What to Do When You're Stuck Between Job Offers

The end of the school year is approaching, and in just a few months, you’ll find yourself in the real world. Searching for a job has probably consumed the majority of your time, and after all the interviews you’ve been doing this semester, you’ve scored not one—but two different job offers. We’ll start by saying congratulations, because that’s a great situation to be in! But choosing between the two is a struggle in itself. It’s a life-changing decision that you definitely shouldn’t take lightly… so what do you do? Do you go with the job that pays better? The one you will enjoy more, but lacks in benefits? Or do you choose based on location? Here are some tips to help you make the best decision for you.

1. Pick what kind of experience you want

Most likely, this is going to be your first serious job (and you can finally say goodbye to those part-time summer waitressing gigs!). The most important factor to consider is the experience your heart is yearning for. But before you stress out, take a deep breath. “Take a moment to enjoy [the] process! You received not only one offer but additional ones and you are in demand!” says Vicki Salemi, a career coach, career and HR expert and founder of job search boot camp for college grads.

Salemi also adds that if contemplating over which job you think is best for you:  “Focus on a few things. Here's the kicker: there's no right answer and no wrong ones. Perhaps one company has an amazing culture and an incredible boss you clicked with! Or maybe the other opportunity has room for advancement and travel and that's most enticing to you.”

According to Salemi, the best thing to do when considering different jobs is to rank what is most important to you, whether that be potential for future advancement within the company, the office culture or how well you meshed with the team when you interviewed. Only when you know what kind of an experience you want will you know what job is best for you.         

Need some pointers on what to start thinking about? Vicki suggests figuring out which job can give you advancement, opportunities to learn, a good package and a friendly and supportive corporate culture.

2. Don’t be blinded by the money

Chances are, you likely have tons of student loans tucked away that you know you are going to have to start paying back in a few months—so accepting the offer that is most likely to help you do that is going to be tempting. While money is important, make sure it’s not the deciding factor for which job you decide to take right out of college. Emily Miethner, founder and creator of FindSpark, says, “Experience should always trump pay, especially when you are just starting out. I don’t think salary should be the number one deciding factor. [If it’s between] money and salary or a good boss and great experience that you would love—pick [the second] one.”

If the offer you received from the job you really want just isn’t enough, Miethner says she heavily recommends that new employees negotiate salary

Rachel Crocetti, a sophomore at Hofstra University, shares why she chose one work experience over an alternative based on which experience she believed she would enjoy more. “One was a food-related publication and the other was an entertainment-related one,” she says. “While the food one paid better, the entertainment one is what I really wanted to do—and I'm so happy I picked it. The experience has been amazing and I love going to work every day!” So if you are finding yourself being tempted by a higher salary, just think about whether you are going to like the job as much as the other one.

3. Know what you will actually be doing

Another great way to determine which job offer is the best one for you is to know up front exactly what you will be doing at the job. While this might sound like the obvious thing to figure out before you make a 9-to-5 commitment, far too many people blindly accept an offer without having details on exactly what it is their responsibilities will be. So, make a list of pros and cons about the daily responsibilities for each job you have been offered and go from there. What is your position? What are your duties? What does a typical day look like for you? Is this going to be a desk job or are you going to be out and about doing something new each day? Which would make you happier?  

Perhaps one of the most important questions to ask yourself is: Does a job entice you because it is flashy or because it is actually a great fit for you? Miethner warns, “Big fancy names can be misleading. There’s a lot below the surface.”

Miethner continues that the most important thing is to do your homework; don’t allow the sexiness of a company to play too much of a factor in your decision-making process. While you may get a job at a top level magazine or fashion company, are you really going to be happy doing clerical work all day? If you’re unsure of how to figure this out, Miethner suggests talking to people who have worked at the company before or requesting an informational interview. Another great idea is to visit company review websites such as GlassDoor.com before you make any final decisions.

4. What to do if you just can’t decide

You’ve considered your priorities, ranked everything each job has to offer, and weight the pros and cons. As it turns out, you’re no closer to making a final decision, because your dream job is a mix of the two. Company A is a place you’ve wanted to join for years, but you’ve been offered a specific position you dislike, and Company B offers you your dream position, but is not exactly a company you are entirely excited about. What do you do?

“That is not an easy choice,” Miethner says. “That’s really tough. And it really depends on the industry.” She suggests first figuring out how set you are on working for your dream company (the one that has potentially offered you the low-level or not very exciting job). Then, do research through LinkedIn. By searching through current or previous employees of the company, you can easily find out whether that company promotes from within and has opportunities to advance to higher positions. By using LinkedIn’s advanced keyword feature settings, you can search through current and past job titles of a specific person or position, companies, names and locations to see how people have moved up in a specific company.

This can give you a better idea of whether you should take the job (as in, you’ll know if you have to just pull an Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada and stick it out for a year). For example, if the company has offered you the position of administrative assistant, look on LinkedIn for the previous administrative assistant positions for that company. Did they eventually move up to a higher position, such as being the editorial director? How long did it take? Miethner adds that these are also great questions to ask during an interview, especially because you will come across as a very serious potential employee who is thinking long-term (companies love that!). If you don’t see mobility or promotion, Miethner warns, “Avoid that company.”

Salemi agrees. “There's always going to be one or more aspects of a job which are less than stellar,” she says. “If company A is your dream company to work for but the position is less than ideal, weigh the pros and cons. Find out specific responsibilities and what the job entails and how long it's anticipated you'll be in that role as a jumping off point. And then go with your gut—it's an excellent idea to look at the big picture to get your foot in the door. Work really hard, prove yourself and make key connections internally.”

5. Turn down the offer the right way

Now that you have a general idea of how to go about picking between job offers, it is important to also learn how to let a job offer down. The most important thing? Be communicative. “Ask if there is a timeline.” Miethner says, adding, “Far along in the process, let them know you are interviewing at multiple places. Be as clear as possible so if you do turn them down you’re not leaving a negative taste in their mouth because you led them on for so long.” Employers will understand that when you are first entering the working world, you will have many opportunities that you may want to explore. However, they definitely won’t appreciate believing you are fully committed to working for them until the very last minute, simply because you didn’t know how to handle the situation.

If you have decided to turn down the offer for good, Salemi suggests, “Be professional and succinct.” She adds, “Tell the recruiter you really appreciated their offer but you need to respectfully decline. If they ask you why, you can say you accepted another offer but would like to stay in touch.”

Both Miethner and Salemi, however, also recognize the importance of leaving things open ended, should something change in the future. Miethner suggests sending a professional email that leaves room for future employment possibilities and letting the employer know that the decision to turn down the job offer was not easy. Salemi suggests, “Connect on LinkedIn! You never know what happens six months down the road or more—keep the lines of communication open!”

Turning down a job offer can be difficult. Knowing which job offer to turn down can be even harder! Just remember to do what you know will be best for you (if all else fails, trust your gut instinct!), get the experience you want and remain professional in the process.