Of course, we all want to be the first choice of somebody, whether the situation is picking teams in athletics, or in a personal relationship (perhaps think back to the prom in your youth).  The entertainment world is also full of stories about how some actor became a star in a part that someone else turned down.  Or, in music, a singer has a big hit for a song that another person passed on recording.

In case you were wondering, these situations pop up even when it comes to the hiring process and the job offer.  There are times when a person knows or suspects that they were not the first choice of the prospective employer for the open position. The job seeker then must determine if the opportunity is worth some of the internal and external challenges that may occur from not being the initial selection.

You may be thinking about how a person might know that they are not the first selection for the desired opening.  The most obvious way is that you have been previously “regretted” for the role and now they are coming back to you to see if you are still interested.  This is usually after the primary candidate either backed out at the last minute, had a background/drug screen issue, or even started and was found immediately to not be a good match. 

There may be other more “stealth” ways for you to determine that you are not the first pick for the role.  If there was a long delay between your last interview and when you thought the decision would be made, then you may be in a situation where the prospective employer is keeping you “warm” as a back-up plan.  In this scenario, you may consider asking the Hiring Manager what was the reason for the delay, so you can make your own assessment.

Ultimately, it comes to the potential gains v. the risks of accepting the offered position.  Let’s now take a look at both sides of this ledger, so you can make the most informed decision possible.

The primary concern item that pops into your mind is that since you were not the first selected, will you have the necessary support from others.  In my opinion, the opposite is what often occurs. People, in the know, rally behind this person, especially if there was not a remotely viable third option.   They do this because they want to make sure the person will be successful. Also, keep in mind, that in most situations, very few people within the organization will actually know that you were not the first pick.  Usually, it will be just the Recruiter, Hiring Manager, and your Boss who are aware, and they don’t have incentive to talk to others about it.                                                      

Of course, you will need to overcome any ego bruising that may have occurred by not being selected first.  The Hiring Manager can do a lot to soothe this “injury” by expressing to you how much they want you and how there was a negligible difference between you and the first selection.  The words and enthusiasm of the Hiring Manager should help you feel better. If you are not getting that type of welcome, then perhaps this is a sign that they are disappointed and, in their mind, “settling”.

If you find yourself unsure about the situation, you may even ask the Hiring Manager what the first candidate possessed that you did not.  This may then be turned into a learning and development opportunity for you, that will allow your qualifications to be level with the person they missed out on.

If you do know that the first candidate “flamed out”, then you may find yourself in an enviable negotiating position.  Rarely does a company have an option 3 that they are comfortable with, so it may be down to you or restarting the job search.  It may be human nature to temper your requirements, knowing that you were not the preferred choice, but the opposite may be the situation that has presented itself.

You should also compare this opportunity with what you have currently underway with the rest of your job search.  If you are at or close to receiving an offer, you will want time to consider this compared to the organization who is coming back to you.  However, if you have found yourself in a lull during your search and you don’t have anything imminently presenting itself, then jumping on this opportunity may be what you financially need to do.

While not finishing first may be a small blow to your professional ego, landing the position that you really wanted should help ease the pain.  Every job seeker has to make the personal decision that is right for them, but (for most) landing the position is ultimately the prize and should be the focus, not the order in which the offers occurred.

As always, the best of luck in your job search.

The following has been prepared for the general information of RochesterJobs readers. It is not meant to provide advice with respect to any specific legal or policy matter and should not be acted upon without verification by the reader.

Joe Stein
WNY Human Resources Professional

Feel free to contact Joe Stein regarding questions or comments at:
Joe Stein


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