After I revamped Gretchen’s resume she interviewed with a software company and things went well. She received a job offer but just as she was about to respond, a company she had talked to three weeks earlier called to hire her.
Is this a good problem to have? Yes and no.
Gretchen liked both companies. She did what many of us do when forced to make a rational decision. She made a list of the pros and cons of each job.
I particularly liked her list of categories for rating each company. With her analytical mind, she gave a rating of one to five for each of these questions.
- How the benefits worked for her
- What the salary was and how it was paid
- Whether the job provided balance between work and the rest of her daily life
- How the company culture looked
- What the company’s reputation was
- Whether the commute was practical
- What the possibilities were for telecommuting
- Whether the specific job was challenging and interesting
- Who her boss and co-workers would be
- How stable and secure the job / the company / the department / the industry was
- Whether the job fit into her long-term career plans
In the end, Gretchen went with the first company to offer her a job. They scored higher mostly because she liked the people there and telecommuting was more common within her department.
Between a Rock and a Job
A more likely scenario, however, is that you will receive one job offer before the other. So what do you do if the job offer you get isn’t from the company you prefer?
Another client, Timothy, had this kind of dilemma.
He interviewed with two companies. The first offered him a job, but it was company number two where he really wanted to work. He wondered if he should turn down the offer, tread water, negotiate the terms, get more information, or what?
Just like Gretchen, Timothy had questions to ask both himself and the companies where he interviewed.
In this position, you need to find out when the preferred company will be making a decision. If you want to stall the first company, you have to ascertain if you can do that without looking peculiar or just plain fussy. A two- or three-day period is maximum for accepting or declining an offer.
One way to stall the process is to request the offer in writing. This tactic is believable if the details of the offer include numerous specifics about benefits, pay scale, relocation, job description, and company policy. It makes sense that someone would want to review it “before accepting,” especially if that someone has a family.
The other way to stall is to negotiate. It’s a common practice, and the company has already told you they want you, so be bold.
Or you can frankly explain your predicament to HR in the second company, that you have been offered another position, but that theirs was the job you really wanted. Taking this approach might get you some of the answers you need to make a decision.
Juggling two companies can be tricky. If you put off one company too long, or don’t act interested enough, or appear too demanding, you risk losing that offer.
In some cases, you may be better off taking the job with whoever steps up to the plate first. That’s the ethical and simple approach. That’s what Timothy did. Last I heard, he’s happy with his new position.
When You Have Multiple Job Offers
Jeremy emailed me to say he was starting his new job the following day, but in two weeks, I heard from him again, telling me that his first choice company came through with a better offer. Oh, oh. Awkward.
When your new employer has invested time and money in the hiring process, and has put resources towards training you and getting you up to speed with the company, you can’t take lightly the decision to leave.
Career mapping 101: never burn bridges.
Jeremy knew he had to make a quick decision. In the end, he knew he’d be better off in a position he really loved. He told me he talked to his new supervisor in private, explaining that he was surprised to be offered what he felt was his dream job, an opportunity he didn’t want to pass up.
If this happens to you, offer your resignation to your new supervisor in person. Don’t put it in an email or text message. Be gracious. Thank him or her for this opportunity. Praise the company and the position. Do whatever you can to minimize damage to your reputation and the people responsible for hiring you. Offer your two weeks’ notice, just as you would if you were a long-time employee.
Realize, however, that in the future you’re probably not going to be able to work for that company. You do run the risk of weakening your credibility by making this switch, especially in a tight industry or small town.
Letting your new boss know right away also holds true if you have accepted the job at company A, but haven’t yet reported to your first day of work. If you are going to revoke an accepted offer of employment, let the company know as soon as possible. Don’t just fail to show up for your first day of work. While the company may be disappointed with your decision, the sooner you let them know you’re taking another job, the better.
When Your Present Company Counter-Offers
I’ve seen a few people apply for jobs while still employed, get hired, and then receive a counter-offer from their present employer. Sometimes a boss who doesn’t want to lose an employee will offer a promotion, a raise, or some other enticement to stay.
Statistics say that 85% of people who accept a counter offer to remain at their jobs will not be working at that same company in six months.
Once an employer knows you’re less than happy with your position, he’s not as happy with you. Understandable! You may be asked to stay on so you can train a replacement, or to finish some incomplete projects. But once that work is finished, you shouldn’t be surprised if you are squeezed out of major projects because you’re seen as disloyal or a flight risk.
From a personal perspective, there was obviously a reason why you were looking for a new job, and a higher salary isn’t usually the only reason. Even if your current employer matches the salary offered by the other company, the counter-offer won’t address other reasons why you were considering a change.
Preemptive Problem Solving
Of course, the best way to handle this problem is to never let it happen. Knowing exactly what kind of position you want can go a long way towards preventing the problem. Before you begin a serious job search, examine your priorities so that you aren’t applying for jobs you really don’t love.
Being caught in what sounds like an enviable predicament calls for diplomacy and quick thinking. In my talks as a job-search speaker, I always encourage people to follow their instincts and determine what they are comfortable with – taking a risk by juggling offers, or accepting the first suitor who comes along. A lot will depend on how long you’re able to wait for the perfect job, and what the job climate is like in your market.
I hope these tips will guide you if you’re caught in the middle of multiple job offers.
Photos: Handbag.com, Wikimedia, aylesburywax.