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I am a software developer, and I'm actively applying for positions. The average turnaround time for application through offer in my area and industry is about 6 to 8 weeks, which is a pretty long time.

I've never really given myself the luxury of evaluating several offers at once before, I would apply to one company and focus exclusively on them. I didn't have trouble with interviews but I've had some short tenures at places for one reason or another, reasons which I could probably have avoided if I'd looked around for, and better understood, my alternative options.

So this time I'm engaging with several companies. The problem is, due to happenstance, one of them is significantly farther along in the interviewing process than others. I am worried that they will corner me with an offer on a time limit, and not give me the chance to even complete the interview process with another company (which I understand is 100% in their best interests to try to do). On the other hand, I'm worried that they will withdraw from negotiations completely if I pump the brakes a little bit, so to speak.

What options do I have? I have considered the following:

  • scheduling interviews with wider gaps between them (but as we progress through them, there are fewer and fewer interviews left)
  • stepping on the gas with other companies (but there's only so much time that they can squeeze out of a 6-8 week process)
  • directly requesting a delay from the farthest-along company
  • asking their recruiter about how many other applicants are being considered for the position

This is the first time I've really been in this situation and I'm not sure how to proceed. Please advise.

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You may be working the wrong problem

but I've had some short tenures at places for one reason or another,

Which means that you should probably get better at interviewing companies

for reasons which I could probably have avoided

Yes

if I'd looked around for, and better understood, my alternative options.

I don't think that's the right answer. You need more quality, not quantity.

Interviewing is a two-way street: the company needs to decide if you are the right person for the job, but you need to decide whether this opportunity is the right company and job for you. A good hiring manager will actually look out for this aspect too, but they don't know you that well (yet) and the ultimate responsibly is yours.

Sorry to say that, but you had a multiple "employment failures" which means that you made some bad employment decisions.

Maybe you should look back at your short tenures and analyze:

  1. What went wrong? What made it not sustainable?
  2. How can avoid the same problem from occurring again? What questions can you ask, what are the key issues to look for in a job description and a company profile? What research did you do and why didn't surface the problem?

When a company opens a job they create "candidate requirements" that describes the person, skills and behaviors that they want. You should do the same thing: create an "employer requirement" list that highlights all the things that are important to you and that you need to be happy and successful in your job. Once you know what you actually want, you can start your search and only then it's useful to strategize around timing.

  1. Try to rate the opportunities up front and apply in the order that best matches your list
  2. If a lower ranked opportunity moves faster than a promising better one, ask them to slow down. It's perfectly ok to say "sorry, I'm currently looking at a few other opportunities and won't be able to make a decision until XYZ". They might pass on you, but that's life.
  3. It's also perfectly ok to ask a good opportunity to speed up. "I really like the opportunity but I have an offer on the table that I need to decide on by XYZ". The company may still say no to that, but it's certainly worth a try.
  4. If you have something that checks all your boxes and feels good: don't be afraid to pull the trigger, even if there is some other jobs still outstanding. There is no such thing as the "perfect" job, and a great job is way better than potentially "perfect" job that may never materialize
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Have you tried just being transparent? I generally just tell recruiters anywhere I'm serious about what my status is at all other places. It causes those behind to speed up a bit, and those ahead will generally be willing to slow down because you have options and they don't want to piss you off. (Within reason of course- if you're doing a final loop with company A and have just had a first touch by company B, that's a little more waiting than you can expect). It just makes the whole process smoother, and the recruiters generally appreciate it- they do this all the time and it makes their job clearer.

For example, I was recently talking to 3 companies about working there. I informed all 3 the others existed, and the recruiters helped me stay within a day or two of each other all the way through final loops. They split apart a bit at the very end (one mutual pass that ended early and slightly different final decision times for the other two), but I ended up with two offers within a few days of each other and was able to make a decision with all the facts in.

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I'm going to give you an answer that a lot of people, especially hiring managers, are not going to like to hear.

you don't have to let the right hand know what the left hand is doing

Let's say you get a verbal job offer tomorrow, but you have an interview with another company next week. Both of these are a Schrodinger's Box.

  • the verbal job offer may come with catches or insuffienct benefits, or you may have things you have to bring up after the offer stage that could be deal breakers (planned travel is a common one). Now you have to negotiate over that, so add ~3 days to go from verbal to written offer. After that, background checks and references! You get to sit on this bucket for 10 days while a third party does paper work.

  • during this time, you interview with the second company. You don't have to say anything to the first company. It's none of their business. The second company could very well be a bust, but now you know. You start your new job, and you're happy there. The end.

  • OR somewhere between the verbal job offer and you getting your employee badge, something happens: the background check fails, your hiring manager gets fired, a pandemic appears and the company reduces the entire department and/or goes out of business, or you take one look at their verbal offer and realize you couldn't pay your rent on that salary. The end result: you're sending out resumes again. It happens.

Now let's say you have a few leads in your pipeline, but you've accepted an offer and started a new job.

  • Sometimes, in a matter of days, you can tell the job is not for you. You'll burn less bridges if you can exit quickly. It happens! And it's easier to leave if you have active options at other companies.

  • These other companies don't need to know you worked for Bob's Toxic Corp for all of three days last week. It's not really any of their business. If the next company you interview for is a great match and you get a great job, you'll feel like you dodged a bullet.

Recruiters and hiring managers will want to know who else you're interviewing with, and how far a long you are in the process. If you are considering an offer or you're far along in an interview process, let the recruiters know during their interviewing/follow-up process so they can negotiate in good faith. Otherwise, keep your cards close to your chest.

The absolute most important thing to know is that you don't have a new job until you have a signed contract, passed the background check, have a start date, then you sat down at your new desk, and there was a laptop loaded with your name and access to your email address, and then you worked a few days and felt appreciated and happy. ONLY THEN do you have a new job. There's about a billion things that can happen between a verbal job offer, and that moment, that will send you back to the starting line. Better that you keep building leads than to lose two weeks to something beyond your control.

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