(I have experience with technical job hunting only. I assume some of these will be valid for non-technical jobs too, but cannot guarantee it.)
- Why is it important to get multiple job offers?
You wouldn’t marry the first guy/gal you met, would you? Finding a job is similar. Multiple offers give you more choice. You will be spending more than eight hours every single day at this job for a very long time. Isn’t it better to start out with several choices and pick the one that best suits you? In addition to that, when a company that you interview for, knows that you have other offers, they will perceive you as a person in-demand. Psychologically, this works in your favor, and could also impact the offer you receive. Finally, if you have only one offer, it may be a bit difficult to ask for a better package (even though most companies leave room for negotiation). With multiple job offers, you will have more confidence and ability to negotiate.
- Whoopeedooo. I have an offer! What should I do now?
First make sure your offer is in writing. A verbal offer from the manager you interviewed with is great, but unless you have it in writing it does not count! Second, reply back immediately thanking them for the offer. Third, even if you are not expecting other offers, let the company know that you will consider the offer and get back to them soon. Do not accept the offer as soon as it is made, unless there is a very bad job slump or it is your ideal job/salary anyway. It reeks of desperation and destroys any opportunity you have for negotiating. Fourth, scramble as hell to get more interviews and offers before the time set by the first company to accept the offer runs out. (Of course, it is even better if you planned ahead and applied at multiple locations and have interviews lined up already. In such a case, call the other comapnies and reschedule the interviews, so they can be completed before the time limit from the first company runs out).
- Will having multiple job offers not confuse me?
Not if you are prepared. Before you start your job search make a list of what you would like from your ideal job. List out all that is important to you, such as work environment, what kind of work would you be most happy with, co-worker attitudes, work hours, the geographical area that you best like, the perks you would love to have, vacation days, health insurance benefits, commute time etc. Make the list very quantitative. For example, instead of “I would like a good salary”, list “I would like a salary in the range $X to $Y”. Then order the list according to your priorities. When you have multiple offers and are confused, you can refer to this cheat sheet to guide you into making the right choice.
- How long will companies wait for a decision after making an offer?
Most large companies will be willing to wait for a few weeks. In such a case immediately acknowledge the receipt of the offer by thanking them for the offer and mentioning that you will get back to them soon. Smaller companies may not be able to offer much time though. You could still request for a few days of time. However, if they do not agree, you will have to decide on whether to push your luck or not, based on your perception of how much the company really wants to hire you.
- Will a company withdraw its offer if I ask for more time to decide?
That depends on how much time you have already asked :) Usually, the first time you request for some time, if you do it nicely, they will not withdraw the offer. They may not give you as much time as you like, but there is no reason for them to withdraw their offer. But if you keep dilly-dallying for too long, you never know :) Also, be aware of the market circumstances before you proceed – during the dotcom bust, there were a lot more experienced people looking for jobs than the number of jobs available. In such a market, it is probably not a good idea to delay when you get an offer.
- I have an offer from one company and expecting to hear from another. I do not want to lose the offer on hand, but would really like to wait to hear the other offer before making a decision. What should I do?
Honesty is always the best policy. Tell the HR of the company that has made the offer that you are expecting to hear from another company and would like to know all your options before making a decision. This could be a fairly tricky conversation, so be prepared to phrase it right. Mention clearly that you are interested in this offer, but would like to wait just to have all our options. Never give away the impression that you like the other company better (even if you do). If you can’t tell them outright that you are waiting on another offer, try other delay tactics. Mention that you need to discuss it with your spouse. In the extreme case, if the job requires relocation, you could ask for an exploratory trip. Or you could request for a meeting with the colleagues/managers to buy more time. Remember though that the HR does this for a job and have probably seen all these tactics before and can immediately see them for what they are. So use it with caution. I personally am not a big fan of these tactics and prefer to be honest.
Also, equally important, let the second company know that you have another offer on hand and press them to speed up their decision process. One of the companies I interviewed with (and eventually ended up accepting the offer from), had the hard-copy of the written offer at my doorstep in 3 business days! I wasn’t even graduating or joining the job until after 8 months, but they went the extra mile since I was interested in them and they in me and I really had to respond to my other offers within the end of that week. So, there is no harm in requesting them to hasten the process. (This could also be a good chance to evaluate how much/little bureaucracy the company has!)
- I have an offer from company "grouchy widgets" and waiting to hear from company "fantabulous future gadgets". I really want to wait, but the HR at "grouchy widgets" is applying too much pressure. What should I do?
Request to speak with the manager whom you will be working with and ask him to intervene on your behalf to get you some time. Generally speaking, the managers want you to be sure you are happy to join their group rather than be confused and second guessing yourself. If the manager is also putting pressure, then ask yourself, how badly do you want this job, and would you be willing to work for people who are already putting so much pressure on you and are so inflexible. Ultimately, remember, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.
- How do I evaluate the job offers and negotiate for better package?
Thought you’d never ask! I have a whole series dedicated to that very question. Check it out.
- Once I have made my decision, how do I "reject" the companies that I have decided not to accept the offer from?
Let them down easy. Use a reasonable excuse, such as “after discussing with my wife/husband we have decided that it is not a good option for us to relocate right now” or “I think it is best for me at this time to get a job with a small (or big) company. However, I was very impressed with your company and hope that in the future, I will have an opportunity to work with you” or “I was really impressed with the people I spoke with during the interview process, but right now, I want to stay focused on XYZ technology. In the future, if I decide to work with the ABC system, I hope you will consider speaking with me again” etc.
- When should I stop looking for better offers?
Once you accept an offer, you should stop looking for more jobs. If you still have interviews in the pipeline, call them and politely explain that you are not interested in pursuing those options right now. Ethically, accepting an offer and still continuing to negotiate with other companies opens a very unpleasant can of worms. Career-wise if either of the companies found out that you are doing it, you may burn your bridges for ever. What makes things worse is that, the tech industry is really a very small world. You don’t know whom you will bump into again in a later part of your career. Don’t start out by making enemies! Know when to be greedy, and when not to.