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When You Get the Wrong Offer First

Today I got a call offering me a job that sounds interesting, but not as intriguing as another still in the early interview stage. I would rather have the second position, but I hesitate to reject the first without the other in hand, especially in todayís job market. I want to be fair and honest with everyone involved. What should I do?

Those of us who have received an invitation to the Prom from the wrong person can relate to your predicament. Fortunately, corporate egos donít bruise as easily as teenagersí. 

An employer wants you to be truly enthusiastic about joining its team. Generally, your potential manager would rather wait a little while until you are sure about the position than make a costly hiring mistake.

Also keep in mind that once an organization has chosen its number one candidate, all competitors become distant seconds.  Now the decision is made, you can be certain the leadership really wants you.  As you havenít said yes yet, you can probably buy a little time. Just be careful not to come across like youíre playing games.

To be fair to everyone, try the following process:

  • Call the company who offered you the job to find out its sense of urgency. If its recruiter wants an answer in the next few weeks, you have some breathing room. If she expects a response ASAP, tell her you need time to make a well-considered choice, and youíll get back to her in three days. If she presses you to move faster, her motive may be suspect. People who want important decisions on the spot often have hidden agendas.
     

  • Contact the employer with the opening you really want. Be candid about your situation and ask him to be truthful as well. Find out how interested he is in you. If you know he has already eliminated you from contention, your decision about the offer on the table will be much easier. If he wants you on board, he may speed up his interview/hiring process to scoop the competition.
     

  • Should you be offered the preferred position (in writing if possible), you can graciously decline the other. When you do, mention the good things about the job you arenít taking to soften your rejection and end the discussion on a positive note.
     

  • If firm number two doesnít plan to extend you an offer or is unwilling to condense its interview cycle, youíll have to decide whether to take the job in hand. To make an informed decision, compare your offer with your ideal job description. Consider how well the opportunity reflects your skills, interests, values and personality. Accept it, if you genuinely believe thereís at least a 75% match with your dream position.

Otherwise, itís better for everyone if you decline. Unless you are in major financial distress, taking a job that wonít be satisfying is unfair to you and your potential employer. You both deserve better.


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