Is it unethical for a candidate to turn down a job after signing a contract?

Picture this:

A candidate has made it through the entire four-round gruelling interviewing process, has signed a contract, and even has a start date. But the candidate either backs out days or hours before their first day or, worse—doesn’t show up.

We understand that circumstances can change, and people suddenly need to turn down a job because sometimes things don’t work out due to situations that pop up. But, other times, people who have no intention of taking the job are only giving everyone involved false hope.

It’s impossible to keep track of how many times a successful candidate has sent a message the night before, or even the morning of, saying they aren’t going forth with the role leaving everyone involved (us and the company) at a loose end.

Although, we do understand when a candidate rejects a role to take their dream job or a lifetime opportunity—that’s only human, and we don’t hold grudges against anyone for taking what could be an amazing career path.

It’s all about how you conduct yourself. How you decide to let everyone know that you’re no longer progressing with the role is the difference between it being an ethical or unethical situation. If you’re aware you’re no longer taking the role three weeks from the start date, let everyone know then, and there won’t be any issues. Don’t wait until the last minute.

Where is professionalism heading towards?

Is it on the decline? Is it unethical to reject a role you have already signed and accepted? When you’ve gone through all the steps with everyone involved (recruiters, hiring managers, human resources, senior management, and team members), take up not just your time but the company’s time and a potential job opportunity from another candidate.

It can leave a bad taste, and as importantly, it could affect your career and future reputation. Instead of being out of touch and unreachable, ensure you communicate as best as possible, so you don’t affect your career or burn the bridges of the contacts you’ve made. So, before you pull out last minute, give it more consideration!

The effect it has:

It may cause possible candidates who are right for the role to miss an opportunity that you no longer want, which could’ve boosted their career. At the same time, companies are left to delegate responsibilities, add to their employees’ workloads, and go back to the market to start the process again. The team members at these companies would be relying on your start date, preparing for your first day, and having projects ready for you to begin, which all changes as a repercussion of someone who rejects a job at the last minute.

If you were in their position, how would you want someone to communicate? So, let’s take a step back, look at ourselves, and raise the bar.

Do you think a candidate turning down a job mere days or hours before their start date is unethical, or is it just part of the hiring process? Is it part of the modern-day world, or should we start looking at ourselves and raising the bar? If we can change this, shouldn’t we?

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