juggling job offers

A reader writes:

I have been job hunting for weeks and have not received job offers or interviews from the preferred employers whom I’ve applied to. Just when I thought that the road ahead seemed bleak, I received one job offer today, along with a second interview this Thursday and another first interview next Monday. As much as I am delighted at the change in situation, I am rather confused as I wish to make a wise and informed decision — not taking an offer just because the salary package sounds appealing, but accepting one that is in line with my interests.

Anyway, I am neutral about the job offer as I would be more keen about the job that is interviewing me on Monday. Furthermore, the company interviewing me on Monday is my ex employer and I am familiar with the job scope. As for the company which offered me a second interview this Thursday, it seems to be a challenging environment but offers an attractive remuneration package.

Here are my questions: First, if the company that is granting me a second interview offers me the job on the spot, should I take it immediately, even though I am also keen on working for my ex employer(but the interview with my ex employer only falls on next Monday)?

Secondly, the interview panel for the session with my ex employer will involve 4 people from the upper management- 2 directors, 1 department assistant director and a HR assistant manager. Does this mean that it is likely that there will only be one round of interviews, given that the top management are already present in the first round of interview?

I’m quite confused and hope that you will be able to advise me on the matter.

I see why you’re confused! Let’s break this down.

Easy question first: The interview with your former employer might be one round only, or it could be more. It’s fine to ask them that.

Harder question: how to juggle the offer you have with the two other positions you’re interested in. What timeline did the company that made you an offer give you for giving them a decision? If this wasn’t discussed, contact them immediately and say that you’re extremely interested and want some time to think it over. Ask when they need to hear back from you by. You are hoping they will give you a couple of weeks, but that’s unlikely; they’re more likely to give you a week, maximum — because they have other candidates on the line who they need to get back to. If they turn the question around and ask how long you need, you really don’t want to ask for longer than a week; they’ll start questioning your interest level.

Next, call or email the other two companies immediately. Tell them you are extremely interested in the position they have open but that you have an offer from another company that you need to give an answer to within a week. Tell them that an offer from them would likely be your first choice, but you’re constricted by the timeline. Companies that are very interested in you will do what they can to move up the interview.

However, do be prepared for them to tell you that they (a) can’t move up the interview because of schedule conflicts or (b) don’t expect to be able to make an offer decision within a week. If that happens, then you have a hard decision on your hands. Are you willing to turn down the offer you have, without any guarantee that you’ll get an offer from one of the other two companies?

What you cannot do is accept the offer you have, with the intention of going on the other interviews and backing out of the first job if you get another offer later. Not only is that a crappy thing to do to the first company (who will have turned their other candidates loose by that point), but you’d risk damaging your reputation in your industry, because people talk, and you never know when that will come back to haunt you. So the basic question before you is whether you’re willing to end up with no job offers in order to see the process through with the other two companies.

The best case scenario is that the first company gives you more time for an answer, and the other two are willing to move quickly once you explain the situation to them. Good luck! Let us know what you decide to do.

{ 6 comments… read them below }

  1. Dataceptionist*

    Succinct advise as always Alison.
    I haven’t directly been in this position, but I came close, and I wondered what I would do.

  2. Anonymous*

    Hi Alison,

    Wow, thanks for the swift response! Good advice i must say.

    Well you see, the company which offered me the job yesterday was very kind enough and agreed to wait till end of next week for my reply. Yes, I really do not want to ruin my relationship with them or create a bad name for myself by taking up the job offer and then backing out – if in the event my most preferred employer i.e. ex employer, offers me the job.

    I’ve always grapple with the thought of being honest with your interviewers by letting them know that you have other job offers waiting for you,and you need them to give you a reply asap. Seems to me like I’m rushing them for a decision, so I would clam up and just wait for an answer…which I know isn’t good!!

    However, with your advice, it sounds reasonable to me and I think I’ll negotiate with the HR person for a time line after the interview.

    I hope to fill you in with good news by next week.

    Thanks heaps!

  3. E.*

    One thing I’ve done in the past (if someone insists I accept and offer on the spot) is to use my spouse as an excuse to delay.

    It’s not unreasonable to say you need to discuss the offer with your spouse before accepting, so it buys you time without having to give a yes or no answer immediately.

  4. Esther*

    I had a similar situation during my last job search. I received a job offer on the same day as another company invited me for interviews the following week. I called back and explained the situation, and they were happy to move up my interview. (It happens that based on the interview I realized it was not a match so I took the job offer.)

  5. Anonymous*

    Any ‘interview’ is in my mind a negotiation, anyway. So negotiate.

    You have the ‘opportunity’ of other offers – but make sure you are honest with yourself and others about the reality of those.

    If you are at second interview stage with multiple firms. If you are meeting the senior leaders at your next interview. If you are now ‘interviewing them’ for the role you would play. This is the time to share with them your ‘demonstrated desirability to other firms’.

    Just don’t be ‘in their face’. Nothing worse than a gloating candidate – no matter how good – who thinks they own the entire process.

  6. Anonymous*

    Hallo, recently a company contacted me via a friend of mine working there. I was asked if I was interested in a position which was not even already advertised on internet. It is a permanent position with a lot of responsibilities and well paid. I went for the interview and I got the job offer after two days. I was the only candidate. I think this was really good luck because for this job I can use all my qualifications acquired during my ( long! ) education. I am at the point of signing the contract now but few days ago I got a phone call from another company, very well known. It is in a city where I would already have a house to move in and close to the parents of my boyfriend (husband in two months). Mainly for private reasons, I would prefer the second job, which is also very nice and will give me a lot of opportunity to develop. I am really confused and for sure I know that to turn down the offer I have, without any guarantee that I ’ll get an offer from the second company is really not a clever idea!

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