is extended. Do what is best of you and your family. If employer don’t like it, they can move along. Keep in mind, they have a department for that reason alone. Don’t give us that crap of wasting time. Goes both ways.

        1. Rob*

          Jo, you are right! Do what is best for your family! I’ve been a position where I accepted 3 offers and gave myself a week to boil down to the right decision for me and my FAMILY. Pay, Distance traveled, Culture etc allowed me to make the decision.

  2. BGirl81*

    Excellent advice here. When I accepted the offer for the new job I start next week (ALL THANKS TO THIS BLOG! Seriously.), it was literally three hours prior to a scheduled interview. I had a long stretch of unemployment and I knew that I was really, really unlikely to get the salary, benefits and damn-near-perfect cultural fit my new company was offering elsewhere.

    I called the company I was scheduled to interview with and the operations manager thanked me for letting her know and very warmly wished me good luck in my new role. I was expecting awkwardness and felt like a jerk for cancelling so late in the game, but I think that with so many qualified candidates to choose from and so many people helping out with hiring after their hr departments may have been cut, they are happy to avoid any waste of time! Congrats to the OP and good luck with the new job :)

      1. BGirl81*

        Thank you!! I always love reading your comments and they have been a HUGE help to me, so double thank you! :)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Awwww! *hug* Thank you!

          I would not have gotten MY job if not for all YOU guys and Alison. So I’m glad I could help, even if it was just to be goofy now and then. :)

    1. Flynn*

      It’s also probably a lot like getting turned down for a job: sure, I’d rather it didn’t happen, but as it’s already happened, I’d far, far, far rather get a phonecall letting me know so that I can move on, and will always thank the person letting me know.

      (And I’ve turned an interview down the morning of, after accepting another job, as well).

    2. Edb*

      In today’s time It’s perfectly acceptable to act in your own self interest. Take the first job, and if you can discreetly keep interviewing then do it. Company’s can fill positions a lot quicker than it takes someone to find a job. (If you are a recent college graduate or new to the job market)

  3. BCW*

    I think a big question, is do you have an actual offer letter signed. The advice that is on this blog a lot is that nothing is official until you have it in writing. It says they made you an offer, but was it a phone offer and the official letter is pending, or was it a signed offer. If it was just the phone offer but you haven’t gotten anything in writing yet (or signed anything) I don’t think its unfair to keep interviewing. If you have signed something, I’d say stick to your committment.

    1. BCW*

      All that said, while I think you would be wasting both parties time to go on one, as far as taking another person’s spot, I don’t know that I think that part is true. If that person wasn’t going to get an interview anyway, whether you interview or not won’t matter. I guess there are some people who have a set number of people to interview in their mind when they start the process, but being that rigid probably doesn’t end up well in the long run either.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Good point about making sure the offer isn’t just a verbal one, but in writing, accepted, and finalized.

        But on number of interview slots — it’s pretty common to have a specific number of interview slots — 3-5, often. When that’s the case, there are candidates who would get a slot if this person withdrew.

        1. Michele*

          Agree. When I was interviewing for 3 positions in my department I had my top 5 and then a group of runners up in case any of my top choices were not available.

        2. BCW*

          I can accept that, I’m just saying if you said I’m only taking 5, but then there was a 5A, well I think its just stubborn to not even have a conversation with this person. But if you were number 10 on the list anyway, I don’t think the OP taking up a spot would have gotten them an interview.

          1. KellyK*

            Someone has to be your #6, though. No matter how many slots you have or how flexible you can be, there’s always going to be somebody at the very top of the “cut” pile. If they already *have* called person 5A, then that just means that person 5B is the one that the interviewee who doesn’t want the job is potentially taking that slot away from.

            Now, maybe the difference between your top 5 and your bottom 6-100 is so dramatic that you wouldn’t interview person #6 but would start the process over. Or maybe you have *time* to interview your top 5, but only chose to interview your top 3, and that wouldn’t change if one of those 3 dropped out. But someone accepting an interview has no way to know that.

        3. ProcReg*

          I’m in this situation now. It’s a good problem to have!

          I had two interviews already scheduled before receiving a verbal offer. I kept those interviews (even getting another offer, which I declined) until after receiving the written offer.

          1. voluptuousfire*

            Agreed. As we’ve seen by this blog, job offers can easily fly away into outer space, leaving the candidate with bupkus. Nothing’s truly locked in until your first day. IMO anyway.

    2. Ruffingit*

      That’s a very good point. They need to make the commitment fully (signed offer in writing) before you shut down other options.

  4. Yup*

    Are you on the fence about the job you’ve already accepted? I’m asking because it sounds like maybe there’s doubt there that makes you think you’re missing out.

    One way to think it through is to ask yourself what these other jobs could offer you that would tempt you to turn your back on the first one. Is there something immediate that makes you say, “Yeah, I’d totally want Job B instead of Job A if it offered me…” ? Because if you’re really not that thrilled about Job A, you should think about that now, rather than after you’ve already started.

    On the other hand, if you’re just worried about missing out on something better around the corner, consider this: what guarantees do you have that you’d get an offer from jobs B and C? You might look back on not accepting Job A as a mistake.

  5. Craig*

    I think it’s completely acceptable to continue to interview up until your start date at the new job.

    What if one of the later companies offered a lot more money, what if their job was a better fit, what if you liked that company a lot more?

    Until you start a new job you should be free to pursue all of your options. Once you start, then the commitment has been made.

    When I received my first job it was through a recruiter. Once I accepted the agent asked if I had any other interviews scheduled and I replied that I had 3. She immediately told me to phone those companies and cancel, which I did. It wasn’t until later that night that I realized what a huge mistake that was.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, the commitment is made when you agree to and finalize the offer.

      What if one of the later companies offered a lot more money, what if their job was a better fit, what if you liked that company a lot more?

      What if the company found another candidate for cheaper, what if they were a better fit, or the company liked them more, and so gave the job to them instead, after already hiring you? It is VERY rare for a company to do that to a candidate. You should be able to trust an accepted offer, on both sides.

      1. De Minimis*

        I think it’s also a bit different when you’re dealing with a recruiter than when you’re dealing with the company itself.

        I feel that whether it’s okay to interview depends on how far you’ve gotten in the process with the other company. If you’ve actually gotten a start date nailed down and have some kind of formal offer, you’re probably at the point of no return, ethically speaking. With my current job there was a tentative offer and a final offer—the tentative offer process involved a lot of preliminary background checks and it very well could have been rescinded at any point in that process. I continued to interview at that point and saw no problem with doing so. Once I got the final offer, that was the point where I had a start date and was starting to complete HR stuff online. At that point, I think it would have been a bad thing to back out. Think this is sort of common with government hiring, though.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Totally agree. As long as they’re telling you there are contingencies that could cause them to withdraw the offer, keep interviewing. Once it’s final, so should be your acceptance.

    2. _______*

      I agree you can keep interviewing until your start date, but not for your reason. There’s a probability your role might be canceled before you start (although not high).

  6. Meredith*

    This is a slightly different situation – Just out of grad school, I had a job offer in my home city (for a low-paid, entry-level position far outside my field). The offer came as I was prepping for a multi-day academic job interview for a rare position in my field. I had already traveled to the interview, which in another state, and it would have been a great early career move. It was such an awkward conversation! I ended up telling the person offering me the job that I was about to interview for another position (hey, I was new and didn’t know how to handle this). She clearly wasn’t super happy about this answer, but she exceedingly generously agreed to let me take a week to decide about accepting. In the mean time, I interviewed, it went really well, and I felt confident enough to reject the original job offer (which I felt really bad about!). I did end up getting that job in my field, too. It’s a few years later now, and I really appreciate that the person offering me the original job was willing to give me that leeway to decide – I realize now that that was a luxury that she did not in any way have to extend to me.

    1. Laufey*

      Sounds like you actually handled this pretty well. It might have been a better idea no to specifically mention you were going to an interview, but it’s totally fair game to ask to think about about accepting the offer. That’s the key difference in your story – you hadn’t actually accepted when you went to the second interview and you were upfront about needing time to consider the offer. Her offering you her position is the same as you accepting the position.

      1. Laufey*

        *is not the same. “Her offering you her position is not the same as you accepting that position.

        Gads, I can’t believe it took me so long to see that.

  7. Malissa*

    Random thoughts on this subject

    1. Your word should mean something.
    2. Unless it is in writing, there is no job offer. So interview away.
    3. The grass will always seems greener some where else.
    4. I totally know where the OP is coming from on this. I was at my previous role for 7 years in a small town where opportunities were rare. I was looking for a new job, either there or where I am now, 1400 miles away. I applied at my dream job in the small town. The ad read like it was written for me. Awesome. Months went by.
    Really Awesome Opportunity came up 1400 miles away. It involved a recruiter who was on top of her game. Took a trip, things went well, went back home. I had an offer, in writing with-in the next week. There was negotiation, and a deal was struck. Both parties signed. The very next day, I swear I can not make this up, Dream Job called.
    They had to put the position on hold due to budget reasons. They were getting ready to interview now. 6 months later. The lady heard hesitation in my voice. Quickly went on to say I was one of the top picks and they really wanted to see me. It almost killed me at the time, but I told her I had just accepted another offer.
    Now I am happy and warm and very content in my job where I am the ruler of my little world.

    1. Jen*

      Ouch, that must’ve been difficult!

      When I was job-searching a couple of months ago, I had two promising interviews – Company 1 seemed OK, but Company 2 seemed *great*. On Friday morning, Company 1 made me a (very good) offer… but I was really, really hoping Company 2 would call, so I told Company 1 that I needed time to think. My inner Alison* said I shouldn’t call Company 2 and try to pressure them… so I was patient and they called Friday evening. I’m now in my first week at Company 2 and I’m loving it!

      (*My inner Alison is like Head Six, but with more common sense. I never have to email Alison because I always know what she’ll say!)

  8. BCW*

    I’d also like to add that in my experience, its a red flag when a company needs an answer immediately. Now there are exceptions of course, such as you are interviewing to be a teacher and school starts on Monday. However for the most part I think that if a company won’t give you at least a few days to really reflect on an offer, its not good.

    1. Rich*

      I think the idea is “time kills all deals.” I try to get verbal acceptances on the spot if I can. And if I do, I forward the letter asap.

      But if a company is like take this today or we will pull it after 24 hours…yeah, not my cup of tea.

      1. BCW*

        See, I will not give an acceptance, even a verbal one, on the spot. I’ll talk about the offer, and wait until I get something in writing. But there are always things to be hashed out, and I think before making any comitment like this you should have the opportunity to sleep on it.

        1. jesicka309*

          Would you consider email as ‘writing’. The job I was just offered sent me a link to their online application system, which had a PDF letter of offer on there waiting for me to check ‘accept’. I downloaded the PDF and saved it, then hit accept. The letter had my name, address, and hiring manager’s details on there, so it was personalised.
          I’ve had phone calls since, so I know that they are not rescinding (as yet), but I’m curious to know if an online letter of offer counts as ‘evidence in writing’ for other readers? I’ve resigned my current job, but would other people have waited for the full contract in the mail before doing that?

          1. Flynn*

            Who cares if it gets printed before or after it arrives at your house? As long as it’s written down and can be referred to later in a reasonably unambiguous way, there’s no real difference between an email attachment and a letter.

        2. Tina*

          Ditto for me. I’m not comfortable accepting a job on the spot, I ask for at least a day or two to think about it. I advise my students to do the same when they have job offers. No matter how much thought I’ve put into it beforehand, I need time for it all to sink in once it’s “real”.

  9. MR*

    I did this once. I got a free trip to Las Vegas as a result.

    However, the interview in Vegas was arranged just prior to the verbal offer coming and the flight left less than 24 hours after the written paperwork arrived.

    I ended up sticking with the offer I received and actually received an offer for the position in Vegas…four months later.

  10. Brett*

    When I accepted my current position, I immediately withdrew from candidacy for two other positions. I actually called and emailed their HR people within the hour to inform them. For one of the companies who flew me out to interview, I even offered to let them forgo reimbursing me.

    I was reimbursed. And I stayed on good terms with both companies, which has helped me significant later in my career. Continuing to interview will not only jeopardize your accepted position, but also jeopardize your relationship with the two companies you interview with.

  11. Anonymous*

    I’m kind of in a similar boat right now. I accepted a job and I’m 30 days in. Part of the reason I applied for it was that it was the closest thing to what I was looking for, but not the most ideal…the title, experience, skillset, etc. I like my bosses and my team and I don’t really dislike the job, and I’m good at it…I’m just not passionate about it, and I really miss the field I have worked in for so long. I also kind of had to take it because I had to move unexpectedly and of course, needed a new job back in my hometown.

    Opportunities in my actual field are rare. A few days ago I was checking out some industry information on a website and saw they had new jobs posted. IdealJob (not dreamjob, but Ideal for my experience and qualifications) was right there. Exactly where I want to live. Exactly the kind of job I want. Exactly the pay I’m looking for. They are even welcoming long-distance candidates. A contact of mine in the same industry also mentioned it to me the next day, and encouraged me to apply.

    I’m still submitting my application. I still know better, but these opportunities just Do Not Happen. I feel that I’m fortunate enough that my industry is very forgiving of job-hopping, as it’s part of the nature of the industry anyway. And I only just graduated in December, so I think I can handle a weird mar on my resume like this…but…lordy. It’s a tough call.

    1. tango*

      If you’ve only worked for your current company 30 days, you might not want to list your current position at all if you apply for the other job. I mean 6 months or a year before applying for another job is enough of a red flag to a possible employer. A month on the job will make them wonder what’s truly going on. Unless say it’s a part time job when someones going to school, etc. But full time professional work after graduating college? Nah, I wouldn’t do it. I’d certainly never put the job you have now on any future resumes if you leave them after just a few months .

    2. Ange*

      Oh my… I was reading these comments just to see what else is being talked about and I’m glad I came across yours. I looked up this question because I had to… I’m torn. You practically described my situation now. I look to see what else is out there constantly for future reference… but recently came across a position or two that are MUCH closer to my dream job than what I’m doing now, and closer (not TOO much closer, but enough) to where I live.

      I’m just not sure if I should apply or not in the off-chance I DO get an interview. Like you said, these opportunities are rare and I don’t want to be left wondering, “What if?”

      Since you submitted yours, do you think I should submit mine?

      Also, to Alison… what’s your opinion? Should I apply anyways? I’m 30 days in as well, but the job is kinda far and I’m not nearly as passionate as I am about the those other possible opportunities. Any advice?


  12. kdizzle*

    Hmmm…it’s rare that I disagree with AAM advice, but I just don’t think this is as nefarious as pictured.

    I had gone to college and grad school for chocolate teapot making, had always wanted to make chocolate teapots, but never lived in a part of the country that required them. So, I built a professional career in another field. One day, I moved to where they needed chocolate teapot makers and …poof! Someone wanted to interview me to make chocolate teapots (even though I had no professional experience in doing so)! Unfortunately, I had accepted another job days earlier (womp womp).

    Curiosity got the best of me (I had wanted to make chocolate teapots since I was a wee lass!), and I decided to interview. The chocolate teapot making supervisor loved me and offered me a job. I told her that I loved the teapots they were making, but it just wasn’t the right spot for me at that time.

    Since this brand of chocolate teapot making is rare, and lacks quality candidates for positions, my interviewer asked if I knew any other potential chocolate teapot makers. I did! And two chocolate teapot makers (fresh out of my alma mater) were offered jobs a few weeks later.

    I still keep in touch with the chocolate teapot interviewer. She’s a great lady, and I’m so glad I went on that interview.

  13. CassJ*

    I received an offer for my current job after business hours on a Friday and had an interview scheduled for the following Monday afternoon. Knowing that the interview on Monday wasn’t a job I was interested in, I cancelled that one (at the behest of the recruiter who was trying to guilt trip me into continuing with the interview despite the fact I told him I had accepted an offer). I was in talks with a handful of other recruiters about other positions and called/emailed them all to let them know I was off the market.

    It would have been a waste of the interviewers’ time if I had continued my interviews since I had no intention accepting positions from the other companies. I’m sure the people I interviewed with were happy to have their time back to do other work related things than interview a candidate who was wasting their time.

  14. WWWONKA*

    The way I see it is if there is any doubt in your mind or if you have not finalized all the background checks and this may be contingent on that then go for the interviews. Companies deal with these possibilities just like the interviewee may get rejected at any time in the hiring process. You only have to answer to yourself so don’t feel guilty by what others say.

  15. Mike C.*

    Does your feeling change if the offer is pending a background check or similarly conditional?

    In my situation, I accepted a job pending a background check on the same day as another interview. On the one hand I totally agree with what was written above. On the other, the offer was pending something I’d never gone through before and I was afraid that backing out at the last minute would look really bad.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Absolutely. As long as they’re telling you there are contingencies that could cause them to withdraw the offer, it’s not final. Until they’ve fully committed to you, the post above doesn’t apply.

      1. WWWONKA*

        Even if you have committed you have to do what is best for you. May be frowned upon but you do not owe anything to anybody. If I commit and then think maybe something else is better for me or I want to find out if it is better then I will continue to interview up to and possibly beyond my start date. What if you are not happy with the job? Sorry, but my happiness is priority.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          But what about the factors in the post? Are you not concerned about losing the existing offer and harming your reputation? Are you not concerned about keeping your word?

          1. WWWONKA*

            The factors in the post are valid and losing the offer is a possibility, rare but possible, but I have to do what is best for ME just as a company does what is best for them. A company doesn’t think twice if they have to let someone go. My reputation is solid and an act like this would not harm it. What are the chances of hiring managers from different parts of town talking to each other… slim to none. I tell you that if I have a commitment with a company and something better comes along I’m going for it.

            1. Emily K*

              My company definitely thinks more than once before they let someone go. Performance improvement plans, budget-tightening in non-salary areas, allowing people to telecommute when their spouse needs to relocate to another state…some companies do think twice about letting someone go.

      2. De Minimis*

        I had another situation where I had signed an offer letter, but they still had contingencies [basically based on my getting my degree.] The letter also said that it did not consist of an employment contract and could still be rescinded. Although it was a little more borderline [there was an established start date], that was another situation where I felt okay about continuing to look–and wish I had looked harder since that job ended up being a disaster! It was also a little different since they were hiring a large group of us at once, so one less person would not have been a major inconvenience for them—and in fact it ended up that they had hired too many.

      3. JT*

        So, based on your comment, it is absolutely OK to continue interviewing even after accepting a CONTINGENT offer (in writing, but not signed), correct? The offer is contingent on a simple background check and drug screening, which I’m absolutely comfortable and confident about. However, the third party company responsible for the check apparently does not have the most sterling reputation, so I would like to make sure that I am not left out on the streets should they drop the ball, possibly triggering a withdrawal of my offer.

  16. Anonymous*

    I had to do this to a company…twice. Same company, two different job hunts, and I accepted offers right before I was supposed to interview with them.

    I call them my good luck charm.

  17. jesicka309*

    I totally get this feeling, OP. I accepted a job offer on Monday (yay!!), but keep finding myself gravitating towards the job boards – it’s like I’ve been job hunting for so long that it’s second nature to check my email, then check the listings. I’m so completely excited about the new job, but it doesn’t feel real yet. While I don’t have any other interviews lined up, if I did, I’d be facing the same situation.
    If you had accepted this job, without having other interviews, would you be over the moon? Or would you be sighing and thinking things like “at least it’s a job” and “well, it will do for now”?
    If it’s the first, then you should cancel the other interviews, and get excited for the job you’ve just accepted! But if you feel like the job you’ve accepted is a second choice, or just a ‘temporary’ solution to your current situation, then go on the interviews. :) And congratulations on the offer, OP!

    1. Jen*

      I still check job boards too… I’m definitely not looking for a new job, but I’m interested in the industry. There’s just a handful of positions available (in the entire country) so it’s useful to know which companies *have* a tech writing department. If only so I can forward the jobs to my former coworkers, who are also looking to leave!

  18. Kay*

    I’d also like to mention that you don’t have to feel bad about canceling on the other interviews. I know that I occasionally feel like I need to go through with it simply because I said I would. It’s really part of the hiring process, and as long as the interviewers are sane they won’t hold it against you. And if they do hold it against you…then you know you dodged a bullet.

  19. Joey*

    I disagree. While I do agree its a waste of everyone’s time to interview if you have no intention of accepting, that’s not always the case. I certainly would be disappointed, but would understand if I offered you a job and you went on an interview to a job you had already applied for and accepted a better offer. I don’t care if I offered it to you in writing and you accepted in writing. The reality is that nearly all of us would probably do the same, especially when the other job/comp package is significantly better.

  20. Pat*

    My mother told me a story of how this happened to her, many years back. Applied for two jobs in microbiology (she has a PhD in it), and was given an offer she accepted right before the second interview. In her case though, she didn’t want to back out of doing the second interview (for reasons I assume are similar to those numerous people have mentioned above), so she decided to go along but pretend to be a rubbish candidate. It’s not the choice I would have made, but hey, I wasn’t in her shoes at the time.

    So she turned up at the second interview. First thing she did was light up a cigarette in the interview room – this was the late 70’s/early 80’s, so not the unthinkable sin it would be today, but you can still imagine the effect. When asked about what she though of the company she was utterly dismissive. When asked what she would do in the role then, she said she would throw most of what they did out, use their expertise in handling yeasts to form a cutting edge micro brewery, and move into the premium beer market. Yeah, really.

    Of course, they offered her the job almost immediately. It turns out they already wanted to pivot, loved what she’d proposed, and thought she was exactly the sort of person they’d been looking for. Cue some embarrassed back pedalling…

    1. Marie*

      This story is fantastic! Your mom sounds hilarious! Reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where George does something the opposite of what he would usually do, has a positive outcome, and applies the theory to his life across the board. Thanks for the laugh, Pat!

  21. KellyK*

    I completely agree with Alison about the point at which it becomes “official.” If you’ve gotten a formal offer, with a start date, that isn’t contingent on a background check or a drug test or whatever, and you’ve accepted it, then you should not continue to interview. You should let the companies you would be interviewing with know ASAP so that if they need or want to interview someone else in your place, they can.

  22. Scaredy Cat*

    Aw man, I wish you had published this a few months ago, when I would have dearly needed it. Ah well, you live and learn I guess.

    I applied to Company 1, for a really really interesting-looking job. I was about 80% qualified for it, so I figured that it wouldn’t be such a stretch to try.

    The time passed and there was no answer from them, so I figure “tough luck”. Then, after 3 months, they contact me and ask for an interview. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a really busy week, with out-of-town clients breathing down my neck, so I scheduled the interview for the following week on Tuesday (Monday being a bank holiday).

    At the same time, I am asked for an interview by Company 2 which I was much more interested in. And they offer to interview on Monday (despite being a bank holiday). And I had an offer on Monday afternoon from them.

    So I email Company 1, that regretfully I have to decline the interview, but I already accepted a new job. Their reply: Well, it’s too bad you accepted an offer without hearing ours first. So, we urge you to at least come for the interview.

    And because I’m so easily manipulated (insert liberal bouts of head-meets-desk), I accept. So I go, and receive an “insultingly” weak offer. And now I wonder: why can’t I grow a spine and just manage to say “no”, without being made to feel guilty? *sighs*

  23. Sleepless*

    This was a great post. I was just put in this situation yesterday. I was offered a job from a small company owned by a friends family in my field 5 months ago after graduating school but they could only hire me after getting a government program (hence small company). However this seemed to never happen so I continued to apply with little luck. Fast forward to this week, I finally set up 2 promising interviews with jobs related to my field with large companies.

    How ever 2 days ago I received a phone call out of the no where from the owner of the small company saying he was finally going to hire me and needed a commitment that day. I was excited but still have this nagging feeling of I should see if I can get an offer from these other interviews I have lined up this week. I ended up signing the offer letter and submitting it today and am planning to cancel my interview tonight and tomorrow through email and phone call.

    In the end it came down to the commitment I made this company and the fact that I would not feel like I was being honest trying to sell myself to the interviewers after all ready accepting a job. After being unemployed in my field for so long there is a very large mental tole that really made this whole situation really hard for me. I remember 5 months ago when I first got the conditional offer from the small company I was really excited and couldn’t wait to start. After waiting so long, I really siked myself up on these other 2 opportunities I know I would not have been so excited for originally right out of school. The other issue is that my starting pay is much less than I would be offered if I got either of the other 2 job, that is if I would have even gotten one!

    Again, great post, it really helped me focus and add some closure to my decision!

  24. Mavis*

    I find this article helpful and I agree with it. However, I think I have a slightly different kind of dilemma than the ones described here. I have also been applying for several jobs at once. Last week I accepted offers from two part-time jobs. Both jobs sound like a great fit for me and the hours are good, but there are no benefits. Then I get a call asking me to interview for a full time job with benefits. I am not sure if I would quit my part time jobs (even though the new job would be permanent and higher pay) but I am very curious to find out more about it. I already scheduled the interview, but I am feeling guilty about it and may cancel. I did sign a contract (for 15 hours per week) with the second job. What is your opinion of this situation?

  25. Sue*

    Do employers think twice of cancelling an interview at the last minute? Heck no they don’t. You got a job offer that you want so email the others and say so.

    Mavis: What kind of “contract” did you sign? No employer can force you to stay and work for them.

  26. I disagree*

    I say do what you want, because the hiring managers do what they want without regard to anybody’s time and dedication. I say go to the interviews and then if you like the position better, write the that same 60 sec email to the one who offered you the job. I can almost bet they’ve done people dirty and might do you the same way, because all this etiquette stuff is just plan bull****, and that’s exactly how most of them go about hiring people.

  27. Dora Smith*

    It depends on why you want to keep interviewing after you accepted a job. In general it’s poor form to go back on your word.

    I’d keep interviewing if I took a job in desperation that I don’t really want, or if I didn’t feel confident that the job was going to happen. In regard to the first one, there’d have to be something wrong with the job, not just a comparative pay issue.

    Also if one is on Unemployment, one may have to make the required number of work search contacts for the week in order to collect Unemployment. I once lost a week’s benefits because I hadn’t made the required work search contacts after accepting a job. Sometimes you can control if someone is going to likely to offer you a job, and sometimes you can’t. In Texas, it is legitimate to turn down a job if you already have one; they allow that. They just don’t let you stop making work search contacts once you have a job.

  28. ARodriguez*

    OK – nice post…

    Now, question (which I find myself in) – should I still be going to interviews if the role that I accepted (or would accept) is a “CONTRACT-to-HIRE”…?

    And whether I would need to contact other recruiters that I’m not in the market anymore?

    As per my sense, I would understand that it is still OK. For one, it is a C2H – hence a very contingent job role that could be quite easily terminated within the contract term.

  29. M*

    I know this is an old post, but maybe someone on here will find it today like I did and can help me out. After a grueling job search, I finally accepted a job offer over the phone with a a set start date this past Friday. I’m excited about the job, especially after such a long hunt, and as far as culture and salary goes, I know I should feel lucky, especially as a recent grad. However, today (Monday) I received an email from (as close as I am going to get in my location to a) dream job asking for an interview next week (my starting week for my other job). I applied to the position more than 3 months ago and just had assumed it was long gone. I keep trying to tell myself that it’s just an interview, not an offer, so I should let it go because it would be rude to ditch the first firm’s offer. But, this is a dream position for me. I feel so stuck! Any advice would be much appreciated.

  30. bitter worker*

    Of course you should keep interviewing. Only an idiot would take the stupid advice on this blog. It’s a cut throat world. You may be cut from your dream job in a month, for no reason other than they realize they didn’t really budget for a new EE. They can fire you for any reason or no reason. Always keep open as many options as you can. You’re not going to take away a slot from another interviewee. That’s absurd. The advice on here is quaint, like it’s from the 1990’s when the market was very different.

  31. Ray Smith*

    To answer the question here is what I have experience lately in metro Phoenix AZ. I am an engineer.

    I have had offers extended to me, I go through the background check and drug screen and pass. I start work the morning of Day 1. Then in the middle of orientation as I am filling out paperwork (no problems there), I have had employers come to me and tell me they decided to hire someone else to fill my role that came available two weeks after extending the offer to me. They basically reneged on my offer. To add insult to injury, they hired that person at 15% lower salary. They promptly discharged me.

    While agree one must do things in good faith, but what does one do when the perspective employer does not do anything in good faith. Please note that this is Arizona and Arizona’s laws are pretty lax as far as what an employer can get away with. They do not have to give a reason per Arizona law. Arizona is also a right-to-work state.

    As things stand, I have started a new opportunity, 90 days contract to direct. I intend to go direct, but I would be a fool if I were not looking at my options. Of course this takes some careful management.

    Ray Smith

  32. Jess*

    I’m wondering if someone could help me work through this situation. In November of 2013 I applied for a position with a county close to where I live. I never heard back from them so I figured they hired someone else. About a month ago I interviewed with another county about 45 minutes from where live. I accepted this offer however I am currently provisional until I take the civil service exam and I must be in the top three test scores. The hiring manager told me i just have to pass the exam but hr told me i have to be in top three test scores. I’ve now been working there a week. Yesterday I got a voicemail from the county near my home asking to set up an interview. Keep in mind with this job I don’t need to take a civil service exam it is based on experience. It saves me an extra 50 minutes of driving, gas money, and the salary is higher by at least $3,000 annually. It would be difficult to go to an interview considering I just started a new job but not impossible. I hate that I’m in this position, please help.

    1. Jess*

      I found a way to get to the interview, at least this way I don’t have any doubts or “what ifs”. I explained prior to the interview my situation and they still wanted to meet with me. If I don’t get the job I feel I will be a better employee where Im currently employed and if I do, then I will figure out what’s best for me and do it.

  33. Neha*

    I have gone through the same kind of situation yesterday, I was waiting for a very reputed company (MNC)to call me for my final round of interview since, I have gone through the before three rounds and was short listed ,yet the last round was pending since a week or more. Before I was placed in another company but, it isn’t any MNC . I dint get any proper responce from the company which I was waiting for and then I decided to join the place where I first got placed. I joined the firm on 6th of may, and right after signing the agreement I get a call later after 30 mins from the company which I was awaiting for, for my final round of interview. Now I am confused of what I should do ?
    Any suggestions please!! :(

  34. Lottie P*

    I’m in this position right now – employed in a permanent but stagnant and dead end job. I’ve applied for 2 new jobs – just been offered my second choice of the 2 and invited for interview in a week by the preferred job. 1st choice job can’t speed up their process so I either: 1. Accept Job 1 and withdraw from interview. 2. Decline Job 1 and go to interview (if not successful, still have current job but would kick myself if stuck here a long time). 3. Accept Job 1 then back out if I get offered Job 2. Option 3 is tempting but I would feel bad and unprofessional, also all 3 companies are in a 5 mile radius in the same city and people move between the 3, so big potential for reputational damage. I think I’m going to go for Option 1 as I know that competition for Job 2 is going to be very strong.

    All this sounds like a dream scenario in current economy and I know I’m lucky – still a tough decision as it’s important to get it right, so to everyone in the same boat right now, best of luck and do what feels right to you.

  35. KH*

    I’m in this position now and here’s what I have done:
    I was been verbally offered a contract role with a Company A about 2 days ago. The job uses a subset of my skills and pays less than my old job by quite a bit (I was laid off due to downsizing) plus it’s a contract role so almost no benefits.
    When I did the final interview for this contract job, I already had a final round interview scheduled for Company B and had actually been courting Company B for about a month longer than Company A.

    I wasn’t sure if I wanted the Company B job anyway due to a long commute (over an hour), but decided to go for the interview anyway because it’s a permanent role with benefits and pays a lot more.

    I did the interview with Company B and found out that it will be a long commute for the training period only; I would then work out of a location much closer to home.

    I had planned to turn down Company B but with this new development, but now want to hold off accepting the Company A contract if there is any chance Company B can make an offer in the next 3 days.

    I don’t see a moral dilemma here since I have no official offer and have not officially accepted anything. I told the recruiter for Company A, helping him to see things from my shoes and showing that I am being flexible and fair to the Company A. He said he would give me another 3 days to decide.

    I also let Company B know that I ‘just today’ received an offer from an interview I had done about a week ago, that I have 3 days to decide, that Company B is my first choice, and asked them for their consideration as they make their decision.

    Other than my little white lie about when I got the offer, I think I’ve been fair and honest with both companies and no bridges have been burned. What do you managers think?

  36. mm*

    I am in this position right now. Actually i got an offer from company A, and i accepted by verbal only. i havent signed any agreement. and before i interview with this company A and agree it,the day before i actually went to another interview which is a better company B and i am very interested with this company B.its benefit is better than company A.
    and I ask the company B if they have any news about me because i had an offer but i am more interested with their company.and they said they are interested with me too. but they will have a second interview again with their this interview, two person were choosen (one including me).
    so my chance is 50%.
    the interview will be one weeks more after their MD come back.

    i am very confusing now. Should i go to interview again since i have accepted the offer with company A. or should i give up this interview?
    first question, if now i go to company B for interview, and they accepted me, then how should i answer company A?
    because i also dont want to delay the timing for too long to cancel company A and unfair to them.
    but company B have to takes one weeks for the interview.

    And if lets say if i cancel with company A right now, then if company B dont accepted me, so i will got no jobs.
    what should i do right now?
    please advise me.

    1. KH*

      These timing issues seem to be common and unless you have two offers within DAYS of each other, you need to either accept the first offer or not accept it and hope that you get an offer from the second company. If you don’t get an offer from the Company B during your consideration period with Company A, it is time to move on and make a decision.

      You have no offer from Company B and you have an offer from Company A which you accepted. It’s too late to go for Company B, unless Company B can interview you and make you an offer before Company A’s paperwork comes through. Even then, you have already made a verbal acceptance which requires you to be unprofessional if you want to go for Company B.

      Also, did you ask for time from Company A before making your decision? You can usually ask for a few days time to decide (maximum 3 days or so). Resist the temptation to accept on the spot. Thank them for the offer, let them know you are very excited to receive it but you need a brief period of time to fully consider it. Most companies do not expect you to immediately accept the offer, unless it is a very entry level position.

      Again, you have no offer from Company B – do not let that situation confuse your decision with Company A (which you have already made, by the way, by accepting verbally).

      Note: I was in a similar position. I received an offer from Company X one day before an interview I had scheduled with Company Y. I let them know I needed time to consider. I went to the interview with Company Y and it went better than I thought it would. I asked Company X if I could have 2-3 days more for consideration and they agreed. In the meantime I told Company Y that I was very happy to interview with them, excited about the role, and that they are my first priority but I do have another company that is interested, and if they could let me know as soon as possible if I am NOT being considered as a candidate. Couple days later they responded that I am not being considered, which cleared my conscience and allowed me to accept the job with Company A.
      Oh, by the way, job with Company A pays less but it is much better place to work and the job is better fit for my skills/experience.

      1. mm*

        yes i did ask company one to give me more time.but they have to give others person an answer. if i accepted it then they will reject others and if dont, they will accepts others. they need to give them answer asap. so i must let company A the answer to accept or not first without enough time to go for my second interview in company B. thats why i accepted the offer. but then i really want to go for trying in company B because i am more interested in company B. (not because the salary but the location more convenience and the leave is more twice than company A)

        the second interview in company B will be on next week. if i go there next week and if they offer me, so i must reject company A, and i think its unfair for company A because its already takes one weeks(too long) to cancel it.

        if lets say i can do the interview soon and can know the result now, so i wont be so confusing.coz i can cancel with company A only few days. so wont be so unfair to them.
        but only just company B cannot interview me now because their MD is not here now. and must wait him to come back next week then i can know the result.
        so now i must choose one of them now.
        either accept company A and dont go for interview anymore. or take the risk directly cancel with company A and try to interview in company B. if they didnt offer me, so i have to find others jobs again.
        which one is better? I got no choice, i am in the middle.

        you are lucky that they can answer you right away. but i am not so lucky. must attend second interview then know the takes some time and i dont have enough time to wait. :(

        1. mm*

          can i just go for interview then see how the result? without telling the company A means i still accept the company A but only after know the result in company B, if company B offer me so i cancel the company A.
          if they didnt offer me so i will still stay in company A.
          can i do this?

  37. KH*

    It seems that even if Company B likes you, they won’t be able to make you an offer until well after your paperwork deadline for Company A. At the same time, it is said that you should continue your job search full speed until you actually get the job. In this case, I would still proceed with interview for Company B but still plan to join Company A unless something falls through. I had so many interviews but only one offer.

    Also, each country is different. Maybe it is more acceptable to change your mind after accepting an offer in some countries. I don’t know.

  38. Pedro*

    I think people should be considerate all the way around, but at the same time plenty of companies pull offers, cancel offers, or (especially for contracts) cancel the contract a few months into the project. Is this the norm? No, but there are plenty of people who accepted an offer, signed the offer, went through a background check and had the offer pulled. There are other times where it’s bad timing and a company is merged, bought out, buys somebody else out, and suddenly that job is gone.

    I had an offer once, a start date, completed background check, reference checks, and even a bunch of NDA documents to review the products and diagrams so I could jump into my role once I did start. I spoke to my future boss a few times before my start date as well. And then he wound up being fired, his boss moved to a different role, and they pushed out the start date. It seemed they needed to find my boss and their boss first, before I could start. It took them like 3 months to find those two individuals and by that time I already moved on to something else, it was ridiculous, but they wound up getting back to me saying I needed to interview with the new Director, the new VP, and somebody else before they would send out a new official offer and start date. I understand the logic because the new Director and VP were new to the company, didn’t know me, and so on. But at the same time things like this do happen and it’s why if you stop all interviews, you could wind up screwed in the long run.

  39. Sam*

    I have been in this situation before. I received a verbal offer for a contract position pending a criminal check. I had a bad gut feeling during the interview. I still continued to interview at various companies to network and make connections for future positions.

  40. Denise*

    Our word should mean something. I think that at-will employment is what complicates things, though. Your offer letter or employment agreement explicitly specifies that either you or the employer can terminate your employment at any point in time, for any reason, without any obligation to one another afterward. Why are employers so particular about highlighting that? Can we really say that it’s unethical to back out after you’ve actually started, but not before? It doesn’t make sense in light of the employer’s insistence that your employment is at will. Why not offer the employee a binding contract, so both employer and employee could be guaranteed to have a worker and work, respectively? I’d wager it’s because the company would like to reserve the right to change *its* mind without having to find cause. And isn’t the answer then, right there? While it is true that most employers do not fire people willy nilly, it is also true that if they decide firing someone is needful (who decides what that means?), that is exactly what they will do, and it won’t matter how inconvenient it is for the employee. Anyone who has been laid off not for cause understands that well.

    Also, in general I don’t agree with comparing candidates to employers because a company (even a small one) has many resources and an individual few. Where an individual works (or moves to work) is much more significant for an individual’s personal and professional life than which particular person a company hires to fill a certain role is for a company. So, it seems like the question is more about reasons for backing out rather than whether it is OK. But hey, I could be rationalizing, as I’m in this kind of quandary myself. It seems to come down to tension between needing to keep my word and avoid disappointing them, and knowing that this choice has a significant impact on my future. I really can’t say whether it makes sense to pursue something you don’t believe to be your best option because you said you’d accept a job with a company who tells you at every step that either of you can terminate your employment any time, for any reason.

    And at what point have you fulfilled your word? I had been with an employer for ~8 months when my ideal opportunity came up. And I didn’t follow through with it out of a sense that I owed something to the employer because they certainly had hired me with the expectation that I would be there longer than that. But that company laid me off the following year anyway. After a year of searching, I wonder whether I made the right choice in trying to be loyal and fulfill expectations.

    As long as this is, I think it comes down to whether you really believe the job you accepted is somewhere you are going to be for the long haul. If you think you will be looking to jump ship sooner than expected, or they might let you go for some reason (depends on the industry), that might be a valid reason to back out.

  41. Adita*

    What if I got an offer in the mail, contingent on a background check and receiving my school transcript? I haven’t replied “Yes or No” yet, and I have no other offers but another company contacted me for an interview before I had gotten the offer. Is it unethical to go to that interview? I have passed federal background checks in the past and I have my transcript. There should be nothing that could rescind the offer If I accept it. But, you never know what they are looking for. I just feel that this offer is not final even if I sign it and mail it back. The letter doesn’t even tell me what the next steps are after I mail this back. And, my starting date would be in a month or so and I have until next week to reply. Part of my dilemma is that I had to do a lot of networking to get this job offer. This is something I have never done before. I’ve always let my resume do the talk. I’ve always thought that a company can recognize I am a good fit based on my academic knowledge and work experience. But, times are tough so I decided to listen to what my university professors have been saying since day one. I feel that if I decline this offer, I am letting some people down. But, also I feel that if the other company offers me more money and better benefits and decides to hire me based on my resume only, I feel that the other company would be a better fit for me.

    1. Julie*

      You have probably made your decision by now; I’m curious what you decided.

      Most employers would absolutely not send you a written offer letter or conduct a background check unless they were very serious about hiring you. There is time and expense involved. Most candidates don’t agree to a background check UNTIL they have a formal offer in hand.

      The employer wants your transcript for their records. That’s not unusual either. It doesn’t mean they’re looking for an excuse to withdraw the offer. Again, most employers won’t ask you for a transcript until they’re making an offer, because it’s an unnecessary nuisance for you and for them unless they actually want to hire you. They also wouldn’t be specifying your start date if they didn’t want you to start.

      Based on your belief that you should be hired on the strengths of your resume alone, I am guessing that you have not been out of university for very long. You may be in for a nasty shock. Your resume only gets you as far as the interview. Most hiring managers quickly learn that the way an applicant looks on paper is only a small part of how they’ll perform at the company. Virtually everyone has a horror story about this. That’s half of the reason for the interview. Your resume says that you are well-educated and very accomplished, but it doesn’t say what you’re like to work with. If you come across as arrogant or entitled, or as if you aren’t open to learning about them, they will not see you as someone who will be effective on their team.

      The other half of the reason for the interview is for you to make the same assessment of them. If your professional experience is extremely limited, you may not realize the incredible variation there is in corporate culture from one workplace to another. Some places are so profoundly dysfunctional and miserable that no amount of money is worth working there. Just as any employer would be foolish to hire you based only on your resume, you would be just as foolish to accept a job based only on salary and benefits. You want to see what that place is like, and how the people are. Do they smile and offer you coffee, or do they scowl at one another and act as though they can’t wait for you to leave. Do they say good things about their coworkers who aren’t in the room, or do they mostly say rotten things? Is everyone relaxed and friendly, or are they stiff and formal? Is the “office” a relatively comfortable place, or does it turn out to be a crumbling old mill building with a leaking ceiling and a homeless guy always snorting spray paint behind the dumpster in the parking lot? (I’m not joking.)

      These may seem like small things; but if you get the job, they will be part of your daily life.

      If your instincts were telling you that the offering company wasn’t sincere, then I hope you held off on accepting the offer and went to the other company’s interview just to see what it would be like. But if you were getting cold feet for the same reason most of us do (because we always wonder about what might have been), I hope you took the offer, because it sounds to me as though they’re excited to have you and eager for you to start. Don’t take this for granted. Good luck!

  42. KangooGirl*

    This site helped me decide what was good for me ! I read everyone’s stories and combined them to what was right for me. I had several interviews and thought they were promising…NOT.. got a letter saying they will put me in the file for future opportunities. Then I got a call to come in to do prints/background check and we will call you when it comes. That was the next day I had already a scheduled interview… thinking do I go … what is the right thing to do… with mixed feelings I went and at the interview I mentioned I have been interviewing all over and just yesterday I told him that I was called in to fingerprint.. but they will call me when results come back and sometimes it takes a while (from experience) So I told them that if they call me would I still be able to work here and work around my schedule and they said NO PROBLEM !!! Wow I felt so good after that interview – because I knew they wanted me and would work with me… Just do the right thing… tell the truth and you won’t have a quilty mind.. But at the end “DO WHAT’S RIGHT FOR YOU” and that’s what I learned here on this blog !! Thank You….

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