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Ask The Headhunter: The Dangers of Trying To Juggle Job Offers

Don’t try to decide between two jobs before you have two offers — in writing. Photo courtesy of David Gould via Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: I got a job offer with company A. I am on a second and final interview with company B, which I would love to work for. What is the proper way to address this? Should I tell company B that I have an offer? Should I push off the company A start date, or start with Company A and then, if Company B makes an offer, quit A? I want to be fair.

Nick Corcodilos: Fairness is not the issue here. Two companies are behaving rationally and in a businesslike way toward you. You owe them the same, but what’s fairness got to do with the interview schedules of two companies? If these employers wanted to be fair, they’d coordinate their interviews for your benefit, right? Hardly. This is business.

First of all, I’d like to make sure you have that offer in writing. Too often, people mistake an oral offer as bona fide. Often it’s not. Be careful. “Get it in writing.”

In the PDF book “Fearless Job Hunting Book 9: Be The Master Of Job Offers,” I offer suggestions for dealing with what at first appears to be an ethical quandary. (I also offer tips on how to decline a job offer without burning a bridge.) But a job offer is not a quandary at all. It’s a business decision. Here’s an excerpt:

This is where many job hunters get confused and rattled. Should you take the sure thing and cancel your other interviews? Or, should you decline an offer in favor of the uncertain but more attractive “two in the bush?”

This is also the point where people begin to question their ethics. Would it be okay to take the [Company A] job, then quickly leave if one of the other companies delivers an offer? How can you juggle staggered job offers?

Deal with reality.

You can’t juggle two job offers when you have only one offer. So deal with what’s real. Your challenge is to make one of two available choices at this point: to accept or decline the offer from A. You have no other offer, and you don’t know whether you will get one. If you don’t care about A, then reject it and wait for B. If you want the A offer, then accept it and deal with B when and if they make an offer — and you don’t know whether they will.

Job hunters often get very confused about their options in situations like this. You have just one binary choice at this point: Yes or no to company A.

But accepting the offer from A does not mean you must stop talking with B. Do you think an employer stops talking with other candidates because it made an offer to one person? Of course not. They behave in a businesslike way, and ethics have little if anything to do with it. They hedge their bets because they know new hires sometimes change their minds, and the company must cover itself. Likewise, at some point in the future you will look for a job again and go on interviews again. There is no difference between that and continuing to interview after you accept an offer from company A today.

(More to the point, consider what would happen if you accepted a job offer, and then it was rescinded. See the brief article “There is no sure thing.”)

Don’t let the uncertain future confuse you about what your present choices really are. Let me illustrate: Suppose you reject A so you can wait for B, and then B makes no offer. How will you feel at that point? Is that fair of B? Fairness is not the issue at all. Making available choices is the issue.

Consider this important final note from “Be The Master Of Job Offers”:

A company makes much the same judgment when it downsizes and lays you off, or when it rescinds a job offer to a job candidate. It’s not a common occurrence, but it happens. It isn’t mercenary, it’s pragmatic. In all these situations, there’s a price to be paid, but there’s also a benefit. Be ready to accept both.

Decide what to do about company A’s offer by itself. Then deal with new events as they arise.

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions

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