When Candidates Have Multiple Offers: How Their Perspectives Can Inform Yours

When job candidates apply for new positions, they often hope to receive a half-dozen offers to choose from. Or, they may hope to use one offer to leverage a more favorable salary and better benefits from another. However, this rarely works out in practice.

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Each company has a different interview process and has to work within interviewers’ schedules. One company might require a single interview from a hiring manager, while another might require several layers of interviews with multiple stakeholders.

The number of applicants each company receives can also vary greatly, meaning one company might have only a handful of candidates to consider, while another has to sort through hundreds or even thousands.

The result: Candidates may receive an offer from one organization while in the thick of the interview process for one or more additional positions.

An Awkward Situation

This can put candidates in an awkward position. What if, out of five active applications, their third most desirable position makes an offer while they are still waiting to hear back from—or even still interviewing with—their first choice?

Should candidates play it safe and take the job offer or wait to see whether they are offered their preferred job? Should candidates disclose to the company making the offer that they are waiting to hear back from other companies and want to wait to decide whether to accept the offer? What about the companies they are still waiting to hear from? Is it appropriate to prod these companies by informing them there is an offer on the table and asking them if they can speed up the process?

For this feature, we discussed these types of questions with a number of industry experts, and we attempt to provide some insight and best practices relevant to both candidates and hiring managers.

Should Candidates Disclose They Are Waiting to Hear About Another Job?

While candidates may feel the urge to be fully transparent with a company that makes them a job offer, it’s wise to be a bit more strategic when considering one’s future career. “At Rocket, we recommend candidates handle the process of receiving offers with integrity and tact,” says Abhinav Agrawal, CEO and cofounder of Rocket, an artificial intelligence (AI)-enhanced recruiting and HR company.

“When given an offer, candidates don’t have to mention interviews and potential offers from other companies, but instead should politely ask for a reasonable amount of time (1–2 weeks) to make a decision,” Agrawal adds. “Mentioning other interviews expressly indicates that the candidate would prefer an offer from the other company—which may lead to the current offer being rescinded.”

Should Candidates Let Their Preferred Employer Know About Their Other Offer?

When it comes to the preferred employer, the calculus is a bit different. While it would certainly be off-putting to a company that just made a job offer to hear the candidate wants to wait for another offer before accepting, the candidate’s letting the preferred employer know he or she has received another offer but is still interested is not only a sign of strong interest but also a way to further demonstrate his or her desirability.

“From an employer perspective, if I was part of this second company, I would do everything in my power to garner approval from the hiring team to expedite the process,” says Agrawal. “While nothing is guaranteed, the candidate’s willingness to go through another interview process despite an offer in-hand is usually a signal that they would accept if given a compelling offer.”

The Importance of Timing

We’ve talked about if a candidate should be transparent with a prospective employer about a job offer from another company. But how should the candidate approach the delicate subject?

Eva Weiss of ECG Resources says timing is key. “Firms are usually understanding of a candidate interviewing in more than one place. However, timing is important here,” she says.

“Too early seems like you’re playing ‘hard to get’ or just fishing around,” says Weiss. “Too late can make the hiring firm feel betrayed and perhaps like second choice. I’d aim for mentioning it somewhere in the middle of the interview process, once mutual interest has been established, but comfortably prior to the offer stage.”

A Two-Way Street

It’s important for both employer and employee to keep the appropriate perspective when considering these questions. At the end of the day, neither the employer nor the employee should feel unearned loyalty toward each other. Both are looking out for their own best interests. The important thing is to remain respectful and professional.

“Recruitment is a mutual experience—candidates are evaluating multiple employers, and employers are evaluating multiple candidates,” says Andrea Clement of LLC Media. “There should be strong mutual interest and fit,” she says. “Employers want to be a candidate’s top choice—they want to be wanted, just as candidates want to be pursued and wanted as well.”

Therefore, she says, candidates should show as much interest as possible throughout the interview process. And, she adds, they should “try to avoid doing or saying anything during the interview process that could be perceived as a lack of interest or that this opportunity is a ‘plan B’ or back-up job in case the candidate’s first choice falls through.”

It’s understandable that a job candidate may be in the process of applying to and interviewing for a position at multiple organizations, and it should be assumed this is the case. Once candidates and HR departments accept this reality, the answers to the questions we’ve addressed in this feature start to become clearer.

Certainly, a potential employer may lose a great candidate, but the ability to consider and weigh all options is a more equitable means of finding the right fit than “first come, first served.”

Have you handled situations in which candidates told you they have another offer? How did you handle the situation? What would you recommend to other recruiters, HR professionals, and hiring managers?