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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

April 22, 2019

I’m interviewing for 2 different jobs and received an offer for my 2nd choice. The process for my 1st choice is behind. Should I take the offer or go for my 1st choice instead?

Julie Q. Brush

Interviewing for multiple jobs with multiple employers has the structure and feel of a horse race. No two noses are exactly in the same place at the exactly the same time. And no matter how hard a candidate may try, “timing issues” often arise after the first suitor crosses the finish line. Sometimes the predicament is benign, but other times bad timing can greatly influence the direction of a career.

In your situation, you’ve received an offer for your second choice role while your preferred opportunity is a few lengths back. So what’s the best way to handle this situation? Make a play for your first choice? Or…just take the offer?

In order to determine the best decision to make for your situation, you will need more information…from both employers. Below is the approach and analysis to arrive at your answer.

Notify 1st Choice Employer.

You’ve just received an offer so it’s wholly appropriate to notify your other suitors with an update on your status – and inquiry as to their status of your candidacy. Assuming that you have been transparent about your other job pursuits (highly recommended!), this communication should be pretty painless. This notification is important because it provides the other employer with the opportunity to expedite their processes if their interest in bringing you on board is high. It’s also appropriate and recommended that you express your level of interest in their opportunity. It signals that if they do move on a dime, their efforts will be rewarded. So what to say? Below are two sample messages:

  • “Hi Margo, I wanted to reach out to provide an update on my job search status. I just received an offer from Company/Firm XYZ and they have given me until next Thursday to provide a response. With this said, after meeting with you and your team my interest level is high in your Product Counsel/Of Counsel role. I think there could be a great fit so let me know where you are in your process and level of interest in my candidacy.”
  • “Alan, I hope all is well. I wanted to follow up on the status of your interview process for your General Counsel role. I’ve had a recent development in my search and have received an offer from another company. The CEO has asked for a decision by February 27th. My level of interest in your opportunity is high and at this stage of my search, it’s my preference above all others. So I wanted to know if the same level of interest is mutual and whether the company would be able to make a hiring decision before the 27th. I’d appreciate your perspective. “

Decode The Response.

The response you receive to your message will convey the 1stChoice Employer’s interest level in your candidacy and whether they’ll push to complete the process by your deadline. As you analyze your responses, it’s important to note that hiring managers and HR professionals can sometimes speak in code – mainly to avoid an unpleasant exchange. So deciphering that code is required for accurate bearings. Here are some common codes and their real meanings.

  • Response/Code: We are interviewing several candidates and won’t know until we meet everyone.

Meaning: How do we feel about your candidacy? Eh. Your shot at getting this job is modest at best. And we are not going to expedite the interview process to accommodate you.

  • Response/Code: Feedback is positive so far but we’re relatively early in our process.

Meaning: There’s not enough buy-in for your candidacyto speed up the process so we are not – and if we lose you…we lose you.

  • Response/Code: I wouldn’t recommend that you wait for our process to be complete because it may be while.

Meaning: You’re not going to get this job.

  • Response/Code: Thanks for this update, let me see if I can get you in to see Executive #1, Executive #2 and Executive #3 by the end of the week. What are the terms of your offer?

MeaningWe think you may be The One and want to be competitive on compensation so we don’t lose you. Don’t do anything until you meet a few more people asap.

  • Response/Code:Let me see what I can do to move the process forward. People are on vacation so scheduling has been tough. Is the 27tha hard deadline?

Meaning: You are a strong contender for this job and just might get it. But we may not be able to deliver on a decision before you have to give the other employer a response. If you have to accept the other offer as a result, that will likely be ok if you can’t postpone your decision.

Assess 2nd Choice Employer Opportunity Independently.

How interested are you in this “second choice” opportunity, really? I recommend that you work through the virtues and negatives about that opportunity as a stand-alone first. What interests you in the role? Do you like the people? Would you work well with your new boss? How are the hours? Commute? Is compensation competitive? Does this opportunity move the needle for your career? Are you considering this opportunity because you truly like what it offers or it’s just a chance to get the hell of Dodge? And finally, compared to your first choice, is it chopped liver or a close call? Just because you have received an offer doesn’t mean you have to take it – even if your first choice opportunity doesn’t work out. The beauty of the interview process is to allow you to gather information about a position that will enable you to determine whether it’s the right position…or not. So assess your second choice as if it were your only choice and see how you feel.

Ask For More Time.

The time granted to make a decision on a job offer varies. Some employers give you the weekend to think about it, other employers provide a loooong runway. If you want or need more time either to play out another process or just think more carefully about accepting this offer…ask for it. The worst that can happen is that you won’t get the extra time. So by all means, ask! But be reasonable as to how much more time you are requesting. An extra week is standard, but you can ask for more in certain situations. So take inventory of what fits best in your situation.

Roll The Dice…Or Not.

After going through the process above, you’ll have the information you need to determine whether you want to roll the dice and go for your first choice – or not. Whichever direction you choose, be transparent and keep the line of communication open with both employers. Here are a few different messages:

“Margo, thank you for your feedback regarding my candidacy and the timeline of your process. After careful thought, I think it’s best that I withdraw my candidacy at this time – as I don’t think the timing will work out for this opportunity. It was great to meet you and the team and I look forward to our paths crossing again. “

“Hi Tony (2ndChoice Employer), I’m very excited about your offer to join the Company/Firm XYZ team. As part of my job search, I’ve been in discussions with another employer for a role that is interesting.  I’d like to provide the hiring manager with the professional courtesy to complete their process – as I believe it’s the right thing to do. Their process will conclude in roughly a week and at that time I will make a decision. Are you open to this slight shift in timing?”

“Alex (1stChoice Employer), I appreciate your perspective on this opportunity an the level of interest in my candidacy. I am very interested in the role at Company/Firm XYZ and it’s currently my preference to join your team. I’ve notified the other employer about my interest in your opportunity – and would like to complete the interview process with Company/Firm XYZ to determine whether a good fit exists.”

In the world of the job hunt, rarely do opportunities converge to cross the finish line arm in arm. So timing can be problematic and present challenges for a candidate. Your problem is a good one to have, but I know that it doesn’t make your analysis…or decision any easier. But a thoughtful and transparent approach will yield the information you need to make the best decision possible.

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