What If You Get a Better Offer?

In the 2 following scenarios, a teaching candidate attends a Recruiting Fair & accepts a position:
In Scenario 1, the candidate signs a contract before leaving the Fair.
In Scenario 2, the candidate verbally accepts a position but leaves the Fair without a contract in hand. The interviewer indicates the contract will be forthcoming & sent by mail or special courier (i.e. UPS).

Based on the above information,
what would you do in each of the following situations?

Scenario 1: You signed a contract at the Recruiting Fair
Two weeks after signing your contract you receive a “congratulations” email from the Head of a different school — your #1 ‘dream school’. She tells you the position you applied for is yours! This school pays more than the school you signed with, it has a better overall package & is exactly what you want in a school & location.
What would you do? Please select one response from the following.


Click the “vote” tab above to submit your scenario #1 choice
v

Scenario 2: You verbally accepted a position at the Recruiting Fair & the contract is forthcoming
The only difference between Scenario 1 & 2 is that when your ‘dream school’ made you an offer you didn’t yet have a signed contract in hand from the school which made you a verbal offer at the Recruiting Fair. You’re still waiting for the contract’s arrival by snail mail/courier. It’s been 2 weeks & you haven’t heard a word. The delay may be due to the fact the school Board hasn’t finished completing contract “updates” &/or your candidacy is awaiting approval.
What would you do in this situation? Please select one response from the following.


Click the “vote” tab above to submit your scenario #2 choice

what-would-you-d0-pollWe invite you to scroll down
& tell us why you voted as you did.

Click here to see Survey Results follow up article

48 Responses to What If You Get a Better Offer?

  1. Anonymous says:

    One of the only professions in the world that makes such long term requests of people. Even our contract now where we are at makes no sense as the country law says 30 days notice but really it matters not as schools operate by their own rules. Look, You are meant to agree to a job about 8 months before it starts and once it finally does start it is for another 2 year term. IMO, if you accept a contract offer and then your dream job comes up shortly after and long before you start the new job, for the love of God do everyone a favour and just go with the dream job. Don’t make yourself miserable and everyone else miserable too. We “did the right thing” the first time around the stayed on with the agreed upon contract when the dream school LITERALLY called the next day. You know what? The one we agreed to was terrible and it was a dreadful wait of time. If we are lucky we live 80 years. Why or why would you waster such time? I have yet to see a school hesitate to get rid of a person with little remorse if it suits them!!

    Like

  2. Paco says:

    All discussions here disregard the conflicts between international laws and host-country laws. As international teachers, we will continue to move in that gray zone until we have representation by an internationally recognized union. At the moment, your contract is ultimately binding only within the laws of the host country. Forget the idea that placement agencies (such as Search) have power or interest in representing your legal interests!

    If an agency tells you, for instance, that “word is bond”? Forget it! The correct phrasing should be that “word may be bond–check with the local authorities to be sure”.

    Agencies such as Search may appear to have the power to set standards on the international circuit.

    They don’t.

    These standards are informal only. They are not legally binding at all, no matter what the agencies lead you to believe.

    Make it a priority to seek counsel on the labor laws of your home country. Then research the labor laws of the host country–in detail. Lastly, explore the diplomatic relationship between your country and the host country. If you are lucky, you may get a general idea of what is and isn’t acceptable.

    Like

  3. Anonymous says:

    On the employer side of life I’d prefer someone to take their dream school offer instead of pacing time in my school; there’s a big pond of employees out there, each bringing their uniqueness to the skills set.

    Like

  4. Anonymous says:

    This question is predicated on two assumptions: that the school in question does not provide a letter of intent at the time of hiring (as previously noted), and that the candidate does not contact schools the candidate has contacted to withdraw her or his application.

    Both courses of action are not terribly responsible (or ethical) on behalf of the school or candidate, so I’m a bit surprised that ISR would be positing this situation. When you have accepted a job, your search is over.

    Like

  5. belfer says:

    In the above scenarios there is no option, which actually happened to me: after getting a “super offer” I talked to the principal of the school with which I had a verbal agreement and he, graciously, let me go to the special school. However, the second offer came not even 24 h after the first one, so other shortlisted candidates were still a available.

    Like

  6. China Teacher says:

    You’re a fool to put yourself in either situation. Any school that would not offer a signed, binding letter of agreement along with a handshake, at the fair, is not to be trusted and not worth working for. The best schools will bring along their HR director to work up the contract on the spot.

    If you don’t have the qualifications or experience to get an offer from a professional school of high integrity, go home and work on your career until you are qualified and ready. To do otherwise is not worth the risk.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      Amen to that!! Too many unqualified and some untrained teachers available which is why too many trained and qualified get crap dished out to us!

      Like

  7. John says:

    As one who has had a contract signed in May renegged upon in August by a school who said their government did not accept my qualifications, after sending about 24 (not cheap) photos and starting to learn the Turkish language, it still saddens me to see the number of people who would break a written, signed contract. I refused another, better offer because of this, but the following day I got the cancelling email and was still able to accept the second offer which was by phone call from the principal. A verbal “we’d like to have you on our staff” is not a contract at all and I would easily accept a firmer offer.

    Like

  8. Anonymous says:

    The scenarios above are the reason my offers at the recruiting fairs are actual contracts. I only count a teacher as hired once I receive a signed contract from the candidate.

    Even stiil, I have heard of teachers who have reneged on signed contracts for “better offers”. It is truly sad that there are teachers and yes administrators who do not behave ethically.

    Like

  9. Eve says:

    Once you have signed a contract it is binding. Legally, if the employer wanted to they could sue you for breach of contract.

    Like

  10. eslkevin says:

    in the real world we work in, recruiters and schools often make more offers to candidates than they have positions available. There is no reason in the sense of fairness not to do the same and protect yourself from such abuse.

    Sometimes the dream job offer will not work out but you should consider going for it.

    If you had asked me at the beginning of my career as a young educator, I would have advised sticking to your spoken word and to your written word. However, employers & contractors or recruiters have held and abused powers and honest employees too often.

    Note: Usually many states/countries and corporations offer contracts, though, which allow you to get out of it in a fair way by stating something in writing (including any changing mental and physcial circumstances or family issues) –especially within a week or so after signing.

    Like

  11. Lynette says:

    After an interview, I received a phonecall that I was being employed. I’ve been given a start date and asked to give notice to my then employer. I was told that the HR would be forwarding me the employment letter via UPS. I then asked for a somewhat written confirmation before I submit my notice while waiting for the UPS. Two weeks past but nothing heard/came. I then called them, I was told they got someone else instead! Strangely, 3 months later, this person whom I’ve met called me again. I was offered the position once more. When I asked why, I was told the person whom they’ve employed couldn’t adapt and would be leaving. Do you think I trusted them? I liaised with their HR …… and true enough, history repeated itself…. reason? They’ve got someone else “cheaper”. Now, I wonder how much “power/influence or judgement” the interviewer has or that the final decision comes from the HR because it’s “cheap” and their job is done. This happened in Hong Kong.

    I was glad I didnt submit my notice then and I’ve managed to stay on for another 2 years with them.

    Like

  12. Maimuna says:

    I woul do the same thing here so why not abroad. They would dump me if they found someone else they wanted and I couldn’t do anything about it and I certainly wouldn’t want to go.
    Although I wouldn’t break a contract in the summer as they would have not time to find someone else.

    Like

  13. Susan says:

    For security. I have financial commitments. Until you have the signed and agreed contacts companies/ employers/ HR departments and accountants. (Schools) can change their minds about benefits, salary or offering the position at all.

    Like

  14. Not sure about the rest of Canada but, in Ontario, a verbal contract is legal and binding.

    Find it sad that so many teachers would be duplicitous! However, there are so few protections for overseas teachers it isn’t surprising.

    Thirty-four years in Ontario and eleven overseas…

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with you. I was sad that so many said they would not honor their verbal agreement. The international teaching community is very small. People who do not honor their agreements become known for that and it may impact their future employability at reputable international schools.

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        I used to think that. However, in the past eight years I have seen a teacher walk out the day before school started at a top tier school and still get jobs, other teachers break contract after one year and end up with jobs at top tier schools in Asia and in Europe. I have also seen teachers summarily fired mid year because a board member child got a D. I don’t know what to think anymore.

        Like

        • Rp says:

          Unfortunately yes…the honor system is not evenly respected. Many schools hold candidates and employees to much higher standards than they do themselves. If an honorable school loses a candidate who has already agreed to a position, they have not only the candidate to blame but the several schools who have burned candidates and teachers before, and thus contributed to an atmosphere of mistrust and self-defense.

          Like

    • Anonymous says:

      I think if you come from a country where the verbal agreement is widely recognised as binding, schools can understandably also be expected to see it that way. Sadly, not all countries are like Canada, and there are way too unscrupulous schools in many other countries.

      This is why you should make your agreement conditional on receiving a written contract within a reasonable (mutually agreed) time, so you are not left hanging, honorably jobless, if the school turns around and hires someone else and ‘forgets’ to inform you.

      Sadly, I have seen this happen in international contexts.

      Something similar has also just happened to me in Australia recently. I felt confident a principal would ‘create’ a job for me because she said she would, but then didn’t happen. Meanwhile, my trust in her prevented me looking for other positions for several months.

      From now on, trust only that bit of paper, the official letter, or the email from the systems HR manager.

      Like

    • Pete says:

      In Qatar even a written contract has no value. It can be cancelled or changed at will with no reason required. This is written into the country’s labour law.

      Like

    • International schools are businesses and behave as such. Teachers need to take care of themselves and do what’s best for them, because an employer’s role is to take care of the business. Don’t be fooled otherwise.

      Like

  15. DGA says:

    Your dream school will likely come along once. If it is a dream that is – let’s face it some schools are good and some are much less so, but none is perfect. If you signed with a school or even accepted, you must have done so judging it to be at least acceptable; go with it and get the experience teaching and in life.

    Like

  16. Bob says:

    We started teaching abroad in 1988 and have seen this situation occur for both ourselves and colleagues.

    For most recruitment fairs your word is your bond, verbal agreements are considered binding and before you are allowed to participate in the recruiting fair you sign a form indicating that you both understand and accept this condition. Failure to keep this agreement would likely result in the recruiting body not being interested in representing your candidacy at future recruitment fairs. Also, other schools would likely question your viability as a candidate they wished to invest in for an international move and employment as a representative of their school.

    However, there also an option missing from the survey: I would inform my “Dream” school of my situation and ask if their offer was still valid. I need to be completely transparent as it’s the right thing to do (and if that’s not enough reason remember that the Dream school could also withdraw their offer after I’ve officially withdrawn from the original school leaving me with no job at all) Also, the Dream school have to has their own reputation to consider among their peer schools and they also may have other great candidates they need to respond to.

    If the Dream school was still interested in my candidacy I would then contact the school where I had verbally accepted an offer and inform them if I did not receive a binding contract within 72 hours I would withdraw my verbal acceptance of their offer. I would also copy the recruitment fair on this action.

    If the originally accepted school was able to meet my reasonable deadline i would honor my original obligation. If not I would contact the Dream school and accept their offer and advise the original school that I was no longer available for their school’s offer.

    Like

    • A. None Your Biz says:

      This was the additional reply I wish they included. If you honor your word and keep lines of communication open you should be able to inform the ‘other’ school about your situation and any decent person should be understanding enough to say ‘Sorry we won’t get a chance to have you next year but good luck and let’s stay in touch.’ It’s sad to see that most people are so cagey in these situations. I wonder what sort of ethical compass they impart onto their students.

      Like

    • Leo says:

      As a Principal and recruiter, I wholeheartedly agree with this response. So much depends on a respectful transparency, without the need to sacrifice one’s integrity and values. Pursuing a dream school and feathering the nest are both totally understandable and of course defendable, but breaking your word – if you haven’t been given reason to do so – is not. Bob’s email gives a practical guide to handling the situation.

      Like

  17. Lostintranslation says:

    From a Legal perspective, if the contract is signed at the Fair, it would depend on the start date of the contract. If the contract starts in August and you signed it in March, and there is nothing in the contract to say you are signing in advance of the date. The contract does not come into force until the start date, in law you can cancel the day before.

    Like

    • Altered ego says:

      Sorry Lostintranslation, but that is a non-legal interpretation of contract law. When you sign a contract, the contract becomes legal and binding at that point in the future. Even if you decide to wander off and do something else, the contract still comes into effect and you are therefore in breach of contract at that point.

      Like

      • Anonymous says:

        I disagree with you, Altered ego, there is the notice period therefore if you can send an email rescinding the contract within that notice period then I don’t see any problems here. The schools will not even bother to inform you they employed someone else!

        Like

  18. Daniel says:

    For me, the best thing is being honest. If you have a new situation, just be honest with yourself and with the school. I don’t want to tell you that a lot of schools don’t honor the contracts in so many ways, trying to justify that you do the same. But as long as you don’t tell lies, you “disappear” without telling anything, that is life. Anyway, yes: if you have to do it, do it as fast as you can, so the school can find another person, and even offer yourself to try to help finding a good replacement, if the school needs it.

    Like

    • Altered ego says:

      I think, Daniel, that you are correct that honesty is the best policy. I know the disappointment that occurs when contracts are broken from the employers side, but it is easier the earlier that it occurs, to try to allow the employer to employ new staff. I also know of several cases where teachers have left before their contract finishes, but negotiate this with their employee – tell them early, and stay until a full academic year is over. In all these cases, everyone leaves with dignity. Often the reasons for leaving are ones that are beyond the control of the teachers or employees, and I’ve known employees pay return relocation expenses even though the contracts were broken. They don’t always, but many schools really value their employees.

      Like

  19. oldebell says:

    International recruitment is a minefield for teachers. Most do not provide any idea whatever of the salary and many are coy about other aspects of the package until interview stage – and sometimes much later. If international schools want an ethical workforce, they need to have much more transparent recruitment methods. Until then its dog eat dog, I’m afraid.

    Like

  20. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been burned twice by schools that made verbal contracts and then nothing materialized, with no explanation whatsoever. This caused me to miss other opportunities. Therefore, I would never say “100% yes” to a verbal contract offer. I would tell the school that I am very interested in the position, but not able to make a firm commitment until I have the contract in hand. If a school really wants somebody, they can and should produce the full and accurate contract-with all information included-right away or at the very latest within 24 hours. It’s not fair of schools to string teachers along when there are so many other issues to consider when moving overseas for a job. For me, if a school cannot produce a contract right away or with one day, it would indicate a very disorganized, badly managed school.

    Like

  21. Anonymous says:

    It’s all about communication. You must call the school who made the initial contract offer to at least talk about the situation. Recruiters are usually reasonable people and no-one wants to have a teacher in their school who doesn’t want to be there. In some cases you may need to honour your agreement but in many you will be able to take the offer from the dream school without alienating the first school and getting a bad name for yourself.

    The international school community is a small one and it is easy to end up with a bad reputation that can spell problems for you later on.

    Like

  22. Altered ego says:

    I agree with omgarsenal here. There is also an issue that people should be aware of in that the “dream school” may cancel your contract because you were already contracted elsewhere (well if they find out anyway). In many countries this would be legally enforceable – and hopefully your dream school is an ethical employer. If I ran a dream school, I would certainly do this as you (who broke contract with one school) would not have the ethics I wished for in employees in my school!

    Just a note. Verbal contracts have the same enforcement in law, in many countries, as written contracts do.

    Sadly, looking at the polls, it seems that I am in the minority. However, this begs another question – are those who would break a contract knowingly and purposefully as employees be the same people who complain about the lack of ethics in their managers in schools?

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      The dream school would not have proof you have ever ‘broken’ a contract if no signed document exists. The rest would just hearsay. By definition, a school that acts on rumor alone can never be a dream school.

      Sorry, the review section of ISR and alerts section of joyjobs are too full of stories about teachers’ experiences where they acted on verbal agreements and emails only to find there was no job at the end.

      Am I self serving? Only because I am far less powerful and poorer than any institute that would care to employ me! To do otherwise is naive.

      Like

      • Altered ego says:

        Actually, a phone call from one Director/Principal to another is a very powerful way of ensuring that there is comeback to breaking verbal contracts. This isn’t rumour. Be aware that notes taken during interviews are contributing evidence to a job offer.

        Like

  23. Mark says:

    I wouldn’t break a signed contract because of a better offer. But if the school didn’t act very promptly to confirm a verbal agreement, I would move on. Especially if I got the feeling that the school had not treated me with the respect I deserve. Life is too short for living in hope.

    Like

  24. Anonymous says:

    In the rule of law, only the signed contract counts. Only when you have signed that document must you feel 100% committed. A verbal agreement will not be enough ‘evidence’ in the situation when the school changes it’s mind, and you have been honorable and turned down other, better-seeming offers.

    This should put pressure on any school to follow up any verbal agreement with you quickly, and also to expect a quick turnaround from you. Make sure you also agree to an expected timeline at the same time as making the verbal agreement to sign up for a school.

    This way, both parties should be able to move forward, guilt-free, when there is no concrete evidence of commitment.

    Like

    • omgarsenal says:

      Weak arguments and totally self-serving…..sounds like a lawyer’s rationale, legalistic and not practical at all. The advice about setting a specific time to confirm employment with a contract is good, but it won’t justify breaking your word, regardless.

      Like

      • A.G says:

        Nonsense. “Lawyer’s rationale” and the law are the only tools we have to protect ourselves from being exploited. If you think that any potential employer is not above breaking either their word or the law with regards to you if it serves their purpose, you’re either a) incredibly fortunate that it hasn’t happened to you yet, or b) naive.

        Like

  25. Alan Tin-Win says:

    Within a week of accepting an offer (all via e-mail, no contract), I received another three job offers. Saudi Arabia offered nearly double the salary offered by the first school, jobs for us as a teaching couple, tax free with accommodation, annual flights home etc. I honoured my committment to the first school in Peru , and have never regretted it, have been at this school now for the last 8 years. You reap what you sow, I have been happy here and very glad I did what I dd.

    Like

  26. omgarsenal says:

    Whether it is a signed or verbal contract you have a moral,ethical and in some cases a legal obligation to respect your word. If you aren’t ready to honour your word, you aren’t ready to honour other things that are equally important. The hiring school is relying on you to fill the position and you’ve committed to doing so and that is that.
    You wouldn’t appreciate a school that signed a contract or verbally agreed to hire you doing this to you so why justify doing it to them?
    If moral and ethical relativism rule your life then stay away from education entirely….there are already far too many people in this profession to whom a contract is simply a piece of paper and their word is simply an excuse to buy time before accepting what they really want, or a disguise for their lack of values. As educators, the most important thing for us to do is lead by example, whether anyone knows it or not.

    Like

    • Anonymous says:

      A nice idea in theory. However, it only really works if the party at the other end of the contract is equally black and white in their intentions and actions. Unfortunately, “moral relativism” is, in my experience, a nice way to describe the dealings of many International schools.

      Whilst I genuinely applaud your intentions, it strikes me that such an ethical stance is a little like “bringing a knife to a gun fight”. in my experience its often a David and Goliath battle anyway so why limit your ability.

      Also, to elaborate on the “moral relativism” point. You suggested that anyone who operates this kind of code should “step away” from education. If this judgement was applied to schools we would probably find our employment options limited to about 5 schools worldwide.

      This Isn’t to say that these places are all evil, far from it. Some a genuinely nice places to work. However, suggesting that they work from a stance based on moral absolutes is incredibly naive.

      Like

    • A.G says:

      I’m afraid you’re incorrect. One of the very reasons for written contracts is to precisely avoid the kinds of problems that arise from verbal agreements. If it’s a verbal agreement you don’t have a legal obligation to fulfill it. End of story.

      “Moral and ethical relativism” have nothing to do with my insistence on having a written contract and reading it before I sign. Protecting myself from a myriad of illegalities that are committed to the advantage of the employer are. By way of example, just last week I had to chase after a former employer who’s been dragging their heels issuing me my tax documents that should have been issued at the end of last year. In the end I’ll get them, because I have a copy of that amoral, pesky contract that proves I worked for them. If I didn’t have it, I’d have some explaining to do to the taxation bureau. So your philosophical position on my practical necessities for having a contract are irrelevant.

      The most important thing for me to do as an international educator is to protect myself, because it is foolish to assume anyone else will.

      Like

      • Altered ego says:

        When you have a verbal agreement, you should of course have the contract (even if unsigned) that you are agreeing to. You have every right to refuse to sign a contract that clearly deviates from what you expect to have, or agreed to have. I think there is a clear assumption that this is the case before you break a verbal contract.

        Like

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