A rather nice situation—yet still perplexing—is to receive an "early offer" from one of the companies with which you have interviewed. By "early," it means early in relation to other potential job offers. You may have had eight interviews in the last month, three of which resulted in second interviews, but only one of which has resulted in an immediate offer. Worse things can happen.
Yet it still creates a dilemma. Sure, if the offering company is your first choice, accept the job and send the other pending employers your regrets. But if the offering company is not your first choice, then what?
The first thing you should do when you receive an early offer is to make the other pending employers immediately aware of the offer. Your stock will go up markedly the moment you have been "put into play" by another employer. It is simple human nature to covet what others have, and the price of membership has just gone up for those who want to join in the fight for the coveted prize. That which is difficult to obtain always holds greater value. Interested players are now required to react immediately or lose you. If they are truly interested, they will react. If they have just been stringing you along with a load of others with no real interest, they will likely cut you loose. Be prepared: you may be isolated with your lone offer. But if you are a top candidate, you may end up receiving multiple offers.
The second thing to do is ask the employer which made the initial offer for as much time as possible to make your decision. The amount of time you request may depend on the other pending opportunities (have an idea as to when they might be ready to respond). One week to make the decision is common and you might be able to get as much as two weeks (or more, especially if the offer is made in the first semester of your final year). But this is not the time to go out and start new contacts from scratch. It's time to wind down your search and get ready to accept the best offer.
If you are willing to entertain offers from other employers, it is your obligation to inform these employers that you have received an initial offer as quickly as possible. You may have only one or two others that are even in the running. If so, restrict these multiple offer tactics to them.
Contact the person within the company who would be your Hiring Manager. Let that person know that you have already received a competitive offer and tell the manager which company made the offer. The reason for giving out the company name is that you usually will not have to disclose the dollar amount, since most industry insiders have at least a general idea what others in the field are paying. Do not be surprised if the manager suddenly backs off, because they may realize that their company cannot match the other company's wage/benefit package or other perks. If you have scored your initial hit with an industry leader such as Google or another market leader for your major, you may find it difficult to draw a second offer. The industry giants are often tough to beat. It takes time to put together a competitive offer and some companies may be just as willing to back away as fight. If this happens and you have a true preference for the secondary company, let them know in very direct terms that you are still more interested in them than the company that made the initial offer.
You will find that once the first offer comes in, it is often quite easy to generate others. If you have done an excellent job of developing yourself differentially from your competition, employers will know they have to react quickly to sway you to their side.
You may have the uncommon luxury of choosing from among multiple job offers. While others are scratching and begging for an offer—any offer—you actually have the difficult decision of deciding which employer you like best. Keep all the negotiations open and honest. You will find that honesty is not only the best policy, but also your greatest competitive advantage. If one company comes up $2,000 short of what you need in order to accept, discuss it with the appropriate party. The employer would much rather shoot at a specific target. For more specifics on negotiating your offer, see the next section on Successful Job Offer Negotiation.
If a fellow student/job seeker you know receives multiple offers, you should congratulate them immediately. And if they are in your field, make sure you immediately contact the losing suitors. The refused offers will leave behind employers with jobs that have not yet been filled. Strike quickly and decisively. Even if it is not an employer with whom you have met, there may still be time if you are willing to move quickly.