How to handle two job offers?
June 3, 2008 9:41 AM   Subscribe

There is a possibility I will be given two different job offers in the span of a few days. I don't know which one I prefer yet, or how exactly to handle the situation.

First of all, what is the proper etiquette for a "job offer" phone conversation? I want to tell them I won't be accepting right away, and that I may need time to decide depending on how long the other company takes to call. Should I just tell them, flat out, that I am waiting on another offer? Basically here I'm looking for an almost word-for-word description of what is generally said in these conversations, so that I know what to expect.

Second, what questions should I ask? I'm assuming they will tell me the exact salary (we've already discussed the benefits in detail), but what else should I know before I hang up?

Finally, I don't know anything about salary negotiation. Both positions are entry level, and they have other candidates, so I'm assuming that they will not expect (or allow) any negotiation. On the other hand, does the fact that I may have two offers give me any leverage? Can I tell company A that company B offered me $X more, and that I would rather work for A but can't accept unless they offer $X also? Is this commonly done for entry-level (out of college) positions? Does it ever work?
posted by TSGlenn to Work & Money (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It's entirely legitimate to say "I'm expecting an offer from another organization shortly. Can I get back to you by $DAY?" And by the same token, you can call up the second and say "Look, I've got $DOLLARS on the table right this moment from someone else; are you really serious about me or should I move on?"
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:57 AM on June 3, 2008

If you are coming out of college then telling them you are waiting on another organization is perfectly fine I think.

I wouldn't worry (too) much about the money, as long as it is enough to make you minimally happy.

If you feel you are worth more then you will have a year to prove it to them on-the-job, and a much stronger bargaining position for a salary review.
posted by tachikaze at 10:16 AM on June 3, 2008

Can I tell company A that company B offered me $X more, and that I would rather work for A but can't accept unless they offer $X also? Is this commonly done for entry-level (out of college) positions? Does it ever work?

I've successfully negotiated up three of four entry-level job offers, so yes, you can do it. (Granted, some of them were absurdly low to start with. The fourth I didn't try to negotiate on because it was quite generous already.) When you think about it, it's a lot cheaper for a company to increase the entry-level guy's offer by 10% than to increase a senior level offer by the same factor. I wouldn't demand $X unless you really won't work for less than $X, though.

Your ability to negotiate depends on how competitive the field is, how much of a hotshot you are, the budget of the department/business you're looking at, etc.
posted by phoenixy at 10:17 AM on June 3, 2008

You need to think in terms of salary population percentiles, not salary. In other words, will their offer put you in the top half of people in your position? Bottom third? Top 10%? What? There are lots of online engines for this, I like - you might find your own favorite.

There's no better negotiating position than having multiple offers, and a willingness to walk if someone is low-balling you. In fact, you should be willing to walk even if you're without a competing offer. Don't get suckered into starting out at a salary level that will hinder your growth down the line, and don't allow their unrealistic budget expectations to become your problem.

I essentially start every salary conversation (when we get to that point) by making clear what I believe the 25th and 75th percentile compensation numbers are for the position, and my expectation that an offer from them in the 50th percentile essentially means they must expect average work from me. If my numbers are wrong, I ask them to correct me. If they do that, I ask them what percentile their offer corresponds to (if you're dealing with HR, believe me - they know the answer to this).

At this point, they can either lie to me about the range, or the percentile, but at this point it's clear you're no fool and you've done your homework. If they're unwilling to even play this game, they're really just looking for some sucker to work for cheap - don't be that sucker.

All this is contingent on you being the candidate they really want, etc. etc. etc. If you sense they could just as easily make an offer to the next person down the list, and you really want the gig, you'll just have to eat it. Best of luck.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:58 AM on June 3, 2008 [3 favorites]

I've definitely told a potential employer on the phone that I needed time to consider, and that I would call them back by the end of the day in two days. That gave me time to wait for other offers to come in, and then when I called back I was able to negotiate from the stronger position of having two offers on the table. I don't think you need to give any reason for needing a couple days to think. You certainly wouldn't want to tell them you're waiting on another offer, and then have to admit that it fell through. Just give them a decent timeline of when you'll call them back with a decision, and make sure you call them by then.
posted by vytae at 11:23 AM on June 3, 2008

There's a lot more to work than money. Decide which company/position you think you would be happiest in, and go for that one. Assuming both have offers on the table. If one is holding-out, well then, you've got one offer.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:46 PM on June 3, 2008

Here's a long answer because I've included dialogue samples.

Here are my thoughts:

For an entry level position, some employers will not wait for you to accept another offer, and will not be pleased that you're waiting for another offer. They may just go ahead and offer it to the next person in line. Sometimes the deciding factor for an employer is: does the person want to work here? Do they want to be part of this team? Are they excited about this place and do they think they can make a difference here?
But you don't want to lose the leverage the other offer gives you. You can handle this in a couple of ways:

1) Don't tell them you have another offer, but tell them you need time to decide--basically enough time to wait for the other offer to come in. The reason you need time to decide is not because you aren't sure--it's because of some external factor that you have no control over:

"My husband/girlfriend/wife/boyfriend is coming back this weekend we're are going to talk then. Can I get back to you on Monday?" They will assume you have another offer, and increase the salary or do something else to sweeten it in some way. As NoRelationtoLea says, they will only do this if you are important to them in some way, though.

Now you have to be ready, in this scenario, if they say during the call, "Well, I'm really looking to nail this down. Is there anything we can do to help you make up your mind right now?"

Make sure you know the answer to that.

Or they might say, "I understand, but I'm under some pressure to fill this position, and I have other candidates that I'm looking at. I can't change the offer. Please give me an answer now/tomorrow/by Friday at the latest."

Have an answer to that too. See the next scenario for help here.

2) Soft-pedal the other offer in some way:

"Thank you for the offer. I'm really interested in this position and I think I could make a big difference. I really like XXXX about this job and/or your company. But before I knew about this position I agreed with my husband/girlfriend/wife/boyfriend that I would look for jobs a little closer to home/closer to the daycare/with less travel. I did interview with one place and they told me yesterday they will decide on Friday. So I need to wait and see how that turns out before I can accept this job.

"...Although... I know I could sell my h/g/w/b on this if you had any flexibility on the salary. If we had enough extra to pay for the babysitter/daycare/commute/rent then it wouldn't be an issue. Could you come up to, say, $Xxx?"

Answer A: "No? Ok, no problem. I just thought I'd check. Like I said, I really do like this job and I will definitely let you know on Friday."
Answer B: "You can? Oh that's great. Thanks so much! That makes it really easy for me. I accept, and I'm even more motivated to come work for you now. See you in two weeks. Thanks again!"

There's another dimension to this. In general, asking for more works a lot better if you have a reason for needing it. Everybody wants more money! But if you can say, "I really like this job, and the only thing that's making me hesitate is I won't have enough money to do xxxx..." then the employer can understand your specific issue and see if they can do something about it. But if a manager has to go to his boss, or HR, or even just into his own head and have this conversation:

"I made an offer to TGlenn and he says he wants the job, but he wants more money."
"I don't know, that's what he said."
"Well, does he want the job or not? Fuck him, how about Jessamyn? She seemed to have a lot going for her. You were about 50/50 on the two of them anyway, right? See what she says and then we can get back to what's-his-name."
"Ok, I'll check..."

Much better if the person can report,

"Hey TGlenn wants the job, but needs another $Xxx/per month in order to move in to the apartment they want. Can I have the budget for that?"
"Is he worth it? Is he the right person?"
"I think so. He's got all the skills, and I think he does seem to want to work here. The only thing is this rent problem, and I think we might lose him to another company if we can't come up with the extra. It's a small price to pay in the long run."
"Ok, go ahead. But I'd better see performance coming out of TGlenn's ass!"

posted by lockedroomguy at 4:16 PM on June 3, 2008 [2 favorites]

I forgot to answer the other part of your question i.e., "What questions should I ask about the offer?" Here are some that may or may not be appropriate, and if you don't think they're going to have an effect on your decision or they're not applicable then of course don't bother:

- How does your salary review process work? When would I next be eligible for a review and possible raise?
- Is there a bonus scheme?
- Do you pay overtime? What are the criteria for work out of hours to be paid at overtime rates?
- How often do you pay? Is it every two weeks, or twice a month, or whatever?
- If there is a base+bonus scheme, does the bonus count toward the calculation of any of the other benefits? For example when I sign up for the 401k/RRSP/Pension scheme is the calculation based on my total income or just the base salary portion?

Also, make sure the offer is clear if it's not in writing. You should expect to get it in writing at some point, but in the initial phone call something like this could happen:

"We'd like you to join us. The salary is forty-two."

Remember this is dialogue. Did they mean $42,000 or $40,200?

It may be the only time in history it happened, and it may never happen again, but I got burned that way myself once. Didn't feel comfortable going back when I got the written offer and saying, "But I was sure you meant... " Dammit.

Repeat the offer back to them to confirm.

posted by lockedroomguy at 4:40 PM on June 3, 2008

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