Ask the Expert: Waiting for the Right Offer

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How should you handle a less appealing job offer that's already in hand, while awaiting an answer from a second employer you'd prefer to join?

I've been offered a job at one firm, but also interviewed for a position at another, a place where I'd prefer working. How do I hold off replying to the first firm until I have a sense of what's happening at my first choice?

It's possible to parlay one job offer into two, but first things first.

Get in touch with the first firm and thank them for the offer. Ask if you can give them your answer within a week. There's nothing wrong with making them aware you've been in discussions with someone else, and saying you'd like to extend other firms the courtesy of letting them know you've got an offer on the table.

Now it's time to contact the second firm. Make a follow up call to its hiring manager and let him or her know you're still interested in the position. Ask if they're close to making a decision. If they're not, tell them you've been offered a position with another firm, without revealing too much detail. Courteously - always courteously - point out that you have a decision to make and ask them to share where they are in the hiring process. You can say, "Your opportunity is my first choice and I'd like to have a sense of where you are so I can respond appropriately." Ask if you're the leading candidate, or one of many?

Based on their responses, you'll have a good idea of where you stand with both firms.

No matter whose position you accept, follow up in writing with both hiring managers. Always decline offers graciously. You never know if or when your paths will cross again, or whether a more enticing position may one day present itself. And get all your offers in writing, even if you have to write to confirm them yourself.

Robbie Miller Kaplan, a nationally-recognized expert on career communications, is the author of "How to Say It In Your Job Search" and "How to Say It When You Don't Know What to Say: The Right Words for Difficult Times," published by Prentice Hall Press.

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