Liz Ryan
Liz Ryan

BOULDER, Colo. –

Boulder’s Liz Ryan is a former Fortune 500 human-resources executive, a syndicated columnist and a career adviser. Every Monday, she’ll dish out job-hunting advice for college students.

Q: I got a job through an on-campus interview but now I have a better offer. Can I bail on the job I already accepted?

A: You can renege on the offer you’ve already accepted, but in my opinion you may not. Ethically, in my view, you must take the job and work there for a while, unless they don’t pay you or go out of business or (God forbid) abuse you in some other way.

Employers wouldn’t come to campus if their new hires accepted offers only to change their minds when something else came along.

Q: I went to what I thought was a bona fide job interview and it turned out to be pretty much a scam. There were 20 of us on folding chairs in this room and they were talking to us about selling vacuum cleaners to people over the phone. They only pay you if you sell a vacuum cleaner. In a situation like that, can you get up and leave?

A: You can, you may and I hope you do, and I hope everyone in the room follows you. Don’t trust employers that bait-and-switch you. If they advertise a Marketing job and it turns out to the door-to-door or over-the-phone sales or feels non-kosher to you, get up and head out of there. As my kids love to tell me, Lincoln freed the slaves.

Q: I went on a job interview through an employment agency but the lady at the agency told me not to ask the interviewer about the career path. Why would she want me to be quiet about that?

A: Either there’s no career path or the employer has had a bunch of people quit because the job was too limiting. If you want a stop-gap job, it might be a good opportunity but if you care about career advancement (and who can blame you for that?) I’d skip the interview altogether.

As we said to someone earlier in this column, you are not a slave, and on a job interview you should ask anything you dang well want to. It’s not for the employment agency to tell you how to manage your professional affairs.

Got questions? E-mail them to