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Reneging Part I: What’s the Big Deal?

Searching for a job can be hard work.  Once you reach the stage where the offer(s) arrive, you figure “this will be smooth sailing!”  You may think:  “All of my efforts have paid off, and now I can just sit back, relax, and…wait a minute.  I am still waiting on several companies that I interviewed with—and really liked—I’m not sure if I’m ready to commit yet.  Or—what if I don’t get any other offers?  Can I just say “yes” to the offer and change my mind later if something better comes along?” 

Unfortunately, you cannot “just say yes” and then change your mind later.  The practice of accepting a job and then turning it down for another opportunity is called “reneging”—such a practice is highly unethical and not sanctioned by Engineering Career Services.  When you register with ECS, you agree to our policies, one of which includes that you “will no longer pursue other employment opportunities once I have accepted a position, verbally or in writing” and that you “understand that reneging is unprofessional and may be cause for dismissal from ECS.”  (See ECS' renege policy here.)  A job acceptance is a major commitment to your new employer. You should only make this type of commitment if you intend to honor it.

Why is reneging so frowned upon?  There’s a variety of reasons, including:

  1. It ruins your future chances of working with that company.  Reneging on an offer burns your bridge with the company for which you had agreed to work.  The hiring process takes quite a bit of time, planning, and capital (human and financial)—employers won’t take it lightly that all of their efforts have gone to waste. Know that this decision will rule out working for that company down the road. 
  2. It may hurt your chances of working in a particular industry.  Consider that recruiters within industries know each other from attending hiring events (on-campus recruiting, career fairs, employer panels), professional conferences, etc.  These recruiters talk to each other—and may talk about students who have broken their commitment.  You don’t want to get a reputation for burning a company.  Also remember that HR professionals might make a job change—to a company you may want to work for in the future. 
  3. It puts the company in a bad situation.  Many companies operate on a recruiting timeline, where various activities happen during particular times of the year (e.g. job postings in August, 1st round interviews in September, site interviews in October, and offers in November)—they do these activities at multiple campuses—and as mentioned before—spend quite a lot of effort doing so.  Imagine how they will feel when you change your mind and they have to go back to square one.
  4. It negatively reflects on OSU, the College of Engineering, and your engineering peers.  When a student reneges, typically a company representative will call ECS very frustrated with the situation.  We then go into damage control mode to assure them that this behavior is not representative of all OSU engineering students.  Regardless of what they think, it may impact their decision to come back to OSU and recruit other engineering students. 

The bottom line is don’t renege.  Damaging your own professional reputation and future opportunities is almost always not worth it. There are numerous strategies that can be employed to prevent a reneging situation.  Stay tuned next week for the follow-up to this blog, titled “Reneging Part II: How Can I Avoid It?”

“The only bad thing about burning your bridges behind you, is that the world is round.”
-Labhesh Patel

About the author

Rachel Kaschner

Rachel Kaschner is the Assistant Director at Engineering Career Services.