Can I accept a job offer then bag it if I get a better one?
Dear Someone Else’s Dad,
Just call me a typical “meddling mom.” My daughter has an offer from Company A, but it expires next week and they wouldn't give her an extension. She also had a bunch of interviews with Company B last week, and she said she “totally killed it.” Unfortunately B’s hiring committee isn't even meeting until next month after which they’ll do yet another round of interviews. So of course, there are no guarantees she would even get an offer from B anyway.
Do you think my daughter should accept A’s offer, but continue to pursue B, and then turn around and reject A if B comes through? I can come up with lots of reasons this is a bad idea, but I could also argue that A shouldn't want someone who'd currently rather work at B.
I should say that my kid has a stronger moral compass than I do, I believe. But then I'm old and my career is over.
Meddling Someone Else’s Mom
In this bizarre world we’re living in now, I’m pleased to see that your daughter has a strong moral compass. It sounds like she’ll be making the right decision without us old folks interfering. Your question is very common—common for young professionals, but also common for parents who want to steer their kids to the best possible places that will make them (and by “them” I’m not sure if I mean parents or kids here) happy.
I agree with you that taking the job at A and bagging it B comes through is a bad idea: it’s ethically questionable, risks burning bridges at A, there’s no clue whether she'll actually like B better, overall kind of sleazy. Of course your daughter could be honest with the people at B about her dilemma, but honestly, unless they are absolutely desperate to have her because she demonstrated that she’s head and shoulders above everyone else, they really don’t owe her anything, and there are a lot of fish in the applicant sea these days.
Big question is: would your daughter be very happy with the job at Company A even for two years, from a learning perspective and from a cultural fit perspective? If yes, just take it. Life and careers are very long and this would be a great starting point.