how to juggle a job offer when you’re waiting on another

A job offer is usually welcome news — unless it comes while you’re waiting to hear about a different job you really want with another employer.

While to many job-seekers, this is the definition of a good problem to have, it’s a tough spot to be in and most job-seekers aren’t sure how to navigate it well. After all, can you put the first company off, and if so, for how long? What do you say to the first company meanwhile? And can you take the offer but rescind your acceptance later if the other job comes through?

The first step here is to call the company that made you the job offer – which we’ll call Company A. Explain that you’re very interested in the job and would like some time to think it over, and ask when they need to hear back from you by. Any reasonable employer will give you a bit of time – generally a few days to a week. Be aware, though, that many employers will balk at giving more time than that, especially since a request for more than a week tends to signal that you’re hoping for an offer from somewhere else in the interim and will make them question your interest level.

Next, contact the other company, Company B, immediately. Don’t delay by even a day – time is crucial here. Explain to Company B that you have an offer from another company, that you need to give them an answer quickly, and that Company B is your first choice. If Company B is strongly interested in you, there’s a good chance that they’ll be willing to expedite things.

However, Company B might tell you that they can’t speed up their timeline. If that happens, then you have a difficult decision to make: Are you willing to turn down the offer you have, without any guarantee that you’d get an offer from Company B in the future? It’s a tough spot to be in, and your answer probably depends on your financial situation and how confident you feel about other prospects coming along.

But what you shouldn’t do is to accept the offer you have, with the intention of backing out of it later if Company B comes through. Company A will have turned loose their other candidates loose by that point, as well as invested time and money in preparing for your arrival, so this reneging on your acceptance would burn that bridge to a crisp. You’d also risk damaging your reputation in your industry, because people talk and you never know when that will come back to haunt you. So do assume that once you accept an offer, you’ll need to keep your word.

In other words, do what you can to expedite things, but know that you might end up needing to decide if you’re willing to end up with no job offers in order to see the process through with your favored company.

{ 21 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I am currently in an extremely crazy situation along these lines, only my dilemma involved 3 companies and a wide range of deadlines and timeframes. I did ask my preferred company if they could provide expedited feedback early on, but then I felt like I couldn’t ask again when more offers and interviews began bubbling up like crazy. I ended up doing some soul-searching and I decided that in this particular case, I would not regret missing out on the other opportunities, but I would regret missing out on the one I liked the best. I turned down one offer directly, and I removed myself from consideration from the other one before they got to the offer stage, so that I wouldn’t waste their time.

    So how has it turned out for me? I’m supposed to hear back from my preferred company some time today. There have been a number of excellent signs that make me very hopeful that an offer will be forthcoming, but I am still nervous and trying to keep my expectations in check. In the meantime, the company I stepped away from to avoid wasting their time liked me so much that they asked if I would consider them as a back up plan. So I’m feeling pretty good that even if I don’t hear good news today, I will still be in good shape! But if anyone has any extra “Job Offer” vibes to send along today, I’ll gladly take them! ;)

    1. Ellen M.*

      Good luck to you! And congratulations – you must be doing something right to have multiple offers!

      Please keep us posted~

      1. Anonymous*

        Thanks so much–I got the job! :) It took them a little extra time to get back to me, bc they hit some snags with the paperwork, but they made me a great offer! It’s such a relief that it all worked out!

  2. Piper*

    Well. This is timely. I’m currently pulling the juggling act. Right now. At this very moment.

  3. Tamsin*

    It’s uplifting to hear about people getting job offers, even having to juggle them. Congrats, y’all. :)

  4. Ellen M.*

    Great advice re: mentoring! I also tell my students they can have multiple mentors, each with different strengths, and that can also reduce the wear and tear on a single mentor!

  5. Anonymous*

    A special case of this might occur for soon-to-be graduates (sometimes for academic positions too): if an employer attends a university sponsored job fair (or advertises on a ‘trade’ board such as the AAS job register), they might have to agree to wait until a fixed date before they can require an answer from candidates. If this applies to any reader, my advice would be to reject out of hand any employer who tries to get an answer beforehand. See an article on exploding job offers.

  6. Anonymous*

    I am so happy for you to have so many offers. I am the OP from last week with the grammar problems. I really do appreciate Alison telling me to be aware of this. I found myself changing a few things today. My husband is a professional and he helped me make changes with my resume. My oldest son just received his chemical engineering degree and a job and told me to not rush so much. Good advice. I hope you get the job you really want. I wish you all the best.

      1. V*

        Good luck! Don’t get discouraged. You have the power to change anything about your job search that needs to be changed. Except creating more jobs, that is :)

  7. Dulcinea*

    I respectfully disagree. The company would revoke your offer at the last minute (as we saw in the letter yesterday) or lay you off at any time if that is what they thought was in their best interest business-wise. You should do what’s best for you, business-wise.

    If you accept an offer with one employer and subsequently receive a much better offer from someone else, I say do what’s best for you. It’s possible you will burn a bridge or that some people will think badly of you for it, but others will recognize that it’s just business and you are just doing what you need to do.

  8. Anonymous*

    About the whole mentor thing, I think it’s also important to note that the other person has to willingly be open to being a mentor. I know I came across someone who was a bit stand-offish when I asked similar questions to him as suggested in the post before. I had a feeling this person wasn’t willing to be a mentor when he kind of cross-his arms and gave me an inpatient look, yikes.

  9. Samantha Jane Bolin*

    I was in a *similar* situation once and I deeply regret the outcome to this day (more than 8 years later). My grant funded position at a University ended and I applied with several non-profits, including my dream company. It was a phenomenal position and it’s an NPO that gets hundreds of applications for EVERY job. I enlisted the help of several folks to get me an interview, but I never heard anything. In the meantime, I interviewed with a smaller NPO, loved the ED, and was offered the position. (I was pregnant at the time, so was thrilled I still got the job). During the first week at my new job, my dream job called and asked me to come interview. I felt like the right thing to do was to tell them I couldn’t. Fast forward a few months, my phenomenal ED was promoted and replaced by a horrific person. It quickly became the job from he**. I left shortly thereafter. Since then, I’ve applied a couple of times to my dream NPO and had no luck. Moral of the story, I should have gone to the interview and let things play out.

  10. Alyssa*

    I’m in this position right now – trying to decide if I should accept another offer (A) while I’m waiting to hear from one I’m more excited about (B). Here’s what I sent to the hiring manager at B.

    When we spoke last week you were hoping to make a decision about the X position by the end of this week. I am following up with you before then because I have received an offer from another company, but I am much more interested in the position open with X. I was hoping that you could let me know if you are still considering me as a candidate for the position or if you think you’ll be moving forward with someone else. I know how difficult these decisions can be and I apologize for moving ahead of your timeline, but I don’t want to move forward with another job if this position is a possibility. I also understand if you’re not in a position to answer this question yet and I hope this isn’t an imposition. Thank you for your consideration.

    Hopefully I’ll hear back positively from job B quickly so I can figure out what to do with job A. I need a job but I’m not sure A is the right fit so I’m torn about what to say to them even if job B is moving forward with someone else. Yikes!

    1. Deanne*

      What happened ultimately with companies B and A? Did A give you a week to decide? It is all about timing.

  11. Anonymous*

    Really appreciate the article. I’m in an awkward position where I’m waiting to interview for a fantastic role with Company B, but I’ve already got an offer from Company A.

    The worst part is I don’t interview with Company B until early next week. I’ have to try and stretch the friendship with Company A’s offer. It’s good, but it’s not as good as Company B.

  12. Veronica*

    I am in the position of there being a good possibility of being offered a 3 month unpaid but desirable internship (starting right away) before hearing back from a year long, paid, even more desirable internship (with a likely later starting date). Any advise on timing (how long to consider the possible first offer) and how forthcoming one should be while staying withing the realm of professional behavior? I lean toward being honest which I sometimes confuse with providing more information than is needed. I appreciate your feedback!

    1. Ramen Days*

      I’m in the same position except that I’m being offered interviews in my current field at the same time that I’m applying for internships. A couple of internships have expressed an interest in me, but current career offer is moving faster. I don’t want to stay in my current line of work, but would do so for a year while I improve my technology skills for my desired field.
      I’m scared to pressure the company with the internship I really want to move faster because I know they had over 100 candidates apply. I don’t know what to do!

      1. sandy*

        I think both of you (ramen and veronica) should go for what is being offered first and if your preferred job then makes an offer you have nothing to lose! Just be apologetic that you have to leave and thankful for the opportunity! I’m in a similar position but mines more: I’ve been offered a 2 week trial for a job but have applied to career jobs so may be asked to attend an interview during the 2 weeks while I’m on the job trial. What do I do? And I would not want to have to turn down an interview for an amazing career opportunity because I was on a 2 week trial for some job that’s okay not a passion of mine but need it to earn money and obviously make a good impression because right now it seems my only promising work opportunity.

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