Job hunting can often be feast or famine. Nothing for months; then suddenly you are faced with multiple job offers.
So, what do you do when two or more job offers come in at the same time? Have a system and a sense of “multiple job offers etiquette.” Job seekers who follow a few strategic guidelines will not only be more confident in their decision, they will also lay the foundation for future opportunities.
Many job seekers start their search by prioritizing their job criteria. This helps in guiding their search, negotiating and ultimately making a decision. But if you do not have criteria set, don’t panic — simply pull out pen and paper and do it now. We suggest you create the following three categories:
- Must Haves: List everything that is an absolute must-have for you. This will likely include items such as salary minimums, work schedules, industry and role.
- Deal-breakers: List anything that is beyond the bounds of what you’re comfortable with. This might include ethical considerations, a commute that is too far, or expectations about working unreasonably long hours or weekends.
- Would Be Nice: List things that would be icing on the proverbial cake. These are things that won’t make or break a position, but could swing you in a close call. These might include a casual dress policy, participation in charity work, or generous vacation time.
After reviewing your two offers against these lists, you should have a sense of which one best meets your criteria. If you remain torn, consider negotiating with the one that comes closest to meeting your criteria. Inform the potential employer that you have another offer that has come in higher on an aspect that is important to you, and would they consider matching it? Regardless of what they say, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
The Art of Saying, “No”
On the other hand, if you are clear on which offer to accept, it is important that you decline the other one with professional finesse. In turning down an offer, take great care not to offend, call into question your decision-making process or burn any bridges. Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Be gracious
- Be general/generic
- Leave the door open for future conversations
- Be specific
- Give reasons
- Open yourself to discussing terms
To illustrate, here is how that conversation might go:
I’ve decided to go with another offer, but wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed hearing about your company. I would like very much to stay in touch. Is it possible to keep the door open for future conversations?
If the hiring manager or recruiter persists in inquiring about your reasons, remain firm and say:
After carefully weighing the two offers and positions, I’ve decided that this one makes the most sense for me at this point in time. Again, I very much appreciated the opportunity to learn about your company and hope to stay in touch.
While your reasons may be completely valid, openly communicating them runs the risk of bruising egos, severing ties or even discrediting your decision-making. So, be gracious and non-specific when you turn down a job offer: You never know when you might be doing business with the company in question — or back on the job hunt altogether.