Career Advice Tuesday – “Making Them Wait”

May 29, 2012

Dear Infosecleaders:

I am in the process of making my first job change and I am looking for some advice.  I have spent the past five years of my career working at a corporate information security position, and I am looking to transition to the world of large consulting – for both the experience, the exposure and the compensation.

I decided to interview with a few consulting firms who have advertised similar openings.  One of the firms whom I interviewed with, I really liked.  They have dynamic leader, a solid market presence, and they offered me a competitive compensation package.  On its own merits, it is definitely an offer that I would accept and be happy with.

Toward the end of my process with them, I was the contacted by another large consulting firm, and I went on an initial interview with them – and it also went well.  Although the roles are similar, the second firm is a bit more “prestigious” than the first, and in my opinion has a better external brand.   After the initial interview, the internal recruiter told me that the remainder of the process would take an additional two weeks to complete.

My offer with the initial firm is roughly a week old and is approaching expiration.

I would like to know what my boundaries are here.  I do not want to jeopardize my offer with the first firm, but I do not want to accept the role without hearing the second firm our, and reviewing their offer.   Is asking them to wait an additional two weeks an option?  Am I in jeopardy of “burning bridges”?

Any help would be appreciated.


Mr. Heinz 


Dear Mr. Heinz –

What your are really asking is how long is an acceptable time to “Make Them Wait” for your decision, without burning a bridge.

First some guidelines – an acceptable time to evaluate an offer is a week.  If you were more senior, I could even see that 10 days could be acceptable, maybe even 2 weeks,  especially if it involved a relocation.  But at your level, a week is ample time – anything else is excessive and somewhat disrespectful.

The best thing that I can share with you, is that you definitely have the right to evaluate all of your options before making a job change, you have to remember that the practice leaders of these firms (who will be your managers and bosses) are highly competitive and have a good amount of pride (or else they would not be in charge).  In addition, what would make losing this recruitment battle worse, is the fact that they would be losing out to one of their competitors.

So you need to be careful.

To give you some perspective, I want to introduce a scenario to you, that should be able to provide you with clarity:

You go out an interview with a company.   You interview well and the company states that they like you – and they believe you are a good fit.   At the end of the interview process, they basically say this – Mr. Heinz – you are an excellent candidate, have all the skills to do this job correctly, and we would want you on our team – however, in three weeks we are expecting to interview another candidate with very similar skills, compensation requirements, and personality -  we would like for you to wait three weeks – so that we can compare them to you – and so that we can elect to move forward with either you or the other candidate.

How would you feel?  How would you view the opportunity?  Would you feel good about going to work at an employer where they have essentially told you that you may be a second choice, or a fall back option?

Chances are, your feelings would be hurt.  All of the good will would be sucked out of the interview process and you would want to consider working at other places – not because of the role, but because how you were treated.

This is how the hiring manager at the other firm feels as a result of your actions and intentions.

My advice would be to accept the position with the first firm.

The roles are basically the same.  You are going to gain very similar experiences.  The compensation packages are going to be very similar in the end as well (within about 5K).  The first firm treated you well, you were comfortable, and you liked the environment – essentially what more could you want.  Large information security consulting firms basically have similar brands – and are looped together – there is essentially no branding difference between consulting firms that offer a broad range of security consulting services.

If you turn this position down, you are essentially going to “burn the bridge” because of how you handled the process.

In the future, the way to avoid this is to let all of the firms that you are interviewing with know that you are looking to make a decision by a specific date.  You can tell them that you would like to have all offers by a certain date, so that you can evaluate them side by side.  By setting this expectation, you demonstrate that you are a good communicator, you are well thought out in your approach, and you establish ground rules so that they can control the timeline of your hiring process

In closing, you are a first time job changer, so you should be forgiven for this.  But in the future, you need to learn from this, so that you do not find yourself in this situation again in the future.

Hope this helps,

Lee Kushner


Posted by lee | Filed Under "The Other Side of The Desk", Advice, Behavior, Career Advice Tuesday, Interviewing, Position Selection, Recruiting 


2 Responses to “Career Advice Tuesday – “Making Them Wait””

  1. SantaSantana on May 30th, 2012 7:46 am

    This is “by the book” advice with an infosec flavor sprinkled atop. Quite frankly, if the recruiter is feeling uncomfortable, so be it. Ultimately, you’re likely just a commission to him/her (particularly because this is a large firm).

    My advice is to speak with the second company and let them know you have another offer. Urge them to speed up the process. If they truly wish to hire you, they will find ways around internal red tape.

    And secondly, don’t be afraid to break rules or burn bridges. Years back, I left an major consulting firm hanging high and dry (I quit on what was to be my first day) and took a role as a CISO. With a few years as a CISO I left and have now started my own infosec firm and have never been happier.

  2. Lee Kushner on May 30th, 2012 10:34 am

    Interesting comment. I welcome all. It would be nice if you did disagree that you would do so without an alias so that your perspective could be better validated.

    Anyone who has ever worked with me or my firm, knows that we have never treated people like “bags of money”. We have alwyas prided ourselves in proving the best information, advice, and transparency so that infomraiton security professionals can make informred career decisions.

    Your comment on infomring the other firm that they need to expedite their process is accurate and consistent with the way that this should be handled. A simple reply that would say – I am sorry, I cannot wait 2 additional weeks to make a decision – is really all that needs to be conveyed. At that point they can either say, “we can make it happen” – or “advise you to accept the other offer.

    The “burning of bridges” is less associated with the ulimate outcome of the decision, but as how the communication element of the job search is handled. This really lends itself to your integrity, professionalism, and your “brand”.

    A negative impression of these attributes is not easily overcome and sometimes stays with you over the course of yoru career- whether accurate or not.

    If you would like to reveal your identity – I would be happy to have a more in depth discussion wtih you on this topic off line.

    Lee Kushner