Two job offers is a good problem to have - but maybe not twice in a row.
February 9, 2017 6:35 AM   Subscribe

Consulting problems: 7 months ago I was offered a job, but a better offer came up the same day and I went for the second offer. Now the same situation has happened again with the exact same companies. Is there a way to turn down the first company again without burning a bridge?

I do IT consulting / staff aug work, but only for 1 company at a time - while part-time is possible it's really not ideal and I'd rather not split my time between 2 companies that really need a full-time person. So each time a I need a new contract it's like interviewing for a job. Last year I had some downtime without a contract and did a lot of networking to find one. “Company A” expressed interest in giving me a contract, but a better contract came up with “Company B” while Company A put together a formal offer so I went for the latter. My contract with Company B is through a consulting company that I have been working with for years, and any contract with Company A would be through a consultancy I've never worked with before.

(Really, when I say I reached out to Company A, I reached out to a consultancy working with Company A, but the consultancies are somewhat interchangeable so I'm more concerned about the client, not the consulting company that would get me the contract).

My contract with Company B was supposed to end at the end of February so I've been reaching out to my network again. I reached out to the consultancy that works with Company A, and yesterday Company A offered me a year-long contract again based on my previous interview. But late yesterday Company B called my current employer and offered to extend my contract through June. So the same situation is happening again - Company A wants to bring me on, I'd prefer Company B for now, but in the future I’d like to keep my options with Company A open. Is there any way to handle this without burning bridges to Company A so I could work with them in the future? I’m worried that they’ll think I’m a flake, or they’ll think I’m using them to get leverage with my current employer and client. And I’m worried they won’t want to employ me in the future when they get the clear signal that they are my second choice.

(I’m not particularly tied to my consulting company and after talking to my peers it seems that people leave and return regularly, so I don’t think I’ll be burning a bridge with my current company by leaving).
posted by Tehhund to Work & Money (7 answers total)
Based on your explanation, I assume you are receiving these offers of a contract through the consultancies and not directly from the employers. My response is predicated on that assumption.

If your latest offer from A came through the same consultancy as your prior offer from A, you might have a bigger concern about burning bridges with that consultancy than with burning bridges with A. It could be that these consultancies are accustomed to consecutive turn-downs. I don't know. If the prior and latest offer came through two different consultancies, then I would think that burning bridges with the consultancy is less of a problem. Employer A is relying on the consultancy to fill their need. As long as the need is filled, they may have much less attention on being turned down by you, personally. On the other hand, if both offers came through the same consultancy, and if A knows that it was you who turned them down in both cases, that's altogether different. This is an angle you might examine.
posted by John Borrowman at 7:58 AM on February 9, 2017 [3 favorites]

"Hey, I'm open to working with you in the future, I'd like to keep exploring options, but your offer just isn't competitive right now."
posted by straw at 8:59 AM on February 9, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd want to know if you have a lot of personal visibility (like a recruiting firm would give you), or not (more like a multi-member contract, staffing agency, or similar model) would be comparable to. If not, you definitely don't have a problem.

Assuming it's the former -

I hire PMs and developers a lot. There are people we kind of court repeatedly and as long as I think they're playing fair with us we do understand as they pass us by for what seem like legit better offers. In our case we're a growing company, so talent that wasn't feasible for us to "court" due to project size or preferred compensation is now in range. In short, we don't take it personally... :-)

The only thing that puts a big old black mark on someone's copybook in my world (aside from working for us and performing badly, of course) is TAKING A WRITTEN JOB OFFER (not one pending, not one that we're working on - all's fair until we make an offer and you accept it), letting me hang for a while while I think you're working out notice, and then backing out during the period we're waiting for you to come on board (or quitting in the first week or two because a better offer you were working on finally dropped - same difference).

If you do this to me your chances of ever getting hired by me in the future shrink to microscopic proportions... I feel like you're worried that you're being viewed THIS way, and Company A would not be reasonable to do so

All that said, would you be losing anything by taking a spin with Company A? Seems like you would then have one more company under your belt where you have a track record when you need to find another gig...
posted by randomkeystrike at 9:03 AM on February 9, 2017 [5 favorites]

You're talking about turning down a 12 month contract (Company A) for a 4 month contract (Company B). I would think about whether your income from B in those 4 extended months is worth more than 12 months at A.

You can always say "hey, my contract got extended until June. I'd like to complete this project I'm in the middle of and I can start in June." Or what straw suggested above.

Keep in mind though, even though it won't be personal Company A will probably only make so many offers before you unofficially become the contractor who is never available.

Personally, I would take the offer with Company A since it's a longer stream of income for you.
posted by eatcake at 9:44 AM on February 9, 2017 [7 favorites]

I agree with randomkeystrike and eatcake both. As a hiring manager, I am quite used to contractors refusing an offer because they have a better one. That's part of the game, and I played it for a long time. Company A's manager will totally understand that you are looking out for your own best interests and won't hold it against you.

But unless Company B is offering you 3x the rate that Company A is, I don't see why you'd go with B.
posted by bluejayway at 1:04 PM on February 9, 2017

I missed the part about the contract length - even more points for Company A.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:46 PM on February 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

Thanks everyone. I probably could have been clearer in my post - I really like my setup with Company B and would like to keep doing contracts like this. Company B allows me to work remotely 100% of the time, which is really big to me. Company A is local so I'll be in the office a substantial amount of time. And my current health care coverage will probably save us $20K this year (yay insurance woes), so the $6K/yr boost Company A offers is not a big incentive. Moreover, today I learned Company B's offer might be 6 months or 12 months, it's not certain yet So my ideal is stick with Company B.

Really, the question is "how do I decline Company A but keep the option open in the future?" but it sounds like there's not really a way to make that happen for certain.
posted by Tehhund at 4:33 PM on February 9, 2017

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