When a Student Reneges on a Job Offer – An Employer’s Perspective

kayla villwockKayla Villwock, Intern Program Manager, SAS
Twitter: @KaylaRenee8
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kaylavillwock

Hello NACE members, followers, and all! This is my first post as a NACE blog contributor and I am thrilled to be a part of the team. So how did I get here? I guess you can call it “being at the right place at the right time.” While volunteering at the registration booth at the NACE 2014 Conference, I was approached by a couple of NACE employees to be interviewed on my experience at the conference. At the end of my interview, they said “Hey – that was pretty good! Would you like to write for the NACE blog?” And well… here I am!

Ever since this moment I have been noodling on my first blog post. What would make for a good topic of discussion for both employers looking to hire from the university-space as well as career services professionals? I was drawing a blank. In my former role at NetApp (now at SAS), I often interface with career services professionals and it was through one of these conversations that I was enlightened for this post.

Last week during a pre-fall recruitment season planning call, one of my career services contacts mentioned her concern over an increasing trend at her university. She has noticed that more and more students were accepting offers of employment to then decline at a later date for a more appealing opportunity. I reassured her that this is happening at many universities and explained that employers were definitely feeling the effects. Based on this conversation, she asked that I create a brief write-up on the  impact of an offer “renege” that could be shared with students at the respective university. I then thought “I bet many universities would like this kind of information to share with their students.” And voila – my first blog post idea.

So, I want to share my thoughts on how employers are affected when a student accepts a job offer and then declines at a later date. The goal of this post is twofold: 1. To provide a resource for career service professionals to help students understand the negative impact and consequences for making the choice to back out on an offer of employment and 2. To begin a dialogue from industry and career service professionals on other challenges with this issue and discuss potential resolutions. I welcome your feedback and comments and have listed some discussion questions below. I look forward to hearing from you regarding this ever-popular issue as well as other topics as I begin my journey in the blogging world.


-Kayla Villwock

When a Student Reneges on a Job Offer

1. Employers are missing out on great talent.

Campus recruiting has become fiercely competitive, especially for certain technical majors. It is now the status quo for employers to have most of their full-time entry-level job offers out in the fall before students head off for Thanksgiving break. Several university career centers have even set an ‘earliest deadline date’ by which employers must abide in order to limit the pressures of early deadlines on their students. When that deadline hits, it is understood by employers that most of the highly sought-after talent from the best universities will have already accepted an offer.

Now what about the other companies who may not be as early to the punch? These companies may get on campus in the spring and come in contact with a student who has already accepted an offer. One thing leads to another and next thing you know, a student is put in a tricky situation. The rockstar student decides to decline the original offer from Large Corporation A and go with XYZ start-up (just as an example). Large Corporation A is now in a pickle. They have an opening to fill, it is late in the season, and most of the ‘top’ students have job offers. Company A will likely reach out to the runner up candidates for the opening, only to find that they have accepted other jobs. At this point, it is likely that Large Corporation A will have to ‘settle’ for a student that is not as good of a fit as the original hire. This leads to unhappy recruiters, disgruntled hiring managers, and worst of all – a loss in confidence in hiring students in the first place.

Students: Think about this. When you accept a job offer, you may be filling the ‘dream job’ of one of your high-potential classmates. Keep this in mind as you are considering accepting an offer. If the role is not in line with your career wishes and goals – be patient and do not accept in the first place. There is likely a job out there that would fulfill all of your wishes. Likewise, there is probably someone else out there who would be ecstatic to have the job that you are unsure about accepting.

2. Recruiters and hiring managers have a loss of morale.

Imagine completing a Sudoku puzzle – a highly complex puzzle with pieces that must align in order for the puzzle to all fit into place – and then having a new one appear before your eyes and having to start all over again. Recruiting to fill an opening is often times like this puzzle. There are many moving parts to ensure you hire the right person into the right position. Recruiters keep a running tab on their openings – every position filled is one step closer to the end of the quest to fill them all – which in some cases is 100+ positions. When they are nearing the end of their mission and then they have to ‘re-do’ the puzzle, it is disheartening and quite frustrating.

The recruiters aren’t the only ones who frustrated by the decline. The acceptance of an offer by a student is followed by great excitement from the hiring manager. They quickly begin anticipating the arrival of their new hire. What work can they take on? Who will be their mentor? What new skill sets will they bring to the team? When they receive a decline after having done all of this planning, it is a huge disappointment. Sometimes it even causes anger – and rightfully so. They have to have to start reviewing resumes and begin the interview process all over again. The interview process not only takes up the manager’s time, but the time of their team members on the interview team. And time is money. All of this leads to a loss in morale from both the recruiter and hiring manager for finding the next great student to fill the role that has re-opened.

3. Positions go un-filled.

Many times a renege comes at the tail-end of the recruitment season – around April and May. At this time of the academic year, very few students are still searching for jobs. Recruiters spend a great deal of time spinning their wheels to fill the opening, and often the effort does not end in finding a good fit to fill the role. In this case, the position can go un-filled. In some cases, the budget set aside for the hire will be allocated for other purposes. This can have a great impact. Final hiring numbers are lowered which can in turn effect the following year’s hiring numbers. When managers have the opportunity to hire again in the future, they choose to open the new positions at a higher level to avoid going through losing headcount again. Ultimately, positions going un-filled does not help build the business case for hiring students.

What are the potential implications to a student for declining an offer after accepting?

1. Employer black-listing

Certain employers will keep a running list of names of student reneges – a ‘do not call’ list if you will. Even if it is not documented in this way – recruiters will remember. If a student was given a job offer, they were given one for a particular reason – because they stood out amongst the crowd. During the interview process, the recruiter sees the student’s name come through emails, looks at their resume many times, and talks about the candidate often with the hiring manager. All of this repetition leads to memorization. Therefore, when the candidate’s name comes up again in the future – it is tied to a negative experience that the recruiter will not forget. Consequently, the student’s choice that they made back in college could inhibit the opportunity of working with the employer in the future.

2. Loss of career services alumni privileges

Universities value their corporate partnerships greatly and do not condone students accepting an offer and then declining at a later date. They understand the impact it has to the companies and do not want to take the risk of having the respective companies stop recruiting their students. This being said, universities are putting their foot down on the trend of student reneges and are doing so through their career services center. Certain universities are denying access to job boards and career placement services if a student reneges on an offer and they find out about it.

3. The world is smaller than you think…

In an era of social media and virtual connections, the world has become very small. Many university recruiters, especially in similar industries, rub shoulders at recruiting events and communicate on a regular basis. They speak about and gather additional information in regards to the students who decline after accepting. LinkedIn makes this especially possible. In more than one occasion, I have heard of students declining a job offer after accepting due to ‘personal reasons’ or to ‘travel abroad’, to then have the recruiter see on LinkedIn that the student has accepted a job at a highly-acclaimed employer within weeks after the decline. This creates an impression of poor morals and can burn more bridges than the initial renege itself. If a student must make the decision is to decline after accepting, it is much more acceptable if there is a truthful and understandable reason behind the decision.

In end, everyone plays a part in ensuring that this trend does not become even more apparent in the university recruiting and career services world. Students must consider the negative effects and implications of making a decision to renege on an offer. Career service professionals should be a guiding voice when counseling students through their career decisions. And lastly, employers should be considerate in the recruiting process by giving a reasonable amount of time for an offer deadline so that the student can make an educated, well-thought-out decision in the first place.

For more information on NACE’s guidelines for career service and recruiting professionals, take a look at NACE’s Principles for Professional Practice.

NACE members will find a student-directed version of this article for your website in NACEWeb’s Grab & Go.

I want to hear your thoughts.

What do you believe is the root cause for the increase in offer reneges?

Has your organization done a study to analyze the root cause of the increase in offer reneges? If so, what were the findings?

Career Service Professionals: Are you penalizing students for declining an employer’s offer after having already accepted? If so, how?

Employers: Do you have a ‘black-listing’ process? Are you seeing any other adverse impacts due to student reneges?


2 thoughts on “When a Student Reneges on a Job Offer – An Employer’s Perspective

  1. Re reneging on offers:
    I was recently lecturing on salary negotiations in Hong Kong, at HK-University of Science & Technology (HK-UST), a Top Ten in the World program, as they have on every banner on campus. They have a very different system for offers and acceptances there. They don’t really negotiate much for salary, some, but not as much, but they do have very different cultural norms. Some students accept every single offer made to them, while recruiters are trying to get students to SERIALLY accept only one, that is, when they get a better offer (or an offer they like better), they accept the new offer and release the old acceptance. So at least you know when you lose a candidate. The idea that an acceptance would be binding was, if you will excuse the term, totally foreign to them. Just for the record HK-UST is a global school, with students from all over the world (lots from Europe), not just Asia. All instruction is in English, local language is Cantonese, national language is Mandarin.
    This new generation (in America) simply does not feel compelled to abide by the rules of the game. We may be in a period of transition toward the practices and norms that look more like what I saw in Hong Kong. Is that possible?
    Anyone else with comments about how they do offers and acceptances at undergrad and grad level in other places in the world?
    Just for the record, I, personally, believe that students should play by the rules, whatever those rules are, but that is a separate issue from my points above.
    Eager to know your thoughts and experiences,
    Donald Asher, author and speaker on careers and higher education

  2. I generally agree with what you said about rescinding offers being a waste of time for recruiters,hiring managers. Also burning bridges early on in your career is not recommended, however I have to share one of the many situations intern turned full time employees at many large companies might face. Consider this :

    I plan to graduate by next summer, so I’ve decided to get some industry experience under my belt by interning at a big Fortune 500 company. My internship is going good, I’m able to deliver on time, I like my job as an intern, I like my team and colleagues. Last day of my internship and my recruiter says would you like to come back as an employee ?

    I’m excited, being broke through college, I see a big figure($$$) on that offer, I’m just overwhelmed with emotions. My manager has made me an offer, however I have not heard a word about my future role as an employee. What will I be doing , how will it impact the company, what are my options at picking something else.Your hiring date and the last day of your internship are almost a year apart and your hiring manager may not have a clue on what needs to be done. I leave with an offer and probably and an educated guess that my future role will be similar to what I did as an intern ??? Now comes the surprise, the recruiter says you have one,two,three or at best four weeks to accept this offer.

    I get back to school, well most of my friends haven’t landed a job, school has kicked in, courses are taking their toll on my ability to think beyond that offer. Is that something I want to pursue as my first job ? Most interns don’t have enough informations to make that decision as hiring managers have not done a good job of explaining that. Fine I sign it.

    In your senior year, you have heavy challenging courses,research, projects that define your degree. You go on a study abroad program or collaborate with different professors,teams,departments on projects. Meet college students probably going to academia, research, start ups. All or most of them have a clear idea of they are going to do at the new job, at least more clarity than you.

    With time, your research interests can change, even 3 months at school is enough to change that. Your offer no longer aligns with your priorities. You probably land an offer better or equal to your old offer, however the new hiring manager has given you specifics.

    Often your intern project is not very appealing to you after you graduate. Intern projects are usually some piece of work the hiring manager did not want to delegate to a regular employee. In six months since I graduated, not once has my recruiter or hiring manager contacted me explaining what I really will be doing.

    As interns recruiters and hiring manager take good care of you. Free food,corporate housing, events with fellow interns, your having fun, getting paid all thanks to your hiring manager and recruiter. Shouldn’t they be more vocal with you now that you are out of sight and you will be an employee? Shouldn’t you have regular conversations with the future employee ? More often than not, in big companies this is rare. Recruiters and hiring managers act surprised when that offer gets rescinded.

    Just a perspective, I’m sure it’s not applicable to all. Please forgive any typos :)

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