Solving job-search puzzlers

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By Robert Half International

If the ideal job search were an equation, it might look something like this: Apply for a job you really want + land an interview + impress the employer = get hired.

But as we all know, the job-search process is rarely this straightforward. You will likely encounter any number of situations that lack an easy solution.

Here are several perplexing puzzlers and advice for solving them:

Puzzler: You receive an appealing job offer, but it’s not from the company you’d like to join. You interviewed for your dream job with another company but haven’t heard anything since. Do you wait for your ideal employer to make an offer — which may not happen — or sign on with the other company?

Solution: Regardless of whether you’re waiting to hear from the company you consider to be “the one,” if you truly have zero interest in working for the backup company, the professional thing to do is decline the offer. Do so promptly and politely so the company can move on with its candidate search.

However, if you could see yourself working for your second choice, consider in what ways the company you’re willing to wait for outshines the one that would like to hire you now. Upon reflection, you may find the differences between the two are not that great. Your motivation for holding out — working for a company with a hot brand name, for instance — may not be the best reason to turn down an appealing offer from another employer.

If after evaluating your options you’re still unsure which choice is best, contact the hiring manager at the preferred company to find out where things stand. If you’re still under consideration, tell the hiring manager the company remains your top choice, but you’ve been extended another offer of employment that you’re seriously considering.

If the company is eager to hire you, it will likely move quickly to ensure it doesn’t lose out. If you sense you’re not the top choice, it may be better to devote your talents to a company that views you as the best candidate.

Puzzler: You accepted a job offer, then found out the salary is below market range. Is it too late to negotiate?

Solution: The truth is that your negotiating power is diminished after you’ve agreed to an offer. However, if you’re armed with accurate information about current starting salaries for similar positions in your area, you may be able to argue that you’ll be underpaid.

How the hiring manager responds could tell you a lot about the organization you’re about to join. When able to, the best employers will take steps to address your concerns to ensure you feel valued from day one.

Be careful not to push too hard in your negotiation efforts. You don’t want to set the wrong tone with your new employer. If the company won’t — or can’t — raise compensation at this time, ask if there are other perks that could help make up the difference, such as flexible-scheduling options or professional-development opportunities.

Another option is to request that the salary discussion be revisited soon — say, six months after your start date. That will give you ample time to impress your new boss and prove you’re worth a larger paycheck.

No matter how you handle this situation, next time, be sure you understand every detail of the employment offer before agreeing to it.

Puzzler: You were called back for a second interview to meet the team members with whom you’d work most closely. Afterward, you realize you might have a hard time fitting in with the group. Should you bow out, even though you sense you might receive a job offer?

Solution: When assessing corporate culture, trusting your gut instincts can be a wise choice. Your ability to make a positive connection with others in the workplace — the people you will spend hours interacting with every day — can have a direct and significant bearing on your productivity and morale.

Still, it’s wise to do more research before backing out of the hiring process. Consider polling your network for more insight. Do you know anyone who could provide firsthand feedback about the company’s work environment? Also, consider asking the hiring manager directly about what it’s like to work there. For example, you might ask, “How would you describe the corporate culture?” or “What do you like best about working here?”

The additional information you gather should give you a better idea of how much stock to put into your initial impression of the team.

These are only a few examples of the puzzlers you could encounter during your job search. Just keep in mind that the greatest variable in any job-search equation is you. After all, only you can ultimately determine the right career choice.

Robert Half International is the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm with a global network of more than 350 offices worldwide. For more information about our professional services, visit For additional career advice, view our career bloopers video series at or follow us on Twitter at

One Comment
  1. Great advice! Culture fit can make or break a work experience. It’s so easy to quiet your uneasiness during an interview, but when the honeymoon is over, it’s difficult to sustain an awkward, uncomfortable or isolating situation.

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