You’ve interviewed with a company and things went well. The next step is the job offer. In most cases, it’s a simple process — they offer you the job; you accept. But sometimes there are circumstances surrounding the job offer that complicate the process.
Here are strategies for how to handle the situation when a challenge arises.
I’ve been interviewing for several jobs simultaneously. What if two companies offer me a job?
This is a great situation to be in! It feels wonderful to be wanted, doesn’t it? Sometimes, it’s an easy decision to make. But it can be a difficult decision if you like both companies. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to each job, and that can help you make your decision.
A “pros and cons” list can be a good way to objectively evaluate which position is the best fit. Possible categories to assess can include: salary, benefits, work/life balance, company culture and reputation, commuting time/telecommuting, if you will find the work challenging and interesting, who you will be working with (and for!), industry stability, and whether the job fits into your long-term career plans.
A more likely scenario, however, is that you will receive one job offer before the other. So what do you do if the job offer you get isn’t from the company you want?
I’ve interviewed with two companies. I’ve been offered a job with Company A, but I want to see if I get an offer from Company B (which is the company I really want to work for). How do I handle this?
Do you have an idea of when Company B will be making a hiring decision? That can influence how you handle your response. If you’ve interviewed with both companies, and you expect a response from Company B in the next 48-72 hours, you may be able to “stall” Company A by requesting the offer in writing so you can review it “before accepting.”
You can also take this opportunity to negotiate the offer, which may buy you some additional time. In the meantime, if Company B hasn’t told you when the hiring decision will be made, you can contact the hiring manager and ask about a time frame. You may even mention that you have been offered another position, but theirs is the job you really want, and you wanted to follow up to see what the time frame is for making a decision before you let the other company know if you were going to accept their offer.
However, there’s that old saying, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” You may not receive a second job offer. And if you put off Company A for too long — or don’t act “interested enough” — you may even lose that job offer.
In some cases, you may be better off taking the job with Company A and then seeing what happens with Company B — which leads us to the next scenario.
What do I do if I accepted a job with Company A, but Company B offered me a job after I started my new position?
If you’ve already started working at Company A, this puts you in an uncomfortable position. Your current employer has invested time and money in the hiring process, and has put resources towards training you and getting you up to speed with the company. So don’t make the decision to leave lightly. Again, assess the pros and cons of both positions.
But if you are going to make a change, make it quickly. You will be burning bridges, but you don’t need to make it any more difficult than it needs to be. Offer your resignation to your new supervisor in person. Don’t put it in an email or text message. Be gracious. Thank them for this opportunity. You may even want to explain that you were surprised to be offered your “dream” position, and it’s an opportunity that you just couldn’t pass up. Offer your two weeks’ notice, as you would if you were a long-time employee.
Letting your new boss know right away also holds true if you have accepted the job at Company A, but haven’t yet reported to your first day of work. If you are going to revoke an accepted offer of employment, let the company know as soon as possible. Don’t wait to let them know — and don’t just fail to show up for your first day of work. While the company may be disappointed with your decision, the sooner you let them know you’re taking another job, the better.
And what do you do if you let your current boss know you’re accepting a new position, and they tell you they don’t want to lose you?
I was offered a job, but when I turned in my resignation at my current company, my boss made me a counter-offer to stay. What should I do?
This is a tricky one, because Careerbuilder.com says that there is an 85% chance that an employee who accepts a counter-offer will not be working at the company in six months. Many times, it’s because the employee was fired, not because they received another job offer.
If you are in the midst of working on a key project when you get another job offer, your boss may offer you more money to stay so that the project can be completed. However, when the project ends, you may not be assigned to another key project because you’re seen as “disloyal” or a “flight risk,” or you may be asked to train other employees on your major responsibilities and tasks in case you do get offered another job — because the company doesn’t want to be caught in that same position again.
From a personal perspective, there was obviously a reason why you were looking for a new job, and a higher salary isn’t usually the only reason. Even if your current employer matches the salary offered by the other company, the counter-offer won’t address other reasons why you were considering a change.
Sometimes, you may feel like the “grass is greener” in another company’s field, so you apply for a position that you wouldn’t even necessarily accept, just to see what else is out there.
What if I interview for a position, but I don’t really want the job?
While most of the time you will not be interviewing for a job you don’t want, sometimes it can be worthwhile to apply, even if you don’t think you’d be interested in taking the job. You never know — you might find that you really would want to work for the company!
You can also use the opportunity to practice your interviewing skills. When honing almost any skill, practice makes perfect — and getting the chance to interview gives you valuable practice for when the opportunity arises to interview for a job you do want!
However, interviewing for another position does have risks.
My current employer has an informal company policy that if they find out you are looking for a new job, they’ll fire you. How do I look for a new job without jeopardizing my current one?
If your current employer finds out you are looking for a new position, they may begin planning for what they would do if/when you took a new job … which might end up forcing you out of your current role. Your co-workers may no longer regard you as a team player. Your supervisor might be hesitant to give you a major project or additional responsibility, for fear of being left in the lurch if you decide to take another job.
Try to keep your job search confidential — at least, as much as you possibly can. This means not posting your résumé publicly to job boards, only applying for positions that you would accept if the job was offered to you, and letting any recruiters you are working with know that you’re looking to keep your job search quiet. You should also never use your work email and/or work computer for your job search, and this is especially important in a confidential job search. Keeping your job search confidential also means being strategic with your LinkedIn profile. Turn off your activity notifications on LinkedIn so your contacts won’t get emails when you update your profile. And don’t list that you are looking for a new position in your LinkedIn profile. Instead, make sure it meets LinkedIn’s guidelines for “profile completeness” and you will be more findable.
Speaking of confidential, it’s not always possible to keep things from your past hidden in a job search.
I interviewed with a company yesterday and they mentioned that a background check is a standard part of their hiring process. I’m worried what a background check will reveal. What should I do?
Don’t wait until you’ve been offered the job to address significant negative issues, such as a DUI or a bankruptcy. You don’t want any issues to “surprise” the employer. If you know a background check is part of the hiring process, you will want to disclose information during the interview process (or on the application, if it asks you about current or previous legal or financial problems); otherwise, you risk having the job offer rescinded when the background check reveals an issue.
The most common reasons for not passing a background check are errors of omission, misstatements of facts, and financial and legal problems. Also, your job application is a legal document, so all information on it must be accurate. If a background check identifies a discrepancy you cannot explain, you may lose the job offer.
Another important consideration is that if the job offer is contingent on a successful background check, do not give notice to your current employer until you’ve passed the background check. Otherwise, you might find yourself without a job entirely, if there is a problem with the background check at the new company, and you’ve already given your notice at your current job. Let your new employer know that you will be giving your current company your notice once their offer has been finalized — meaning, when you’ve cleared the background check.
According to a survey conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 69 percent of employers conduct a criminal background check as part of the hiring process. You will be asked to provide permission to conduct the background check, and you likely will have to sign a release form. If a conviction is revealed through a background check, the employer must consider the nature of the crime, its relevance to the proposed job, and the time that has passed since the offense. If you’re seeking a sales job, a recent arrest for theft is relevant. If you’re applying for a position as an auto mechanic, an arrest for soliciting prostitution — especially if the arrest was several years ago — probably isn’t relevant.
I’ve been led to believe that I’m getting a job offer — the hiring manager talked about salary and benefits, and even showed me which office would be mine … but I haven’t heard anything from him in two weeks. Now what?
There are many reasons why a job offer might be late-arriving. Most of them are out of your control. For example, the hiring manager might have had an unexpected project or emergency come up that delayed the job offer. Or the human resources department may have had difficulty connecting with the individuals you listed as references. And sometimes, the hiring process is simply put on hold.
This is why it’s important to ask in the job interview about the timeline. If the hiring manager says you can expect to hear back in one week, you can follow up after a week and ask if there is anything he or she needs from you to move the process along. If the answer is no, ask if it’s okay to follow up again if you haven’t heard anything in another week. By getting permission to follow-up, you don’t have to worry that you’re being a pest.
But what if you didn’t ask about a timeline, or get permission to follow-up? Unfortunately, sometimes you may think you’ve received positive feedback that signals that a job offer is forthcoming, and the offer never comes. In this case, the follow-up call might yield the information that the position has been offered to someone else.
What if I don’t get offered the job? How do I find out why I wasn’t selected?
The easiest way to find out is to ask. You can send the hiring manager a thank you note that also requests feedback on your candidacy; however, you’re unlikely to get a response unless you follow that up with a phone call or email. And a phone call will probably yield your best chance to find out why, if you can get the hiring manager on the phone.
However, keep in mind that the reason given for most hiring rejections is that another candidate was “more qualified.” That doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual had technical qualifications that more closely matched the job’s requirements. Sometimes, it’s also a matter of “fit” — whether one candidate or another fits in better with the company culture.
Sometimes, if you can get feedback from a hiring manager, you can use the information to position yourself better for the next opportunity. For example, you may find that it’s desirable to have a specific credential or educational background for the type of position you’re seeking. But don’t get too hung up on why you didn’t receive a particular job offer. Instead, focus on what you can do differently in your next interview — recognizing that every “no” gets you closer to your ideal “yes.”
Finally, as several of the scenarios outlined above demonstrate, the hiring process does not always work out, so following up with the hiring manager to thank him or her may lead to a job offer, especially if the top candidate turns down the position, withdraws his or her candidacy, or cannot pass the background check.
If, however, you consistently find yourself getting job interviews — but not job offers — then you might consider what you need to change in your interviewing style, or the types of jobs you’re interviewing for — that will increase your chances of securing the job offer.