I’m a finalist for two jobs, with the interviews scheduled roughly one week apart. If I get an offer from Job A before I have a chance to interview for Job B, how long can I delay giving Job A my answer? Should I let Job A know I have another possible offer pending? Or should I accept Job A and withdraw from the position if I get a better offer from Job B?
Anonymous / Boston
You could let Job B know now that you are a finalist elsewhere, and ask about the hiring time frame. It’s the polite thing to do, it will let you know how much leeway you have, and it will make you look like a hot ticket to be snapped up pronto. Job B might be able to move your interview up, for that matter.
If you do get an offer from Job A — and I cannot stress highly enough that this means a written offer, not a verbal one — ask the company to give you X amount of time to make your decision. You could also ask for additional interviews or information to help you make your decision. (Think site visits, face time with clients or internal stakeholders you’d be working with, sitting in on a staff meeting.) This shouldn’t be a pointless exercise in putting off Job A; one of the biggest mistakes people make when they change jobs is failing to do enough research on the organization they’re joining. What further intel or conversations would help you make the most informed choice between jobs, and best set you up for success if you ultimately wind up in Job A?
Advice beyond that depends on industry norms and your personal job priorities. For example, what would constitute that “better offer” from Job B? More money? Working from home? Development opportunities? Opportunity to travel or freedom from having to? Could you negotiate with Job A to get those things? What’s your gut instinct on which job you want most? Do you have a trusted friend who knows your professional milieu and can help you think through your options, and specifically whether or not it’s the most strategic move to tell Job A about the other offer?
Ultimately, of course, you need to do what is best for you — for future you, as well as present you. Think about the lasting impression you’ll leave with recruiters and hiring managers, people who themselves will eventually get new jobs and who may very well cycle back into your life in some other role. Don’t lie, don’t ghost, don’t waste people’s time, say “thank you” for everything. “Finalist” is nice and all, but you may wind up with no offers, not two. Conduct yourself such that you’ll be top of the list of people to call when the next dream job opens up.
Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.