Should I wait for a second job offer?

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(MoneyWatch) Dear Evil HR Lady,

On Friday I received a job offer from company A. There is a staffing agency in the middle. I have a final job interview with company B today. I know that company B will pay more than company A.

The staffing agency from company A is pushing me to sign the job offer. The recruiting process took weeks, so I don't see urgency from the actual company. I want to stall a few days it to see what happens with company B, by which I should know if they'll extend an offer.

But what happens if I sign the company A offer and then accept an offer from company B? Would the staffing agent be upset if if I tell him I'm waiting for another offer? I told him that I need to think about it, but he's concerned.

At the same time I don't want to risk the first offer, in case the second doesn't come. I also don't know if there might be a counteroffer by my current employer -- if I signed an offer, did I lose my chance to take a counteroffer as well?

OK, let's slow down. It's highly unlikely that you'll interview with company B today and immediately receive a final answer. The recruiting process is slower than sloths and snails and the post office. While you do, occasionally, get a job offer right after interviewing, it's not the norm in the professional world. Other candidates may be interviewing, and various managers at the company may need to discuss things. And even if everyone is unanimous that you are the best thing since sliced bread, the offer has to be written up, approved by three or four people, and then formally presented to you.

In other words, your belief that you'll know if you have a job offer in no more than a day or two is overly optimistic. You probably won't know for at least a week, and probably more.

Additionally, you said received a job offer on Friday. It is absolutely ridiculous for them to push you to answer them by Monday. And your assessment that it's not the company that is pushing, but the staffing agency is undoubtedly correct. Because do you know how staffing agencies, or headhunters, get paid? They don't generally see a penny until they place someone in a job. So if you accept this job, the recruiter you've been working with gets a big paycheck -- sometimes upwards of 1/3 of your annual salary. (Sometimes it's less, sometimes a bit more for hard to fill positions, and it may be payable upon placement or after you've been there for a certain period. But regardless of how much the payment or how it's paid out, they only get the money if you say yes.)

So will the recruiter be upset if you're interviewing with others? Absolutely. Because if you take another job, he gets nothing. Nada. Zilch. He may also get in trouble with his boss for not producing. I'm not telling you this so you start to feel guilty for letting the recruiter down, but so you understand where the recruiter is coming from.

You should absolutely interview with company B. But before you do so, contact the hiring manager at company A directly -- do not go through the recruiter. Do this via email, and you can copy the recruiter so everyone is on the same page. Say something like this: 

Jane, I was so happy to receive company A's job offer as senior dragon trainer. Of course, I need to consider everything carefully. Can I give you my answer on Friday, June 7? Please let me know if this will be a problem. Sincerely, John.

Chances are the hiring manager will be absolutely fine wit this. And, in reality, are you even to the "accept" portion of this job hunt? Are you satisfied with the offer? You say that company B will pay more, but have you attempted to negotiate with company A? Some companies won't --t heir offers are final. But with many companies you'll find that there is flexibility. Have you asked for a slightly higher salary, or the ability to telecommute once a week, or whatever it is that appeals to you? Of course, the answer may be no, but you can (and certainly should) ask.

In fact, the recruiter you've been working with may be happy to help you out with this if he believes this will help you sign on the dotted line so he gets his paycheck.

As for your current company giving you a counter offer? Forget it. Counteroffers generally end badly, and you went out looking for a new job because of problems with your current one. A bigger paycheck doesn't solve any of those problems. 

So, as I said, slow down. Speak with the hiring manager at company A directly. Go ahead and tell company B that you have an offer on the table, which may prompt them to move faster (and make you a more desirable candidate). And congratulations on the successful job hunt.

Have a workplace dilemma? Send your questions to EvilHRLadly@gmail.com.