When a Student Reneges on a Job Offer - An Employer's Perspective

By Kayla Woitkowski posted 10-02-2017 11:15

  
Last week during a pre-fall recruitment season planning call, one of my career services contacts mentioned her concern over an increasing trend at her university. She has noticed that more and more students were accepting offers of employment to then decline at a later date for a more appealing opportunity. I reassured her that this is happening at many universities and explained that employers were definitely feeling the effects. Based on this conversation, she asked that I create a brief write-up on the  impact of an offer "renege" that could be shared with students at the respective university. I then thought "I bet many universities would like this kind of information to share with their students." And voila - my first blog post idea.

So, I want to share my thoughts on how employers are affected when a student accepts a job offer and then declines at a later date. The goal of this post is twofold: 1. To provide a resource for career service professionals to help students understand the negative impact and consequences for making the choice to back out on an offer of employment and 2. To begin a dialogue from industry and career service professionals on other challenges with this issue and discuss potential resolutions. I welcome your feedback and comments and have listed some discussion questions below. I look forward to hearing from you regarding this ever-popular issue as well as other topics as I begin my journey in the blogging world.

Enjoy!

-Kayla Villwock Woitkowski


When a Student Reneges on a Job Offer

1. Employers are missing out on great talent.

Campus recruiting has become fiercely competitive, especially for certain technical majors. It is now the status quo for employers to have most of their full-time entry-level job offers out in the fall before students head off for Thanksgiving break. Several university career centers have even set an 'earliest deadline date' by which employers must abide in order to limit the pressures of early deadlines on their students. When that deadline hits, it is understood by employers that most of the highly sought-after talent from the best universities will have already accepted an offer.

Now what about the other companies who may not be as early to the punch? These companies may get on campus in the spring and come in contact with a student who has already accepted an offer. One thing leads to another and next thing you know, a student is put in a tricky situation. The rockstar student decides to decline the original offer from Large Corporation A and go with XYZ start-up (just as an example). Large Corporation A is now in a pickle. They have an opening to fill, it is late in the season, and most of the ‘top’ students have job offers. Company A will likely reach out to the runner up candidates for the opening, only to find that they have accepted other jobs. At this point, it is likely that Large Corporation A will have to ‘settle’ for a student that is not as good of a fit as the original hire. This leads to unhappy recruiters, disgruntled hiring managers, and worst of all – a loss in confidence in hiring students in the first place.

Students: Think about this. When you accept a job offer, you may be filling the ‘dream job’ of one of your high-potential classmates. Keep this in mind as you are considering accepting an offer. If the role is not in line with your career wishes and goals - be patient and do not accept in the first place. There is likely a job out there that would fulfill all of your wishes. Likewise, there is probably someone else out there who would be ecstatic to have the job that you are unsure about accepting.

2. Recruiters and hiring managers have a loss of morale.

Imagine completing a Sudoku puzzle - a highly complex puzzle with pieces that must align in order for the puzzle to all fit into place - and then having a new one appear before your eyes and having to start all over again. Recruiting to fill an opening is often times like this puzzle. There are many moving parts to ensure you hire the right person into the right position. Recruiters keep a running tab on their openings - every position filled is one step closer to the end of the quest to fill them all – which in some cases is 100+ positions. When they are nearing the end of their mission and then they have to 're-do' the puzzle, it is disheartening and quite frustrating.

The recruiters aren’t the only ones who frustrated by the decline. The acceptance of an offer by a student is followed by great excitement from the hiring manager. They quickly begin anticipating the arrival of their new hire. What work can they take on? Who will be their mentor? What new skill sets will they bring to the team? When they receive a decline after having done all of this planning, it is a huge disappointment. Sometimes it even causes anger – and rightfully so. They have to have to start reviewing resumes and begin the interview process all over again. The interview process not only takes up the manager’s time, but the time of their team members on the interview team. And time is money. All of this leads to a loss in morale from both the recruiter and hiring manager for finding the next great student to fill the role that has re-opened.

3. Positions go unfilled.

Many times a renege comes at the tail-end of the recruitment season - around April and May. At this time of the academic year, very few students are still searching for jobs. Recruiters spend a great deal of time spinning their wheels to fill the opening, and often the effort does not end in finding a good fit to fill the role. In this case, the position can go un-filled. In some cases, the budget set aside for the hire will be allocated for other purposes. This can have a great impact. Final hiring numbers are lowered which can in turn effect the following year’s hiring numbers. When managers have the opportunity to hire again in the future, they choose to open the new positions at a higher level to avoid going through losing headcount again. Ultimately, positions going un-filled does not help build the business case for hiring students.

What are the potential implications to a student for declining an offer after accepting?

1. Employer black-listing

Certain employers will keep a running list of names of student reneges - a 'do not call' list if you will. Even if it is not documented in this way - recruiters will remember. If a student was given a job offer, they were given one for a particular reason - because they stood out amongst the crowd. During the interview process, the recruiter sees the student’s name come through emails, looks at their resume many times, and talks about the candidate often with the hiring manager. All of this repetition leads to memorization. Therefore, when the candidate’s name comes up again in the future - it is tied to a negative experience that the recruiter will not forget. Consequently, the student’s choice that they made back in college could inhibit the opportunity of working with the employer in the future.

2. Loss of career services alumni privileges

Universities value their corporate partnerships greatly and do not condone students accepting an offer and then declining at a later date. They understand the impact it has to the companies and do not want to take the risk of having the respective companies stop recruiting their students. This being said, universities are putting their foot down on the trend of student reneges and are doing so through their career services center. Certain universities are denying access to job boards and career placement services if a student reneges on an offer and they find out about it.

3. The world is smaller than you think…

In an era of social media and virtual connections, the world has become very small. Many university recruiters, especially in similar industries, rub shoulders at recruiting events and communicate on a regular basis. They speak about and gather additional information in regards to the students who decline after accepting. LinkedIn makes this especially possible. In more than one occasion, I have heard of students declining a job offer after accepting due to ‘personal reasons’ or to ‘travel abroad’, to then have the recruiter see on LinkedIn that the student has accepted a job at a highly-acclaimed employer within weeks after the decline. This creates an impression of poor morals and can burn more bridges than the initial renege itself. If a student must make the decision is to decline after accepting, it is much more acceptable if there is a truthful and understandable reason behind the decision.

In end, everyone plays a part in ensuring that this trend does not become even more apparent in the university recruiting and career services world. Students must consider the negative effects and implications of making a decision to renege on an offer. Career service professionals should be a guiding voice when counseling students through their career decisions. And lastly, employers should be considerate in the recruiting process by giving a reasonable amount of time for an offer deadline so that the student can make an educated, well-thought-out decision in the first place.

NACE members will find a student-directed version of this article for your website in NACEWeb's Grab & Go.
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#candidateselection

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Comments

12-06-2017 14:06

Great post Kayla! We work hard to help our students consider their options and to really take accepting an offer very seriously. We certainly share the consequences with them but it us great to have this perspective direct from an employer!

10-02-2017 12:21

Great post! I'd like to hear what approaches others are taking to educate students about this. It seems training on decision making and the professional consequences might make a student think twice before reneging on a job offer.