when an interviewer asks, “If I offered you the job, would you say yes?”

A reader writes:

I had a job interview yesterday. It was a panel interview of 3 potential colleagues and the supervisor. When I arrived, the office manager welcomed me and handed me a list of questions that would be asked in the interview and gave me 5 minutes to look over them and prepare a little bit.

The interview went well and we were winding down and chatting about the answers to the questions I had for them. The supervisor was about to stand up and usher me out when he said, “Oh, and the question I like to ask every candidate — If I offered you the job, would you say yes?'”

I was taken aback because A) I thought the interview was over and B) I’d never been asked that before. I quickly said, “Oh, yes!” I don’t remember his reaction because I was so flustered.

As I was walking away, I couldn’t help but think that the question was more of a “test” and I should have answered differently. Maybe I should have asked more questions. Why would he ask at all because wouldn’t most people say yes? What do you think? Do hiring managers often ask this question?

I’ll tell you who sometimes asks this question:

Interviewers who don’t understand that candidates are no more obligated to answer that question on the spot than interviewers are obligated to tell you on the spot whether you got the job.

Interviewers who don’t consider that whether or not you’d accept the job is going to depend on what salary is offered and other aspects of the job offer.

Interviewers who don’t consider that perhaps you, like them, might like to go away and think on such a major decision for a while rather than deciding right now, this very second. And who don’t understand that that’s a good thing, and they should want to hire people who don’t make major decisions lightly.

Now, some interviewers who ask this lame question really mean, “How interested in this job are you?” — as opposed to, “Would you definitely accept?” They’re trying to get a sense of whether the position is what you’re looking for and how enthusiastic you are.

And that’s the question that you should answer, regardless of the bad wording. So in the future, if someone asks you this, you should feel free to say, “I’m very interested.” If they press you for a more specific answer, (a) they are an ass, and (b) you can say, “I’m extremely interested, although with any job I’d of course want to look over the offer.”

{ 29 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth West

    To me, this sounds like “How interested are you in this vehicle? Because I need an answer right now, before someone else comes in and makes me an offer!”

    1. Pussyfooter

      Yeah. This is a “hard-sell closing question” (Aam 7/22/11). It’s just that the interviewER is doing it instead of the interviewEE.
      Even if the answer was “Heck No!”, I wouldn’t say that to someone. Unless the interviewer is testing the candidate’s reaction, it’s not going to give accurate info.

    2. V

      This basically happened to my parents a couple years ago when they were shopping for a new car. The salesperson said something to the extent of “If you aren’t going to buy a car today, you are wasting my time.” They got out of there as quickly as possible.

      1. Jessa

        Exactly. I don’t buy from people who sell like that. I’d be nervous of people who HIRE like that.

  2. Rob Bird

    Could you also say something along the lines of “Based on what I have seen and heard in this interview, I would be very interested (or very uninterested) in this position”.

    Thoughts?

    1. Michelle

      This was my thought as well. “Based on what I know about the position and your organization so far, I am very interested.”

    2. LJL

      That’s how I’d do it as well. It answers the question but isn’t too committal (or noncommittal).

  3. Jamie

    Ugh – I don’t blame you for blurting something out on the spot – a lot of people would have.

    This reminds me of when I was little and badgering my mom for an answer to something RIGHT NOW. She’s say that if she had time to think about it I might have a shot, but if I needed an answer that second it was no. Without time to deliberate it was always no.

    Worked with an impatient young me, but much too snarky for an interview response.

    It was a stupid question.

    1. Tiff

      I am sooooo writing this down to help me deal with my kids! They’re a little young to fully grasp the concept (we’re just learning “wait a minute” and “not yet”) but they are impatient little buggers and I can see that tactic working in the next year or so.

    2. Steven M

      I have actually used pretty much that answer when asked if I would accept an offer. I don’t think the recruiter liked it very much, but it clearly wasn’t a deal-breaker because I still ended up with an offer (which I then still turned down).

      If I was unemployed or otherwise hard up for a job I don’t think I’d give that answer, but I had a decent if not amazing job already so it wasn’t a huge deal if I didn’t get offered that job. Even then, my answer would be a slightly nicer version of ‘it depends on the details of that offer’.

  4. Harryv

    I also agree that it was just the hiring manger’s way to gauging how interested you are and to observe how much leeway they have when putting together the package (salary).

  5. K

    That has never happened to me. I’ve been offered positions later that same day (several hours later, after I and presumably the interviewer had time to consider) but not on the spot like that.

    I’ve also been called in for a second round which then resulted in an offer at the end of it. But in that instance, I thanked them and said I needed time to think it over. They were more than willing to accommodate that.

    1. HR Gorilla

      What we ask near the end of final interviews is, “what reservations, if any, do you have about this position?” I think this allows the candidate to discuss their feelings about the company/role in a more general way, without being put on the spot quite as much. After we address any reservations the candidate may have, we also address any reservations that we might be having, if those items haven’t already been thoroughly covered during the interviews.

      1. K

        That would have made sense. It wasn’t presented that way to my recollection. It was initially treated like a second round. They liked my answers and then offered the job. Added pressure when they elaborated saying that they also hadn’t interviewed anyone else prior to offering it to me. I even explained my reservations, to which there wasn’t a satisfactory reply. I left and said I needed time to think it over. Ultimately ended up turning it down.

  6. L

    I was asked that question at the opening of a phone call where the hiring manager called to offer me the job. I had been through two interviews, and the hiring manager had made it clear to me that I would not fit with the office culture. So when she called and asked me this question, I assumed we were doing Round 3 of the interview and I said yes. She then offered me the job.

    I wish I had said no to that question. I spent 2.5 years in a miserable job situation where I absolutely didn’t fit in with the culture and never worked well with the hiring manager. I was obligated to take the job once it was offered, however, because I was on unemployment – had I turned down the job, I would have lost my unemployment.

    I’ve been out of that position for 10 months and I still have nightmares about my ex-boss. Beware of people who ask this question!

    1. ames

      That is so ridiculous. It’s like a kid asking “If I asked you out on a date, would you say yes?” instead of just asking you out already. Most people, when asked that on the spot, will say yes just to be polite (unless they are really uninterested.) So it’s ambushing you and then cornering you because you’ve already said you would take it when the actual offer came a minute later.

      1. fposte

        And then there’s the fact that cornering them to get them to accept a job is the worst way to get a candidate.

  7. CEMgr

    “If I offered you the job, would you say yes?”

    “I’m very interested and I’ll most likely accept, if the offer is competitive.” In other words, positive without making a definite commitment.

  8. Anonymous

    I was once semi-offered a job on the spot like this (“If we offered you the job right now, would you say yes?” in a way that implied that they were more or less offering it to me). Luckily, I had my wits about me enough to say that I would have to talk it over with my partner, as he would need to move with me and find a job of his own. Bought me enough time to get out of there with the offer (as it indeed turned out to be) intact. (Didn’t end up taking the job, and reasonably certain I didn’t burn a bridge–my partner did in fact find a job elsewhere and that’s where we went once I found one too.)

  9. Elizabeth

    I got this question once from the owner of the business — I had serious reservations about taking the job (mostly about the fit & the culture), and really wanted to think things over, and I didn’t know the salary so I answered ‘I don’t know’ — the owner pressured me to give a yes or no, and when I wouldn’t commit, saying I needed to know the salary, she (the owner) then told me I didn’t have the job — if I wouldn’t commit on the spot (without knowing the salary), she wouldn’t hire me. She got really mad at me, actually, I was very glad to get out of there and very glad I wouldn’t have a job there!

      1. Ruffingit

        Yeah, agreed. Salary is a major concern for most people. No one should accept a job without knowing what they’re being paid. Why anyone would ever do that is a mystery. No one should commit themselves to something as important as a job without knowing the underlying details. It’s like buying a house sight unseen. Bad, bad idea.

  10. Anonymously Anonymous

    Sounds like the same two interviews I went to for two different state agencies. They love to do that “oh yeah, by the way I have one last question..” The first time, the panel said we have 13 questions, I could see one of interviewer’s paper so after they asked if I had questions (which counted as part of the 13 question—I didn’t figure that out until I got back to car and was stuck trying figure out the last question..) I could see there was one question left blank. And he did the same move as OP’s interviewer– except he said something like “oh, I almost forgot the last question (weird laugh) ….” To which I responded exactly as OP did (even though I knew I had done poorly in the interview). I left that interviewed flustered and frustrated.

    The second time, I was prepared. When the she asked the question along with when I could I start (after references and background checks) I replied “I’m really interested in the position and I would need at least two weeks so I can properly notify my current employer. I think I would have taken the job if I was offered it but I felt so much more in control than just the last time with the other panel. Plus I think my questions for them sort of help them weed me out because I had did an internet search on the agency beforehand and found out they were backlogged out the wazoo on paperwork and was integrating a new system, which would help eliminate the need of more workers. So I’m pretty sure layoff would be in the future for the workers they hired since they had to pretty much beg the state to hire *half* the help they say they needed.

  11. Cassie

    I take it as the interviewer is trying to gauge interest. If it’s definitely a no (bad fit, job-wise or culture-wise), then the interviewer doesn’t even need to go through the next steps. Like if the interviewer thinks the candidate is viable but the candidate knows 100% sure that he/she would not accept.

    Even if you say yes, you’ll accept, it’s not really committing to anything, is it? I mean, people change their minds all the time. I wouldn’t take a yes answer as a formal acceptance of a future job offer.

  12. lc

    Would you it be stupid or clever to answer something like

    ” well why don’t you try and find out”
    or

    why would i be here if i wouldn’t take the offer”

    im not quite sure…. its quite risky?

    1. Shannon

      “Why would I be here if I wouldn’t take the offer.”

      I wouldn’t go with that one. It reeks of desperation.

  13. Cheri

    I would ask, “Are you making me an offer? I’m sorry, I missed the salary offer…” Then pause…..like 30 seconds. Make them answer. Who cares if they don’t offer it to you for real. What a jerk.

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