When interviewing for jobs, it’s hard to know what to do when you have an offer in hand but are hoping a different company will also make you one. You want keep the offer you have on the table, but you also want to see how the hiring process plays out at the other company. The author presents several ways to manage this uncomfortable situation. Try to buy yourself some time, reject any companies you’re not interested in, and see if your preferred company can speed up their recruiting process. No matter your decision, always be respectful of the recruiters you interact with. In the end, you want to find the right fit for you and companies want to find the right fit for them. Being as authentic and professional as possible through proactive communication will be critical to your success in not only feeling good about the job you take, but also the companies you leave behind.
After months of interviewing for new jobs, you finally have an offer in hand. You’re excited, but it’s not your first choice. You’re still interviewing for your dream job and some other ones you don’t know enough about yet. You don’t want to lose the current offer, but at the same time, you want to see how the other companies’ hiring processes play out. What should you do? Here are five ways to manage an offer in hand when you don’t know if or when another will come.
Ask for time to decide
The most important thing to do is express excitement. Without setting a positive tone, you risk having the offer pulled back. By letting a recruiter know you’re excited about the job and company and grateful to have the offer, you’re showing that you’re invested in potentially joining their company.
Then you can ask for up to one week to consider the offer. Gauge the recruiter’s reaction. Some companies won’t want to wait that long because the market is so competitive, and the company will want to know if it needs to move to a backup candidate or start the search all over again. If the recruiter’s reaction is chilly, ask them what a reasonable period of time is to give a response — without providing more detail. You don’t want to tell them you’re still interviewing because it will leave the impression that your excitement about the role isn’t authentic.
Meet more people or take a tour
If you can’t control how much time you have to consider the offer, you can try to extend the timeline by asking to meet with someone you haven’t met with yet or to take a tour of the office (if applicable) before making a decision. Taking a tour, even of an empty office, will help you get a sense of the culture and collaborative spaces. Try to schedule the meeting or tour a week out, which will give you a chance to finish interviewing with other companies.
Reject companies you’re not interested in
During that time period, if you’ve been interviewing at companies you’re not as interested in, call or email the recruiters to inform them you have an offer and plan to accept. While most candidates have been ghosted by a recruiter at some point in their job search, don’t mimic poor behavior. You’ve built a relationship with them, and you may need it in a few years. Treat recruiters with respect as you’d hope to be treated, even if you’ve had previous bad experiences.
Determine if you’re a viable candidate elsewhere
Contact the recruiter or hiring manager from your first-choice company to reiterate your excitement for their job and let them know that they’re your first choice, but that you have an offer from your second-choice company. Mention that you wouldn’t want to lose the offer if you’re not a viable candidate for the first-choice job, ask if you’re truly in the running, and listen carefully to the energy in the response. If they say you aren’t a viable candidate, you can move on. If they say they’re just starting the recruitment process, that means that as great as you may be, they’re willing to lose you as a candidate.
If they say you are a viable candidate, there’s great enthusiasm, and you’re far along in the interview process, you can ask if there’s anything else you can answer for them to make an offer. If it’s early in the interview process, you can ask them to expedite the rest of the process to determine if you’re the best candidate for the job. If they can speed things up, great! If they can’t, you’ll need to decide whether you want to take the risk of rejecting the offer you already have.
Take the job and ask for a delayed start
The average new hire will start a new job between two and four weeks after accepting an offer. If you can sustain it financially, accept and ask for a start date a month out. This will give you time to finish the interview process with any other companies to determine if they’re a better fit. There are pros and cons to doing this:
If you accept, you’ll have a job waiting for you, so you won’t feel as much pressure to land another offer. Asking for four weeks will also give you time to either successfully receive an offer from your first-choice company or to exhaust your other options, which will allow you to become fully invested in the job you accepted.
If you wait a month and you’re currently unemployed, you could be without a paycheck longer, which could lead to financial hardship. Even if that’s not a concern, changing your mind after accepting an offer could reflect poorly on your character, especially if you don’t handle uncomfortable conversations well.
If you want to accept an offer from another company after you’ve already accepted one elsewhere, it’s best to call the recruiter from the company you planned to join as soon as possible and inform them you changed your mind. You may think an email is fine, but a phone call with an apology is better, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. I remember a new hire not showing up to his first day of work and calls and texts going unanswered. Knowing he was driving a long distance for his first day, the recruiter sent police to his home for a welfare check — and the new employee opened the door. He sent a nasty email to the recruiter, saying they had “gone too far sending police to my home.” He had just changed his mind and didn’t find it necessary to tell anyone.
It will take the rejected company another 60+ days to make a new hire, so don’t ghost the company or delay informing them. Even if you handle this conversation perfectly, you may never work at the rejected company again, or at other companies where the recruiter and hiring manager move on to later.
In the end, you want to find the right fit for you and companies want to find the right fit for them. If you believe the company that offered you a job is not the perfect fit based on your career aspirations, culture, or any other reason, it’s best to reject the offer and continue your search if you can quell your anxiety and survive financially. Being as authentic and professional as possible through proactive communication will be critical to your success in not only feeling good about the job you take, but also the companies you leave behind.