A top-notch applicant applies for two jobs. Company A extends an offer to the student first and tells the student that he has 24 hours to accept or the offer is no longer extended. The student has not heard from Company B. In order not to lose the job offer, the student feels compelled to accept the offer of Company A. Two days after he has accepted A's offer, Company B extends a better offer. The student has the potential to move faster and go further if he joins Company B. He reneges on Company A. The career services office learns of this after the student had reneged upon the job offer.
Does this create any ethical dilemmas for the employers, career services professional, or the student?
Questions to consider:
- What relevant facts are known?
- Identify the NACE Principles in question.
- Discuss practical alternatives that are consistent with NACE Principles.
- Decision (outcome).
Steps to Resolution
1. What relevant facts are known?
a. Company A will retract the offer if the student does not accept within 24 hours.
b. The student, not having heard from the other company with which he/she has applied, feels "compelled" to accept Company A's offer.
c. Two days later, a "better" offer is received from Company B, one that has greater career potential.
d. The student reneges on Company A.
e. The career services office did not have an opportunity to discuss this with the student until after the renege action took place.
However, we do not know the following:
f. Was any mention made of the 24-hour time limit when the interview took place, or
just when the offer was made?
g. Was a bonus incentive offered in conjunction with the 24-hour time limit?
h. Did the student attempt to negotiate a change in the 24-hour limit?
i. Has the student accepted the position from Company B?
j. Did the student accept this position just to have something until what he/she wanted came along, or was he/she really interested in the job?
k. Was this 24-hour deadline part of standard company practice, or something put forth at the sole initiative of the recruiter involved with this student?
l. What time of the year did this take place? Was it in the fall when the company would not have had a dire need for an immediate reply? Or was this in late spring when it was close to time for a training program to begin?
m. Did Company B encourage the student to renege?
2. Identify the NACE Principles in question.
a. Employer Principle #1 - "improper influence"
"Employment professionals will refrain from any practice that improperly influences and affects job acceptances. Such practices may include undue time pressure for acceptance of employment offers and encouragement of revocation of another employment offer. Employment professionals will strive to communicate decisions to candidates within the agreed-upon time frame."
b. Employer Principle #2 - "professional knowledge"
"Employment professionals will know the recruitment and career development field as well as the industry and the employing organization that they represent, and work within a framework of professionally accepted recruiting, interviewing, and selection techniques."
c. Career Services Principle #10 - "educating students about obligations"
Career services professionals will advise students about their obligations in the recruitment process and establish mechanisms to encourage their compliance. Students' obligations include providing accurate information; adhering to schedules; accepting an offer of employment in good faith; notifying employers on a timely basis of an acceptance or nonacceptance and withdrawing from the recruiting process after accepting an offer of employment; interviewing only with employers for whom students are interested in working and whose eligibility requirements they meet; and requesting reimbursement of only reasonable and legitimate expenses incurred in the recruitment process."
(Note: It may be that the student felt he/she had no option, but this still brings forth this principle.)
d. The three NACE Principles for Professional Conduct precepts that underlie the profession's moral standards are applicable, namely:
- Maintain an open and free selection of employment opportunities in an atmosphere conducive to objective thought, where job candidates can choose optimum long-term uses of their talents that are consistent with personal objectives and all relevant facts.
- Maintain a recruitment process that is fair and equitable to candidates and employing organizations.
- Support informed and responsible decision making by candidates.
3. Discuss practical alternatives that are consistent with NACE Principles.
a. The student appears to have what he/she wanted-the better job offer.
b. Despite Company A's implication that the deadline was not negotiable, the student could have discussed his/her situation with them and asked for more time to return a decision, citing their career services' office policy or the Exploding Offers position paper recommendation.
c. The student could have contacted Company B after receiving Company A's offer to alert them to this new development and inquire when they would be returning a decision.
a. First, the career services office needs to get as much detail as possible from the student, i.e., answers to questions a-e about "unknown information" in #1. If the student was made aware of the 24-hour limit in the interview and chose not to negotiate the time to return an answer, then he/she must be apprised of his/her ethical obligations and the difficulties this has caused the institution.
b. The career services director, or other representative, should contact the company and get their perspective on this situation. What do they claim took place? What is the rationale behind this? Is this common practice or something that took place just on the initiative of this recruiter?
c. The career services director should refer the employer to the NACE "Exploding Offers" position paper, noting the recommended three-week period for a student to consider an offer. It should be noted that this position paper acknowledges there are times when an employer, for legitimate business reasons, does not have the luxury of giving a candidate three weeks to decide. However, it is hard to envision a time when a 24-hour limit is legitimate.
d. Contact the student's department head to keep them informed and to apprise them that you will be following up with Company A.
e. Consider taking preemptive action to minimize future exploding offer/exploding bonus situations by sending to all recruiting employers the position statement entitled "Exploding Offers: A Principles for Professional Conduct Committee Position Paper."
f. Similarly, consider making special note of this issue in the orientation literature and verbal presentations to students regarding on-campus recruiting and other employment programs run by the career services office.