company offered me a job but wants an answer the same day

A reader writes:

I’m currently working for a company I’ve been with for nearly a decade. The positions I can promote to are very few and unlikely to be vacated anytime soon. I’ve been at my level now for 3+ years. It’s time to move on.

I interviewed with a promising young company (let’s call them PYC) this morning, and by lunchtime they reached out with an enthusiastic offer below my current base salary, which won’t work for me. I countered with a base salary match and indicated that if the upside was worth the risk (meaning a generous stack of options), we’d be a lot closer to a deal. PYC stressed that they’d get back to me by the end of the day with numbers so that I could proceed with giving two weeks notice right away, as they want someone to start ASAP.

To complicate things, I have more interviews with other companies this week — exciting, big time companies! — and while they’ll almost certainly come with higher pay, it’s doubtful they’ll match that critical risk/upside component. While both are important to me, this offer is putting me on the spot! If PYC offers a base salary match, the same amount of vacation, a title upgrade AND enough options to calm my nerves, is that a good offer, or am I jumping the gun? The rush is spooking me a little; it’s not the way I’m used to making decisions. Should I be rightfully spooked or is this just my decade of being off-market showing?

I think they’re going to be extremely successful. I want to be part of it, the folks I met today were great, and the ship appears to be in great shape.

There are really two separate questions here: Should you be spooked that they’re moving so quickly and pressuring you to as well, and can you slow them down?

First, should you be spooked? Maybe. There are certainly companies that move this quickly, and it doesn’t mean that people don’t end up happy there. But at a minimum, they’re probably not great at hiring if they’re offering people jobs only hours after interviewing them for the first time. (They’re almost certainly not checking references, for one thing, although maybe they had already talked informally with people who have worked with you.) And if they’re not great at hiring, that means that you’re probably going to have some less-than-great coworkers, unless they’re really good at cleaning up hiring mistakes quickly.

They’re also assuming that you can and should make a decision as quickly as they have. But deciding where to work is a big, big decision, and they should want you to think it through and be absolutely sure that it’s right for you. The fact that they’re not thinking of it that way indicates that they’re either pretty inexperienced or not quite reasonable in their expectations. Those can both be bad, in different ways. If they’re inexperienced, what else haven’t they thought through or had experience dealing with yet, and how will that affect (a) their business and (b) your quality of life as an employee? (Are they experienced enough to make reliable revenue projections? Is your health insurance going to lapse because they’re clueless about what needs to be done to keep it current? And so forth.) Or, if they’re experienced enough but just not quite reasonable in what they expect of people, will their expectations be any more reasonable when it comes to things like time off, workload, etc.?

Now, despite what it might sound like, I’m not pre-judging this. This might be a great offer that you should be excited to take. But these are all things you want to think through without blinders on.

As for the second question … You should absolutely be able to slow them down. It’s entirely reasonable to say, “I’m really interested in joining you, and I’m excited about the position. However, I need some time to think over the offer and the position and make sure that it’s right for me. Can I give you my answer by Monday?” (And in the meantime, you should feel free to ask for an additional conversation if you have unanswered questions, which you probably do — or should — after only a single interview.)

They might be hesitant about waiting a full week, but they should at least give you a few days. And if they push you for an answer faster than that, I’d consider that a much bigger red flag than the fast offer itself. They should want you to be sure about your decision — both for your own comfort and for theirs; people pressured to accept a job offer faster than they’re ready to are at high risk for reneging later.

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. Just Saying*

    How inappropriate would it be to take the offer – tell them you need to give three weeks notice – go on the other interviews and if something better comes along, to renig on the offer? Is that an absolute no-no?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, you’ll burn the bridge and potentially really screw up your reputation, as well as it simply being an act without any integrity.

      Unless you know that they’re continuing to interview people and may revoke your offer if they find someone better. Which happens on occasion, but isn’t the norm.

    2. Natalie*

      I feel like a jerk correcting someone’s spelling, but it’s actually “renege”. The word is (incorrectly) thought to have a racist origin sometimes, and that particular misspelling could give the wrong impression.

  2. CestLaVie*

    Be careful OP! I made the mistake of accepting an offer like that, and now I’m stuck at a place with a toxic environment (because they hire this way and never get rid of people who are not good at their job), doing monotonous work (because the works isn’t varied as they promised. Every day I want to bang my head against the wall. Take your time to think it through and don’t let them rush you.

    1. CestLaVie*

      Wow. Excuse the multiple grammar mistakes. Wrote this rushed from my phone because, you guessed it, my new job doesn’t allow you to use the internet for anything other than work, and it’s closely monitored to the point where they read your AIM conversations with other coworkers… Sigh

    2. HAnon*

      That happened to me once — I was offered a job within the same day that I interviewed for the company. I thanked them for the offer and told them I needed the weekend to make a decision (they offered the job on Thursday or Friday I think). I emailed the decision maker some follow-up questions regarding benefits and vacation time/flex time, thinking this was something that should be negotiated before I accepted a formal offer. She wrote back and told me she felt like I was too “hesitant” because I didn’t commit on the spot and that she was withdrawing the offer. In a panic, I left her a few carefully worded, upbeat voicemails telling her that I was not hesitant and would still like to be considered for the position. Never heard from her again. Looking back on it I can see that there was crazy written all over that company (it was a tiny ad agency run by a husband and wife) and it’s better that I didn’t get the job — I would have been miserable. But at the time, I really wanted that paycheck!

  3. Kelly*

    I took a job where I was asked to make the decision the same day, and now I’m looking for a different job. My coworkers are all excellent, but the administration is constantly asking us to instantaneously implement new initiatives before anything has been thought out, and little lasting progress is made in the organization. As a result, they have very high turnover (probably why my coworkers are excellent – those who can’t cut it or feel they have better options leave, which is actually how I found myself with a job there). The stress level is through the roof though, so if you are someone who likes doing things in a logical and well-thought out manner, this might indicate a chaotic and ambiguous organization.

  4. shawn*

    I don’t see the rush to accept an offer for a lateral salary move (at best), regardless of everything else, when you have other interviews lined up with companies you are interested in. I can understand you are excited about the other perks of this job, but you might find those elsewhere AND get a raise. I’m not saying to hold out for something better forever, but I think it would not only reasonable but prudent to give your self some time to consider all your options.

    1. moss*

      I agree with this. The only way I’d be tempted by this offer is by huge amounts of money I could save in case things go south. A decrease in my quality of life? No way.

  5. Elle*

    I don’t necessarily agree with all the doom and gloom. If they are promising young company, we are talking about a start up? Start ups are not like other companies. A start up is often a company in a temporary phase in which hiring and other practices are faster and more informal. Their culture would likely evolve over time anyway.

    And most of the people I know in start ups are much more harsh on non performers. They let go of people all the time. They also have a lot of freedom.

    A large organization should not be giving offers in a day because they should have internal procedures to go through. That’s the norm. But I think AAM’s advice is not necessarily applicable to start ups.

    1. moss*

      I personally hope never to work for a start-up again. The politics are horrible in a place where the cult of personality rules. Start-ups often have no clear idea of what constitutes good work (it’s all about facetime and relationships) and the management, done by very inexperienced people often, can be dreadful. I want to work for grown-ups, not start-ups.

      1. Anonymous*

        I completely agree! I think that for the right kind of person, they can be a good fit, but the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mentality drove me insane. I am a planner by nature. They weren’t. I hated how they’d jump headfirst into a project without thinking it through. They thought I was too rigid and asked too many questions; they wanted me to just DO and not think or plan first.

        I was so freaking grateful when I got a new job and left that company. Which, incidentally, went under six months later, having burned through all their startup cash from investors.

    2. BCW*

      I don’t think quickly making a decision is bad, but I do think pressuring someone to accept quickly is.

  6. BCW*

    I had a job offer like that right out of college. And being desperate, I took it without really considering everything. I left 2 months later because it sucked. Had I thought about it for a day or 2, I probably wouldn’t have taken it in the first place.

    I don’t trust any company who won’t even give you a couple of days to consider their offer.

  7. Chloe*

    I also pulled out of a job interview process when I could see they were about to make an offer in a very hasty way – they called a few hours after the first interview and said they needed to go through internal processes but once they had they’d make an offer within a few days. Basically I could tell from the interview that I was actually a terrible fit for the job, it required skills that I just didn’t have, and didn’t want to develop, but they for some reason didn’t see that at all. I think the fact they were rushing so much was the major reason they couldn’t see I wasn’t qualified – if they’d reference checked they would probably have come to the same conclusion. They were also offering well below market, which indicated they’d done no research into what the right person for the job would be paid. All around it was alarming and offputting and pulling out was 100% right – I know that the person they hired lasted less than a year, which says a lot really.

  8. A Nonny Mouse*

    Had this same thing happen with a job offer I got. They offered the job a day after I interviewed, without ever letting me meet the hiring partner (it was a law firm), among other red flags. I got the offer via email while I was out of town with limited access to internet – it just so happened that I was checking from the business center when it came through. They said in the offer that they wanted me to give confirmation of acceptance the same day they sent the offer letter, with no opportunity to think it over. I pretended not to see the email for two days, giving MYSELF time to think it over, and then turned it down. In order to not burn the bridge, I told them it was because they couldn’t match my current salary and I couldn’t take the pay cut.

    Funny enough, I got a phone call today from the same place, asking me to interview for a similar position. I’m still debating whether I want to go to the interview or not.

  9. Joey*

    Another dating analogy. Take what’s in front of you even though there are a few warning signs or hold out for something better? It depends on how risk averse you are.

    1. Parfait*

      You can go on a few dates with Promising Young Person and get to know them better while still dating others.

      This is more like being pressured to forsake all others after one date.

  10. Anna*

    I agree with Alison here. Definitely ask yourself what their speediness says about their company. I had this very same thing happen to me a few months ago. Within a week I got contacted by a recruiter, had my resume handed to a company, had an interview with that company and 3 hours after the 45 minute interview I had an offer. After joining the company I realized that speedy decision making process was rooted with the COO and permeated every aspect of the business. Any time he or the higher ups got involved there was chaos and quick decisions without a lot of thought behind them; they were very much a knee jerk reaction company. That type of company is one that is likely to have problems down the road and is definitely something you should be hesitant about. Eventually I ended up leaving the company for one that had a much longer hiring process. I could definitely tell they wanted a decision soon but like Alison said, I could tell their highest priority was making sure I was sure about my decision.

    Good luck and let us know how it goes!

  11. nyxalinth*

    Monday I had an interview at a place that made it clear they needed someone to start this week. The advantage was no endless foot-dragging (it’s a very small center, not even remotely corporate, and would have been ideal for me). It seemed to go great, and they would have called me yesterday to start today, but despite them saying things that implied they thought I was awesome and would be a great fit, I didn’t get a call. guess they felt someone else was more awesome and a better fit. I’m trying hard to get away from big corporate call centers, but I’m starting to wonder if I will.

    Anyway, despite their quick decision making and need for someone right away, it ddn’t strike me as a bad thing. sometimes they really do need you that quickly. If it seemed like a good fit for me and not just desperation on both sides, I’d go for it.

  12. krzystoff*

    I can not see a reason why you shouldn’t just take the job, then keep interviewing while you are in the ‘flow’ and take a better offer once it comes along — it shouldn’t take you more than a week or two to settle in and know whether a company is a keeper or not (albeit annual reviews are critical indicators for most people on just how loyal their company is to the employees).

    1. Chloe*

      Ugh, this would just be the most awkward conversation ever:

      “Morning, sorry about this but I’m resigning”.

      “What? You just started last week!”

      “Um, yeah, sorry, just kept looking in case this didn’t turn out.”

      I’m cringing just thinking about that, you would be the person that got talked about for YEARS afterwards for this kind of behaviour. I actually worked with someone who did that, only he quit because he had moved away from home and missed his family and girlfriend too much. It was all a bit tragic for him, but seriously, he was the butt of jokes literally for years.

  13. Josh S*

    One thing to consider — their speed in making an offer and requesting an acceptance of that offer is a sign of their culture.

    OP has indicated that this is a start-up style company (Options are part of compensation, potential for success means they’re not particularly established, etc). A lot of times, making fast decisions with incomplete information is a hallmark characteristic of a start-up’s ethos. This can be either good or bad — but it’s on the OP to decide if she’s willing to take that chance on whether the environment is a good fit for her in that regard.

  14. Greg*

    This is known as an “exploding offer”. When I was in grad school, we were given explicit instructions that if we ever got one, we should report it to Career Services right away, and they would read the company the riot act. It’s not fair to the candidate and it’s not a good way to run a business.

  15. tcookson*

    “I interviewed with a promising young company (let’s call them PYC)”

    Speaking of comarisons between jobs and dating, am I the only one who got the Michael Jackson “Pretty Young Thing” song stuck in my head from this?

    . . . I want to love you — Uhh! — Promising Young Company

    1. tcookson*

      although it would fit better rythmically if we changed the line to Pretty Young Job . . .

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