Spoiled for choice! Dealing with multiple job offers

Some years ago, I got offered a postdoctoral research fellowship in a Department of Psychology. The position was interesting, clinical in nature and would involve country-wide travel examining stress and its causes in a particular occupation. It was to last two years. I happily accepted and then they told me: they had outgrown the two floors they were situated on and they had nowhere to locate my desk. But the end of the corridor on the top floor was designated for me and the bricks and the door were ordered! That would be my office. Could I start in three to four months’ time? I said “er… yes, sure”.

 

I had several irons in the fire though, as you have or will have. Several days later, I got offered an interview for another job in a different city, this time in a large charity, one of the ten biggest in the UK. I was also very interested in that job so I went for the interview. Although I wasn’t all that happy afterwards with some of my answers, I was telephoned later that day and offered the job. I accepted that job… as well.

The charity also had a delay for me. Since her contract was an education one, the incumbent member of staff was just starting to work out a three months’ notice period. Could I start in three months’ time?

So I had two full-time job offers. I had accepted both but clearly there was a problem.

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How can you decide?

One way is to compare the jobs by taking the necessary time to do that well. You could weight them positively or negatively according to a range of criteria:

  • How developmental are they
  • How do the responsibilities and goals relate to your own values
  • Starting salary and likely progression
  • Practicalities such as relocation and commuting
  • Degree of support and mentoring
  • Your impressions during the interview or assessment centre of the organisations, managers and teams you’d be working with.

However, the situation can be more complex, as in my case. I had already accepted the first job. I then turned it down because I knew, as far as I could know, that the second job was significantly better. What about that situation? I believe that there are instances where belatedly turning the offer down can be the right thing to do – for the jobseeker – despite the fact that it annoys, frustrates and possibly angers the first employer. You have probably burned your bridges with that employer, at least for a while since from their side, their other preferred candidates have possibly accepted other offers and are no longer available. The employer may have to start a new recruitment round.

 

But for you, the belated right decision enables you to start your dream job or a job which could lead towards it. And to consider once more the employer who has been let down, the reversal in your decision avoids potentially worse scenarios for them such as a new employee starting but who regrets the decision and who may still keep on looking, unable to commit to the position.

Yet where it is possible, it is preferable to maximise the decision to be made by proactively contacting any employers you could have offers from as soon as you have an offer from the other employer. On the one hand, you can often buy a little time from the employer who is offering – to think the offer through – while saying to a preferred employer that although you have an offer, your strong preference is to work for them. In some scenarios, for instance with a small to medium sized employer, there may be sufficient flexibility in the recruitment process for them to interview you within that tight timescale and make you an alternative offer or to decline.


How did I resolve my own dilemma?

  • I took a sheet of A4, placed it length-wise and split it down the middle: decision A, decision B.
  • I then split each of these in two, positives and negatives.
  • And then I listed as far as possible the pros and cons of each decision:
    • type of contract,
    • scope of the job,
    • alignment with my values and interests

Finally, I applied a weighting to each reason according to perceived importance.


It turned out, more than I thought it would, that the charity job far outweighed the academic post. I still wasn’t convinced. It took several more days for a certainty to arrive, that the second job offer was the right opportunity. I went with it and the decision turned out to be a good one, opening up the world of guidance which I still work within now. The letter I got back from the senior researcher was not the worst letter I have ever received…not quite.

 

Multiple job offers can be difficult to handle; they rarely come in at exactly the same time. But hopefully some of the strategies I’ve touched on will make it easier to handle the situation. I worked for the charity for almost fifteen years and I never regretted the decision I made.

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