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A Job Search Dilemma

Monday, May. 23, 2011
Job fair, University of Illinois

Best student response of the week wins a $50 Amazon gift certificate.

Eric, a second-semester senior, is looking for a job. Anxious about finding work in the worst economy in decades, he sends out scores of resumes for a wide variety of positions. The first call he gets is for a position that doesn't really interest him, but he figures he should be open to every opportunity. He schedules an interview, which he aces. In fact, the recruiter offers Eric the job on the spot. He would like Eric to start as soon as possible.

Should Eric accept the offer? If he does, can he continue to pursue other jobs actively?

Here are some resources that may help:

First Offer Not Your First Choice?

Job Search Ethics (UC-Berkeley)

A Framework for Ethical Decision Making


Photo by Jeremy Wilburn available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial License.

Comments Comments

Scott Cameron said on May 23, 2011
While certainly, as a second semester senior he ought to be considering a permanent career, but, as mentioned in the explanation, we are in a very dry economy. A college degree goes much farther in any economy than most job experience, but general job experience is valued across the board. If he can fit the position in with his studies, he should take the job for the job experience, and his circulate his resume once more when he has his college degree. Upon finding something stable that would more directly further his career, he should then give his two weeks notice, but in such an economy it is best to hold a job until one is certain that one has something stable waiting for them. - Like - 6 people like this.
Deepti Shenoy said on May 24, 2011
It depends on the kind of candidate the recruiter is looking for. If the company's okay with hiring a candidate on a relatively short-term basis, then I don't see a problem with Eric accepting the job offer. You can't just wait around for a perfect job. If everyone did that, a lot of people would be unemployed for a long time. Sometimes you have to make small compromises on the way to getting where you want to be. Even if the recruiter wants Eric on a short-term basis, I do think, for his sake as well as the company's, he should avoid searching for other jobs immediately. There has to be some reciprocity: if Eric's going to use the job as a temporary way of paying the bills, he should make sure he contributes something to the company before he leaves. In any case, as far as his resume is concerned, it would probably reflect badly on him if he left the job right after starting work there. Another possibility is that the recruiter is looking for a long-term employee or someone to grow within the company. If Eric lied about his intentions to take the job as a temporary position, he would be misleading the company, and that would be unethical. If the recruiter is looking for a long-term candidate, Eric needs to be clear that he's not open to a permanent position, and let the company decide if it wants to hire him anyway. - Like - 5 people like this.
Miriam Schulman said on May 25, 2011
As a person who often hires students to work at the Ethics Center, I'd like to offer the perspective of an employer on this question. When we make a job offer, it comes at the end of a time consuming process, during which we have read many applications, done phone screening, and interviewed candidates face to face. As soon as a candidate accepts our offer, we inform everyone else that we've talked to that the job is taken. Then we begin training. To be perfectly honest, most new employees need at least a month or two before they are contributing enough to offset the amount of time it takes to train them. When a person accepts a job that they have no intention of keeping, they allow the employer to make a big investment in them that they are not intending to repay. When they then leave after a brief period, the employer usually has to start the whole process again, costing time, money, and disruption. This is really not a fair way to act. Imagine if the situation were reversed. Surely a candidate would object if an employer hired him or her just until a better candidate came along. I know the job market is tight and students would like to keep all their options open, but job applicants should still be honest with prospective employers. If you get an offer from a company that is not your first choice, tell the hiring manager that you are considering several options and see if he or she can wait for your decision. If you do take the job, give the company your best effort for at least a year. - Like - 3 people like this.
Cameron Tow said on May 26, 2011
This is a really hard question, one I would struggle with myself if I ever had to face it. Working at a job you don't like is awful. I've done it before, and I'm sure I'll do it again because sometimes the bills need to get paid. But it's hard to be efficient and conscientious in that circumstance and even harder when you believe a better job might have been available. If Eric legitimately thinks he can get another job that he will enjoy more than the one just offered him, he should politely ask his interviewer for some time to consider. This is a gamble and may cost him the opportunity on the table, but it could be worthwhile if Eric is right about his prospects. What he should not do is accept the job but keep looking. Most people would consider this a backdoor maneuver and frown on it. I would certainly not feel right accepting a job and then turning around and quitting days later, even if I received a much better offer. - Like - 2 people like this.
David DeCosse said on May 27, 2011
It's easy when you finish college and are hungry for work to make looking for a job into an ethical minefield. You think that you're at a huge disadvantage. You don't even own a decent, clean shirt. You've got stiff competition. What's the big deal about shaving that downward-pulling decimal point off the end of the GPA on your resume: 3.6 looks so much better than 3.56? And what's the problem with a little healthy self-inflation in an interview: "Table management" on the afternoon shift at a café during college summer vacations sounds so much more responsible than being a waiter. But behind all of this truth-shaving is, I think, a loss of confidence in oneself and in one's possibilities. We ditch our integrity when we think that's the only way to get ahead. We ditch it when we're afraid and, on account of that fear, don't allow ourselves to consider what we may really want. Eric needs to ask himself, without fear, what he would really like out of the next years of his professional life. Is it more important to earn money to pay off college loans? To have a job to live on his own? To save some money? Or is this a time to shoot for the moon? To take some professional risks that may not involve a high-paying job but may have a high possibility of reward? He should answer these questions first before he takes the job and before he bails on an employer for whom he has just begun to work. - Like
Ben Chinoy said on May 27, 2011
Eric has no choice but to accept the job offer. In today's economy thousands of seniors are graduating and searching for jobs, many of which they will not get. The competition is ferocious. We cannot pick and choose which jobs we want anymore. The fact is the job market is ruthless. If Eric does take the job, he can certainly continue searching for other possibilities. Why wouldn't he? However, if he decides to tell his employer he wants to take some time to think about it, the employer will think he is not committed, and likely extend the offer to someone else instead. If he does not take the job, he cant be sure he will receive another job offer. Having a job he does not like is better than not having a job at all. In fact, according to a New York Times article written on May 18 of 2011, Among the members of the class of 2010 [at Pittsburgh University], just 56 percent had held at least one job by this spring (Rampell). If only 56 percent of students have a job by the spring of the year after they graduate, Eric cant possibly turn down this offer and must take it. Eric also needs to recognize he is nothing specialthere are thousands and thousands of other students graduating who would do anything to receive a job offer like his. Eric should try the job for a year and see if he likes it. It is a bit like the choosing a college to attendyou dont what it is like know until you go. If Eric takes the job, he will gain valuable experience in one of the most difficult economies in decades. In a year, he can reconsider his options. Until then, he can make some money and start paying off his debts! - Like - 8 people like this.
Mikaila Read said on May 28, 2011
While the job Eric managed to land is not his ideal, it would seem there is nothing unethical about his decision to accept it. Consider first, the fact that Eric intentionally sent out scores of resumes, for positions not necessarily akin to his interests. This shows his willingness to accept a job despite its lack of relation to his interests, and may also shed light on his current financial standing as fragile. Next, and perhaps more importantly to note, is that while Eric may lack enthusiasm for the job, he fairly went through the procedures and screening processes so as to be offered the position. He earned the right to the job. However, this is working under the assumption that Eric has not misrepresented himself or deceived his future employer. If Eric were to accept the position without any mention of his desire to pursue more suitable positions, he would be deceiving his future employers. For, failing to tell the truth is essentially an equivalent to lying. Eric may try to justify this deceit by claiming concern that his potential employer may revoke his job offer if informed of his willingness to leave suddenly. This is not justification for Erics lying. Rather, it is ground for Eric to reconsider his need to pursue other jobs so soon. This leads to another idea: assume one of the other applicants for the job has a much stronger interest or enthusiasm for the job. This applicant (lets refer to him as Dave), Dave, is much better suited for the position and would be committed for a longer duration than Eric perhaps. Although Dave might be more deserving of the position, the recruiter offered the position to Eric. The recruiter selected Eric believing he was a promising future employee, and without knowledge of his possibly flighty feet. In a way, Eric has now cheated Dave out of a job. All reason points to Eric either not accepting the position, or first informing the employer of his intent to continue job-searching. - Like - 5 people like this.
Milta Sostre said on Sep 16, 2012
I believe we all have a choice in what we decided to do with our life. He has the right perspective in going and getting interviewed. I believe that with this economy any job that we get rather we like it or not is a blessing. We can't always have exactly what we want but it's good to have a resume full of different job descriptions. The person that interviewed Eric saw potential in him rather if Eric believed he had it. Its good to have at least something for a job rather than still searching and not having any job. I think that even if he doesn't like this job in a year or so after gainging experience and knowledge another job may come around. - Like - 2 people like this.
LaTrell Solomon said on Sep 29, 2012
whom among us has the job of his dreams. Taking a job today doesn't mean your stuck with it forever. - Like - 2 people like this.
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