25 Jul 2016

Hedging your bets...

In an ideal world, it would be great for offers to come in thick and fast and at the same time, thus allowing you options and choice when making a decision as to whether a particular job is the right one for you.  Whilst this does sometimes happen, it’s largely unpredictable and all you can do is make your decision based on whatever offer or offers you have at the time.  It is often the case that you’ll receive an offer from one company whilst still waiting for a second interview the following week and whilst it seems entirely reasonable to you and I to hold offer 1 whilst you wait to see how interview 2 goes, clients can often demonstrate a lack of patience in such situations.  I recently had an offer for a senior level role in an agency and it reminded me how important communication is in such situations. 

Agency A made an offer to the candidate, put the offer in writing and expectantly waited for a response.  What we had was silence...I think in most aspects of communication, silence is never good.  Clients need to hear something – even if it is ‘I need some time to make a decision’.  Communication allows the client to try to understand if there is anything they can do to expediate that decision and if not, they need to look at their other options too.  From the candidate perspective, it transpired that they were waiting for Agency B to decide if they were going to make an offer.  One didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out that if Agency B offered a role, the candidate would be turning down Agency A.  A  series of emailed and texted excuses ensued and my client (Agency A), understandably became quite frustrated.  The candidate, hedging their bets was using them as back up and Agency A didn’t want to be considered a back up option.  They rescinded the offer.  Agency B then didn’t offer the candidate a role and the candidate then was left with no options on the table. Given the number of senior roles in the region, it’s likely that there will be a bit of a wait until we see more roles at that level.   The candidate tried to crawl back to Agency A but they’d filled the role with their own second choice, someone who accepted it without any delay!

If you genuinely don’t think an offer is for you.  Turn it down. Companies can take it, they wouldn’t want someone who isn’t committed to join them.  If you are genuinely undecided, then be honest but there are degrees of honesty....you don’t want to be so honest that the company gets so concerned that they change their mind about wanting you.  However, if you do want to go to another scheduled interview and then make a decision, you should probably tell them.  It’s a gamble that they won’t get the hump, but you can pitch it in such a way that you don’t want to be unprofessional and let the other company down and that as it is such an important move, you want to be sure that you have covered all options.  You should also make the other company aware of your situation so that potentially, they can move the interview forward and make them aware that they need to make a decision swiftly – they should be able to tell you pretty quickly if it’s a clear no!

Be absolutely clear about whether there is anything the company need to do – if you are holding out for more money, try to establish if this is their full and final offer.  Clients do tend to like transparency here rather than having to second guess if money is the primary motivator.  Equally they don’t like to be held to ransom so it’s important to manage this delicately.  They will want to know if there is anything they can do to turn your indecision into a yes, so do think about it and communicate any areas which are causing you doubt.

Clients particularly don’t like to be kept waiting is if they have another person to offer the role to if it is declined.  In such a situation you will have to make a decision.  Whilst I mostly advocate the ‘look after number one’, it’s not very nice to accept a role, knowing that you may in a weeks time be declining it.  It’s not a nice conversation to have and you need to know that you are in all likelihood, burning your bridges with that company. And in the regions, it’s a small world and people do remember such things.  Having said that, it’s not illegal or against any particular rules, it’s just not very gentlemanly.

If you are scrupulously honest, talk to the client and tell them your situation. Ask them for a deadline and commit to making a decision by then.  They might demand an immediate response but it is more likely that they will be prepared to wait – if you are truly the right person for them.  However, don’t expect any company to wait indefinitely. 

If you are working with a recruiter as the intermediary, please keep the lines of communication open. If it is a recruiter you trust, they’ll be objective and give you advice entirely dependent upon the context of this particular situation.  Silence is never good and at times like this, you need to be talking, not texting and not emailing.

I suppose there is a caveat that if you think your recruiter is a shark, is not giving you good advice and is just out for themselves, then you should talk directly to the client (whilst making the recruiter aware of this).  At this point, you’ll probably earn some respect for being direct and upfront so it is worth considering. (However...I'm not a shark so if I'm your recruiter, talk to me!).


How you handle this whole area is very subjective and it’s important to think about it in context of the particular companies in question.  I’m afraid there isn’t a black and white do’s and don’t list of how you go about it!  You’ll need to use common sense and remember, if you do end up working there, you don’t want your employer resenting you for taking your time and making them feel like second best.  If you have communicated throughout, you’re much less likely to get anyone’s back up.