It could be called the 'bus syndrome': you're waiting for a job offer from an investment bank and all of a sudden three come along at once. What do you do?
If job offers were buses, it would be tempting to go for the first one and hope for a seat. But job offers are not buses; mismanaging the decision-making process could take you way off track in your career.
Any Offer Would be Fine by Me
First things first. If you spent days filling in application forms, and have no offers to show for it, the notion that some people have several may seem implausible. Unfortunately for those who think so, it's true.
'We're all targeting the same top students,' says Kristina Peters, head of graduate recruiting at Deutsche Bank in New York. 'At business schools like Harvard and Wharton it's not unusual for students to have four or five different offers.'
Connie Thanasoulis, a director in Merrill Lynch corporate campus recruiting, says the best candidates are heavily pursued: 'This is the most competitive hiring year in almost five years. Top undergraduates and graduate students used to have an average of one or two offers each. That's gone up to three or four, with exceptional candidates having seven or eight offers from different banks.'
If you're a member of the three or four or seven or eight clubs, it may seem tempting to delay as long as possible. Such behavior is not unheard of. 'Some students take pride in collecting offers,' says Peters at Deutsche. 'They're like a badge of honor.'
But hoarding will do you no favors with your offer-less peers, who might benefit if you gave some up. 'In the interests of their classmates, we strongly encourage students to make their choices and move on,' says Julie Morton, associate dean of MBA career services at Chicago Business School.
At schools like Wharton, students are forbidden more than four offers at once.
Delay too long and offers will go bang beneath your feet. 'All students will be given an exploding date by which to make a decision,' says Brian Hood, head of graduate recruitment at Citigroup in London, 'After that, an offer will no longer be valid.'
Schools typically demand banks give their students a few weeks to make decisions. 'We make it clear rapidly exploding offers are unacceptable,' says Morton. 'Otherwise, banks would be asking students to sign up at the end of interviews.'
Upfront and Honest, or Evasive and Duplicitous?
If you're juggling multiple job offers, should you tell the banks pursuing you? There are clear advantages to doing so: realising you're a hot catch, banks might throw you some additional incentives to make up your mind. On the other hand, the avalanche of enticements could leave you feeling more confused than ever.
The best advice: tell the top banks on your list, and leave the rest in the dark.
Banks would prefer you tell them everything. 'We need to get as intimate as possible with candidates,' says Thanasoulis at Merrill. 'It helps if we can get information about who else has offered them a position, and how that influences their significant other. The more we know, the more likely we can get a candidate what they want.'
Extensions and Flexibility
If a bank knows you have several offers and are in dilemma about which to choose, it may make allowances for you.
An equity capital markets banker at Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in London received four banking job offers last year at HEC, the French business school. He says the banks tried not to pressure him and gave him over a month to decide: 'At the end of the day, there isn't much they can do about it,' he says. 'The standard line is 'We understand.'
A graduate from Essec, a rival French school, said some of the banks he applied to were willing to speed up their application process when he said he had offers from rivals: 'It never hurts to tell them what's going on.'
When banks know what's going on, they can be very persuasive. They typically invite candidates to meet their potential colleagues, and assign buddies (preferably an alum from the same school) to make frequent contact and steer candidates in their direction.
If a spouse has reservations about migrating to the likes of New York or Paris, banks' charms may be extended in that direction. Deutsche has helped spouses find jobs, says Peters. Another bank said it has even offered to employ spouses itself.
One grad recruiter at a bulge bracket bank says deadlines can be stretched to a point: 'We are very flexible. If someone needs more time because they're interviewing somewhere else, we will typically give it to them. But we won't do it twice.'