A reader writes:
Earlier this year, I was interviewing for IT internships, and got into the final stages for a large international document handling company. I was one of six people, out of over 3000 applicants. I did thoroughly well throughout the day, but a few days later found that I did not in fact get the job.
Cue several weeks later, a Friday lunchtime; I get a phone call from my contact there; their first choice had rejected the offer and they wanted to offer the position to me instead. I asked for a week to think it over, which I believed to be reasonable, considering that it would be affecting where I would be working for the next year. I was told that they needed an answer by the end of the working day - four hours away. I told them that I would call them back; I took some time, spoke to my placement advisor, and ended up reluctantly calling them and verbally accepting.
I called another potential employer (another multinational in another, more stable market) I had previously scheduled an interview with to let them know that I had accepted another job; they asked if I had signed anything yet, and I confirmed that I had not. They offered to move my interview forward as they were keen to see me. I decided to attend, if only for interviewing experience, and it also went very well.
That Friday, I decided that the second company was a far better fit for myself, and sent a professional email to the first one stating that I had felt pressured into giving a response due to the incredibly limited time constraints set for a response, and that I would have to politely turn down their kind offer. It took them 2 weeks to respond with a standard 'We are sorry to hear...' reply.
I am sure that it caused them a considerable amount of hassle, seeing as the first candidate had also declined, however I feel justified in my actions due to the pressure placed on me for an answer. It does worry me, however, that I have potentially soured my professional relationship with this company, and may cause issues should I decide to apply for any positions there in the future, post-graduation.
What is your opinion regarding this? What's done is done, but any advice on how to handle similar situations in the future would be appreciated!
(As a side note, I was only just beaten at the interview stage for the second company by another student, which was a shame, but it was a gamble I was willing to take. I was however offered positions at two other companies soon afterwards in the same week; one of which I accepted and thoroughly enjoy!)
I'm looking forward to your take on this matter, and thanks for running an excellent and incredibly useful blog!
Well, yeah, you've probably burned their bridges with them as far as future opportunities go. But at the same time, giving you four hours to make a decision was unreasonable of them, and if they're going to pressure people to give them an answer that fast, they're pretty much setting themselves up to have this happen.
You originally asked for a week, and a week can often be too long, especially for junior-level positions. (They have other candidates they need to get back to, candidates with timelines of their own, or they may need to know that they're going to need to re-advertise or whatever the case may be.) But a few days is completely reasonable, even standard.
Insisting that you give them an answer in four hours (especially when they must have known that you'd already mentally moved on from the job after being rejected earlier) is unfair. Ideally, you would have said to them, "I'm very interested, but I need at least a day or two to think this over, and I wouldn't feel right giving you an answer I hadn't had time to think about." It's hard to imagine why they would have been unable to do that, but let's say for the sake of argument that their next choice after you had a timeline of her own and was accepting another job at 6 p.m. that night, so they really did have no choice but to push for an immediate answer from you -- if that were the case, they owed you an explanation, at least. But I suspect that they had no such time constraints and just wanted to be able to wrap the whole thing up.
In any case, if you'd made that request and they'd refused you (with or without explaining why), at that point you would have had to decide whether or not you could make that kind of major commitment in such a short time. I preach all the time about why you shouldn't renege on your acceptance of a job offer, but in this case, with this kind of pressure, it's very hard to fault you for later backing out. Again, they kind of set themselves up for it.
(They've also demonstrated that they're not great at managing this kind of thing by the fact that they rejected you before their first choice accepted the offer. This is why you wait to send out rejections to second and third choices until you have a firm acceptance in hand from your first choice.)
So the upshot: Yes, you probably won't be well-received there in the future, but you can at least take some solace in knowing that the whole situation is at least partly of their own creation.