Julie Q. Brush, Solutus Legal Search .
Julie Q. Brush, Solutus Legal Search . ()

Q: I’m interviewing with two companies and just received an offer from my second choice with a few days to decide. My first choice is far behind in the interview process. What should I do?

A: In an opportunity-rich environment, candidates who are actively seeking greener pastures are typically confronted with this predicament—because rarely do two horses cross the finish line at exactly the same time. Sometimes it’s a situation that can be managed to a comfortable conclusion. Other times, the path is more turbulent. Each situation depends on a series of factors that will influence your approach. Below are the steps you will need to take to arrive at your final decision:

1. Assess Your Interest in Each Opportunity.

Before you can make any decision, it’s important to assess your level of interest in each opportunity. What do you like about your first choice? What do you like about your second choice? Is there anything you dislike about either? If so, what and how big of a factor is it in your decision? Why, at this point of the process do you like your first choice better? Do you think you could be happy in the role with your second choice employer? Why or why not? If not, is there anything that could change about the opportunity to make it more attractive? Being more self aware about your interest in each opportunity will enable you to proceed with more clarity and definitiveness going into the home stretch of your decision-making process.

2. Analyze Your Viability for Your First Choice Opportunity.

It sounds like your interview process with your first choice is at the front end and will take some time before it is complete. How viable do you honestly believe your candidacy is for this opportunity? How qualified are your substantive skills? Have you interviewed yet? If so, what has been the feedback (there will be “tells” in the feedback you receive)? Is the employer interviewing other candidates? Have follow-up interviews been scheduled? The answers to these questions will give you a sharp picture as to where you stand in the candidate pecking order—and whether it would be worth the risk to pursue the opportunity at the expense of losing the other.

3. Notify First Choice Employer About Your Offer.

In order to expedite the interview process, you will need to inform your first choice employer of your offer and timing—and see if they’d be willing to speed things up to accommodate your timing. Employers like to be kept in the loop regarding the candidate status for their job opportunities anyway (they loathe 11th hour surprises!) and they always appreciate the heads-up. So contact the hiring manager and let her know of your situation. Below is a sample narrative of what to say:

“Hi Chris, I wanted to reach out to let you know that I just received an offer from another firm/company and they have given me one week to respond. I have enjoyed my first set of meetings with Company/Firm X and your opportunity is my first choice of the two I am considering. I understand that you are earlier in the interview process, but I wanted to let you know of my situation and get a sense of your interest level in my candidacy—and whether it might be possible to accommodate my timing. Many thanks!”

The answer you receive to your notification will provide insight into the employer’s level of interest, whether they expedite the process and whether it’s worth the risk to wait. Here is what the various responses mean:

Response #1:Thank you for letting me know, but we have many candidates we are interviewing for the role and need to take the time to work through our process.”

Meaning A: You may still be in the running for this job, but it’s way too early to tell whether you are The One—and the employer isn’t going to modify its process to accommodate your timing. So if they lose you, they are willing to live with that.

Meaning B: You are not going to get this job so if you need to take the other opportunity, you should take it.

Response #2: “Thanks for the update. Let me see if we can get you back in to meet more people.”

Meaning: Interest in your candidacy is high enough to make the effort to press the gas on the process. But the odds that you’ll land the offer are 50/50 at best given where they are in the process.

4. Notify 2nd Choice Employer About Your Other Opportunity.

If you want to buy time to play out the process with your first choice employer, you’ll need to explain your situation to your second choice employer and determine if the hiring manager will give you more time to make a decision. In the cutthroat war for talent, today’s employers aren’t very accommodating, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Here are three examples of what to say:

Example #1:

“Hi Margo, I wanted to thank you for the offer to join Company/Firm X—It’s a wonderful opportunity and I appreciate your time and effort in putting the offer together. During our interview process, I engaged in discussions for another opportunity. I would like to extend that employer the professional courtesy of completing that process and would like to know if you would support that with an offer deadline of xx/xx/2017.”

Example #2:

“Paul, I’m in the process of reviewing your offer and would like to know if it is possible to extend the deadline to xx/xx/2017. I am in discussions with another company/firm and feel it is important, as a professional courtesy, to complete that process. Let me know if that would be doable. I’d really appreciate it.”

Example #3:

“Hi Stephan, thank you for the offer. I would like to have some additional time to consider it and would like to know if I can provide you with an answer by August 26th. Many thanks”

5. Weigh The Facts.

After working through these steps, you’ll have all the information you will need to assess the pros and cons of each and weigh them accordingly. So take this information, write it down and organize your priorities, wants/needs, career and personal. Then let it percolate and stop thinking about it.

6. Go With Your Gut.

After you’ve had time away mentally, revisit and go with your gut. If you’ve managed the process correctly, you’ll be pulled in one clear direction. There is no right or wrong answer here. What’s best for you will depend on your own unique circumstances.

While this predicament may be stressful, the fact is—is that your answer is not far away. The key is to follow the steps I’ve outlined above–and the path will lead you to a clear understanding of the situation and your place in it. So take a deep breath, catch your balance and take your first step forward with confidence!