Advice for job seekers interviewing at multiple companies and weighing their options

Advice for job seekers interviewing

It seems like a situation any job seeker would relish: They’ve interviewed for one job they’re quite interested in and are scheduled to interview for a similar position that pays more and seems to have more opportunities for upward mobility. The first company has asked for references, indicating an offer could be on the table very soon. If the candidate is offered the first job, how should the candidate respond? And is it appropriate to reach out to the second company to explain and then ask when a hiring decision will be made?

“This is a dream situation to be in!”

That’s the assessment from Damian Birkel, founder and executive director of Professionals In Transition® Support Group Inc., who says two of the goals for anyone juggling job offers is to slow down the first offer and accelerate the second.

So how do you do that without offending either company and avoid the prospect of ending up jobless? Along with Birkel, Charlette Beasley, HR and payroll specialist, at FitSmallBusiness, offers some advice.

1. Slow down the first offer. There are a few ways to do this, Birkel and Beasley say.

“The candidate should ask the first company that extends an offer for at least a few days to decide,” says Beasley.

Birkel recommends using salary negotiations to slow things down. “After review [of an offer], request a higher salary versus the current offer — usually no more than 10% above the offer — and be prepared to justify why. This will usually add two days,” he says. “Then request another 24 hours and a copy of their company benefits. This actually may take three days, by the time HR gets approval, then you review and return.” Doing those things, Birkel adds, helps job candidates see “the total package.”

“Finally,” he adds, “ask for the formal offer in writing.”

2. Contact the second company.

Beasley says it is perfectly acceptable to let the company with the job you prefer know you have an offer you’re in the process of evaluating “so they know to move swiftly…Discussing the time frame for hiring is appropriate and professional. It allows the candidate to decide if they want to potentially forfeit other positions for this one.”

Beasley, in fact, has been in that position. “I’ve had this experience in the past, and once I provided this information, the companies that wanted to hire quickly extended me an offer within 24 hours,” she says.

Birkel offers similar advice.

“Begin by saying, ‘I really enjoyed interviewing at (name of company No. 2). I wanted to let you know that I have an offer and wanted to let you know that I like your company better before I accept their offer,” Birkel suggests. “Then say, ‘Can you help me by giving me an update as to where we are in the process?’ If they are serious about hiring you, they will generally speed up their process to avoid losing you. And now, you have effectively slowed one offer down and cranked the other up.”

Amanda Augustine, writing at TopResume, suggests much the same approach.

“If you’ve already completed a few interview rounds with your preferred employer — let’s call them Company B — and believe they’ll offer you the position, there’s nothing wrong with letting them know about your other offer,” Augustine says.

“Reach out to your main point of contact at the company — usually the hiring manager or the internal recruiter responsible for filling the position — and explain that you have another offer on the table, but if the folks at Company B and you can come to an agreement, you’d really prefer to join their team. If Company B is interested in hiring you, this should motivate them to get you a firm job offer — in writing — soon. If Company B is hemming and hawing and can’t give you a definite answer before Company A’s deadline expires, take it as a sign that the company may not be as into you as you initially thought.”

Birkel also offers these words of caution:

“Always keep in mind that eight out of 10 solid/pending offers fall through, without your ability to plan or predict,” Birkel says. “So, continue to build job search momentum — don’t pause your job search — so that you create a cushion if either doesn’t pan out. That way, if everything falls through, you won’t have to start all over again.”