Q. I received a job offer from my second choice of two possible places I have been interviewing with. I won't know the decision of my first choice company until tomorrow. I told the person making me an offer, that I would call them back tomorrow. Was it a mistake to ask that? I told them I needed to discuss it before I accepted the offer. In the event that I am not offered the job from my first choice company, I'm hoping I haven't been rude to a possible employer.
Balancing an offer and the possibility of another offer can be a challenge, and asking for a day to think things over is reasonable. How you asked and what you said are the most important factors in thinking about rudeness and maintaining a positive professional relationship.
Regardless of whether an offer is from your first, second, or even third choice company, those making the offer want to have confirmation that you want to join their company -- every offer needs to be treated with a positive reaction, even if you aren’t sure you feel that way. There are a few key steps to make sure your response keeps the conversation on the right track, leaves you open to work another offer, and also to maximize any negotiations.
After the offer is made, your first reaction needs to be, “Thank you! I am very pleased you have selected me for this position”.
Next, reinforce why you are the right choice - “I know I can make great contributions to the role, and I am excited about the team of people I will be working with”. You might add a short sentence that speaks to a specific challenge they face which you have discussed as an area you have experience.
Listen to the full offer - listen for title, base salary or hourly rate, bonus potential, health care coverage and costs, vacation time, all other benefits including 401K and match, stock, and the list can go on depending on your level. Before this conversation, develop a comprehensive list of the items you anticipate being offered and compare that list to what is actually offered from each company.
If the offer is what you want and anticipated, you can tell them how pleased you are with the offer, and that you would like a day or two (a short time – perhaps a weekend, or enough time to make a call to the company you want to hear from) to review the information they provided. Ask if you will receive the offer in writing, and give them an accurate time of when you will call to let them know your final decision. Close with thanks to all the people involved in the process.
If the offer is short on what you had hoped for or anticipated, you can say “I am very pleased with the offer, but is there any flexibility with the compensation? I was looking at X, and 4 weeks of vacation”. Proceed with caution. You may gain some delay time if they need approval. And, remember to end every conversation with a statement of appreciation.
At this point you can call your first choice employer to reinforce how interested you are in the job. Hopefully you already know when a decision will be made, but you can say, “I am very interested in the opportunity to work for this company, and I wanted to know where the decision process is. I have another offer, but I am most interested in working for you.” In the best of all cases, the interest is mutual and the company will come to a positive conclusion, and provide you with an offer that surpasses your first offer. Should that not be the case, you have burned no bridges, and delayed just long enough to think about your options.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is a partner and the general manager of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.