11 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 🙂

  3. I agree with the observations about the negatives that an employer experiences when we get a decline of a previously accepted offer, particularly when it occurs late in the spring. Employers can design their process to avoid unduely forcing a fast and early decision date for former interns. This takes away one of the probable causes of the scenario we are discussing. At my company, we typically make offers to interns by early September and then allow them enough time to visit with other potential employers at a fall career fair. I want the student to be confident that they are accepting the right position. When a student offered in September, then decides in Apil to reneg, it is usually clear that they continued shopping. Employers expect Career Services at schools to emphasize that accepting an offer is entering a contract, and that students should honor that. Career Services offices can ask students to consult with them about their offers and how to evaluate the offer before deciding to accept it. This can mitigate and reduce the frequency of these incidents. If the student has a legitimate concern about the company they accepted with, or about that industry, they should seek input before the decision date. Yes, there will be real world reasons why a student must change a decision, for good reasons – but these should be few in number.

  4. When I attended college, there was an out of town company that would recruit students out of my college. This company has a great reputation as an employer and really takes care of it’s employees and I even interned there one summer and saw it for myself. Well, being that my college is a commuter school in a large city, students are reluctant to relocate as a consequence, there were students that accepted this out of town company’s offer only to renege in favor of a local offer. A few recruiting seasons of having multiple students renege and now that out of town company no longer recruits out of my alma mater.

    One of my friends who accepted the offer and still work at this company explained the consequences to the company when people renege. When someone accepts the offer, the company makes all sorts of plans in terms of what group they will be a part of, what project they will work on, and budget is allocated towards their employment. Reneging ruins all of this. My friend also revealed that students from other universities would have a student renege about once every three years, but at our alma mater, it was several every year so they stopped recruiting there. It’s a shame that our future fellow alumni will have any opportunities with this great employer because of the selfish actions of our peers. Unfortunately these are people who I know personally and one didn’t even tell the company that they were reneging, they just didn’t show up the first day.

    Reneging is a part of the recruiting process and there is no avoiding it for any significant company, we’ve had people renege on my current employer and people have reneged on a job acceptance to join us. These people may have burnt bridges but these were experienced hires. When you’re a student reneger, you not only burn a bridge for you, you also help burn the bridge for those behind you.

  5. I know this is an old blog post, but I will still add my two cents. As a student in his senior year in college, I can tell you if I get a better offer, I will certainly take it and drop out of my current one. The fact that companies do this to so many people and treat us employees as just another stat on their sheets, I could care less on how it affects them. I watched as both of my parents were laid off as I grew up and we had a hard time getting through things. So why do I as an employee get a negative annotation when I drop the ball for an employer, yet they can do the same thing and it doesn’t matter? As the younger generations grow up I know things will be changing even more than they currently do. I understand fully the consequences that will occur if I renege such as the loss of access to my university’s career site, but none of that matters. I have barely used it in the first place and already have had 15+ interviews, with many of them calling me back. Companies are willing to get rid of employees to look for better ones at any point, so I will do the same when I’m searching for a company. Now that being said, I will make sure to call the company and explain the situation. I’m not going to leave the company hanging and I can guarentee you they would know by the end of this year; I’m graduating in May. This stuff is a two way street, and when a friend of mine recently had an offer canceled by an employer, I knew that if I had the chance for a better opportunity for myself after graduation, I would take it.

  6. Sorry but I don’t agree at all with the notion that a “renege” is somehow a terrible thing for a student to do. Employers have created a situation that’s pretty difficult for many college seniors to deal with. Unfortunately most of the college recruiting happens in the Fall. As one who has tried to recruit in the Spring I can tell you that most of the students already have jobs and are not interviewing at that point. So students either get offers from their summer internship or they get offers in the Fall. Each company has a different timeline but most require you to respond at some point. Most students at this age have a pretty tough time trying to figure out what they’ll do after they graduate. Some are considering graduate school. But the grad school applications aren’t even due until February or so. So pity the poor sole who is considering grad school but has to respond to a job offer much earlier. This situation is totally created by employers getting a little too ambitious with their recruiting.

    At my company, we’ve taken a slightly different approach. We make offers to former interns, usually at the end of their internship or in the early Fall. We give them very generous timelines to decide — more like three months rather than three weeks. We want them to explore all of their opportunities and conclude that our offer is the best one for them. It’s really a percentage game. We know that not all of them will accept so we actually offer more positions than we think we really need to fill, fully expecting some to move on to other things. And we are not unhappy if someone calls up after accepting and says they would really like to go to grad school. We will even offer to write them recommendations if they want. While some truly talented students wind up turning us down a surprising number wind up coming to work for us. My advice is to give these students a lot of time to make their decisions and count on a certain number turning you down. In the long run, everyone will benefit.

    • Hi Sam – Do not apologize, I certainly agree with the notion that employers are causing some of these pressures being felt by students. And I also concur that there are some situations where accepting an offer then declining is completely understandable (like the grad school example you provided). This article is more to explain what happens on the back end when the decision is made to renege to provide for more education on the topic.

      Deciding on their offer is a very difficult decision for students and I agree that employers need to be understanding of this and allow them the time needed to fully review offers and decide what is best for them. Look for another blog from me shortly that gets into more of this detail, but I certainly agree that this is something employers, career services, and students need to work together to understand.

  7. Interesting blog post, lots of good comments. As a recruiting manager for a Global 500 company I just had a student renege on an offer. The corporate disruption is not a huge issue for us being such a large company, but it is just bad practice. All of the points in the OP are valid but what really hits me is that the point about basically stealing someone’s dream job and then throwing it in the trash. We probably won’t fill the position and we will be OK, but the fact is there was someone else out there who really wanted that job and they have settled to work for a lesser job because the position was filled during recruiting season.
    Our company gives a generous amount of time (9 weeks, and extensions are always granted) for the student to decide and we prohibit rescinding offers. Recruiting circles do talk and while it is terrible for a student to renege an offer, it is equally reprehensible for an employer to rescind offers. Those companies are known and there are serious consequences, both formally from the universities and informally through word-of-mouth. @John (2015), I understand completely how you feel, but this is just plain incorrect. There are negative consequences when employers don’t treat their employees and recruits with respect. You don’t fully understand what a “better offer” is. You may think you are doing yourself a favor but this attitude will not get you very far. You “could care less on how it affects them.” but don’t you understand that companies are just made up of real people? If you don’t care about what happens to your company, your work family, how do you expect to be respected as an employee from management. I was like you a few years ago. Now I see this attitude all the time in students and you know what? We pass them up for $$$ jobs because of this exact entitled attitude. /endrant

    It’s not that reneging is the worst this possible but it IS important to understand the consequences so students take a more effective approach to job hunting, and companies too need to analyze their own offer process to prevent this situation. The post does a good job breaking up some of the back-end effects of reneged offers. Like Sam, we have found that making offers in good faith with plenty of time is much better both morally and statistically. Furthermore, if your company is consistently having it’s offers reneged it is probably an indication of some wrong with your company or job offers. Certainly more internal review is needed as opposed to “prohibit students from reneging on our offers”.

    Apologize for typos the comment box is impossibly small!

  8. Pingback: Offer Deadlines for Students | The NACE Blog

  9. I do not necessarily agree with this post because we live in a capitalist economy. Employment is often at-will where the employee is free to leave a company at any time and the company is free terminate the employee at any time without cause or reason. If you look at the financial meltdown of 2008, companies laid off thousands of workers even though the companies had received billions of dollars in profits from their labor. There were workers who had worked for companies for 30 years that were laid off. As the saying goes, “you cannot have your cake and eat it too.” Working for corporate America, there is no obligation of company loyalty. Companies have created the societal construct where money comes first and the rights of the worker come second. So why is it it a bad thing if a worker looks for better opportunities and turns down an offer he has accepted for more money as opposed to a company laying off a worker who has put 20 years of his or her life into company without any pension or retirement?

  10. This is a great article, what is missing is the charge for employers to provide a fair compensation that matches the prospective candidate. I’ve had masters level colleges re-enter the workforce, only to be offered bachelors level compensation. I’ve also seen masters level jobs posted as bachelors level with “masters preferred,” which is also very unethical. Many students or alumnus wouldn’t “jump ship” if the offers were fair and competitive . It is a two way street.

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