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Specifically, I am wondering if it is common to bluff about a job offer in order to encourage a company I am interviewing with to make an offer sooner. What are some unforeseen consequences of doing this?

I have been interviewing with a company for over two months. They have openly told me that they are very interested in me and will most likely make an offer. They have also said that I am the first person to be hired at this office to fill a particular role, and that is why the hiring process is a little disorganized. Additionally, they have asked for me to notify them if I have any other offer deadlines to meet so that they can adjust their offer timing accordingly.

I am extremely interested in the position, and would like to avoid lying to a company I may work for. For personal reasons I need to leave my current position as soon as possible, but I do not feel comfortable putting in a letter of resignation until I have an offer for a new position. I do not have any offers from other companies; is bluffing about another offer a common strategy to speed up this process? Am I at risk of deterring the company from making an offer?

Edit: I am applying for a position in the US, but the main headquarters are in the UK. Also, I think I may have given the impression that I have just been waiting around with no information. I have had steady interviews and the company has been very punctual with feedback on the process. The problem is that the interviews seem to have no end in sight.

closed as primarily opinion-based by IDrinkandIKnowThings, scaaahu, gnat, user8365, user9158 May 6 '15 at 23:33

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    (+1) Are you in the US? The answers suggest that two months is a long time but that has not been my experience in Germany for example so I think a bit of context would help. – Relaxed May 6 '15 at 7:38
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Two months is a very long time for anything other than a C level position - and for those you'd know exactly what was going on.

If it were me, I'd just be upfront and tell them something along the lines of:

I just wanted to let you know that I'm starting to look at other positions.

Then follow through on that. If they eventually give you an offer then consider the fact that it took this long for it to happen before you accept. After all, if it takes 2+ months to make a hiring decision, how long is it going to take for them to process a pay raise or approve vacation times...

edit
To answer the direct question - bluffing is not okay. Ignoring the moral aspect of lying, it has a high probability of blowing up in your face. For example, if you give them a deadline of two days from now and they don't call then what? It's better to just let them know you're not going to wait forever and move on.

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    This is good advice, but could you edit to explicitly answer the actual question of "Is bluffing okay?" – David K May 6 '15 at 12:29
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    @DavidK IMO the answer is, basically, "no". The OP calls it "bluffing". I call it "lying". And here the question asks whether that's "a good idea" or "acceptable"... I would suggest that the OP think a little further, to find something truthful to tell them: perhaps along the lines of NotMe's answer. – ChrisW May 6 '15 at 12:56
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    @ChrisW I figured that was what NotMe meant, but it's good form to answer the asked question before going on to give other options. – David K May 6 '15 at 13:09
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    tbh if they haven't made you an offer in 2 months they aren't really interested in you they are just stringing you along hoping to get someone better. – JamesRyan May 6 '15 at 13:26
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    I think it's implied that "Is X okay?" being answered with "You should do Y" means that X is not okay. I'm glad to see the edit, just to make it explicit, but I think it's a fine answer without it. – corsiKa May 6 '15 at 17:31
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Similar to "NotMe"'s answer: Yes you should bring it up. However, you don't want to come across as rude or pushy either, so wordsmithing this properly is important. I guess you want to include

  1. You are excited about the opportunity and you want to make this work
  2. For a variety of reasons your current gig is not sustainable. Since progress with the new company is slow, you really you to keep looking at other opportunities
  3. If you a new thing comes up, you will be happy to let them know but you will evaluate all options on their individual merits
  4. Ask for specifics about the hold up and offer to help, if there is anything you can do to move this along.
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    This is good advice, but could you edit to explicitly answer the actual question of "Is bluffing okay?" – David K May 6 '15 at 12:29
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I think there is great advice in the other answers. To put it bluntly:

is bluffing about another offer an acceptable way to speed up this process or am I at risk of deterring the company from making an offer?

No. Are you ready to answer questions about other potential employers? Do you have the lie (calling it what it is) prepared to withstand any questions they may fire at you?

Don't bluff. In the meantime, keep looking around. You may find your dream job in the process.

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    I disagree with the X weeks part of your answer. Telling a potential employer that you need to know by x amount of time can be seen as pushy and arrogant. I would suggest mentioning something along the lines of "I'm really excited for the position and if there's anything I can do to help progress the hiring process please let me know. I'd love to work for x company. Your offer is the one that stands out to me and I'd love to make this work. I will be reviewing other offers while I wait for a response. Regards, X" – zfrisch May 6 '15 at 17:13
  • Mmm. good point. – Brian May 6 '15 at 17:16
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    Are you ready to answer questions about other potential employers? Why would you ever do that in any context that is not specifically driven by you (e.g., "X has offered me $N, can you match that?")? It's not appropriate for a potential employer to expect to discuss details of your other opportunities, whether or not they exist. – Matthew Read May 6 '15 at 18:31
  • No, it isn't. But that doesn't mean they wont – Brian May 6 '15 at 19:15
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    @Brian A company can ask about other offers. As Mathew Read said, there's no reason to answer unless it's to your advantage. It's perfectly fine to say something like "I'm sorry, I'm not willing to discuss that". – DaveG Aug 13 '18 at 18:11
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I don't think you need to bluff about another job. What you need to do is let them know you're concerned about this lengthy hiring process. "This is a new position for us" is kind of a weak excuse.

They need to assume you could be getting other offers without the luxury of waiting for you to tell them. It puts you in a awkward position. Even if you truly get another offer, are you going to be able to prove it to them? Are they going to interrogate you to see if you're lying? Who wants to work for people like this?

Let them know you understand their situation, but you must continue your search. If they ask you if you've had other offers, tell them you don't want to answer and make it look like you're trying to pressure them. They need to get their act together. Unless they feel they need the time to gather more information, they're just procrastinating. That's a sign of poor leadership.

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    +1 especially for the "weak excuse" and "poor leadership" parts. If you really are just hanging around waiting on them, you're being too nice anyways. No one should expect that of you. – thanby May 6 '15 at 14:47
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You are asking a moralistic question - Is bluffing wrong? This seems out of the context of this SE network ;) Just kidding. So the answer is: Do whatever your morals say.

My personal opinion is this: Yes, bluff. Say you got another offer, say you are even looking at more offers. Tell them you are under confidentiality since its their competition if they probe about details. Tell them to hurry up with the departmental/HR logistics if they want you get you on the team, because you don't have the time to be waiting around for them to get their process straight. Bring up the point in the other answer too, something like "Are 2 month timeframes like these going to happen frequently in regards to other HR processes, such as raises?"

You can even explain to them that it's not your impatience causing this, it's your desire to get the ball moving again and get yourself into a job you are excited about. They will like your "go get em" attitude yet feel the pressure that they may lose you as an asset if they don't hurry it up.

  • -1 Are 2 month timeframes [...] such as raises that's something you think but not something you want to say. You are needlessly putting them on the defensive, not to mention calling them incompetent. – rath May 7 '15 at 4:16
  • @rath needless unless they are indeed incompetent. Don't forget that there are still plenty of businesses out there ran like a broken playskool train set. All of the stuff I said are things you think and not necessarily say. Situational dependencies. – dhaupin May 7 '15 at 12:29
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No. Bluffing is lying. And lying tends to backfire in one way or another.

Would you like to get your job untransparently? Or would you like your prospective employer to lie to you?

Since you say you are doing good and the company takes ages to extend you a formal offer, there is one more thing to consider. As @NotMe writes, two months is a very long time for a 'usual' position. If you feel that there is nothing in particular that should make the hiring process take so long, I would advise you switch your own bullsbluff-detector on: maybe it's the company doing the bluffing in this case.


Side notes:

This answer tries to address the question literally (to bluff or not to bluff), not with advice on what to actually do - since the other answers do very good job in that respect.

Unfortunatelly, I only have my own experience to base this answer on.

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To directly answer, I also say that you should not bluff. Doing so could put you in an awkward position of inventing answers to questions like "Who offered you a job?", "How much did they offer?", etc. They might have contacts within what ever organization you claim made you an offer, and use those contacts to find out that you're lying and that would pretty much guarantee that you wouldn't get an offer. Also, if they find out you lied after they hire you, that could create resentment and maybe even legal issues - they might claim that this is the same as a lie in an interview or on an application and use it as a reason for termination.

Only tell this organization that you have another offer when you actually have one. Then give them a very short deadline (one day, maybe two at the most) to make you an offer - after all, the organization which made you the offer will want an answer.

Many years back I was in a similar situation. I interviewed for a job in late February and was told they'd be making a decision in early March. When I called to follow up, they said I was the selected candidate and an offer would be coming soon. It seemed like a dream job, so I discontinued my job search. Then I waited ... for about a month. Eventually I started calling once per week and continued to be told an offer would be made. However, it was three months (after the interview) before I actually received the offer. When I did get it, I was disappointed in the salary, but was told it was non-negotiable. Since it and the benefits were better than what I already had and I thought the job looked great, I accepted the offer.

While employed there, I found out that part of the reason for the delay was bloated bureaucracy. Another part of the delay was that a senior (4 levels above me) manager - who had not participated in the interviews - was trying to micromanage the situation and wanted someone with more experience, but who would work for less money. This was in spite of the fact that the job was a low level one and the salary was average (at best) for such a position. The project was exciting and interesting and many of my co-workers were great to work with. However, I only stayed about one year because the bureaucracy and bad (eventually I found out dishonest as well) management made the situation unbearable.

So, my advice is to continue your job search, or resume it if you stopped looking. In future job searches keep contacting potential employers until you get an offer from a good employer.

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    Doing so could put you in an awkward position of inventing answers to questions like "Who offered you a job?", "How much did they offer?", etc. You don't need to answer those questions, and it's not appropriate for them to ask. – Matthew Read May 6 '15 at 18:33
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    @MatthewRead: Whether it's appropriate or not seems to be a matter of opinion. Even if it is inappropriate, it does happen, putting the person asked into an awkward position. The flip side of this is that I've known people who've turned multiple job offers into bidding wars and greatly increased their starting salary. There would be no way for that to happen if they didn't share what they were offered by the other organization. – GreenMatt May 6 '15 at 18:45

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