I'm unemployed but have now been offered a position in a company that wants me to start immediately. The problem is another organisation I favour has asked me to come in for an interview in a week. I have a friend 'on the inside' who thinks I have a good shot at it, but their hiring process is slow and could span several weeks. How should I handle this?
First and foremost, you must be courteous to the company that extended the offer and not leave them hanging. Even if you don't end up working there, the people you've met could be important contacts later on. However, you also don't want to short change yourself and settle for a position you may be unhappy with down the line, unless dire financial circumstances warrant it. We can assume they've already allowed you a couple days to think over the offer - use this time to gather as much additional information about each opportunity as you can.
Address any remaining questions about the first company: do its values, corporate culture, advancement opportunities, people and compensation package appeal to you? If the latter opportunity didn't exist, would you readily accept the first offer?
Next, talk to your friend: ask him or her to tell you everything about the organisation, the job, the people who work there, and the other candidates (the competition). Let this individual in on your dilemma because he or she might be able to help - perhaps even get your interview date moved up. You have to determine if it's worth risking the offer that's on the table.
If the answer is yes, be honest with the first company by saying you've been contacted by a firm you've been pursuing for a while, and you'd like to see how the first interview goes. One of two things will likely happen: they may tell you they can't wait that long, in which case you'll need to either accept or decline the offer.
Or, they may be understanding and grant you the additional time. If this happens, and the initial meeting is encouraging, and you want to continue to pursue the second job, you should decline the first offer to avoid stringing them along. It's a difficult situation, but in the end you have to do what's right for you in the long term without burning any bridges. Good luck!
David Jones, UK managing director Robert Half Finance & Accounting
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