Will Company A wait for me while I interview at Company B? (3-4 weeks from now?)
November 25, 2008 5:38 PM   Subscribe

I am likely to soon get a job offer from Company A. Yesterday, Company B called to schedule an interview for a few weeks from now. I would prefer to work at Company B, but if I didn't get the job, I would want to work at Company A. How do I handle this delicate situation, seeing as we're talking about almost a month until I would have an answer from Company B?

Hivemind, I can really use your help with this. I just don't know how to play it and I'm not someone who is very experienced with hardball negotiating. I just want everyone to be happy and get along. :) I've read thru a similar previous question, but the timeline there was shorter.

Here are my questions:

1. What can I really do in this situation without being unethical?

2. In this case, it's practically a month between now and when I would make a decision. Are companies OK waiting that long? Is it insulting to ask Company A to wait until mid-to-end of December?

3. On the flip side, would it hurt me to interview with Company B before their scheduled interview week? Does it look bad to ask that?

4. And, how honest can I be with each company about this? At what point do I tell each of them I am interested in a different possibility?

For what it's worth, I would probably be willing to let the job at Company A pass, if I had to in order to be considered for Company B. But I'd rather not.

If you want the details: (Sorry for the length of all this!)

Company B is conducting first round interviews the week of Dec 8. (so, 2-2.5 weeks from now.) If I made it to the second round, it'd be the following week. Between all that, checking references, etc. it will be at least 3.5 weeks from now before I can expect an answer on that job, probably more. Compared to the job at Company A, the role at Company B has more responsibility and autonomy, is much more interesting, would not require me to move or get a car, and would take me out of pure 'administrative' roles, which I want. At Company A, it's an administrative role, but I'd take it to get my foot in the door and then grow into another role. (We discussed that during my interview.)

I interviewed at Company A 1.5 weeks ago, they contacted my references end of last week with an emailed questionnaire to be returned no later than tomorrow (Wednesday). I thought I wouldn't hear from them until next week due to Thanksgiving but I got a voicemail today from my future boss at Company A, who's doing the hiring, asking me to call her back today or tomorrow to chat about a few things. If she doesn't reject me, then I expect she'll either make me an offer or ask more questions about my availability/salary expectations. I don't think I can postpone returning her call anymore than I have. (I didn't return it yet, and she emailed me after dinner asking about tomorrow.)

Thanks in advance for your advice. :)
posted by inatizzy to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Normally, companies are not OK waiting for a month. A week is reasonable, two weeks is pushing it. They presumably want to fill the position now. If they wait for you for a month, and then you decline, that's a month wasted where they could have been searching for an employee for that position.

I'd suggest telling company B that you have an offer in hand, and finding out if they can fast-track your interview and offer.
posted by zippy at 5:46 PM on November 25, 2008

2nding Zippy. Use Company A's offer to see if you can fast-track Company B.

That said, DO NOT tell Company B that you would prefer to work for them instead of Company A. Recruiting circles, even in large industries, can be pretty small and word can get around quickly.
posted by Spurious at 6:00 PM on November 25, 2008

Best answer: Yes; call Company B back tomorrow and let them know that you are wondering whether they can move your interview forward because of an outstanding offer from another company. Do not tell Company B where the offer is from.

If you do get an offer from Company A, let them know that you have an opportunity from another company (do not say where) that you would like a little time to consider, and see how long they can extend the time for your decision. Then let Company B know what your deadline is and see if they can work with it. If not, you will need to make a tough choice. I'd probably go with the bird in hand. I guess you could leave your info in with Company B and see if they do still choose you, even if you've accepted at Company A, and make a really tough decision if you need to go from there. Of course, if Co. B doesn't choose you, you made the right decision anyway.

Good luck!
posted by onlyconnect at 6:55 PM on November 25, 2008

Take the job at A.
Interview at B.
Change jobs if they offer it to you.
It's a tough world.
posted by Xhris at 7:38 PM on November 25, 2008

I've been in this situation and yes, it can be highly stressful. I am not clear on where you are in your life - the fact that you're dealing with companies that have an "interview week" makes me think you're a new college grad. If that's true, awesome, because company A isn't expecting you to start right away. Yeah, they want to hear back from you ASAP because they want to get you locked in, but it's not like they're going to say "sorry, we need someone now or never". That puts you in a good position compared to most job seekers.

So, I was in a situation where company A tendered an offer at the beginning of December and actually gave me two weeks to decide. I managed to stretch that out for almost six weeks as I went through the process with my company B. I had to start bluffing a little with company A because company B was disorganized with their process. But I did manage to get company B to expedite me a lot. In the end, I went with A because I was so annoyed with how many promises to me company B had broken. They told me they could get me through interviews without bumping up against my deadline, which was a total lie and made me wonder what other half-truths I was hearing from them. Almost 2 years later, I'm *so* glad I ended up here and not company B.

Don't turn down a sure thing at company A for a possible offer at company B. This is not a year where that's a worthwhile strategy. It may be the case that company B gives you all the right signals and you're *sure* you've got it in the bag, but as they're getting ready to make you an offer, their entire organization goes into a hiring freeze.

And, yeah, don't tell your recruiters who else you're talking to. And your question 3? "Does it look bad to ask that?" You're kidding, right? You look like you're a person with options who has a real passion for company B.
posted by crinklebat at 7:41 PM on November 25, 2008

It's a tough world

This cuts both ways. See Spurious above on well connected recruiting circles. The world is tough and small.
posted by Crotalus at 7:50 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, it depends. I was in a similar situation earlier this year (ok, pretty much identical,assuming none of your jobs would start before the end of the year?).

I got a job offer from Company A in late September. I had an interview with Company B lined up in late October. I was prepared to lose Company A for a chance with Company B, as I had previously turned down a job offer from Company C and was pretty confident I could line something up, but my parents weren't. (All these were for grad positions to start in Jan - A is a good job at a reasonable company, B is a well known company that would be an awesome career starter, C is a small local company that could be interesting but I would probably move on from soon).

I told Company A at my final interview that I was still interviewing with other companies, including B, and when I expected to hear back from them. I also told my recruiter from Company B that I had another offer.

Company A offered me a job the day after my interview. They didn't give me a deadline, but said as soon as I could. I agonised for about a week over what to do, and finally asked them when they needed a decision, and they said that I could sign all their documents, accept their job, and then wait to hear about the others. They kept in touch, asking occasionally how my decision was going. Company B said they'd get back to me by Nov 10, and so I told A that I would have everything sorted by Nov 14. On Nov 10, B said that they were very interested in me but due to economic crisis etc, they needed more time to see if they could find a space. I emailed back saying I had to know by the 14th, or I would have to take my other offer, and on Nov 14 I got a job offer from them.

So I contacted Company A and said thanks very much for being so considerate, sorry this other position is too much of an opportunity to turn down, etc etc.

In summary, everybody I talked to gave me 'sensible' advice like Xhris and crinklebat above - don't tell A about the other offer, sign it and be prepared to ditch them, they would ditch you, but I couldn't make myself take the offer knowing I was hoping never to start. I was lucky. I think I was prepared to ditch A and then get nothing from B, but that last week in November waiting to hear from B was the most stressful one I've ever had - I couldn't sleep or anything. I would do the same thing again, but that is because actually getting this job has reinforced my supersized ego and conviction that life will always work out the way I want it to. If you don't have that, maybe you need to be more cautious. How honest you can be depends on how much you think they want you - I knew Company A was struggling hard to find graduates to hire (they had reopened their interview process for a second round) and was very interested in me. I was pretty confident that in the worst case I could go back to C and say, hey, I would like a job after all, and they would fall over themselves to do it. I was not sure I could get the job at B, but I thought I had a pretty good chance. If I hadn't had C as a backup, or had been less confident about B, I might have played it safer (ie: lied).
posted by jacalata at 8:26 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

In case you didn't see it in Xhris's comment:

Take the job at A.
Interview at B.
Change jobs if they offer it to you.
It's a tough world.

That's it, really. If you got hired at A and they found a better employee before the trial period was over, they'd replace you. If you get hired at A and you find a better job before the trial period is over, you leave. When asked why, let them know that your new job was a place you'd interviewed with while you were also interviewing with A, but the offer just came in, and is quite lucrative. That way, if they really like you they'll offer much more money (and if you don't want to stay you can just say it's not a match) and perhaps you'll realize you like A plenty fine with that bump. Besides, nobody can argue with "I like it here, but I just got offered a lot more money for going over there" -- it's language any HR person can understand.
posted by davejay at 12:42 AM on November 26, 2008

Best answer: I really wouldn't do what Xhris suggests, assuming you are a recent college grad. It creates bad blood, if not in the HR department than with the staff you were hiring under. Trust me, if I interviewed you and you pulled that shit, I would remember your name.

This is a really common problem, seriously. Unless Company A wants you to start working next week, then ask Company A to wait another week and tell Company B that you have a decision deadline. I have seen my VP walk a candidate through HR to get a hiring decision in less than 24 hours, after we were informed that he already had an offer from a competitor.

OK, I just re-read your question and you don't even have an offer from Company A yet. My advice still holds.
posted by muddgirl at 4:56 AM on November 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice so far! I should mention that I'm four years out of college, have been employed ever since (at 2 different places) and my current company is one that I'd like to leave ASAP but I can stay here as long as I need to. In case that changes anything... thanks :)
posted by inatizzy at 6:10 AM on November 26, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks again for all of your helpful advice, everyone. Of course, things never turn out quiet as you'd expect -- here's how the issue resolved.

Company B called to tell me that they decided to not bring me in for an interview, afterall. (Disappointing, and I felt a bit betrayed, too.) I got an offer from Company A the next day, so I was able to consider it on its own merits. I decided to not accept the offer; it just wasn't a slam-dunk. I decided that rather than take a sub-par position, I would prefer to take this opportunity to travel the world a bit. (May sound out of left field, but I've always wanted to do it!) So I've shifted my focus from job hunting to planning my departure and adventure -- probably will include some volunteering or English teaching. I'll pick up the job hunt when I return, whenever that is.

In the meantime, I'm sure I'll be posting another few questions (at least!) about moving away and moving abroad. :)
posted by inatizzy at 7:14 AM on December 10, 2008

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