By Annie Gainsborough
It isn’t long since I started my job here at the wonderful Gradconsult. I was over the moon to be successful, but it wasn’t the only offer I received. While this may sound like a fortunate problem to have (and indeed it was!) it did present certain issues.
My experience went something like this: Like many job hunts, the process had been arduous and dragged over a period of months. I’d carefully sought out jobs based in my beloved Sheffield matching my strengths and experience. Then as always it was no mean feat finding the time to do myself justice on paper, while juggling a full-time job, wrapping up a research project and campaign, keeping up a social life, extra-curricular activities and managing a basic level of self-care.
So I was overjoyed to get through the Gradconsult video interview. And then I was blown away to receive an alternative job offer a week before my final Gradconsult interview was due to take place.
But that meant I had a decision to make. Option 1 was safe: accept this other job offer, thank Gradconsult but let them know I wouldn’t be able to attend their interview. I’d have a job and my uncertainty would be over. Option 2 was risky: reject the other offer because the Gradconsult opportunity could be just around the corner.
But this could have left me back at square one with neither job.
When I have an important decision to make I go out to friends and family for advice but the piece of advice I was surprised to hear time and time again was: “Accept the other job and you can always reject it later if you are successful with Gradconsult.” This sat uncomfortably with me and I replied that this was one action I knew I did not want to take. This would have been what I now know to be a reneged offer.
The Institute of Student Employers (ISE) 2018 Annual Survey found that while 72% of offers made by their member organisations were accepted and 14% were turned down, 7% were reneged (accepted only to be turned down later down the line).
7% may not seem a huge amount, but think about it from an employer’s perspective for a moment. According to the ISE: • In addition to their staffing, organisations spend an average of £310,070 on their graduate recruitment (although bear in mind that ISE members tend to be larger, corporate organisations)
• The average cost per graduate hire (in these big corporates) is £2,189 (varying from £1129 per hire in the Built Environment sector to £8908 in Law)
• 20% of ISE members cited stopping graduates reneging on offers as one of their top concerns for the year ahead
The effect of reneges may vary from sector to sector and depend also on the size of the organisation and number of applicants per vacancy. For FMCG roles, for example, there are an average of 204 applicants per role, whereas in the Public Sector where applications average 12 per vacancy, there would be far fewer back-up candidates to choose from. It is also worth noting that the effect on SMEs in contrast would be even more pronounced than on large ISE members.
But why should this matter to graduates? Why should we avoid reneging offers?
Aside from considering the impact of our actions on potential employers, especially smaller ones, there are some purely selfish reasons for avoiding this course of action. A few years down the line we may well find ourselves applying again for another job at the same organisation. If we were successful the first time, then we are likely to be successful again, especially with a few more years’ experience under our belts. But if we have reneged previously, we are going to struggle to demonstrate our honesty or reliability, whatever other examples of these qualities we can rustle up.
Furthermore, in certain sectors or cities we may well encounter the same people again and again, aside from potential employers, as colleagues, clients, or friends. But reneging doesn’t exactly make the best first impression! What’s more, returning to my own situation, I didn’t take safe option 1 or risky option 2 but decided to take an intervening step before making my decision: valuing my own integrity I was honest with the people who’d offered me the job. I let them know I was waiting on another interview and guess what? They offered to wait an additional week, allowing me to have the interview with Gradconsult and make my decision in my own time!
I spoilt the ending of this story at the start, stating I have just started my job at Gradconsult (and this is the Gradconsult blog!) But what I am trying to say is that this was possible because I was honest throughout and I gave the employer appropriate information meaning we could both retain control of the situation. I know I gave them enough time to offer the role to their second choice without having to repeat the recruitment process. I do see this other employer from time to time and we’re on good terms and interested in each other’s progress. And who knows, we may even work together in the future.
If you are a graduate who finds yourself in a similar position what are my top tips?
• Seek advice or coaching from your University Careers team; even as a graduate, you can usually access this support for the next three years and you should be able to speak with them via skype or email if you have moved out of the area. They will be independent professionals who specialise in this area who you can have a completely confidential conversation with while working through your options.
• Be honest and open with yourself and with all other parties; the best employers and recruiters will want to help you make the right decision, because ultimately that is best for them too. I can’t guarantee that you don’t miss out, but if they pressure you to make a decision are they really the people you want to be working for?
• Only you can make the final decision, but you want to be able to look back and know that you acted with integrity. So ask questions, do your research and act in a professional and ethical manner you can be proud of.