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Finding a Job

Reneging on an MBA Job Offer? It May Cost You $20,000

Reneging on an MBA Job Offer? It May Cost You $20,000

Photograph by Ken James/Bloomberg

As two MBA students from Georgia Tech learned recently, reneging on an internship offer can have consequences. Big ones. The two students are no longer welcome at career services, can’t participate in on-campus recruiting, and won’t be allowed to sit in on company information sessions. As Jim Kranzusch, executive director of MBA Career Services explains, “Basically they’re on their own.”

It could be worse. Many top business schools have policies about reneging on MBA job and internship offers that are draconian by comparison. Consider these:

Wharton: Reneging at Wharton is considered a violation of the school’s recruiting policies, and it takes the matter very seriously. Students who are even thinking about it have to meet with the dean, and if they go ahead and do it, they have to offer a written apology to the snubbed company. The penalty for reneging includes loss of on-campus recruiting privileges and loss of career assistance for up to five years after graduation. Wharton says it will even impose a fine of up to $20,000 and will not release the graduate’s diploma or academic transcript until the fine is paid. It’s unclear if that has ever happened; a spokesman for the school did not respond to a request for comment.

Harvard: Harvard Business School considers reneging a “very serious recruiting violation,” with consequences to match.  Students who renege risk permanent loss of their career service privileges during their time in school and permanent loss of alumni privileges, including access to the school’s alumni resources, use of an HBS e-mail address, even attendance at reunions. Your violation will also become part of your permanent record, noted on your academic transcript for all to see.

Sloan: At MIT’s Sloan School of Management, it’s not just reneging on a job offer that can land an MBA in hot water. Any violation of recruiting policies—from missing a scheduled interview and showing up late to company presentations all the way up to reneging or even continuing to interview after accepting an offer—is potentially a problem. Possible penalties include a permanent ban from recruiting services and activities and loss of alumni career services for five years after graduation.

Columbia: At Columbia Business School, MBAs who renege are subject to suspension of recruiting privileges as well as sanctions imposed under the dean’s disciplinary process, which can include a warning, probation, suspension, even dismissal. Fun fact: Columbia says leaving a job “shortly after you begin working” can be considered reneging.

It’s unclear how often schools actually impose these sanctions. Of the four schools, only two responded to a request for information. Paul Denning, a spokesman for Sloan, says one or two students face sanctions for reneging on job offers every year. Evan Nowell, a Columbia spokesman, says reneging, while rare, has resulted in sanctions for students, but there have been no dismissals in recent years.

It’s worth noting that at most of these schools, recruiters have to follow the rules too, which means no rescinding offers after they’re made except in extraordinary circumstances. There are penalties for the recruiters, too. At HBS, for example, rescinding a job offer may result in the employer losing access to the HBS résumé book or even prohibiting the company from recruiting on campus for a period of time.

Unfortunately, for students, most recruiters are obliged to report any student who reneges on an accepted offer, which all but guarantees you’ll get caught should you decide to go that route. In business school, you can renege, but you can’t hide.

Join the discussion on the Bloomberg Businessweek Business School Forum, visit us on Facebook, and follow @BWbschools on Twitter.

Lavelle is an associate editor for Bloomberg Businessweek.

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