When the situation arose for me, I regret how I handled it.
Fresh out of university, I was desperate to get a job in the UK Parliament. When I successfully got to the final round of interviews I was excited.
My instincts told me the interview had been a big success. We even bonded over our mutual love of F1 racing. After being told to expect a decision within a week, I was contacted at the same time by a friend offering me a different opportunity. With my heart set on Parliament, I waited.
Four weeks later I received the dreaded email telling me that I had been unsuccessful. The alternative opportunity my friend had sent me was now being advertised.
Thankfully I got the job. But I made a bad first impression by failing to be honest and talk to both parties.
Here is what you should do if you're ever caught in this position.
Get yourself a written job offer.
The job offer is not technically made until it’s formally written out. If you’re given a verbal job offer, thank them and tell them how excited you are at the prospect of working for them. Then ask them to put the offer in an email.
Explain the situation.
Once you have the written offer, be honest. Tell them that you are very excited about the opportunity but that you have another interview scheduled and would like time to weigh up your options. If they tell you they need an answer urgently then you’ll have to decide whether it is worth the risk.
My advice is to take the job offer if it’s an opportunity you think you would still enjoy and benefit from.
If you have more time, explain the situation to your other potential employer.
You may find that the interview for the next job helps make your decision before you have to discuss other offers. You will likely get a sense of your success, whether the organization is somewhere you want to work, and whether you think the other offer provides a better opportunity.
If you find that your instincts were right, and you do want to work at the second organization, tell them. At the end of your interview, be honest and explain that they are your preferred choice however you have another offer pending and see whether they can commit to a decision in a shorter amount of time.
One last thing...
It’s not an easy situation to find yourself in. Ultimately, you will have to decide whether the risk is worth compromising your current offer. By taking these steps and being honest and respectful to the competing employers, you can help mitigate the risks and hopefully give yourself the time you need to secure both offers.