Good job offer's deadline is up, but a preferred job offer is incoming.
December 25, 2013 5:10 PM   Subscribe

I have a good job offer in hand, but the deadline was today, and a preferred job offer is close enough that they say they're just waiting for the offer letter to be signed. Special details inside.

There's a long convoluted story to this, but I'll spare most of the details. Basically there's Job Offer A, which is pretty nice and is the result of a friend / former colleague really sticking her neck out in recommending me, and Job B, which is much preferred. The deadline for Job Offer A was this past day (Christmas Eve), and I'd already convinced them to extend the deadline once (which they didn't seem happy about.) Job B knows that I have Offer A, and has been trying to work within the deadline, and then the extended deadline, but seems unable to. They had me go out for a second in-person set of interviews at a second site, and said I could receive an offer very quickly after that to respect this extended deadline. Well now the interview's over, this was the day to decide on Offer A, and they still haven't come out with an offer letter. I did get a reply saying that the company has a holiday on Christmas Eve and Christmas, and that the main person in charge of hiring is on a long vacation. I got a later email that they are ready to extend an offer to me, they're just waiting for a signature (from the guy on vacation) on the offer letter before it can go out.

At the suggestion of my family, I'm not replying to Offer A today because it's unlikely they'll be checking for the email during the Christmas holiday, and I should be safe replying to them on Thursday. But obviously this has me very nervous.

Long story short, Job B has represented to me (informally) that they want to give me an offer, but the details are unclear and there's no actual offer yet until they get a signature, and the guy is apparently on vacation for a while. Meanwhile, Job A needs an answer on Thursday, or else I'll be offer-less (if I'm not already offer-less). The additional wrinkle in this is that if I accept Offer A and then decline it later, it would damage my reputation in a relatively small field, and damage my professional relationship with my friend (who really did help me out here, and it's possible her reputation is on the line too.)

I feel like I'm in a rock and a hard place, with a major life decision being held up because of a signature on a piece of paper. And I can't tell if I'm being played by Job B somehow. Any advice would be helpful.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (19 answers total)
If it were me, I wouldn't necessarily want to work for a company that knew I was working with a deadline but still couldn't get their act together (twice!). It would make me wonder what working there would truly be like.
posted by cooker girl at 5:19 PM on December 25, 2013 [14 favorites]

I don't know where you are geographically, so I don't know what your hiring laws are like, but I would imagine in many places that having a written statement (i.e. that email) that they are ready to extend an offer to you, but are just waiting for a signature, is equivalent to an offer, and that you might have some legal recourse if they changed their mind after that.

I think it's got to come down to how much you know about and trust Job B and the people there. Do you feel like it is plausible that they have been this disorganised, or does it smell fishy? And do you feel like they would be honest with you if there is actually a problem?

And how screwed would you be if you get neither job? Is it that you'd be stuck at your current job for longer than you'd want, or is it that you'd be completely unemployed and living under a bridge?

Finally, I imagine that if you can get two competing job offers, you could get another fairly easily.

So if it were me, I'd tend towards risking a wait for Job B.
posted by lollusc at 5:27 PM on December 25, 2013

Waiting for B best case: you get the preferred job.
Waiting for B worst case: you get neither job, and you upset a friend and ally.

Accepting job A immediately best case: you get a good job.
Accepting job A immediately worst case: you miss out on a preferred job.

Personally, I'd either accept job A to minimize my downside risk overall, or actively reject job A and express to my friend how grateful I am they made the effort etc. to maximize my upside potential without losing a friend (and with eyes open that I might not get either job.)

If you didn't have the friend involved, my advice would be different, but you do.
posted by davejay at 5:48 PM on December 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Job B knows that I have Offer A, and has been trying to work within the deadline, and then the extended deadline, but seems unable to.

Any (for-profit/non-academic/non-government) competent employer can turn a job offer in less than a day if they are on a deadline.

Based on that, either Job B doesn't really want to hire you or Job B has a ridiculous bureaucracy that you don't want to deal with anyway.

Go for Job A. There's no question here.
posted by saeculorum at 6:11 PM on December 25, 2013 [8 favorites]

If you want to take Job A, tell them immediately; sounds like you've already missed the 2nd deadline as you write this question. Me, I'd do that and take the "pretty nice" gig that's guaranteed, in this economy, especially if a friend had to do a lot of work on my behalf. I was in a similar situation once and sometimes regret the path I'm on, but I have had a paycheck in the intervening years, and the other, better-sounding position might not've even come through in the end.
posted by mlle valentine at 6:11 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't know where you are geographically, so I don't know what your hiring laws are like, but I would imagine in many places that having a written statement (i.e. that email) that they are ready to extend an offer to you, but are just waiting for a signature, is equivalent to an offer, and that you might have some legal recourse if they changed their mind after that.

Oh no no no no no NO. I've seen many many people burned by ideas like that. If it's not in writing and sitting in your inbox, it's not real. You can argue the legal stuff all day long, but if there's no job there's no job.

Any (for-profit/non-academic/non-government) competent employer can turn a job offer in less than a day if they are on a deadline.

Seriously? I've seen it happen many times, and I work for a pretty organized firm. We just happen to have 80,000 employees spread around the country and it's not something that gets turned instantly.

And didn't we just review that it's the holidays? Who knows what kind of missing people there are in the chain that just are out of the office until 1/2 or whatever.

I'm not giving B the benefit of the doubt here, but A gave you an exploding offer which isn't really cool either.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:33 PM on December 25, 2013 [8 favorites]

It's really odd that Job A is giving you an offer that explodes on Christmas Day. Is it possible that they offered it to you because of your friend, but that another person at the company, Bob, say, would really prefer that you not take it, so that it can be offered to the person Bob prefers?

That's what I'd be worried about.

I'd also be worried that at Job B, the person who is making you promises really wants you; but that someone else is balking at hiring you. Christmas or no Christmas, if they really want to hire you, the person who can make the decision could email you, or call you. They haven't done so. There really needs to be a signature in blue ink on some hardcopy; there's no fax or email at this company?

I think the offer at Job B is a lot mushier than you've been led to believe. And there's something going on at Job A that you should be worried about.

Unless you really don't want Job A, I'd take it.
posted by musofire at 6:54 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

i'd hold out for the job you really want. but that's me. it's the holidays so things can take much longer than normal.

agree that unless you get a firm offer from B it's not an actual offer. someone telling you off-record they want to hire you doesn't mean squat. i've had that happen and didn't get the job, as have friends, because other factors (usually experience level) were at play.
posted by wildflower at 6:57 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you told company B when company A's offer would expire, company B will be in a much stronger position when they make you their offer and they will know it. How confident are you that company B will not only make you an offer but an offer that you would accept without negotiation?

Note that I disagree with JoeZydeco that company A has made you an exploding offer. An exploding offer is an offer with a very short deadline intended to prevent you from comparing offers. We're talking about a couple of days, or even just overnight. It is not an exploding offer just because it has a deadline, especially if that deadline has already been extended once.

I wouldn't try to interpret anything shady out of the Christmas Day deadline if it was given after you asked for an extension.
posted by d. z. wang at 7:00 PM on December 25, 2013 [4 favorites]

I've seen the Company B situation - almost ready, just need a signature, etc. - turn into we hired the other candidate and the whole team was back and forth and seen it turn into "actually the role doesn't exist any more." I've also seen it turned into an offer at a company that can't get its act together.

I would take into account how much warning and notice you gave Company B to get an offer together. If it was a very fast, I would cut them some slack. They were overoptimistic about how quickly they could actually move.

If you told them you'd ask for an extension on the first offer and they had enough notice? I really worry about the kind of boundaries you're setting for yourself. It might be your dream job, but culturally, I'd ask yourself if there were other things that seemed disrespectful or like they were testing how far they could inconvenience you - interviews at the last minute without schedule flexibility, keeping you waiting, any paperwork or hoops that seemed out of the ordinary. Because whether it's intentional or not, a company that has a culture where the worker and candidates are worth less than the company's needs and time is only a good fit for a certain kind of person - and if that person is walking into it with their eyes open.

Because I value culture, smooth operations and how much a company takes my needs into consideration, in your shoes, I would take Company A or, if I were already employed somewhere that wasn't miserable, decline Company A and throw my resume in at Company C, D, E and F and do what I tell Company B I will so they know I mean what I say when it comes to my boundaries.
posted by Gucky at 7:15 PM on December 25, 2013 [6 favorites]

I worked at an organization that was something like the "Job B" scenario above. The applicant told us that he wanted to work for us, but he had a job offer with [other company] that he had kept putting off. If we couldn't get a job offer to him quickly, he'd have to take his Job A.

Every one of us who interviewed him wanted him to join, with the exception of a higher-up who wanted to hire an engineer with zero experience in the field we were working in. At the post-interview discussion, everyone else said that not only should we hire him, but hiring him was a no-brainer. The higher-up made a show of backing down, and the head of that group and the HR hiring person worked quickly to get the paperwork done. And then they put it on the higher-up's desk.

The higher-up then sat on it for days, until our candidate told us that he had to give up and take Job A. We instead hired the other candidate, the one with no job experience in our field.

All of this is to say that you may not have a written job offer from "B" because there might still be political infighting at that company which is preventing a written job offer from reaching you. Sure, it may be bureaucratic incompetence like others in this thread are saying, but it may be even worse than that. If I were you, I'd take Job A if the offer is still available.
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 7:43 PM on December 25, 2013 [13 favorites]

I'd analyze the situation exactly like davejay. If I could live happily with Job A, I'd take it, unless (a) I had a really strong sense that Job B was going to make an offer at a salary that'd work for me, and (b) I could live with it if I ended up getting neither job.
posted by salvia at 8:44 PM on December 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

You have an offer for a job on one hand, and nothing on the other hand. Nothing.

Sure, it may turn into a job, but it may turn into nothing, it often does turn into nothing for a host of reasons outlined above, plus a dozen others.

You haven't really outlined above why job B is so much more preferable - why is it preferable? - but unless Job A really sucks, you are turning down an actual job in favour of nothing, and it could very well burn a friend in the process. So for me, I would take job A.

My partner is a recruiter, and I while I would likely never do this myself as it's kind of a dick move, it's not uncommon for people to except a job at the large multinational where we work, and then "quit" before starting day as they get a better job offer somewhere. As I say, I wouldn't do it, I think it's not very great behaviour - x10 when there's a friend involved - but it's not uncommon.
posted by smoke at 10:52 PM on December 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Accept Job A and if Job B pans out with a better offer, accept Job B and quickly resign Job A. Both companies are being weird in this situation, one giving an offer that expires on Christmas when no one will even be working, and one twiddling their thumbs on making an offer.

Don't worry about offending either company -- your happiness is what's most important.

Your friend will be fine.
posted by hamsterdam at 11:24 PM on December 25, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'd accept A, and only take B if it's AWESOME.

Frankly, knowing that you have a deadline and just not moving heaven and earth to meet it indicates to me that this place may have a bunch of other issues that are more than just vacation related.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:40 AM on December 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

You have a bird in the hand and you've got, really, just rustling sounds in the bush.

I'd take A.
posted by sm1tten at 9:33 AM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

Hi! Anonymous here - I guess there's no harm in coming out of hiding. Thanks so much to everyone for the excellent advice. I've decided to go with Job A and sent along my acceptance last night, which they happily accepted. The more I thought about it, the more it really was a great and rare opportunity for me, and where my career needs to go (even if Job A comes with many more hours and demands, but hey, that's the tradeoff you have to accept in the legal industry.) Nothing about it said "exploding offer" - they gave me a generous amount of time, then extended it, and if anything I was the one pushing them for a decision (there was another offer on the table before all this. I told you it was convoluted.)

Job B, meanwhile, hasn't bothered to contact me today, so it's looking more and more like they're stringing me along with a little dangling fish hook without anything binding (verbal or written) or even a salary figure. This is actually the third time they've passed a deadline that I've requested them to meet, despite continual assurances that they would expedite the process, so at this point it's looking like they're just being actively rude and dismissive. Seems like A is the right choice.
posted by naju at 2:38 PM on December 26, 2013 [2 favorites]

(I expect to look back on this moment and say "I had a tough life decision to make, but I was fortunate to receive advice from a very wise person named UrineSoakedRube.")
posted by naju at 2:55 PM on December 26, 2013 [7 favorites]

"I had a tough life decision to make, but I was fortunate to receive advice from a very wise person named UrineSoakedRube."

Join the club, brother. And congratulations on the new job!
posted by UrineSoakedRube at 3:56 PM on December 26, 2013 [3 favorites]

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