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Interviewing Advice in a Hot Job Market

Handling multiple offers requires tact and a cool head.

Kiplinger's spoke with Paul McDonald (pictured at left), a senior executive director at staffing company Robert Half, about how job seekers can respectfully decline a job offer. Here's an excerpt from our interview:

See Our Slide Show: 10 States With the Fastest Job Growth

Is the job market heating up enough to produce multiple offers for some candidates?

Yes. Applicants are likely to receive multiple offers in sectors such as technology, accounting, finance, marketing, human resources and legal services. Employers are hiring people who can develop mobile appli­cations, provide adminis­trative support, protect company data and promote company brands through targeted marketing.

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What should you do if you get more than one offer?

When you are interviewing at multiple firms, it’s important not to accept an offer too quickly—too many people do. Let’s say you are interviewing at three firms: A, B and C. If you get an offer from company A, say thank you, note that you are in discussions with other firms, and ask for time to consider the offer. Call your contacts at B and C to let them know that you have an offer in hand and ask about their timing for making a decision. You won’t hurt your chances with A as long as you don’t keep the people there waiting too long. Depending on the role, one to two weeks is generally okay.

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What if you get an offer for your dream job after you’ve accepted another offer, or even after you’ve started working?

Stay objective and ask yourself these questions: Does the second offer fulfill every aspect of my career plan? Will it meet my financial needs and offer stability? Will I learn the skills that will help me advance in my career? As you make your decision, seek advice from a mentor or professional adviser. (Your friends won’t be qualified to coach you.) If your answers to all these questions are yes, then take the second offer.

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How can you do that without burning bridges?

Make sure to give your current company plenty of notice. Keep the discussion businesslike, but be prepared to have a dissatisfied supervisor. Industries are small, and your paths might cross again. Someone at this company may be in a position to hire you again, so keep your interactions as professional and cordial as possible.

If you opt to stay at a less-than-perfect job, how can you get back on your preferred career path?

Get the most out of the role by learning as much as you can and treating it as if it were your dream job. Work hard and keep networking in your industry so you are visible for new opportunities. Your work ethic could open a door at your current firm that’s a better fit. Your performance review is a great time to ask for training, more flexibility or other sweeteners.

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