should I turn down a job offer in the hope a different company will offer me a job?

A reader writes:

I had 2 interviews about 2 months ago for a position I am well qualified for. After my second interview, I waited a week and asked for an update, just to be told that they had gone with another candidate.

Move forward to about 2 weeks ago, when I got an email from the director of operations saying that the CEO wanted to meet with me for coffee about the position I interviewed for previously. I was thrilled that after that amount of time they thought of me! So I went to coffee, and it was about as excellent as meetings could go. He said the next step would be to come in and meet the director of operations, and that he wanted to get me in to start on some projects. So I emailed the director of operations, and she replied that the CEO thought we had not met yet, and since we have, she would ask what the next step he wants me to take is.

That was a week ago. After hearing nothing, I emailed her asking for an update, and she said she sent my email to the CEO and that we were waiting from there.

But today I got a call for a job opportunity for a full-time position that I would want to take because I am in serious need of getting back into the work force. So I emailed the director of operations right away and said that I had an offer from another company, but that they were my first choice and I was more interested in pursuing the opportunity with them. She emailed me back and said that “she spoke with the CEO and they’ll need another week until any final decisions are made so they understand if I need to take another job offer.”

I am crushed and confused as to what her response means in terms of my chances. I know I need to move on and am still looking and applying for other jobs. So my question is A) how do I try not to analyze her last answer as me not getting the job and B) how do I go about telling her if I don’t wind up taking the other position?

Her answer literally means “we won’t have an answer for another week.” It doesn’t mean “we won’t be offering you a job” or “we will be offering you a job if you wait.” It means “we don’t know, but we hope to know in a week.”

That means that you need to decide whether to take the job offer you have and forgo this other position, or to turn down the job offer you have and risk not getting an offer from these people either — leaving you with no job offers at all.

Keep in mind that if the first company was really sold on you, they’d make a decision right now, since they know you’re considering another offer. They’re not sold enough to do that. That doesn’t mean that they won’t be in a week — they very well may be — but it does mean that they’re willing to lose you to this other job. That doesn’t tell you anything definitive about what they’re likely to ultimately decide, but it does tell you they’re not jumping to hire you, even when they know it means they might lose you entirely. Of course, it’s also possible that their hesitation has nothing to do with you — they could be working out some budget issue, or waiting on something else before being sure that they even need the position that they’re thinking of you for. A good company would explain that though, if it were the case, rather than leaving you thinking that they’re simply deciding about you.

In any case, what you’re choosing between is a certain job offer and a job offer that may or may not ever materialize. Whether or not to take a risk on the latter depends on how badly you need a job, how well you’d weather it if you turned down the first offer and the second one never came along, how much you want the job you haven’t been offered yet, and how much you don’t want the offer that you have.

As for what to say to the first company if you decide to turn down the offer you have, you can simply let your contact there know that you decided the other job wasn’t quite the right fit and that you’re still very interested in working with them, at whatever point they make a decision.

Related posts:
juggling job offers
how to juggle multiple job offers

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