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How To Choose Between Two Job Offers

April 22nd, 2008 · 14 Comments

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When I got back from vacation this week, I had an Ask Brian question waiting for me that was very specific. It boiled down to: “I have two job offers. Which one should I accept?”

I did my best to help the emailer, but that sort of question is not one I can usually share here on the blog. It was too personal and specific.

But it did get me thinking about the larger issue. How to decide between job offers? I realized that I didn’t have a solid answer to this question.

So, I sent an email out to some of our writers and asked them how they have dealt with this issue over the years. Here are the three best responses I got:

Richard has been with us for years, specializing in legal and academic resumes. His comment was as follows:

More often than not, I’ve found that people in this sort of situation are trying to decide between a job they want, and a job they think they should take. The job they think they should take usually pays better or is the next logical step on the career ladder. But so often, it’s not the job they want to take. I’ve seldom gone wrong advising people to go with their heart. Doing something that makes you happy is worth a lot more than money, I think.

Writer Sarah is a jack-of-all trades who specializes in young professionals as well as sales and accounting resumes:

If a client isn’t sure what job to take, it’s usually because they aren’t sure of their career path. If you have a goal in mind, a solid career plan, then you know which job you should take. Each and every job should be a solid advancement toward your ultimate goal. I ask people to think where they want to be in 20 years. Which job gets them closer to that goal? That’s the one they should take.

Writer Carly has been with us for almost 10 years. She’s a solid pro in the industry and I trust her career counseling advice as much as anyone. Her comment was more philosophical:

I once had a client who had landed his dream job. Absolutely landed it. But it was in LA. And he didn’t want to go there. He knew on a certain level he didn’t want to go there. He was happy where he was. His family was happy where they were. But this was the culmination of his entire career. It was the job he had dreamed of in college. What to do? If he stayed where he was, he was stuck in a sort of limbo in terms of career progress. But he didn’t WANT to go to California. His priorities were different. Even though he had dreamed of this job for 20 years.

He called me one day a couple of weeks after we had finished his resume. He said he had had an actual dream where he was in California, waking up in the morning, going to this so-called dream job. And in the dream, he was miserable. He knew he was chasing a vision of his career that wasn’t important to him anymore. So he declined the LA job. Ever since then, I’ve advised my clients to imagine waking up in the morning and actually getting ready and commuting to one job versus the other. Which imaginary commute makes you miserable and which can you tolerate? That’s the best sort of test, I think.

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Tags: Ask Brian · Job Search

  • Scott

    What I would recommend is to make a two column table – one for the plus and one for the negitive of the job(s) and jot down the benefits and disadvantage of each. Which one has the most positives wins. But of course some positives or negitives could weight more than others and should be considered as such.

  • paul

    I am relocating back to where I grew up. I flew the 2000 kms and had 2 job interviews, one with the govt another a private coy. The govt job interview and subsaquent follow up calls all came across as big brother (just do as you’re told etc.Thet initially wanted to drop everything an move interstate within 2 to 3 weeks, If you want the job that’s the start date. The other coy was very supportive and said start when it suits you.
    The govt job rang back recently and said they would wait to fit in with my plans.
    Thanks to your blog I have realised that one should feel happier working for the company who doesn’t treat you like a number, so I am leaning towards the non gov’t company.I feel confident they will treat me with the respect I deserve as an employee.

    • Vertz

      Hi Paul,
      Are you happy with your decision? I am on the same confusion right now. Govt job or Pvt sector. Pvt sector ceo has a big trust on me. and Govt job I will be just a number. Did you ever regret being in pvt sector and not going to Govt job? Please advise. Huge Thanks.

  • http://hmm hmm

    the thing is that the information we have about a job is very limited when it comes to consider go-dont-go decisions.
    the only useful information comes when we actually start the job….then we can make informative and rational decisions.
    so how do you go when you have to make a decision go or not?
    I usually go with things I can measure:
    if I cant measure something then I call it subjective and dont consider since I will only know objectively about it only when I start.
    When 2 offers I would only go and compare the above and say which is most and first.

    the miserable dream above with a location you cant go….is just one more bullshit and doesnt help anyone, it just makes it worse.
    no one has to ever consider an offer to a location they see miserable dreams…unless they apply for their jobs in the first place. unless you really want to move somewhere you dont have to apply. its not a matter of deciding on which job offer, you shouldnt have considered to apply there…and to begin with. you caused such a waste on yours and other peoples time.

  • Mark Jones

    Would you take an easy job with higher pay but is a yearly contract and your boss doesnt like you or will you take a challenging job with lower pay, better job security and your boss likes you? I don’t know which to choose.

  • confused

    i have a job offer form a company (company A) that is a direct competitor to my current employer. however, there is more structure, more opportunity, better pay. So, i know i could DO that job…but not sure i love what i do anymore.
    I’m hoping for an offer from company B … but need to get back to Company A before I’ll be able to schedule my 2nd interview with company B…

    I know that I definitely need to move on from my current company – having been there 5 years, it’s time for a change and a move forward – so regardless, i need to take this opportunity to move on..

    but what do i do? ask for an extension from Company A so i can do the 2nd interview with Company B? or just take Company A b/c it’s still a move forward…just not my ideal?? location is similar; salary is similar… Also, Company A, who needs to know in the next couple of days, also wants me to start the following week. however, i need to give my current employer more notice than that… how do i approach that??
    i just don’t know what to do…or what is appropriate…

  • Wondering…. what did u do?

    Mark- what did u decide? Condused- don’t go for A. You answered your own question.

  • Worried.. need help

    I have been in a job for 4 years, my boss is very stressful but is also generous. I have great friends at work but the work is very fast paced and demanding. I have been offered a position with another fast paced company working with a female boss that I know is very tough and I don’t know what to do. The salary is alot more than I am currently on but I am scared of moving to a job with a tough boss and no friends at work and if I don’t work out – I will have left my job where at least I had friends at work. What should I do? Go for the salary and the challenge? I am very stressed at my current job and also don’t want to go from one very stressful job to an even further stressful one?

    • johnny

      From experience, female bosses just dont get it. They have no backbone except in covering their own *sses when stuff hits the fan. They dont look ahead enough to have avoided the issue to beginwith. I prefer nont working for a female boss if I can help it or they can put my office down the other end of the hall IMHO.

      • guest

        Whoa. Sexist much? I understand that you are speaking from your own experience, but this is a sweeping generalization. I’ve had some wonderful female bosses, in addition to some bad ones, and the same goes for male bosses.

  • Pingback: Multiple Job Offers – Choosing Between Them

  • johnny

    In a panic I applied for several jobs in and out of my desired customer base, but in a few of my dream job scenarios. well, I am now looking at 4, yes 4 job offers to pick from. No I am not bragging, but I have only a couple days to decide what I am gonna do for the next 5 years. Seme of the jobs are life long, one is in a place so remote I need to rent a temporary house to stay and work but its the ultimate dream, but it could risk my marriage.  Another job is close to home, promises decent pay after a couple months, but is in a secure area which will have its bad days. Anther one is working with and for old friends and access the remote place but I get to  still work from my home area and the pay is the best of them all but old jealosies of old coworkers and old mundane habits will come back. The 4th is again working at the remote site with considerabley less pay, needing a rental, being a supervisor, and all the stresses of not being near home. Maybe as I type this my answers are coming clear. My spouse says pick whatever I will be happy with since I will be the one to have to work it.  One employer has been a life long of sacrifice already with the old friends and so on, but that job has only surfaced at the 11th hour which I think its just a courtesy offer which I am sure the one guy doesnt expect me to take since he left for vacation and is only available by text messege in these last couple of days. To acknowledge this article, I’d say the getting up and going in is bext at the nearby job with the possible security stress, but the other remote one with the 2nd best pay of them all is the most adventurouse and extremely intriguing. That latter will be stressful on the marriage because of the remoteness, but the pay and benefits are decent. After 6 months of any of the jobs may be a way to examine them too. I can sort of see in 6 months climbing the walls from the latter job becuase of the remoteness after having had the thrill of the adventure, whereas the 2nd to latter puts me in decent pay, decent little benefits, but ahefty security clearence for possible other bigger things. Then there’s the ‘who had their offer ready first’ approach and THAT is this security job.  Today is the day I must decide. Adventure/pay/marriage risk, 9-5 security/temporary bad pay/no marriage risk,  work with old buddies/mega pay/questionable benefits/no marriage risk, and I thik the low pay/high responsibility/  one is out. In all cases, the people are exceedingly awesome,even the old buddies, I could still go in my own area and just work and be left alone, I dont meet new people though and again it would be a lot of the old school crap probably.  tough decisions. only I can make it and its got to be done today or tomorrow. I practically cant eat from all this stress.

  • SynchWorks

    Had the same issue years ago.  Created an analysis tool and recently converted to an App.  The web version is here –

    What it does – has you enter in your job options, weigh evaluative criteria for importance to you and then compare each option using the eval criteria.  Regards.

  • Montagnard

    I think that any undecided job seeker should take a real hard look at his/her own *values*, that is the things that make him/her tick, the fundamental requirements that are necessary in order to lead the best professional life and get closer to an optimal work-life balance.

    If that person does not know what his/her values are, then getting some coaching advice would help get clarity. By doing some research on the internet one can find simple self-assessment exercices in order to define one’s own value system.

    Of course, everyone (or rather, most people) sort of looks for higher salaries, greater job security, and nice locations. But what are the top 5 or 6 things in LIFE (not only job-related) who make you want to get up quickly in the morning and help you look forward to another exciting day?

    If you are not being honest or lucid enough about this, then a pro vs con two-column sheet of paper is a rather futile exercise.