what does it mean when an employer says, “let us know if you get any offers”?

A reader writes:

When an employer says “let us know if you get any other offers,” can you explain what that actually means?

I had a great first interview, and a great second interview where they said that. I don’t get it. Why do they say it at all? I am still interviewing for other jobs, but I really want this job, yet have heard nothing. Should I keep hoping and waiting or write it off?

It feels like the equivalent of a date saying, “I’ll call you” after a fun evening but he doesn’t. Thoughts?

“Let us know if you get any other offers” means “It’s possible we might want to hire you, although we haven’t decided that yet, and if you’re about to accept another offer, we want to know so that we have the chance to decide to make you an offer too.”

You might think, “Well, then why not just decide that right now, rather than waiting until I have an offer from somewhere else?”

Generally, there’s a reasonable answer to that: They want to talk to a certain number of candidates before making a decision because that’s responsible to do when you want to ensure that you’re hiring the best person for the job. Or there’s a candidate who seems great but who can’t interview for another two weeks, and they don’t want to make a decision until they’ve given her a fair evaluation. Or they’d ideally like to wait another few weeks in order to iron something out — a budget question, or an issue with the job description, or there’s a chance that Bob might be leaving and if he does, they’re going to tweak the role you applied for a little bit. Or all sorts of other things.

But even with those scenarios, if they like you enough, they might be willing to expedite their decision if the alternative is losing you entirely. And that’s where you get statements like “let us know if you get any other offers.” They’d prefer to take their time for any of the reasons above, but not necessarily if it means losing you over the wait.

Now, some people hear that and think that they should bluff and say they have another offer even if they don’t — and then, hey, they can get a faster answer and not have to deal with the frustrating waiting period. But that can backfire hugely — because “let us know if you get any other offers” doesn’t mean “because then we’ll hire you faster.” It can very often end up meaning that you instead hear “We’re not ready to make a decision yet, so go ahead and take that other offer.”

So this isn’t something that you want to bluff about.

As for whether you should keep waiting or write them off all together, the answer is neither.  I mean, you should move on mentally, because you should always move on mentally after applying or interviewing for a job because you have nothing to gain by agonizing and wondering, but what you shouldn’t be doing is reading into all of this and trying to interpret it and getting frustrated when you think they’re hinting at things and not being clear and  not following up in the way you want.

Paraphrasing the Flight of the Conchords, an interview isn’t a promise of anything more, no matter how great the conversation seemed to go. It’s just an interview. The same  is true of requests to let them know if you get another job offer.  The best thing that you can do for your sanity is to remember that (and to watch the linked video).

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. Brett*

    Is there any situation where you should not be informing an interviewing company that you have received another offer? What advantage is there to keeping companies in the dark in that situation?

  2. TL*

    Can I just say that “moving on mentally” has made this job search so much better than the last one?
    Although I kinda here a voice going “Fix it and furgetaboutit!” in my head every time I read it.

    1. Ruffingit*

      Agreed. I’m doing the job search thing now as well and the move on mentally concept has helped me a lot. Thanks AAM!!

      1. Anonymous*

        I didn’t think I could love this blog anymore then you added a FOTC reference and it turns out I can.

  3. J*

    This was the last place I expected to see Flight of the Conchords references. I’m going to remind myself of this any time in the future when I’m job hunting. “An interview is not a contract, but it’s very nice.”

    1. JP*

      Just because they’ve been exploring your mouth (and the words it says while you discuss the job) doesn’t mean they’ll take an expedition further south (downstairs to HR to fill out new hire paperwork)

  4. Joey*

    Yeah, this is one way hiring is not like dating. Can you imagine a date saying “I need some time before i decide if i want to date you again. Please let me know if someone else wants to start dating you.”

    1. Anonymous*

      I can kinda see it from that perspective though. When people are casually dating they may feel differently if they know someone is contemplating a committed relationship.

  5. jesicka309*

    I always worry it will come across as presumptuous. I can almost see the hiring manager rolling their eyes and muttering “that’s nice…but why should we care?”
    It’s not rational at all – but then most of the things I worry about as a job seeker aren’t rational… :( Thank goodness I have this place to let all my crazies out so they don’t consume me and turn me into crazy pot plant giving, excessive phone calling, over zealous job seeker!

    1. Ruffingit*

      Yeah, don’t become the crazy pot plant giving, excessive phone calling, over zealous job seeker. That guy gets talked about a lot on AAM. No one likes that guy ;)

  6. Limon*

    This job search has been very hard, much harder than any previous searches which I know is no surprise to anyone here.

    What I am most discouraged by is the vague sense of disrespect with most interviews, (“can you come in tomorrow at 10:00 am?” “I work part-time until 1 pm, could I come after 1 pm?” “No, it’s 10:00 am or nothing, we want to get this all wrapped up tomorrow.”) and the lack of response after schlepping to an interview and doing my interview best. An email, anything in response would be good. So far, about 2/3rds of the interviews I have been on have never followed up at all after an interview. One interviewer said to me: “you have a very impressive background and anyone would be lucky to have you. I am sure you are very good but – if you are so good, then how come you don’t already have a job?”

    I am a teacher, and I also feel this equally vague sense that they are trying to ferret out that hidden felony charge. As if they are sure there is something ‘wrong’ with me, and they are going to find it! (I have nothing to hide.)

    So demoralizing really.

    A couple of places loved me, and I got the above comments: let us know if you have other offers. That felt good but – again, put it all out of my mind!

    Job searching in this environment is a real lesson in building character and faith, that’s for sure.

  7. HarryV*

    I’m pretty sick and tired of companies that can’t make their minds. This isn’t just in the recruiting realm either. I’m fortunate to be employed right now and I get irritated when people respond, “I think I checked…”, or “It should be working right now.”. Can’t people give absolute answers? Make up your mind!

  8. Amarrie*

    So I was at an interview for my Mc.donalds ( My very 1st Interview). Before She came over she was interviewing another guy and she was saying i would love to have you on my team. and rambling on. She came to me and i stood up and we introuduced our self, she asked me literally about 3 questions and that was it. and she said okay i’ll talk to my manager and that was the end of it . She even took my resume. Do you think my interview was horrible? I’mm nervous. its only been one day !

  9. TJ*

    I don’t necessarily agree. A decision should be made whether or not to bluff depending on how you feel you did in the interview. If a company REALLY wants you, they are not going to let you get away or take another offer. If they say, “we still to interview X number of candidates, so go ahead and accept the other offer” – they are essentially telling you, “We are not 100% sold on you and want to see if something better comes along”.

    That should give you all the information you need to make your decision.

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