Avoiding a Renege by Building a Relationship

by Susan Brennan

It’s a job seeker’s market for college students, with many returning from a summer internship with a job offer in hand—long before graduation. It’s a rosy scenario, except for the challenges it poses for both sides: Students are against the clock to accept or bow out gracefully, and employers are challenged to hold a new hire’s attention for nine months. But I have seen some creative and smart ways to avoid a renege.

A lot of companies are building retention plans that include multiple touch points from the time of the offer to the time a new employee actually fills the seat. It may be a simple gesture—sending a care package during final exams or a holiday card—or a larger commitment such as a monthly dinner. Either way, it’s about building a welcoming community from day one. Here’s what some of our corporate partners do to keep new hires in the pipeline:

Build purposeful relationships.

At PricewaterhouseCoopers, all new hires and interns are assigned a relationship partner, career coach, and peer coach. The relationship partner develops a trusting relationship with the new hire, provides insight on demonstrating high performance, and communicates the value of the PwC experience. The career coach proactively schedules time to meet with the new hire, provides ongoing career counseling, and communicates the importance of developing leadership skills. The peer coach establishes a relationship with the new hire so the individual can quickly feel comfortable contacting them with questions, supports their productivity by assisting them with tools needed to immediately begin adding value, and helps acclimate the new hire to the firm.

Hold networking events.

Networking programs provide a more casual opportunity to get to know colleagues and other new hires. Bentley students who have accepted or have an outstanding offer from Liberty Mutual, for example, are invited to attend “LMI Peer Connections.” It’s a platform to network and ask questions about career opportunities and decisions. (And free food is always a hit with college students.)

Get social.

Setting up an app or using social media is an easy way to keep candidates in touch with what’s going on at your company, and to allow them to ask questions. (I’ve see this as particularly useful if someone is relocating.) Using technology to bridge the gap is something that students are comfortable with, as they can do it on their own time: in the dorm room, on the bus, or in the cafeteria.

Create experiences.

Today’s candidates care about experiences. When EY has done campus recruiting at my university, for example, they’ve brought along a petting zoo. (Yes, real chicks, bunnies, and even a little pig). Some companies will make an offer over dinner at a nice restaurant. Whenever you get the chance to create experiences—big or small—do it. Taking the time to go that extra mile won’t go unnoticed. 

Be flexible.

If you have your heart set on a new hire, you may need to be willing to accommodate requests. If a candidate wants to accept an offer but already had plans to first spend six months after graduation doing meaningful work like Teach America, for example, perhaps it’s possible to defer a start date. You may even find ways to tie the experience into your company’s corporate social responsibility initiatives.

Now some tips you can pass on to job seekers

Candidates can also follow some simple rules of thumb to help them decide whether an offer is right for them. (These may also be useful for employers to look at the other side.)

Do some soul searching.

At Bentley, our students actually begin the “soul searching” process during freshman year; but it’s still an ongoing, lifelong process. Identify your interests, passions, and personality. What’s going to keep you inspired and getting out of bed each day for work? Differentiate between logistical aspects of a job offer—salary, health benefits—and other opportunities like culture, mentors, educational reimbursement, and professional memberships. (Try to get away from expectations placed on you by family and friends.) 

Review the offer with career services.

Once you get a verbal or written offer, make an appointment with a career services professional at your school. They can review compensation and benefits, address any concerns, and discus appropriate next steps. (They can also guide you on offer etiquette—whether accepting or declining an offer—as most schools have policies on both.) 

Set (or re-set) your priorities.

Just because an employer didn’t pop open a bottle of expensive champagne during your job offer, it doesn’t mean that they don’t value your work. Companies have different policies they need to follow. Step back and think about the big picture: Is the company culture a good fit? Do they offer great benefits? Is there opportunity to grow? 

Ask for an extension.

If you aren’t sure whether to accept or reject an offer, companies are typically sensitive to giving you time to make an informed decision. If you have a month or two, for example, take that time to explore what else is out there. In the end, employers will respect the time you took in making a well-thought decision. But, remember, deadlines are set to give employers time to reach out to other candidates, so the sooner you break the news, the better for everyone. 

Have difficult conversations.

A student came to me with a job offer in hand; he loved the company but not the actual job he was offered. In a case like this, it’s okay to talk with the employer and explain that you would love to work for them, but perhaps in a different role. Just be sure not to wait until the last minute or send an e-mail. Pick up the phone and have a candid, respectful conversation. (A career services professional can guide you through these kinds of conversations.) 

One last note to employers.

In the end, a renege is sometimes unavoidable—and could even be a blessing in disguise: If a new hire has reservations about accepting the job, they will likely show up unhappy and may end up not performing well if their head isn’t in the game. 

The reality is that it’s a new world order and talented candidates are driving corporate strategy. But retaining the best and brightest during these competitive times is possible. Be solutions oriented, and you’ll negotiate a mutual win.

susan brennanSusan Brennan, Associate Vice President for University Career Services, Bentley University

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susansandlerbrennan
Twitter: @BentleyCareerSB
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/bentleycareer/?fref=ts
Website:  http://careeredge.bentley.edu/

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

Kayla Villwock_Kayla 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.

Enjoy!

-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?