During tough economic periods it can be quite tempting to accept the first job offer that comes along since it signifies the security of a steady paycheck. In many cases job seekers continue with their search even after accepting the offer in the hopes of a better one coming along.
It is best to never accept a job offer and then attempt to get out of it by “playing the field”. The company you signed on with trusts your decision and have begun to prepare for your entry into the firm. They expended both time and money in interviewing you and are now both time and money. Think of it this way: suppose a company agreed to hire you and it is a job you really want. You then receive a call from the Hiring Manager the day before you are to start informing you that they just located a candidate they like much better for the position so the offer to you no longer stands. Obviously, you would be very disappointed with this outcome. This is precisely the situation you bring to an employer by committing to a position and then reneging on that commitment. Also, if you signed on the dotted line of an official employment contract, it will be best to speak with an employment attorney before rescinding your acceptance.
Rather than risking any legal issues or causing damage to your reputation which can ensue when you accept and then rescind a job offer, there are some strategies which you can employ before committing to any one company.
One effective strategy is to negotiate the terms of the offer until you are able to make a firm commitment to the position and feel comfortable ending your job search. In this way you might be able to stall the official offer when you will need to sign an acceptance letter or contract. Unless an offer is in writing it is not an official offer and you have room to maneuver in seeking a situation better suited to your overall job search goals.
If you have an offer from Company A and then get invited for an interview with Company B for a position much more suited to what you are looking for, you will need to obtain a timeline from Company B as to their hiring process. Before leaving the interview establish next steps so you can make a realistic decision from Company A. It might also be a good idea to let Company B know that you have an offer on the table from Company A which you have NOT accepted as yet but will need to do within the next week. This will serve to provide you with notice as to the standing of your candidacy with Company B. If they are interested in you they might well accelerate the hiring process to meet your deadline. They may also indicate that they will not be ready with a hiring decision until a week or two down the road. In this event, you know that an offer will not be forthcoming in time for you to turn down the offer from Company A.
An important component of any job search is managing timelines and it is best to be honest with all potential employers regarding your job search situation. To ensure a best fit between a company and yourself it is best practice to carefully evaluate all aspects of the job aside from a solely monetary consideration. For example, is the company culture one in which you could be comfortable with over the longer term? What is the style of management? What are the benefits? Is there an option to telecommute a few days per week? By carefully evaluating each important factor of a new job you can arrive at a decision with which you can be satisfied over the long term. It is always best to never burn bridges behind you!