IT Employment

What do you do with a job offer while you're waiting for another offer?

What do you do when you have a job offer but you're still waiting on a job offer from another company that you prefer? Do you hold out or accept the sure thing?

In this blog, recruiting specialist Tim Heard addresses a question from a TechRepublic member. Here's Tim:

I'm not certain if I'm an optimist or a pessimist. There are probably plenty of people who know me well who would guess one or the other, all with valid reasons for doing so.  A totally unrelated discussion for another day is that the split is probably similar as to whether I'm an extrovert or an introvert.  I'm not sure what that means other than that people can know you well and still not know you fully.

What does this have to do with our topic today?  Well, it's somewhat about optimism. We received the following question from one of our readers:

"By the end of next week I expect to have two offers on the table from companies that are under a lot of pressure to get their positions filled. There is a third company, probably my favorite, which is not under the same constraints and is moving at a very leisurely pace.

What's the proper etiquette for handling multiple offers and how can I best use that fact to leverage the other firm to move things along, if at all?"

The answer to this question, to some degree, depends on whether one is an optimist or a pessimist, and whether the person is a risk-taker, or likes to play it safe. I'm reminded of a candidate who I interviewed for a senior developer position when I was doing corporate recruiting.  At the end of the afternoon, having met with a couple of managers and some potential peers, he informed me that he anticipated that he would be getting some offers by the end of the week, and that if we wanted to be considered, we would have an offer ready by then.  (This despite the fact that I had informed him that we still had other candidates to interview.)  Not surprisingly, he didn't get the job, despite his confidence.

One of the things I like to do whenever possible when addressing issues like this is to try to provide you with one or more perspectives other than my own.  While I'm generally confident that my suggestions will be pretty sound, I have been known in the past to offer advice that was soundly criticized by most readers.  Offering varying perspectives will hopefully provide us with good material for discussions afterward as well.

My first subject matter expert is Bob Waldo, a recruiter and staffing consultant with a lot of years of IT staffing under his belt.  Here's his response:

"You absolutely need to let the third opportunity know of your other activity and the impending offers. While they may not be under the same constraints, if you are a viable candidate (and possibly their top candidate) they need to know of this activity. As for the other opportunities, you inform them that you have other activity, and that you want to see the other opportunities come to closure before making a final decision, if at all possible. If they hold your feet to the fire regarding an answer, then you have some soul searching to do."

Dan Samenus, another recruiter with plenty of experience under his belt, both as an agency and as a corporate recruiter, offered this advice:

"It does not sound like you do have the offers in hand yet -- perhaps they will come together at the same time.

Right now, let your "favorite" company know your status with other interviews; let the other companies know your situation when you get an offer. The bottom line here is open communication and honesty while not muddling things in process. It is reasonable to ask for ten business days to formally accept an offer, but with the pace you state, a company may ask for five days.

Do not rush into something if you aren't confident in a particular role/company. Leverage your best interests for the long term. Perhaps your favorite company will pick up the pace. Your situation may also allow you to understand additional positive aspects about the other companies they had not revealed initially."

I told Dan that his response was an example of why it's great to get more than one perspective, because I'd never suggest to anyone to ask for ten days to make a decision. My experience as a corporate recruiter has generally been that offers were valid for 48 to 72 hours. Sometimes when weekends were involved, the 2 to 3 days might be changed to work days.  Were there instances in which candidates were allowed more time?  Certainly.  However, it would be pretty rare for an employer to agree to more than a week. It all depends on the job market and the strength of the candidate, though.

One thing we all agree on is that it is important to keep the lines of communication open.  I would even say that it would be helpful to let employers (and recruiters) know up front that there are other companies in the mix.  You need to be careful about this though.  I have known candidates or agencies to try to use the existence of fictitious job offers to pressure hiring managers or to negotiate for better offers.  Suffice it to say that nobody likes to be manipulated.

Here are some advantages to keeping open the lines of communication:

  • You will help to foster a good relationship with everyone involved, regardless of the outcome. Nobody likes to be blindsided by an offer or a competitor that they weren't expecting at the last minute. Keep in mind that your career involves establishing long-term business relationships. The hiring manager you impress today may hire you several years from now, even if you don't accept the job he offers today with his or her current employer. The recruiter who you impress by the way you conduct yourself may give you a call first when she has a choice position with a great client.
  • There's a (very slim) chance that you might actually speed up the process of the slow company. (More on that to come.)
  • You might get some feedback that helps you in your decision-making process. I have been known to say to a candidate, "We're still in the middle of the interview process, and I can't promise an offer, but I know that the hiring manager really felt you were a good fit for this position." What that means if you read between the lines is, "Anything can happen, so I can't promise you an offer, but you are the best candidate there is for this position right now." Such feedback might just help you decide if you feel like turning down a sure thing in order to wait for the company you really want to work for.

Now, here's why you're unlikely to speed up the process. It's a process. Generally you are not the only candidate in the mix.  Companies are required to establish hiring processes that give everyone who's qualified for a position a fair shot at it. So, it's not unusual for a hiring manager or recruiter to have phone-screened quite a few people, and settled on as many as maybe half a dozen internal and external candidates who need to be interviewed in person.  Doing this often takes more time than you might assume because mangers are stretched really thin, and often candidates are too.  As crazy as it sounds, the interview process can regularly take weeks, but sometimes it can take months. Most of the hair I have lost is due from situations in which I have presented exceptional candidates to clients, only to have them take other jobs while the clients completed their interview process. I have unusual looking bald spots on each side of my head that are fist-shaped.  (Should it ever take months? No. But it still does sometimes.)

Now back to being optimistic or pessimistic. The past several years have been really rough. The fact that you are even posing this question makes me optimistic. It would have been almost unheard of, even a year ago, for an applicant to be entertaining two offers at once and have another potential offer on the horizon.  The fact is that I'm actually hearing similar stories more regularly these days. I am very cautiously optimistic that we are actually well past having bottomed out, and actually in the process of an economic recovery.  (A painfully slow recovery, but a recovery nonetheless.)  When I see Dan and other contacts of mine blog about open positions, it encourages me even more.

You are in a very enviable situation right now.  My gut still tells me that going with a sure thing is going to be the best course of action right now. You almost have to, given the risks involved if you turn down one of your current offers and the other one doesn't materialize.  However, as Bob put it, maybe it's time to do some soul searching.

Good luck.  I hope that things work out well for you, whatever your decision!

21 comments
jac0bin
jac0bin

Although this is my first comment and will no doubt be judged on it I feel compelled to express my opinion on this. As someone born and raised in the UK who is from a Ethnic Minority, I can't say I've ever had this 'problem'. I'd like to see a article about the hidden racism that exist in IT towards certain Ethnic groups. Before anyone attempt some advice you should know that I'm highly experienced and qualified. However a recent interview this week had fankly made me consider if I'd be better served going to America where they seem to have a far more progressive non racial approach. I attended a interview after they had pursued me for a month, which naturally made me think they were really serious. My name doesn't sound Ethnic, so they would have had no idea nor does my accent (why should I'm born and raised here). I'd been made aware by the recruitment agency that I was without doubt the strongest candidate with the most experience given they are the soul supplier to the company in a area that is rapidly growing in IT/Telecoms. It was obvious from walking in to the room they were horrified that someone none white had made it through there screening process. Of cousre everything was conducted cordially , however when I left the interview I contacted the recruiter whom despite my best effort to educate him as sutbly as I could that I didn't feel they would progress my candidacy he insisted on why I thought that. I refused to say why saying it would be better for him to see what the feedback was before we jumped to any conclusions. Needless to say the obligatory weekend break and feedback came on Monday to the recruiter who was told ' although X interviewed well it was felt that another candidate was better suited'. The recruiter pressed the issue with them despite my advice telling him he could damage his own relationship with them. The recruiter was incensed but helpless as this is client. I'm not expecting this post to change anyone's opinion nor am I expecting sympathy. I'm merely pointing out the Racism that is prevalent and unprovable. So for the record this Ethnic has already since then been offered a role in the USA with Silicon Valley company. This is why in my view the UK will never be serious in the IT world when these ideas still peculate. It's subtle and it's damaging business opportunities and will cause further problems as the world becomes more global. More worryingly after speaking to my Parents who retired in America it was exactly the same when he was my age saying nothing much has changed in the UK in this regard

happyuk
happyuk

"It would have been almost unheard of, even a year ago, for an applicant to be entertaining two offers at once and have another potential offer on the horizon. The fact is that I’m actually hearing similar stories more regularly these days" Just to back up your assertion this very thing happened to me literally days ago. Unhappy in my position, I attended an interview and was shortly afterwards offered position with company A. A week later I got an interview for position B, which was the one I really really wanted. Company A was pressing for a confirmation from me but I managed to stall them a little by raising some concerns I had about some negative comments about them on glassdoor.com. They let me talk with a few other people at the company and gave me a few extra days leeway, saying Friday at the latest. I then managed to secure a final interview from company B on the same Friday, which involved me rushing out at lunchtime, tanking down the motorway and stripping off in the car park to get into my interview clothes and doing the final interview with the CEO, before returning to work and getting an offer from company B that very same day. Not only that, but in the post I got an expression of interest from company C, whose offer I had turned down due to personal circumstances earlier this year... Pheeeeeeeew!

Sl4353
Sl4353

I am currently unemployed and am in the process of interviewing with 2 companies. I had a second interview with the company that I would prefer yesterday and am interviewing with the second company tomorrow after 2 phone interviews. If the company tomorrow offers me a position prior to the first and preferred company, and the offer is within my guidelines, what is the proper and acceptable response? Do I tell them that I am waiting on a decision from another company, do I accept the offer on the spot, do I ask them to give me time to digest the offer?

bernardb201
bernardb201

I was in an almost the same situation about 5 months ago. But it involved 2 companies only. I was shortlisted in company A (preferred) but an offer came about a week after I was informed that I was shortlisted. I was in a bind since I really prefer company A(where but company B's offer is only good for 48 hours. I called company A about the offer & they informed me that their decision will take another week. I've been out of job for 5 months & funds is becoming scarce so I decided to take company B's offer. On my 2nd day at work at company B, company A called to inform me that I was considered for the position & was asking me to come for an interview. I told them I accepted company B's offer already. They wished me luck & asked to call them in case I change my mind. It's been 5 months now & I don't seem to be making any progress w/ company B. I have been re-thinking my position & wondering if I can call company A to see if the position/offer is still open. Do you think it's a good move for me to make that call?

Daylight-TT
Daylight-TT

As previously mentioned, communicate with the favorite the situation. If you get an offer from company #2, ask them for time to consider the offer. Once that is done, if you are out of work, accept the offer from company #2. If you are employed and there is a reasonably good chance for your favorite, wait. If you are unemployed and you accept the offer from Company #2, if the favorite comes back with an offer that is a much sweeter deal (at least 5-10% higher), take the money from your favorite. You will feel bad and Company #2 will feel bad, but you both will get over it.

Harold123
Harold123

Tell the one you're waiting for that you are going to accept another position, although you'd prefer to work there. Ask them to give you insight as to where they are headed, and if they can't give you any, they don't want you bad enough to risk passing on another job.

abiemann
abiemann

I would: 1) wait until you've got the job offers from the first two companies 2) once you have the job offers, call the 3rd company to inform them of your status. The information you provide could make you more desirable and up your asking price. a) if they don't speed up the process then you're not their top candidate. b) I wouldn't wait on them if they don't speed up. 3) when you call the 3rd company don't say "I would prefer to work for you" because that would make you cheaper.

Gis Bun
Gis Bun

I think most would be very, very, very happy to have 2 offers. In this climate, I wouldn't even take the chances of waiting for the golden one to respond. If you have 2 to choose from, look at what they offer [not just salary and benefits but room for advancement, the boss, working conditions, type of work, co-workers, etc.] CNN had a story of a financial analyst out of work for a year with just 1 interview. Ouch.

stupid user name
stupid user name

Twice I have accepted offers from "fast moving" companies and then moved to a more preferred position when it was offered later: once was one week later, once was a whole month. I was surprised to be counter-offered by the company who only had me for a month, but I generally don't accept counter-offers, and didn't.

LHunnebeck
LHunnebeck

This happened to me too. I was interviewing for two positions. The first people were nice and it was a good position and after the interviews I felt very confident that they would make an offer. The second people said that they were "at the beginning of their process" but I decided that this was the position I wanted. When the 1st people did in fact make an offer the next day, I called the 2nd company and told them that, while I realized that they were in the beginning of their search, I had received another offer and that I wanted to give them an opportunity, if they felt comfortable doing so, to make an offer as well. They did, I accepted and I worked there very happily for four years. The key, I think, was that I took a very respectful tone, making it clear that this was not a pressure tactic, but rather a real desire on my part to work for them if they felt the same about me as I did about them. It's a risk, but it was worth it in the end. If it hadn't worked, I still could have taken the first job.

DadsPad
DadsPad

before you count on the position. Always keep good relations with any potential employer, even if not hired, you never know where a future offer will come from. This is especially true if you make a good impression. It is not always only technical skills that get jobs, often personality and other skills are important. I went for one job (much earlier in my career)as a tech, but was hired as their supervisor (hidden job)due to my skills interacting with people. Another position I was called a year later to see if I still was available. Like I said, you never know.

LouCed
LouCed

This happened to me. I told the one I wanted they had 3 days to make a decision or I would have to take another offer. They came through, and all good. Had a budy take one offer, then leave after they got the offer from the other company. This caused some bad fealings between him and the company and the recruiter involved. I think this might follow him.

vulturex
vulturex

I went through this recently, I had 3 offer letters pending or in hand with still yet 2 other interviews taking place . My goal was initially set on the highest salary bid while I took some time to decide on the offers . While I was thankful that several companies had chosen me as their top candidates and still yet other companies had high hopes , A long-shot company made a surprise relocation offer to add to their offer letter. This left me in a very odd position in that I was expected to start a local position that I had interviewed with over a month passing several tense rigorous technical tribunal styled interviews which few ever passed let alone aced and then comes along a tech company in a mad dash to get talent in without ever even doing a face to face over nighting a really generous relo check .The kicker for me was the title, company industry and the city I would be relocating to which made me choose the long shot offer. But how to break the news to the other companies without burning bridges or offending head hunters that seemingly went out of their way for you ? Seems like there never really is a good way other than to be honest when you're the client's top pick .

wizardzip1
wizardzip1

In this tight job market, if you get an initial offer, grab it and start to work, and pay those bills. In this still weak economy, few can gamble that their luck will suddenly improve...unless you KNOW you simply ARE the best qualified for the job. Ask HOW MANY resumes. If 200, take the 1st offer that surfaces. You'll be glad you did. In this tighter market, chances are - you will not get that interview call you were expecting - unless your resume is outstanding, and only 10 people were interviewed. In a lot of cases, the better the job, the higher the competition. Know thy self - and also size up your skill set. Are you a strong player? Then, consider running your own shop. You'll be glad you did.

Pippers
Pippers

@jac0bin  While what you say may be true. I just want to say that I have been in the industry for many years, and was recently let go. I've been looking for jobs over the past three months. Almost every job I apply for I get an in person interview with because of experience alone. Some companies take days to get back to me, some take weeks, and many, actually most, take MONTHS. They let the pile of resumes gather, and pick out the best and then have them come in to interview. I've had dozens of great in person interviews, and still haven't gotten any offers. You begin to wonder if it you that is the problem. Did you smell bad? Was it your breath? Maybe you were too nervous? And yes, maybe I wasn't the right color, or I am too old, or too experienced. It could be anything, or it could simply be that they had someone that was simply a better candidate. 


Right now, I have several jobs running me through a process that has taken months since first contact. It's exhausting, but this is what can happen. You have to remember they probably have many others lined up in front of you or behind you. I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it as a racial thing. I have had what seemed to me be the best interviews I could ever possibly ask for, only to be told they went with someone else. Sure things are never sure things when it comes to interviews. 

agapantha
agapantha

I also live in the UK. I'm black AND female AND under 25 and have had the problem described by the OP. I was offered a job at a lesser known IT company ten minutes after my interview but asked to wait a week for the second round of interviews with a more well known company. I ended up going with the former because I'm a chicken. My point is, racism is nowhere near as big a factor as people make it out to be in the job market today. Perhaps you didn't get the offer because you weren't as qualified/experienced as the other candidates and were just unlucky. Maybe they just didn't like your attitude (I think younger candidates often have issues in this respect). You shouldn't just assume that everyone who doesn't give you a job must automatically be a racist.

Tim Heard
Tim Heard

I generally hope that when a candidate accepts a position, he or she will stick with it for at least a year. Sometimes there's a long learning curve, or it can take a while to really get to know others on the team well ... enough so that you really feel that you're a part of the team. Having said that, unfortunately most companies will not affords employees the same consideration. While my hope would be that you'd stick with the commitment you made when you accepted the position, there's certainly no harm in keeping the lines of communication open with company A.

jacobus57
jacobus57

...four and a half years ago. The money was almost the same, the benefits equivalent, and I made the grievous, literally life-changing error of going with the first offer without asking for a bit more time. Had I done that, I would have approached the team managing the process for the position I really wanted, the one where my heart was. They offered it to me right after I accepted the other offer, and I was too self-destructively ethical to go back to the Blue Meanie, and say "thanks but no thanks." I am now crippled due to a work-related injury, stuck 3000 miles from family and friends, financially destitute, and uninsurable and probably unemployable. The morale? Screw the "sure thing" and go with your heart.

vividDEV
vividDEV

Is it ok to disclose the terms of an offer you received to another company?

gab_jones
gab_jones

@agapantha

 You are 25yrs old your comment/post certainly exhumes your lack of maturity as a professional aswell as in experience.

I can safely assume you are not a specialist in your field nor are you yet confident or experienced enough to realise your specialism. You did not understand the posters view at all.


By the way I also leave in the UK and what was highlighted is not uncommon in the UK.

Daylight-TT
Daylight-TT

I would let them know the parameters I would need them to meet. I consider it unethical to disclose any specifics about another offer.

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