Should I Tell An Employer I Have Another Job Offer?

 To tell, or not to tell. That is the question. / iStockphoto.com (Siphotography)

To tell, or not to tell. That is the question. / iStockphoto.com (Siphotography)

Wouldn't it be nice if the interview process adhered to a universal timeline that all employers followed? It would certainly simplify things if you could go to interviews with all potential employers during the first week, receive your offers the following week, then weigh all your offers and share your decision the week after that.

Sadly, it doesn't work that way. Job hunting is an imperfect process, and offers tend to trickle in at different times. And employers don't necessarily want to wait for an answer while you're trying to get another company to present their offer.

So, what do you do if you're in the awkward position that you have an offer in hand from one employer (let's call it Company A), but the company you really want to work for (Company B) hasn't made their decision yet? How can you possibly make a major career decision without all the facts?

In other words, is it okay to try to hurry the process along by telling Company B you have another offer on the table?

Ask yourself the following question: If Company B – the company you really want to work for – presents you an offer, do you intend to take it?

I know, I know - there are several unanswered questions in terms of salary and other factors. But if Company B is where you'd really like to work, then it may be in your best interest to tell Company B.

It's all in the approach. Such a scenario can be a great opportunity for you to reinforce your interest in the company, portray you as an in-demand professional. A well placed, well handled call may in fact hurry the process along. Your call to Company B's recruiter or hiring manager should go something like this:

"I just wanted to call because I'm in a bit of a difficult situation. I have received an offer from another company and I owe them an answer by this Friday. However, your company is and has been my first choice, and I wanted to follow up to reiterate my interest."

Then listen, reiterate your interest, and thank them for their understanding.

You're doing Company B a favor - if you're truly their preferred candidate, they will move heaven and earth to try to provide you with a job offer. If you're not their first choice, they can do you a favor by telling you where you stand, and freeing you up to accept the offer from Company A without hesitation. Often a call like this from a candidate serves as the impetus to stop the endless interview process and move forward. Chances are they'll respect you for making this call.

What if you're annoyed that the employer is taking too long to make a decision? Is it okay to lie and tell them that you have another offer in hand - even if you don't - in order to move the process along?

It's important to realize that telling a company you have an outstanding offer from another employer is not without risk. I’ve seen the “I have another offer” strategy blow up in candidates’ faces.

Here’s why. Hiring managers don’t like to be rushed - they like to feel that they are in control of making a well-thought out decision. Sometimes this deliberation, while candidate-unfriendly, adds to the overall time of the interview process.

Bear in mind, hiring managers don’t make a decision in a vacuum. They interview several candidates looking for the right fit, and proceed from there.

I once had a hiring manager tell me, “If it’s not ‘yes,’ it’s ‘no.’” What this means is that if they’re not completely sold on the candidate, then they feel no need to make a hiring decision. The bar is high for the candidate to impress the hiring manager.

Lousy? Yes.

Reality? Also, yes.

By putting a fire under the hiring manager, you’re forcing their hand, possibly before they are ready to make a decision. And by visibly trying to take control of the situation, you may be putting the manager in the uncomfortable position of having to make a selection – in your favor – without having all the information they require or want.

If you’re truly the solution to the hiring manager’s problems, and you both agree that you are the solution the hiring manager’s problems, then you’ll probably push things forward in your favor, more quickly.

On the other hand, if you’re one of several candidates where there’s not yet a clear winner, then you may be blowing yourself out of the water. The manager may decide that your timeline and his/her timeline don’t correspond, so they’ll just cut you loose. If it’s not “yes,” it’s “no.”

I’m not saying that the hiring manager is right to proceed in this way. But you need to be prepared to deal with the psychological impact of your actions, and the results.

One more thing. If you do tell an employer you have another offer, and they accommodate you by rushing you an offer, it would be fatal for you to respond by asking for more time to weigh your options. They'll feel used, and will likely remove you from any further consideration.


Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at scott.singer@insidercs.com, or via the website, www.insidercs.com.