You do your job search, and carefully select the positions you wanted to apply for. You prepare your CV and cover letter professionally and go through the interview process with more than one potential employer. Then, the unexpected happens. You’re contacted by more than one company and told that you’ll shortly be receiving a job offer. So all of a sudden, you have multiple job offers.
However, this can place you in something of a dilemma. How can you make the right decision about which offer to accept? How long will you have to make up your mind? What are the factors that you need to take into consideration when you have received multiple job offers.
In this guide we’ll look in some detail at what constitutes a job offer, what are the factors you should consider before making a decision about which one to accept, and the reasons why it is important to handle the offers that you don’t accept in a professional manner.
Before you receive any offers
It is a good idea, whenever you attend a job interview, to take some time, immediately after it’s over, to review the overall experience. This may have been an employer you were very motivated to work with, but first impressions are very important. Your first contact with the company can give you a very different picture from the one that’s portrayed on the website and in their marketing materials.
Make some notes about the following points and they’ll help you create a really rounded view of how it went – for you and for the recruiters.
How did you feel about the physical environment of the company? Was it attractive to you, and could you see yourself feeling at home there? How important is natural daylight for you? This may seem trivial, but working day after day in unnatural light can become stressful and even depressing.
A warm welcome?
Were you welcomed professionally and called by name? Interviewed at the agreed time or made to wait? Did your interviewers introduce themselves, and explain their roles in the interview?
If you met your potential future manager, what was your feeling about him or her? This is a key consideration, as we’ll see later. What about the HR team, if you met them?
The company culture
What sense did you get about the company culture and its values? They may claim that ‘People are our greatest asset’, or ‘We value our employees’, but did you see or hear examples of how these great sentiments translate into reality.
Your interview performance
Take some time to assess how you came across in the interview. Did you make your case clearly and professionally? Did you let them know how you’d be able to add value and solve problems for them? Reflecting in this way will help your performance grow stronger in each job interview that you attend.
What exactly is a job offer?
The answer may seem obvious, but in fact, many people mistake claims and promises for an actual offer. For example:
A job offer during an interview
It may be that during an interview, the recruiters tell you, immediately, that you’ve got the job. This can seem like a great outcome, but, beware! It could be that you’re the ideal candidate that they’ve been looking for, so their search has ended. Or, it may be that they have no other candidates, and they are simply desperate for someone, anyone, to fill the position.
One red flag you should look out for is if they ask you to start immediately, without giving proper notice to your current employer. Explore why they are in such urgent need, and take your time before giving your response.
A verbal offer after interview
When you’ve had your job interview, and it’s gone well on both sides, you may well be contacted, by phone, with the news that you’re going to be made a formal written offer. While this is indeed good news, keep in mind that things can change, and a verbal offer may be withdrawn, or a start date delayed, or the position even put on hold until further notice.
The best response is to thank the person profusely, express how happy you are to get this news and say you’ll look forward to receiving the written offer, so you can see the details.
Until that written offer arrives, never assume that the job is yours. Continue with your job search, and attend any interviews that you’re invited to.
A Written Offer
This is the one that counts. Your written offer should contain all the main conditions of your employment. A more detailed contract of employment is likely to be attached. Review both of these carefully and ensure you understand what you’ll be accepting. If there are any items that you feel should be included, contact the company and ask them to answer your questions, in writing.
You are usually given a certain time limit to sign and return. Keep in mind that if you don’t respect this deadline, the employer has every right to withdraw their offer and select an alternative candidate.
Once you accept an offer, your job search has officially ended. It is not fair on your prospective employer, nor on any others, to continue attending interviews in search of better offers.
Components of a written offer
When reviewing a written job offer, ensure it covers the following points. If any are missing, contact the recruiter and ask for written clarification.
- Your position title.
- The name and position of the person you’ll be reporting to.
- Start date: check that you will be able to honour the notice requirements of your current employer.
- Your weekly hours of work.
- Your basic salary, shown annually or monthly.
- Benefits such as annual leave, health and life insurance, and medical leave entitlements. It may state that you will be eligible in line with company policy. If this is the case, ask to see the company policy.
- Share schemes or equity. If there is an incentive plan in place, ask to see details.
- Bonuses and commission rates. Make sure you understand the criteria, targets and schedule of payments.
- Notice periods on the part of the company and the employee.
- Probationary period if one is in place.
- Contingencies. Is the offer dependent on the result of reference or background checks?
You may also receive a full job description, a full employee contract, an online copy of the Employee Handbook, and possibly some additional policies (such as a Non-Disclosure Policy) to read and sign. These may be sent with the written offer or supplied after it has been returned.
When you receive multiple verbal offers
So now we’ve clarified that until you receive a formal written offer, nothing confirmed, let’s move on to consider what action to take if you receive more than one verbal offer, and you’re expecting these to be confirmed in writing very soon.
Review your list of priorities
It’s likely that each position will have advantages and disadvantages, so before the written offers arrive, it’s important to review your original list of priorities. What is it that you’re looking for in your next position? Salary? More challenge? Less commuting? A clear career path? Make a list of the five most important needs.
It can’t be stated too often: until you receive that written offer, you have no offer. So, continue with your job search, keep updating your CV, and tailoring your cover letter for different employers.
What NOT to do
Do not, under any circumstances, contact one potential employer and tell them you’ve received a job offer from another. Never disclose the details of a rival offer in an attempt to negotiate a better one for yourself.
Far from motivating them to hurry up with the hiring process, and send you an improved written offer, it just tells them that you’re not really interested in who you work for. They might well reconsider their decision. It’s quite likely that, rather than wasting their time, they’ll switch their attention to a candidate who genuinely wants to work with them. Don’t be surprised if the offer you were expecting never arrives.
When you receive multiple written offers
Now, you’re in a much stronger position, and you have the information you need to make the best decision, for you, at this point in your career.
Compare apples with apples
At this point, make a careful analysis of the written offers. Create a table and compare each component of the offers against each other. If you notice that certain information is missing (see the list above), contact the recruiter and ask for clarification, in writing.
There’s no need to compare the contents of the entire handbooks, of course, but read through one, and if there are sections that interest you, do a search in the others.
Go back to your post-interview notes and see if there was anything promised in the meeting that isn’t mentioned in the offer. Again, contact the recruiter and politely ask for clarification as perhaps there had been a misunderstanding.
Include your gut feelings in the comparison. Where did you feel you’d be most ‘at home’? Which team impressed you most? Which working environment was most appealing to you?
Also, include the five most important priorities you identified earlier.
Assess the advantages and disadvantages
Next, in your five most important categories, give each of your potential employers a score out of 10, with 10 being the highest. For the remaining categories, award a score of 1-5 points
Notice where there is a substantial difference between employers, and consider the advantages you’d gain from working with each one, as well as the disadvantages.
It’s not only about the money
We all work to earn money, and receiving a written offer with a huge leap in salary can be exciting. But don’t fall into the temptation of overlooking all the other aspects of the offer.
You’re most likely going to spend at least a third of your time with the employer you choose, so don’t let a generous salary offer lead you into a dead-end job that you dread going to every day.
Look closely at other benefits. Maybe one employer allows more annual leave or flexible working hours. Maybe the salary is slightly lower, but the medical insurance will give you peace of mind for your family. Maybe the company car will enable you to sell yours and avoid maintenance costs in the future? Maybe a uniform will save the expense of buying a working wardrobe?
Who’s the boss?
There’s an old saying, ‘People join because of the company, but they leave because of their boss’. There’s no doubt that your relationship with your direct manager will impact your entire experience with the company, so when deciding which of multiple job offers to go for, you should give this question top priority.
Look back on your interview. Did you feel a good connection with your potential boss? How was their energy? What did they describe as their priorities? If they were totally focused on results, and results are your priority, then there’s a good chance you’ll be valued and your working relationship will blossom. However, if you’re more focused on expressing ideas, and exploring possibilities creatively, there’s much more chance of misunderstandings and clashes. Is that how you’d want to spend the next few years? If you feel there’s a potential mismatch with your future manager, it could be better to choose an alternative.
What are the career development opportunities?
A good starting salary is attractive, but you should also look ahead. What does each potential employer offer in terms of long-term career development? Have they explained this to you? Most companies expect you to spend at least two years in any role you’re hired for, allowing time for you to prove that you can perform well over time. You may be offered a promotion, of course, but this will depend on a whole range of factors, many of which will be outside your control. Are you ready to work in the role you’ve been offered, without unrealistic expectations of early promotion?
Without jumping too far ahead, what would be the next steps on your career paths within each company? What kind of career advice or mentoring will be available? How much will they invest in your future, in terms of training, support for further qualifications, or cross exposure to broaden your skills base and make it easier to progress?
Work / Life balance
During the interviews, was the actual workload discussed? Your written offer may state that you’ll be contractually obliged to work 40 hours per week. However, were there hints in the interview that employees are expected to be connected 24 hours a day? Will you be expected to work unplanned overtime? If you’re a manager, are you expected to work long hours and be on constant call to ensure that your goals are met? If the working pattern that’s expected of you doesn’t fit into your lifestyle, regardless of how much you’re paid, the most likely result is stress and burnout.
Depending on the type of role, of course, you may want to negotiate when and where you’ll do your work. Would you want to be allowed to flex your hours? Work from home some days, or every day? Or simply to have the freedom to choose your hours, depending on the work required? It may be worth sacrificing some salary in order to create a more balanced life.
This is an important factor and a significant point of comparison between employers. How much time each day will you need to spend traveling to and from your work location?
When you start a new position, full of energy and enthusiasm, the daily commute may seem a small price to pay. But as time passes, and you realize that you could be spending the time in more rewarding ways, it could be a factor that drains your motivation and makes you think about ways to escape.
Will any of your potential employers expect you to travel between company locations? How much would you enjoy that? In certain sectors, such as hospitality, employers typically expect employees to be prepared to relocate to progress their careers. Would you consider this for the opportunity to develop your ideal career?
Titles and tiers
For some, the job title and the job tier/ level can have high importance. Would you prefer to be called a ‘Customer Support Manager’ or a ‘Herald of Happiness’?. (Yes, it’s a real position in a well-known IT support company).
Your job title can influence your status and progress within a given company. More important, though, is how it will impact any future external job applications.
By now you’ll have considered the pros and cons of all your written offers, by reviewing:
- Post-interview notes
- Written offer
- Employee Handbook & policies
- Your list of job priorities
- The additional information you’ve requested from the employer
It’s time to make your decision. If it’s clear cut at this point, well done!
If there’s one offer that you’d like to accept, but one or two small points are causing you to hesitate, it may be worth calling the recruiter and asking them if they have any flexibility to make the changes you need.
Express your enthusiasm for joining the company and, once again, do not tell them that you have another offer. If the response is positive, or ‘Let me check’ confirm a time-frame for their written response.
If the answer is negative, go back to your comparison table. Has the position changed?
Finally, you will make your decision and it’s time to let your potential employer know.
- Sign and return the offer letter and any other documents as requested.
- Forward passport, ID, and certificate copies.
- Call your future manager and confirm that you’re looking forward to joining his or her team. Ask him or her to share any documents which it may be helpful for you to familiarize yourself with, as preparation for your arrival.
- Inform your current manager that you’ll be leaving, confirm your last working day.
- Submit your written notice to your current employer.
- Confirm your start date to your new employer (if this differs from your offer letter).
- Stay in regular touch with your new employer, especially if you are working a long notice period or taking a vacation before starting your new role.
The job offers you don’t accept
Once you have signed and accepted your preferred job offer, you’ll need to consider how to handle those that you are not going to accept.
There may be a temptation to send a short ‘no thanks’ email and move on to start your glorious new career. However, it’s wiser to keep in mind that it’s a small world, and the choices you make at this point may return to haunt you. By communicating with the utmost professionalism, aim to make them regret they were unable to attract talent such as yours.
So, follow the steps below to close the chapter on your application in a positive way, and ensure that you’d be welcome to approach them again in the future.
- Inform them promptly that you won’t be accepting their offer. This should be as soon as you sign an offer letter with another company.
- Even if you’ve been sending friendly emails to your contact person, ensure that you write the email turning down an offer in a formal and professional style.
- Express your appreciation for their time in interviewing you (use the names of the interview panel), and for your contact’s work in progressing the hiring process.
- Wish them every success in the future
When you’re in the fortunate position of considering multiple job offers, the key to making the correct decision is to take your time to consider every aspect of the offers you’ve received. Many factors will influence you in addition to basic salary, and one of the most important is the impact that your choice will have on your long-term career development.