How to Handle Multiple Job Offers

I often get emails from readers who have received multiple offers. In this article, I will share some these stories with you and address some common questions that come along with receiving multiple offers.

Success Story:

I interviewed with both McKinsey and BCG today and they both made me offers, despite me telling them I was as likely to pursue graduate studies as I was to take up a job with them.

I just wanted to thank you for the material you've put up on the website. It helped me ace the interviews (especially your business situation framework) after only practicing for a week or so.

Question:

I was amazed when you said that you had five or seven job offers at the same point, and you picked Mckinsey. I was wondering how did you handle them?

I have my first round for Mckinsey next week. I got a call from a boutique firm yesterday, where I have finalized my interview process with them a while ago and was waiting for their offer. Finally they called, but I can't give them an answer because of Mckinsey.

How can I handle that?

If you have an offer from a company, how do you ask them in a professional way to postpone it a few weeks? Also, how can you encourage Mckinsey to speed up the interviewing process without irritating them?

My Reply:

I recruited on campus originally, so all the firms interviewed at the same time, and most of the offers came around the same time. So I didn't have this issue.

In your case, what I would suggest is that you just indicate that you are not done with your recruiting process and that you were planning on making a final decision after you were done. And basically, ask for more time.

They will, of course, ask how much more time you need, and that is a tricky one because you can most likely ask for more time once, but it starts being awkward if you ask for more time twice.

On the other side, a candidate asking for an extension once generally feels reasonable if it comes with a good explanation. A candidate asking for an extension twice generally feels like the candidate is not interested in working for the company and is really just waiting to work for another company.

At that point, the firm will generally wish it had not extended the offer. Most firms will not retract the offer (because it might hurt future recruiting efforts), but they will wish they could.

Question:

I think your site is wonderful, and I really appreciate the work that you do.

Yesterday I got the call from McKinsey and BCG and both have accepted me for positions.  Now it comes down to weighing the options!

Thanks so much!

P.S. Do you have any thoughts on McKinsey vs. BCG?

My Reply:

Congratulations. Sounds like you had one really good day.

Oh, you have a very nice problem. Both firms are great. You really can't go wrong.

At the firm level, I'd say maybe McKinsey has a very slight edge in terms of a larger, more connected alumni network, but in terms of future career opportunities, I think it's basically the same.

In terms of deciding, I think you're better off not thinking about which firm is better, but rather which office or practice would be a better fit for you.

The best choice will be the one where you fit in best, like the people best, or the office you'll be joining has more work in a particular industry that you want to work in.

If you have any previously established credibility in either office, such as you were a high-performing intern at one of the firms the prior year, that's a major factor too.

Once you start at a firm, these firms are very reputation-based. You will very quickly develop a reputation and it pretty much colors all of your opportunities in the future internally.

When you first start, they're afraid you'll screw up. So they have you do very little and have someone else double-check your work (by work I mean both quantitative analysis as well as people-skills are truly equally important -- no joke -- the latter being more important in the long run).

If you start with a strong reputation (say from a prior internship), you get staffed on more challenging projects/role, you end up learning faster, developing your skills faster, and ultimately get an edge in terms of promotions.

This was certainly my experience. When I was at McKinsey, out of 100 analysts hired across the world, after two years I was ranked one of the Top 10.

I was promoted to associate when I was 23 years old (making me one of the firm's youngest associates in history) and was asked to start managing some engagements, a role usually reserved for third year associates/engagement managers -- typically 30+ years of age.

Once I had the reputation as one of McKinsey's so-called "rising stars," the partners leading the toughest new clients began to request me -- even from other offices across the firm.

So the whole thing is a virtuous cycle -- and it starts with developing a good reputation early. So to that extent, this is easier for you to do at one firm vs. another (again I don't know if you have any personal history with either firm), that's certainly an important consideration.

So I'd encourage you to do your homework on the type of work each office does, and meet the specific people you may be likely to work with, rather than debate which firm is better.

Once again congratulations on your two offers -- very exciting.

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