should you ask for the job at the end of an interview?

A reader writes:

I read that if you ask for a job at the end of an interview, you should be prepared to accept the position on the spot. Is this true? What if the offer (salary, benefits, all of those things that you are not supposed to ask during the interview) is unfair/not up to par?

By asking for the job, do you lose negotiation power?

And how likely is the company to offer the job right after the interview?

You shouldn’t be asking for the job at the end of the interview. I know there’s plenty of advice out there that recommends it, but it’s not a good idea.

First of all, you shouldn’t even be ready to know that you want the job at the end of the interview. We’re talking about how you’ll be spending 40+ hours a week. Are you really prepared to sign up for that an hour after you walked into this company, without any further thought?

Secondly, good interviewers aren’t going to make a decision on the spot anyway. They’re going to think it over, talk to your references, and maybe talk to their colleagues. And they might have other candidates they want to interview. And that’s a good thing, because you want to work for a manager who takes hiring seriously (which is part of taking seriously the rest of managing a team, including developing and retaining good people, addressing problems, and replacing those who aren’t meeting a high bar — more things that you don’t want done thoughtlessly). You do not want to work for a manager who manages haphazardly or without much care.

Plus, by asking for the job in that manner, you (a) come across as a little naive about hiring, (b) come across as not especially thoughtful about whether this is really the right job for you, if you don’t even want to go home and think about it, and (c) put your interviewer on the spot in a way that’s likely to be awkward for both of you.

Now, there are some interviewers who like to be asked for the job — who even say that they don’t know how interested a candidate is otherwise. But this is silly. There are plenty of ways for interviewers to gauge interest — including asking outright. But if you’re concerned that you won’t appear sufficiently interested, then say something at the end of the interview like, “I’m really interested in the position, and I’m looking forward to talking further with you.” (And anyone who deems that insufficiently interested in probably someone who is going to require you to wear 37 pieces of flair while claiming you only need 15.)

Anyway, to answer your direct question: If for some reason you choose to disregard my advice here and you ask for the job anyway and they do offer it to you on the spot, then no, you’re not required to accept it if the salary and benefits aren’t what you want. You can still negotiate, and you can still ultimately turn it down.

But you shouldn’t ever have to worry about that, because you shouldn’t be doing it.

{ 95 comments… read them below }

  1. Bryan*

    +1,000 for the office space reference

    This is new “advice” to me and I can’t wrap my head around it. If I was interviewing somebody and thought they were a great match and they asked this I would consider taking them out of the running.

    1. Vicki*

      Why can’t you wrap your head around it?

      Or are you talking about the “advice” the OP got to “ask for the job”, not the advice AAM gave the OP?

      1. Ruffingit*

        I read it as the advice to ask for the job. It’s just so weird, I don’t know why anyone would do that. It’s along the same lines as some things we’ve seen here where people talk about calling the manager to set up an interview. UM…no. THEY call YOU, not the other way around. Same thing here to me. THEY offer YOU the job, you don’t ask for it.

      1. A*

        I imagine because they haven’t thought things through and are jumping into a serious commitment unprepared.

          1. Tina*

            I made a similar comment in a presentation one time (to other experienced professionals), and one man said “well, actually I did tell a woman at the end of the first date that I wanted to marry her.” I said “and did she get a restraining order?” Him “No, we’ve been married for over 10 years now.” I guess it works for some people!

              1. Tina*

                Nope, not arranged. Of course they didn’t get engaged then, and continued dating for a while, but I know I would have been uncomfortable if someone said that to me on a first date.

          2. Jamie*

            My first husband told me on our first date he wanted to marry me. We did end up divorcing, but after 11 years and 3 kids so the rush to commitment wasn’t the problem.

            My current husband waited until date 3…he knew date 1 but didn’t want to spook me.

            It’s not like we got engaged that soon, either time, but the declaration didn’t derail things.

            The early close works for some of us. :)

  2. Lily in NYC*

    I have a coworker I consider “difficult” even though we get along fine. We both interview candidates for specific openings. She actually wanted to NOT HIRE our best candidate recently because the woman didn’t “ask for the job” on her way out the door. I put my foot down and told her we cannot consider that a red flag, especially considering everything else about her was great. Thank god she decided not to be difficult for the first time ever and backed off with her stance. She is a terrible interviewer and I think she has scared a few people away by being prickly with candidates.

    1. some1*

      Good Lord. This is like turning down a second date with a guy who asked you out again because he didn’t ask you out again at the end of the first one.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        This cracked me up because she really is the same way with guys! If you only knew how apt your comment is…

  3. Canuck*

    Office Space!!!! I just watched it again a few days ago, and it is still so funny.

    So, I’m going to have to go ahead and get everyone here to watch that movie this weekend, mmmmmmmkaaay, thaaaaanks.

        1. Canuck*

          Didn’t you get the memo about the TPS reports? It explains why we’re not discussing TPS reports.

          I’ll go ahead and make sure you get another copy of the memo. Mmmmkaaay, thaaanks.

          1. anon-2*

            Unfortunately, some people do not see “Office Space” for the satire that it is — some view some facets of that film as the way to run a business.

            You might say “ARE PEOPLE THAT STUPID?” uh, yeah, some are….

            Then again, some people you’d think to be reasonably intelligent sometimes mess up and take “The Onion” articles as face value….

    1. Elizabeth West*

      My favorite part is where they take the fax/printer thing out into the field and bash the living hell out of it. I wanted to do that to Exjob’s old copier SO BAD.

  4. Andy Lester*

    Ask what the next steps in the process are. That shows your interest without actually saying “I want this job.”

    Better still, ask for timelines. Ask when you can expect to hear back from them. “So, if you’re expecting about two weeks of interviews, how about I email you if I don’t hear back by the 27th?” This is so you don’t sit gnawing your fingers thinking “Whenaretheygonnacall, whenaretheygonnacall”, and write in to AAM and ask “How long should it take for them to get back to me?”

    1. Jubilance*

      This is what I do, I ask what the timeline will be for a making a decision, and I reiterate my interest in being considered for the role. That’s it. I would never ask directly for the job at the end of the interview, and I definitely wouldn’t be ready to accept it if they actually did offer me the job at the end of the interview.

    2. Liz*

      I wouldn’t say I’d email them if I didn’t hear. Many interviewers will consider that too pushy. They might not even know how long it’ll take to make the decision, if it’s been hard to find candidates (or, conversely, if they have too many).

  5. Interviewer*

    AAM, spot on as usual – it’s so awkward. OP, please don’t do this! I would much rather hear “I’m very interested in hearing more” or “What are the next steps in the process?” than “When can I start?” If you asked the latter in an interview, I would hope you were joking and laugh a little, and then let you know what the next steps in the process are.

    If you scored an in-person interview, I have to meet with at least 3-4 other people, and you have no idea where you are in the scheduling. Maybe you’re meeting with more of the team, other hiring managers, etc. Asking for the job at some point prior to all of the meetings that need to be held and the input I need to gather is really, really presumptious.

    I vaguely recall hearing this advice a long time ago (early 90’s) for specific jobs where turnover is really high and you might get hired during the interview – but for the average job opening today? I really doubt it would go well.

    1. Anonymous*

      For retail/hospitality/call centre its really common to get hired at the end of the interview.

      1. Liz*

        But those are jobs with notoriously high turnover. Also, if you apply for one of those there’s a good chance you know exactly what you’re getting (hourly pay, long hours, demanding customers, a set schedule, little control over working conditions) and what you’re not getting (good benefits, paid holidays/holidays off work, control over working conditions).

    2. MissDisplaced*

      It still is good advice in SOME fields. My husband works in construction, and asking for the job (if you want it) at the end of an interview is very normal and expected, or else you come off as disinterested.

      Of course in those types blue collar jobs, they will generally tell you the pay/vacation/benefits etc., during the interview, and the interview process seems to overall be much shorter.

      1. olives*

        This is what I keep wondering about as I read AAM. It seems like AAM’s advice is definitely great, and awesome, and extremely useful – but that the rules totally change for jobs that aren’t intended to be traditional, white collar “career” jobs. I’m curious about whether there’s a similarly useful resource for non-office jobs, since then the job advice must be even harder to navigate.

        1. MissDisplaced*

          Yes, many of the blue collar jobs also have very specific OSHA and other union and/or safety rules and regulations as well that can be difficult to navigate.

          I’m thinking in many cases, questions would be directed to the union to answer?

  6. CAA*

    “salary, benefits, all of those things that you are not supposed to ask during the interview”

    What? Who is saying not to ask about these things in an interview? Your interviewer should give you a chance to ask questions at the end, and once you’ve asked everything you want to know about the work, the environment, the company, the team, etc, then you can certainly ask about benefits and salary if they haven’t already come up in the course of the conversation.

    As a hiring manager, it’s off-putting if this is the only thing you care about, but it’s also weird if you don’t seem to care at all. I know you work to earn money — so do I — so we both need to figure out if our expectations in this area match. I’d much rather know if we’re within negotiating distance by the end of the interview than after we’ve already put an offer together.

    1. MJ of the West*

      In many environments, the person interviewing you might not be determining your compensation. Certainly at large companies, it’s not unusual for a compensation committee or department to handle formulating an offer based on various inputs.

      And aside from that, regardless of the type of company, I think bringing up compensation before you’ve been offered a job can be bad form. Let the employer make the first move by offering some compensation package, and then negotiate from there if they even want you. At the time of the interview, you (and they) might not even sure which job they are thinking about offering.

      That all said, I’ve often gotten into comp discussions with recruiters / headhunters very early on. For many roles (particularly with smaller companies) they are often pretty forthcoming about what ballpark their pay is in and will often not hesitate to ask your current pay from the get-go. I’m sure many find this uncomfortable, but it’s been somewhat handy to avoid wasting either party’s time with a job opportunity that could never pan out due to comp.

      1. Steph NZ*

        You don’t ask about pay before they have even decided if you are right for the job.

        Most of the time you should be able to find out quite a lot about the likely pay range before you have gone for the interview by doing a bit of homework. But even if you haven’t – what’s the point in asking this? If you don’t ask it – then you will find out when they make an offer anyway (and if they don’t make an offer, then the pay is irrelevant). And by this stage, they have mentally committed to hiring you (you are their first choice) and you are in a much stronger position to negotiate.

        If you do ask it – then you may find out the pay but it’s irrelevant without an offer. Also, if the pay range they were thinking of offering is lower than you would ideally want, then they will likely see that in your reaction and may be less inclined to offer you the job – thinking you won’t be interested. Whereas you may have been able to negotiate the pay at the offer stage, or look at other benefits.

    2. Marcy*

      When I’m hiring, I always post the hiring range in the ad. I don’t want to waste my time interviewing someone who won’t take the job because the salary is too low and I’m sure they would rather not waste their time either. I wish all employers would do that.

      1. Anonymous*

        +1 thank you, Marcy! I also wish everyone did this, it’s a waste of time for both sides if the salary turns out to be too low for the candidate to accept the job

  7. Ed*

    I’ve done this before after reading it many times over the years. It sounded like a great idea in theory but felt very unnatural and awkward while actually doing it. Now I merely express that I’m still interested in moving forward in the process.

  8. ChristineSW*

    SO glad I’m not wrong in thinking that asking for the job at the end of an interview is just weird. It’d come across as desperate, imo. I do agree that it is okay, however, to appropriate reiterate your interest. I too usually ask about next steps.

    Turning it around – what about interviewers who offer YOU the job on the spot? It’s happened to me twice (long time ago) and it really put me on the spot because, after doing the interview, I was not at all interested in either position. Both were entry-level jobs.

    1. Sophia*

      I would say that you were interested (if you were) but could you take a day or two to think it over. If you know you’re not interested, I’m not sure…

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s fine to say you’re glad to get the offer and would like a few days to think it over.

      If you know for sure you’re not interested and the reason is something you’re comfortable explaining on the spot (like the job is focused on X and you’re really looking for Y), it’s fine to say that. If not, you can say you’d like a few days to think it over and then let them know later that day (so you’re not holding them up) that you’re declining.

  9. Mike C.*

    Using any piece of advice that tells you to make a hard sell MAKES YOU LOOK LIKE AN ASSHOLE.

    I don’t care if you’re trying to get a job, convince me of an argument, actually sell me something or whatever. Attempting to get what you want through emotional manipulation is unethical and makes everyone else feel slimy and gross. Being a jerk is a choice, you can stop at any time.

    1. Samantha*

      That’s a little harsh. I imagine most people who have tried this technique have been told at some point that this is a good idea. I seriously doubt they are attempting “ethical manipulation.” I agree that it’s not a good in general (although, as others have pointed out, it’s not unusual in some industries) but I wouldn’t automatically consider an applicant a “jerk” just for doing this.

      1. Mike C.*

        I said “emotional manipulation”, which exactly what a hard sell is. It’s fine if you’re tolerant of that garbage but I’m not.

          1. Mike C.*

            I understand that and yes maybe I shouldn’t be so strident in my feelings about it.

            But at the same time, lots of people have been told to do and have done lots of things that amount to these individuals treating others like crap to get something they want. I don’t like it, and I don’t like it when others out there advise the uninitiated to go out into the world and spread these practices like so many venereal diseases.

            I don’t like being manipulated, I don’t like being put into a high pressure situation and to me that what these sorts of practices encourage. I don’t like it, I think it makes you look like a jerk and I hope folks take your advice and knock it off.

            1. Clever Name*

              I think I may have to propose marriage, Mike C. (Kidding :) Your posts show you to be a kind, thoughtful, and direct person, always standing up for the little guy. Plus, you use words like “strident”. :)

          1. Jake*

            Everything we do and say is emotional manipulation on some level. Different people have a different level of tolerance for the amount/type though.

          2. Mike C.*

            It really depends on how you’re defining charm.

            If you’re talking about someone who is acting well mannered, interesting and empathetic I don’t see a problem because that’s just basic good manners. Why would I or anyone else have a problem with that?

            If you’re talking about a sleaze bucket in the fancy suit who may be well spoken but is clearly acting in a subversive or dishonest manner, then yes it’s clearly just manipulative.

            Really, I think you’re stretching the meaning of “emotional manipulation” here. I’m talking about situations where one party is trying to take advantage of another through unexpected and aggressive tactics.

            1. Joey*

              If you’re drawing the line at dishonesty isn’t most everyone guilty? Don’t most interviewees manipulate by emphasizing or stretching the reality of their accomplishments AND minimizing the negative?

              1. PurpleChucks*

                Partially true, but a good interviewer should be asking probing questions that get at a more nuanced picture of the candidate’s accomplishments and weaknesses as they pertain to the job, right? Interviewing is a two-way street!

              2. Marcy*

                I don’t know about “most”. I never “stretch the reality” of my accomplishments/skills because I don’t want to end up in a job I might not be able to do well in. It is better not to get the job than to get it and then get fired. I would hope “most” people would be honest.

            2. Cat*

              I don’t think most people who are trying the salesy “what do I have to do to put me in this job today” tactic are trying to take advantage of other people through aggressiveness. (Though I’m sure those people exist and, I agree, that’s horrible.) I think they’ve mostly been taught that that’s what employers want – someone who displays that kind of aggressiveness, so they’re trying to put on a show of it. They’ve been taught wrongly; it’s not effective. But I think it’s often bad playacting rather than bad faith.

              1. Cat*

                (I say this because when I see this advice, it’s often framed as “Employers want someone who shows they’re a go-getter!” “Employers want someone who shows they won’t give up!” “Make sure you show employers you really want it!”)

      1. Tina*

        I could see me being so startled by the “see you Monday” comment that I’d just look at them and say “why?”

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      When I’ve seen people do it, it’s “when can I start?” or something like “I’d like this job. Is there any reason or wouldn’t be mine?”

      (I then say something like, “We’re talking with several people, but I should be in touch about next steps within two weeks.” If the person is a particularly strong candidate, I might mention that. But I would have said all of that without being asked for the job.)

      1. Windchime*

        Would someone asking directly for the job be a turnoff to you, Alison? Just curious if you had an otherwise strong candidate who closed with, “So what time do you want me to start on Monday morning”, could that be a deciding factor for you (in a negative way)?

  10. Jake*

    I’ve been offered a job 1 hour after an interview before. It creeped me out and made me think they were haphazard when hiring more than it made me think they really liked me.

    It would be the same if I was a hiring manager and a candidate asked for the job before leaving the interview.

  11. Jen*

    God, I’m glad that I’m not the only one that thinks this is weird! I’m job searching now and have read all over the web (articles written within the past 5 years) that one should “ask for the job” at the end of the interview and that it is a huge mistake not to. It seemed like a really odd way of expressing interest and really unnatural to me…but I do see how it may make more sense for some industries more than others.

    1. Windchime*

      I think you have to do the little finger-clicking guns and :::wink wink::: as you’re asking for the job. :) That’s how it seems to me anyway, that it’s a really “sleezy car salesman in a bad suit”* maneuver thing to do.

      *Disclaimer to the general reader: No, I do not think that all car salesmen are sleezy, nor do I think they all wear bad suits. But some are, and do. These are the guys I’m talking about.

  12. Vicki*

    As I posted recently, back in October I had a phone screen on a Friday with an interview scheduled for the following Tuesday morning. Just after noon on Monday, my interview was canceled. They had hired the first person they interviewed.

    It seemed “off” to me.

    1. Anna*

      That is off. And probably a bit lazy, too. There’s no way someone so brilliant can walk in, sit for an interview, and “that’s it, we’ll find no one better than this person”! Just doesn’t make sense. Now, I’ve been offered a job the day after an interview, and I thought that was a bit quick, but then the field had been narrowed to three people and we were all interviewed on the same day.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But if you’ve seen the resumes of the other candidates you’re set to interview, it’s possible to know that they’re not going to be competitive with this person.

      2. Windchime*

        I dunno, I have a friend this actually happened to. I don’t know if she was the first candidate, but she made such a strong impression on her interviewers that they decided immediately after her interview to offer her the job and cancel the subsequent interviews with other candidates.

        She reads here, so if she sees this, perhaps she will weigh in.

        1. anon-2*

          It’s not fair to call someone in for an interview unless you’re going to interview him/her.

          It’s also stupid – because your primo candidate may not work out, may not show up , may have a problem where you have to dismiss him/her, etc., or you may get into a salary stink and candidate #1 is no longer available.

          But it’s not unusual for the first candidate you call in to be “the one”… you’re unfair to yourself and others if you make the first one a slam-dunk…

  13. Anomnomnom*

    Oh man, during one of the first interviews I ever gave if not the first (pair interview because of that) the candidate said something along the lines of, “So, am I getting the job?” It completely floored me and the other person giving the interview – I don’t think we were even the last scheduled interview.

    The other interview recovered enough to give some non-answer about our process of discussing with the entire team before coming to a decision, and I think the candidate even pressed again for an actual answer. At that point I was seriously thinking, “if you keep pushing, aren’t you asking for a flat-out no?”

    And then the candidate sorta leaned back in a super smarmy-confidante way and added, “Basically my goal in asking that question was to make you as uncomfortable as possible.”

    Because clearly that’s a good idea?

    1. Ruffingit*

      “Basically my goal in asking that question was to make you as uncomfortable as possible.”

      WHAT???? WHAT???? WOW! That is crazy.

    2. Jake*

      How sad is it that I don’t have any doubt in my mind that this actually occurred.

      People blow my mind.

    3. Windchime*

      Someone like this has given you a gift. Can you imagine working with someone this arrogant? He quickly and efficiently helped you to get a small preview.

      We interviewed a guy who said that his skills in XYZ were “an 8, but a 10 with Google”. Seriously? We asked him a couple of questions related to XYZ and it was clear that he wasn’t even a 2 or 3.

      1. Ruffingit*

        It’s a good idea to frame these things as a gift as Windchime suggests because it really is nice to know that someone is going to be a complete and total nightmare to work with upfront. Still though…wow. Just can’t imagine anyone thinking this is a good idea. This is right up there with the guy who thinks it’s cool to be intentionally late so the interviewer can be impressed that he called to say he’d be late.

        Intentionally late guy post here for those who may not have read it:

  14. Jen S. 2.0*

    I definitely draw a distinction between demanding the job and making sure the interviewer knows that, now that you’ve heard what they have to say, you like what you’ve heard and you remain interested in the job. I think you can — and possibly should — do the latter, without it being an awkward version of the former. I’ve never said “So, when do I start?” but I WOULD at the end of an interview say something like, “This opportunity sounds amazing, and I’m very interested.”

  15. ProcReg*

    I listen carefully during the interview for clues that my work ethic would fit in the workplace. I say at the end, “I want an offer, because of x”. It communicates what you want.

    1. Steph NZ*

      Completely agree with ProcReg. You say you want an OFFER and state why. This isn’t a question – so creates no awkwardness because it doesn’t require a response. It is also another opportunity to point out why you are a good fit for the role – as you can describe what it is that you’ve heard that has made you keen to be offered the position. After all, an interview is a sales opportunity (selling yourself) and a good salesperson always closes.

      Check out Manager Tools podcast on interviews and “How to close”. I’ve had 3 interviews that resulted in three offers and I always closed . Not once did it create an awkward moment. Just saying you are interested is a bit weak… saying you want an offer and what it has been about the interview that has confirmed it for you (e.g. like the people, excited by the work etc) is much more powerful.

    2. MJ of the West*

      I still think it’s fairly pretentious. I know you want an offer, that’s why are sitting in front of me. Saying something about how you’ve learned a lot about the role today and would be excited to get an offer is probably the most I’d expect to hear without it crossing into the “demanding” category.

      But perhaps that’s just me…

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        But I don’t automatically want an offer if I’m sitting in front of you. Perhaps I learned something in the interview that let me know the work isn’t quite what was originally described to me, or I realized that the culture of the office isn’t very good, or you mentioned the salary and it’s not going to work, or I figured out that you really want someone with a skill set that I have but am trying to transition away from using, or whatever. Certainly I came to the interview hoping to find out that this was my dream job, but it’s very possible that after talking with you for an hour, this position is about my 14th choice.

        When I have a job interview, I’m learning as much about the job as the interviewer is learning about me. If I discovered a dealbreaker during our discussion, I’d be FAR more likely just to thank the interviewer for their time and depart. I wouldn’t want to burn a bridge, of course, but if I’ve figured out halfway through the interview that I never want to set foot in the place again, I wouldn’t tell them I’d be excited to get an offer.

        But if it all sounds wonderful, I tell them that.

        I realize every interviewer might not get the distinction, but I like to know for myself that I’ve made it clear that I’m STILL interested after hearing all of the details.

        1. Steph NZ*

          Obviously you don’t ask for an offer if you’ve decided you don’t want the job!!! (I had kind of taken that as a given)

          But an offer is just an offer – it does not mean you will accept as you don’t yet know any of the conditions or pay. It just means you want to get to the next stage. You send a resume to get an interview, you do an interview to get an offer, and you get job offers so that you can get a job that you want with the right conditions. Asking for an offer is just confirming that you want to get to the next stage of the process after hearing what they have had to say.

    3. Sam*

      There’s a risk you might be overestimating how interested your interviewer is in what you want. It could across as a request, which sounds pretentious, or an expression of your wants/desires/demands, which sounds naive (I want an offer, large office, covered parking space, etc.)
      While it might seem like it doesn’t require an overt response, I think hiring managers might be responding internally “You want an offer? I want a genie and a magic lamp”
      “I want” is a bold phrase, and I’d use it sparingly and with caution, and I personally would not use it in this context.

      1. Marcy*

        I agree with Sam. My field is pretty conservative and a candidate “wanting” something from me at the end of one interview would feel pushy and the other candidates might start looking a lot better to me. At that point, I don’t care what you want. I am trying to decide what I want. I think it would be better to say something along the lines of “After hearing more about this opportunity, I think it would be a great fit and I am looking forward to hearing something back. What are the next steps?”

  16. Buttons*

    I never knew people actually say this. Makes me ears bleed. Yikes!!

    On another note, I think general consensus is to say that you’re really excited about the role, but even that makes me feel strange– particularly if I know that there are more questions I want answered before being sure (first of all, are we ever really sure? I’m having a career existential crisis this week).

    So, what can I say at the end of the interview other than the generic: “this sounds great! I would love to blah blah blah.”

    random: AAM, I would love it if you did a post on how to assess job offers… either your own thoughts or in an open thread.

  17. Mic*

    I will say that in many high paying sales positions (pharmaceutical sales, for example) “closing” the interviewer at the end of an interview is expected. If you do not ask for the job, or try and close the deal, your chances of being asked for a follow up interview are slim to none.

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