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Push Me, Pull You: Handling Multiple Offers and Interviews

Timing is everything in the job search. This statement is true when it comes to applying before a job deadline, applying early and often, getting your references to reply quickly, and most of all when dealing with job interviews and offers.

If you are lucky enough to have had multiple job interviews, you will likely run into the problem that, for whatever reason, it seems that people almost always get the offer they want least, first. Your favorite employer somehow always is pickier and takes longer to make you an offer, and meanwhile you have been granted an offer that might be OK but not as exciting as the one you haven’t heard back from. (Note: if you get your favorite offer first, there is no real need to go through the exercise below; just go ahead and accept the offer, and go notify the other folks who’ve interviewed you of your decision but without giving them a chance to counter-offer).

So, what to do? There is a strategy I usually recommend, but should caution you that it doesn’t always work in real life because again, timing is everything. Here’s what I suggest:

1. To the employer that has made you an offer, say: “Thank you so very much. I’m very excited about this opportunity, and it’s a big decision for me. Could I take a few days to think about it?” Other stalling tactics: ask for more details on the benefits; ask to speak to the person previously in the role; ask for any other details that might make the employer have to take more time to get back to you before you can make a decision. Most importantly– do NOT tell this employer you are waiting to hear about a better offer! This just makes you sound like you’re not interested in the job. You have to try to reassure the employer that you are sincerely interested or you will risk losing the offer.

2. To the employer that you’ve interviewed with but has not yet made you an offer, give a phone call to say: “I really enjoyed meeting with you last week. I wanted to check in and find out if you have any updates on my status. Is there any further information I can send you that would help you make a decision?” and if you actually have another offer you are seriously considering, add: “Not to rush you, but I also want to update you on my status and let you know that I received a competing offer and have until Tuesday afternoon to make a decision. However you are my favorite employer and I would love to have a chance to work for you. Is there anything I could do to help speed you decision making?” You should only say this if you are seriously considering another offer; if you don’t have another solid offer, don’t bother mentioning that you do have one. It’s easy to see through when you’re bluffing. And be sure to reassure this employer that you’re sincerely interested, so that you don’t risk being too pushy and alienating this employer.

Ideally–and I mean, really ideally– you are able to slow one decision down while speeding the other one up, and are actually able to choose between two different offers. It’s a wonderful and rare situation to be in.

In reality, you are often faced with tough choices. The job you are stalling can’t wait forever for your decision. The other employer might not be able to speed up their process. At some point, you might either have to accept a job you’re not super-excited about, or turn an offer down and risk not getting another one. You have to evaluate the offer thoroughly to make the best decision you can under the circumstances, and then run with it. What you should not do, is to accept a job and then continue interviewing and/or accept another offer and renege on one you already accepted, because you are sure to burn bridges with employers and destroy your reputation by doing so.

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