141

In the hot field of software engineering, a competent programmer wanting to switch jobs will be able to apply and interview easily for at least a half dozen jobs. However, coordinating the speed at which the interview and eventually offer process occurs can be a nightmare.

For example, I interview for companies A, B, and C, all of which I have a serious interest in. Companies A & B move quickly and both have offers on the table within 2-3 weeks. However company C was slow getting into the game and just began interviewing me. If I am interested also in company C, how do I appropriately stall companies A & B for more time without upsetting anyone?

What is the professional manner in which this should be handled? You can't just aggressively push company 'C', but at the same time you can't just tell companies A & B "Thanks for the offers. I need 3 weeks to think it over please."

What is the proper and professional way to handle/coordinate/juggle the interviewing and offer process when pursuing a new job?

119

In my experience, stalling is not the tactic to take--there's always another you out there. In both job searching and hiring, I've always valued honesty.

In the case of the A, B, and laggard C companies you outlined, I would immediately tell Company C that you are already far along the interview process with Companies A & B. This is not aggressive pushing, but rather immediate honesty -- and what I have found is that if a Company C is really interested in me (or if I'm Company C and I'm really interested in someone), it's amazing how quickly that process can move along...

On a similar note, if you feel an offer from Company A or B is imminent, it's reasonable to tell them that you need a few days to consider other offers, which you could use to your advantage with Company C. I would never force a potential hire to make a decision immediately if I really valued them as a future happy employee, and would respect the need for time to make a decision (within reason -- 3 weeks would be too long).

Basically, be honest with everyone involved, even if at the end of the day it means making a hard decision (to pull the plug on something potentially good, in lieu of something actually on the table).

  • 12
    +1. If you're honest with the company, if they want you, they'll find a way to catch up to their competition or try to give you time. If they don't, they won't, and then you're better off without them anyway. – hairboat Apr 10 '12 at 23:53
  • 14
    I've seen some companies where the hiring team may really want to hurry the offer, but the beaurocracy of the company doesn't allow it and doesn't consider any one candidate valuable/important enough to expedite the process, no matter how good he is. – Amy Blankenship Feb 17 '13 at 17:20
  • 2
    you mention asking for "a few days" as being ok and "3 week" as too long, care to elaborate here? How much can you ask for? – rogerdpack Jan 29 '14 at 17:52
  • 5
    @rogerdpack There's no hard and fast rule. It's a case of general consideration of the process and everyone's time. Companies will have a ranked list of candidates, ready to switch to the next one if the first one declines or otherwise balks. So, a few days to handle other negotiations, talk with family members, and so on, is generally considered reasonable. – jcmeloni Jan 29 '14 at 18:48
  • 1
    What if I accept either of A or B's offer and decline them after receiving C's offer? – CodeYogi May 12 '17 at 4:06
22

If the prospective employers think that you're worth your salt, they'll reasonably expect that you may have other options on the table. Just like with any relationship, not appearing needy is a great way to gain some leverage and operate on an even playing field.

While I wouldn't suggest stalling them via deception, you could just be open and honest with prospective employers A and B and tell them that you are exploring other options, and you would like to know from them directly how long you have to make your decision. They may tell you that they'd like to know as soon as possible, or they may tell you that you have a week to decide before they extend the offer to the runner up.

If you're not comfortable telling them directly that you're exploring other options, it would still be okay to ask how long you have to make the decision. Staying in communication with your prospective employer will not only set clear expectations on both ends, but you'd also be starting this new relationship on the right path by demonstrating how well you communicate with others. This will likely make them want you to accept even more.

One word of caution, I wouldn't recommend asking for more than a few days to make the decision. Instead, ask them what they are comfortable with. An exception to this rule might be if you need to give your employer 3 weeks notice. If the company you're applying with is worth their salt, they should respect your intention to leave your former employer on good terms.

  • I just realized who's answer I was reading. ;) – Ryan Mortensen May 19 at 18:28
20

In How can I delay job offer acceptance? [duplicate] which was marked as a duplicate, DJClayworth answered:

I don't think I can do better than link to Joel Spolsky's article: "Exploding offer season". While aimed at new graduates, it explains exactly how this works and how you should respond.

Occasionally companies are really looking to find someone to start in a couple of weeks - but it is very, very rare that they would rather have someone now than wait a week and get someone good. They will almost always give you a week or two to make up your mind. Remember that 'considering other offers' makes you look good in their eyes, not bad. However it's important that they don't think you are playing games with them. Give them a deadline by which you will get back to them, and stick to it.

If they say they absolutely must have an answer now, then that's like a car salesman who says the offer is only valid 'right now'. You shouldn't take it. The only reason they would want to stop you considering other offers is if they think the other offers would be better than theirs.

There are also some other good answers there on that question.

6

Normally in this case I would suggest limiting the number of companies you are pursuing.

If you are interested in company C more then A&B I would suggest simply contacting them and telling them that you need "a few more days to make a decision". The problem with 3 weeks is that most companies won't keep the offers open for that long unless they are really desperate.

What you could also do is to call company C and tell them that you have received and offer but you would like to work for the company C and ask them what your chances might be to get an offer from them. Possibility of doing that would of course depend on what stage of the interview process you are in.

Of course you could go a different route: You can tell companies A & B or just one of them that you would like to accept their offer but have a 4 week notice period and then refuse to start with them if the offer from company C comes through. Of course this will probably kill your chances to ever work for company A again but then you might get your dream job at company C and never have to worry about it.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.