There’s a piece of career advice—and really, it’s good life advice in general—that doesn’t get nearly enough attention: Honor your commitments while job hunting.
In terms of what we do here at SRI, we’d like to draw attention to two commitments every job seeker makes, but that sometimes don’t get taken seriously:
- When you have an interview scheduled (whether it’s a phone interview, video interview, or in-person interview), that’s a commitment.
- When you formally accept a job offer (with or without signing a contract), that’s a commitment.
Disregarding These Commitments
How do some job seekers fail to honor these commitments?
If you don’t answer the phone or show up for your interview, you haven’t delivered on your commitment. Even if you cancel the interview at the last minute, you neglect your commitment.
Sure, sometimes there many be a real emergency that prevents you from attending your appointment. But almost always, there’s not. Go to your interviews if you can’t cancel at least 48 hours ahead—even if you accept another job or decide against the one you’re interviewing for. Consider it practice, and an opportunity to make a new connection in your industry.
And once you formally accept a job offer, it’s not professional or ethical to back out. It’s your responsibility to be sure you want the job before accepting it. Don’t agree before doing all the research you need to do about the position and the company, or before following up with any other pending possibilities you’re more interested in.
If you need time to make a decision, be upfront with the employer while assuring them you’re excited for the opportunity. If they’re unwilling to give you a reasonable amount of time to consider such a big decision, you probably don’t want to work for them anyway. Because this is a major decision; don’t make it lightly, and if you choose to accept, you’ve made a commitment.
Why Honor Your Commitments While Job Hunting
A basic reason to honor your commitments while job hunting is that it shows respect for other people and their valuable time. As far as interviews go, when you have an appointment, that means someone has taken an interest in you and allotted time in their busy schedule to give you an opportunity. Yes—as a great candidate, you’re also giving them an opportunity to benefit from your talents—but it’s a two-way street, and everyone deserves the common courtesy of having their time respected.
Once you accept a job, you’ll much more significantly inconvenience people if you back out. The employer has stopped trying to fill the position, started on paperwork and onboarding processes, and made other arrangements to help you get started. They may have also notified runner-up applicants that they were not selected for the position.
But honoring your commitments through the job-seeking process isn’t just about respecting others; it’s also about you. People who keep their promises and fulfill their responsibilities are highly regarded for it. On the other hand, failing to honor your commitments reflects poorly on you.
You may have a good reason for not following through on a scheduled interview or for going back on a formal job acceptance. You burn bridges, though, and this can come back to haunt you in ways you can’t ever foresee.
Always remember that you’re dealing with people and employers in your industry. There’s no saying where the people you encounter along the way will be next year. You have no idea who the person you inconvenience knows at the company you want to work for even more. You simply can’t predict how your actions one day will affect you the next. People with the most rewarding careers remember this and act accordingly.