How do I write this letter to a potential employer?
April 3, 2016 10:40 AM   Subscribe

I'm on the job hunt, and I was recently offered a great job! I have till at least the end of this week to commit or not. However, there's ANOTHER job that I potentially want more. For this second one, I have gone through 2 rounds of phone interviews, submitted my portfolio and done an assignment (a series of technical and creative tasks for them). How do I politely write to them to say "hey, if you want to interview me in person, could we do that ASAP please?" My brainstormed letter below the fold. Also, if you think this a terrible idea, please tell me why.

Dear [name of hiring manager],
Thanks for following up with me about receiving my assignment. I just wanted to do you the courtesy of letting you know that I have just been offered a position from another company. Before I let them know, I wanted to check in with you, as of course I would really love to work for [name of the company where I am writing the letter]. If I am a strong contender for the [name of position] position and you were planning to schedule interviews quite soon, this would help me in my decision-making process and also could give you an opportunity to meet with me in person if that was something the team wanted to do.

I realize that you have several candidates from which to choose and I really don't want to rock the boat here, but I also feel that I would be a great fit for this position and I don't want either of us to miss out on this possibility.

Thank you very much for your time,
me


*OKAY so my concerns are - 1) can i really do this? i realize it's a risk, but also i'm not going to say no to the company that offered me a job if i haven't heard back from these guys, so if i don't ask it is very likely that i will miss out here anyways. I COUULLLLD take the job and then somehow in my first few weeks fly across the country in secret to interview for these guys, but that feels more dishonest than i am comfortable with.

2) how do i say "we both might miss out on this great chance - you might not get me, and i might not get to work with you" without sounding like an egomaniac?

3) has anyone done this before and had it work? the company who i would be writing to is a huuuuge company (think something like Google, Apple, etc) so it might be less flexible.

thank you!
posted by andreapandrea to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Honestly if you need to get back to Company 1 by the end of this week, and Company 2 hasn't even scheduled in-persons yet, (a) they're not likely to be able to hustle to get you interviewed and an offer out to you this week even if they wanted to, and (b) if you tell them "I'm willing to accept another offer but drop it the second you make me one" that makes you look pretty shifty and could cost you the job you really want. So I would just wait til week's end, accept Job #1, and then quietly continue interviewing for Job 2 if you decide you want to, on whatever schedule unfolds.
posted by fingersandtoes at 11:13 AM on April 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


Considering how companies treat applicants, you should have no guilt whatsoever if you accept a job and then very quickly resign to take a different job.

They'd do the same to you, if it was in their interests.
posted by yesster at 11:18 AM on April 3, 2016 [10 favorites]


At least in my industry (tech in SF), what you're trying to do is fine and normal, and hiring managers want to know if you're in the funnel at other places. About two months ago I was in a similar situation and let one company know that another company had asked for references after an on-site, and the second company got me an on-site within two days.

I would take out the line about not wanting to rock the boat, and let them know that your schedule is wide open.
posted by alphanerd at 11:18 AM on April 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


So, I'm in academia, where this sort of thing is pretty common: our hiring schedules are semi-synchronous, so everyone's making offers around the same time and there's a lot of people writing into institution A which has them in the pipeline saying, "institution B has made me an offer, so I'd like to hear from you." With that as my context, here's my advice: keep it simple and keep it honest. What you write to the hiring manager at your dream job should include, and probably be limited to, the following details:

* that you have received an offer from another company (possibly naming them explicitly, depending on norms in your business) but would still prefer to work with dream company if they can make you a definite offer.

* that the company you've received an offer from needs your commitment by such-and-such a date.

The second bit really needs to be in the letter you're writing, and I would probably drop your second paragraph for reasons I go into a bit below. The first paragraph seems mostly good, although the "As a courtesy..." and "Before I let them know..." bits make your decision in favor of the people who have already hired you seem a bit of a fait accompli, so maybe rephrase that a little bit to make it clearer you haven't committed yet.

Things I would say probably do not improve your chances, and probably don't belong in your letter for that reason, are as follows:

* any salary/benefit details of the other position; then it looks like you're trying to get employers in a bidding war over you when they haven't even committed to wanting you at all.

* too much reiteration of your qualifications/enthusiasm. They know and have on file your qualifications, and your enthusiasm is to some extent obvious from the context, since if you didn't want to work with them, the first they'd hear of it is your courtesy notice that you've taken another job. Anyone involved in hiring has seen letters of this sort before and can read between the lines the aspects of your dilemma, that a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush. Implicit in that dilemma is the fact that it's two in the bush, not one. Which is not to say you shouldn't make your preference explicit --- far from it! --- but start from the assumption that the reader likely already realizes you would prefer to work with them.
posted by jackbishop at 11:24 AM on April 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've often had interviewers ask if I have other offers/deadlines, or any other reason why the interview process might have to be sped up. Sometimes even in the first phone screen. Companies are often willing to do this. Just tell them you have another offer, you'd probably prefer to work for them if it's a good fit, and might they be able to make a decision before your deadline?

If they want to interview everyone and don't have time, then they'll probably say no, and you haven't missed out on anything. But maybe they want to hire multiple candidates, and you're already a front-runner! In that case they would probably say yes, interview you, make an offer, and then continue seeing who else among the candidates they want to hire.

I don't think you need to be super-apologetic the way you are in your example letter. Say you understand if it isn't possible, and be positive about the wonderful opportunities that come from working at Large Company X.

If you've made a verbal acceptance of your current offer that becomes much messier. And if the employment contract they ask you to sign includes a non-compete clause, it could be impossible or inconvenient or even just scare the other company away from making an offer.
posted by vogon_poet at 11:25 AM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I've had several internal recruiters at big companies ask me if I was interviewing elsewhere for the explicit reason that they could speed up the process if I were.

Your letter sounds to me though like you are really close to pulling the trigger with the other company and if I were a recruiter I might say to myself, "It's going to be so hard to make a week work on my end, and she seems halfway out the door anyway, I'll just wish her luck."

I would try to extend the week deadline if you can and maybe make the other offer seem less close-to-finalized than "Before I let them know" does.
posted by thorough at 11:28 AM on April 3, 2016


Yes, it's fine to send this email. Happens all the time--the company you really want to work for will want to know this information. Your draft looks fine, but I'd be less deferential (you are an applicant, not a servant) and make it more clear you'd like an in-person interview if possible (what's the downside if you are likely to take the other offer?). Something like this:

Dear [name of hiring manager],

Thanks for following up with me about receiving my assignment. I wanted to let you know that I have just been offered a position from another company [name the company if it's a good company and in the same line of work] which I unfortunately need to respond to by [DATE]. I wanted to check in with you before I let them know.

Is there any way you can let me know whether you view me as a strong contender for the [name of position] position, and the timeline for the rest of the process? Or is there any way I could interview in-person (if that is the next step) before [DATE]? I am very excited about the potential job with [name of the company where you are writing the letter], especially after competing the phone interviews where [REASONS; e.g., "I learned about the XYZ project and the exciting work you're doing in gamma ray detector technology"], and I feel that I would be a great fit for this position. If there is anything more you can tell me it would be very helpful.

You can also give me a call at [NUMBER] if easier.

Thank you very much for your time,
[you]

***

Also, you already had phone interviews, and they've seen your resume, so they are either already excited about you as a prospect, or not. There's no email that will get them excited about you. You just want to communicate the facts, reiterate your interest, and see where it leads.
posted by _Silky_ at 11:29 AM on April 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


A cautionary addendum, having read other responses: the appropriateness of various followups after commitment is pretty industry-specific. In businesses where hiring is on an irregular schedule, you can get away with a lot more keeping-your-hand-in-the-market than in ones (like academia) where the hiring and employment schedule is pretty regimented, although in every business you want to be bit discreet about job-hunting while you're employed.

It is possible that taking a job and then jumping ship 3-6 months later could be perfectly acceptable in your industry, or it could be the sort of thing that gets around and makes future employers start walking sideways (again, from my own industry: there are people who accept an offer but walk before the beginning of the year to take other jobs. It doesn't happen often, it really screws over the original hiring institution, and word usually gets around).

If you are in an industry where this kind of mobility is common/possible, then taking your less-preferred job while continuing through the hiring process with your dream company may be a possibility, but tread very carefully.
posted by jackbishop at 11:35 AM on April 3, 2016


I once got the job I wanted by doing this, though I gave the hiring manager a call instead of an email (this was almost 20 years ago though, email might be more appropriate now). So this definitely can work. I think _Silky_'s email above has a more professional tone.
posted by veerat at 12:34 PM on April 3, 2016


Personally I had a candidate tell me they were offered another job and they needed an answer by Friday that week, but I was nowhere near far enough along in my process to be able to do that, so I told him to just take the job he was offered and I dropped him as a candidate so I could have time to evaluate my other candidates. What are the next steps in the process with you? How many more steps are there? The problem is, you do not know where they are with the other candidates in the process but if you feel like you are very fair along, you can ask what the timeline looks like and say you have other offers you are considering but you're very interested in them.

I think you should try to delay the first job, if you can. Not sure you can say you need more time to think about it at this point, so I'd accept but push back your start date as much as you can. (Assuming you're done negotiating salary -- if not, haggling should buy some time.) Then, if you get the second job and you really want it, you could back out of the first job. People do this all the time, honestly. I hate someone quit on his second day because he was offered his dream job. Sure, it does look shitty, but if you aren't worried about trying to come back and work for the first company anytime soon and you want to work for the second company more, it's worth it.

How I would approach this is to make sure you are securing the sure thing for yourself. That is the first job. And then I would try to let the second one play out and see what happens. You may not even get that job, after all. You can send that email to the second company if you think they are nearly done with the process, but if they haven't contacted your references, I assume they are not.
posted by AppleTurnover at 1:09 PM on April 3, 2016


Just a style note - I think your tone is little bit too obsequious. If this is a good fit, then they should feel lucky to have you as much as you feel lucky to be hired.

for example: also could give you an opportunity to meet with me in person if that was something the team wanted to do.
You can just delete "if that was something the team wanted to do." since they obviously aren't going to do anything that they don't want to do.

Similarly, you say
I realize that you have several candidates from which to choose and I really don't want to rock the boat here, but I also feel that I would be a great fit for this position and I don't want either of us to miss out on this possibility.,
you really don't need to apologize for rocking the boat - if they are really interested in you, you are doing both sides a favor by giving them a chance to hire you. In fact, I wouldn't even mention the competition and just say
"I realize this might not be possible on such short notice but I believe that I am a great fit...."
posted by metahawk at 2:25 PM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


My feeling from reading your letter is that it's very wishy-washy, with lots of unnecessary weakening modifiers. IE, you 'just wanted to do you the courtesy of letting you know,' you want to check with them 'of course', you ask for an interview 'if that was something the team wanted to do' and you 'really don't want to rock the boat.' In total, you continuously express the sentiment that they're doing you a huge favor by talking to you and if only they would grace you with some attention, you'll be ever so grateful. That's not the case -- the point of an interview is to find a good match for both parties and having been on the hiring side, I assure you that a good candidate is hard to find.

The point of writing the letter is to update the hiring firm and avoid the situation of the hiring manager at some point in the future thinking or saying 'if I had known, I would have moved up interviews.' Don't think of it as begging for some special treatment; instead you're the one extending them the opportunity to have a last go at you before you accept another offer. I would write something like this:

--------------

Dear [hiring manager],

Thanks for confirming the receipt of my assignment; I hope you had a chance to take a look at it and confirm the value I can bring to your organization.

I wanted to let you know that I recently received an offer from another company which puts me under time pressure to make a decision [by date]. Based on our phone conversations, I am excited about [position at company] and with to continue our discussion but the other offer makes it necessary for the next conversation to happen soon. I am available [days], so if you are able to accommodate the compressed timeline, I'd love to talk in person.

Thank you,
Me

-------------

You won't sound like an egomaniac if you remain direct and professional; in fact IMO an offer in hand will make you a much more compelling candidate because you may end up interviewing before all the other candidates. In my experience, many companies are very slow and bureaucratic about hiring without an external stimulus but a competing offer and a timeline can really move things along.
posted by bsdfish at 2:35 PM on April 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Oh, and to address you specific points:

1) You can and should send this letter. IMO accepting another offer, continuing to interview and skipping out on the accepted offer if you like this one better is somewhat distasteful but I've heard of people doing this. I wouldn't.

2) As I said in the prev. response, just have more confidence in yourself and the value you can bring :)

3) Yes, I've seen this work. In order for it to work, they have to already be interested in you and there's a chance they'll decide it's too much effort and won't actually happen, but if they're actually interested in you (and given two conversations and an assignment, they actually have some info to assess you), there's a good chance they'll move things along. If they don't, you wouldn't have gotten an offer by staying quiet either.
posted by bsdfish at 2:42 PM on April 3, 2016


Yes, what bsdfish said. The draft in the comment above is a great email. Being straightforward comes across as confident, not as egotistical. The weakening statements are almost more annoying, like trying to decide where to go out to eat with someone who won't admit they have a preference but clearly does. The fact is that if they don't get their act together quickly, they may well lose you as a candidate. It is courteous to inform them of that clearly. Good luck!
posted by salvia at 3:36 PM on April 3, 2016


Thanks everyone for your feedback. Just to be clear, I absolutely won't be accepting the offer I have and continuing to sneakily look for work. Although I can see moments where that might not be the end of the world (huge faceless company with a generic job position where they can easily replace me with little effort) the company where I might be starting is small and awesome and my position is not easily fillable. I am not going to screw them over if I agree to work there.

And thanks for the tone tips! This will help me now and forever.
posted by andreapandrea at 4:33 PM on April 3, 2016


Also, don't be afraid to ask to extend your current offer window, if possible. That will buy you more time.
posted by ageispolis at 4:43 PM on April 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


For an alternate perspective: I was an HR recruiter for about 7 years in a corporate environment and to be quite honest, if I received a letter like that from a candidate for a newly-opened position that we were just beginning interviews for -- unless they were already personally known by a hiring manager who was pushing for them -- I would eliminate them from the candidate pool and send them their rejection letter early. Other companies may work differently but in ours, we would never be able to interview people and make an offer within a week. This was a process that would take on average about a month, often several months, depending on the various staff the candidates need to meet with (there were usually at least 3 separate interview visits), getting references, doing background checks, etc. If you're strongly interested in that second job, I wouldn't let on that you're being hired for a different job until the *end* of your first interview with them. Accept the offer from job #1 and set your start date. If you get an interview with job #2, as you're saying your goodbyes and thanking them for their time at the end, that would be a good moment to let them know "I have an offer from another company but I am strongly interested in this opportunity. If there's a possibility of expediting the selection process for this role, I'd be very interested; I look forward to hearing from you soon about the next steps," and leave it at that. Then you can start work at job #1 while quietly waiting to see what pans out with job #2. It was not unheard of for us to hire people who would quit a week or two after starting because they got a better offer elsewhere -- as HR, we hated that because it wasted our time & resources on having to start over again; but at least the person got a job that fit better for them. You have to look out for you.
posted by cuddles.mcsnuggy at 8:26 AM on April 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


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