Should you tell a potential employer that you’re considering other offers?

By Mathieu Guenette

It’s a common scenario: You’re looking for a job, and to make sure you don’t miss out on any opportunities, you apply for several jobs at once. If one of these employers gets back to you, it’s easy enough to manage; but if several get in touch with you in a short period of time, how will you handle it?

Pros and cons of saying nothing

Knowing that you’ve caught the attention of several organizations will help you feel more confident during an interview. This confidence can come across in your body language and way of speaking and contribute to leaving a great impression.

One advantage of not saying anything about your other prospects when speaking with a potential employer is simplicity: you have nothing to explain or justify to the interviewer. In addition to this:

  • The employer has the impression that they are the only option on your list, even if that’s not the case
  • The employer doesn’t have to ask you if their organization is your top choice, or an option of last resort if your other prospects don’t work out.

Ultimately, you’re not under any obligation to say anything. What’s more, you’re not lying by not saying anything, unless an employer asks you directly if you have other interviews lined up. If this happens, tell the truth.

The downside of not saying anything up front about your job search activities is the possibility that the potential employer you’re interviewing with could find out about your other job-seeking activities by chance. After all, you and the employer are in the same industry, where employers often know each other.

If a potential employer does find out that you’re weighing other options, they may not be put off by the fact that you’re applying elsewhere – but there’s a chance that they could see you as having a hidden agenda. This could negatively impact the relationship and tilt the employer’s favor toward another candidate. It’s a risk that you will have to decide whether or not to take.

Another thing to keep in mind is that if an employer proudly announces to you that you’ve been chosen for a job after a long evaluation process (including tests, multiple interviews, calling references etc.) and you turn them down because you’ve decided to take a different job, they may feel that you wasted their time. It’s possible that they may make a note to disregard your candidacy for any future position should you apply for another job with the organization, or even at another company where they end up working in the future.

Pros and cons of saying everything

First of all, by being totally transparent, you remove a considerable weight from your shoulders.

For example, by telling a recruiter that you may be accepting another offer in the near future, the employer can choose to move forward with your candidacy or not knowing full well that you may commit elsewhere. If you do, they can’t blame you.

The most important thing to know is how to communicate this information.

  • Don’t tell the recruiter that you’re exploring other options at the very beginning of the interview, as this may negatively influence the recruiter’s view of you. The time to tell them is after an initial interview, when they indicate that they would like to take your candidacy to the next step – that’s the time to be transparent with your plans.
  • If the recruiter wants more details about the other jobs you applied for, tell them the titles of the positions, the industry sector and the type of contract, but don’t feel any pressure to tell them the names of the organizations. Similarly, the employer should avoid giving you the names of other candidates for the job you’re applying for.
  • Don’t use the recruiting process to try and leverage a higher salary: “You’re offering how much? Well, the other employer is offering me $5000 more… ” You haven’t been hired yet, so be subtle with your negotiation tactics and only get into specific numbers if the recruiter asks you.
  • Avoid stating whether you prefer one potential job over another.

If you do tell a recruiter that you’re considering other positions, be sure to immediately reassure them that you are still very interested in hearing more about the position you applied for. Specify what it is about the job that interests you, and also what you can bring to the organization. Tell them that you haven’t made a choice yet and that no matter your decision, you will let the recruiter know as soon as possible.

To conclude

Applying to several jobs at once is, in general, a situation that can create more positive developments than negative. Being in this situation means that you’ve identified several jobs that both appeal to you and match well with your experience.

Whether or not you decide to be transparent about the details of your job search, the most important thing is to not lie to a potential future employer. Whatever information you do decide to share, communicate it diplomatically to ensure that it doesn’t negatively affect a recruiter’s impression of you.

Remember too that it’s perfectly acceptable for recruiters to interview a number of different candidates for a job – so why shouldn’t you be allowed to evaluate several different employers?

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