how long should I give a candidate to think over a job offer?

A reader writes:

What is a reasonable period of time to let a candidate consider a job offer and what is best way to phrase that window? I hate to say “you have 48 hours to think it over!” but candidates generally request a week if I ask them for a time frame. In most cases, I have other qualified candidates that I might lose if I give the candidates as much time as they want. So what is reasonable and what is a way to say it to not sound unreasonable?

I’d try to give people a week if at all possible, because you’re asking people to make a major decision that will have a huge impact on their quality of life, finances, and overall fulfillment for at least the next couple of years and possibly longer.

If possible, try to position yourself to be able to do that by building a buffer into the timeline you’re giving to other candidates. If you’re telling all your candidates “we’ll let you know by the 15th,” then you’re creating artificial pressure on yourself to do that, even if you don’t make someone an offer until the 13th.” But if you build additional time in there (or don’t nail yourself down to a particular date, or even a particular week), you can get rid of that pressure.

However, there are times when you know that you risk losing your second or third choice candidates if you drag out your process too long — such as if one has another offer that they need to respond to quickly. In that case, you should explain the situation to your first choice candidate so they understand the context of your request: “You’re our first choice and we’re eager to bring you on board. However, some of our other candidates have deadlines for responding to other offers that we’re trying to be sensitive to. Would it work to get us an answer by Monday?”

The other thing that you can do is to make sure you’re giving people enough information through the hiring process that they’re going to be well-positioned to make a decision pretty quickly after getting an offer. Ideally, if you’re doing your job well, by the time you reach the offer stage, your top candidate should already pretty much know whether she’d accept the job, as long as the salary is right.

{ 112 comments… read them below }

  1. Interviewer

    These days I have people accepting on the spot – at the most, by the next day – and these are not entry-level positions, but 10+years of experience , some relocating from across the country. A week seems like a very long time!

    To prompt them into making a decision, present the offer verbally, and then say something like, “How does that sound to you?” You’ll hear their reaction, maybe they’ll ask a few questions, but by the time you are presenting the offer, they’ve learned all about your company, the role, the work environment and your benefits – hopefully they are able to make a good decision quickly. If they ask for more time to consider it, be specific with them. “What else would you need to know to make a decision?” or “Would you be able to call me back tomorrow?” Make it clear that your expectation would be a quick turnaround.

    As part of the recruiting process, I like to give a tour and let them meet their team. It helps solidify what the experience would be like to work here. Another thing that speeds up the process: giving them benefits details earlier in the recruiting process, so by the time they get to an offer stage, they’ve already asked questions and done the math. If they have to learn how your medical plan works and how PTO matches up or what retirement benefits are offered – well, that may take a couple of days, especially if they have to get a spouse or partner involved.

    If candidates are requesting a week to consider an offer, it sounds like they are waiting on other job offers. And I say this kindly – I also wonder if you need to tweak the “sales job” you’re doing in the interview process so that the candidates don’t need a week to think about it, or hope for a better offer – they’re already sold on your company.

    Good luck!

    1. A Teacher

      Or your like me and just want a few days to think about the pros and cons of a job offer. If someone expected me to make a decision like that on the spot or with very little time, that tells me a lot about the dynamic in the workplace. My former job does a great job of selling itself to people and then wanting an answer in 24 hours or less–and they also have really high turnover and pretty low morale. All of their decisions are made like this with little thought as to how it ultimately impacts the employees–the owners don’t care, its all about how much money they can make.

      Now I work in a school system and decision making there is a process, often a convoluted process, but I’m not expected to make snap decisions without thought by my boss either.

      1. Lisa

        When you are not escaping a horrible work environment or getting an “awesome can’t turn it down” raise, or are not unemployed, it takes a few days to mull it over.

        1. Sunflower

          People escaping horrible work environments may want longer than the average person. I’m in a bad work environment now and I want to make sure I know what I’m getting into with my next job. And if someone was trying to push me to accept an offer without thinking it over enough then I’d probably say no for fear of getting stuck in another controlling work environment.

          1. thenoiseinspace

            Exactly. If you push for a snap decision, I’m more likely to tell you no. Besides, you took your time evaluating the candidate – you should give them time to evaluate your offer, or else you’re pretty dang hypocritical.

            1. Rolfen

              Pushing a decision puts a bad ambiance. That’s a bad start.
              If that is coupled with an opaque work environment and other “yellow flags”, an experienced candidate (the type you assumedly want in your organization) would say no.
              A fresh graduate or otherwise new on the job market person might say yes to this “learning experience”, for the company to use and abuse.
              Anyway, as a candidate, I think that, normally (outside urgent and other special cases), a candidate should be implicitly given 48 hours so that he can feel respected, and have a small amount of time. Then the more the better, I guess, ideally the candidate would like to be given the option to join at their convenience :) which they would do once all other potentially better opportunties, and their savings run out :) but that’s not going to happen. I think a good timeframe for most jobs would be somewhere between 48 hours and 1 week.
              For me, 1 week sounds like a bit of a luxury, for average offers. But nothing unreasonable.
              Due to these subjective differences of perception and of expectations, it is important to communicate – respectfully and tactfully, as others already pointed out, so as to reach an agreement and avoid misunderstandings.

          2. Anon Accountant

            This exactly. If the person is pushing me to accept an offer and doesn’t want to allow a few days for me to think it over, I’d probably say no to their offer and would be fearful of getting into another controlling environment, also.

            1. Jessa

              Especially if they took more than one interview and a couple of weeks just to get to the offer stage. They want to have forever to decide and want me to decide NOW? Um no. I’m not asking for the same amount of time they took (because that time included talking to other people,) but a few days to a week, yes.

    2. AB

      Accepting a new job, esp once you start getting into more experienced roles, is difficult. It often isn’t a question of needing to know more. If they needed to know more, they would have asked. Changing jobs can be and is a massive change considering that we spend nearly all of our waking hours in the office. The job change might involve a move, even if it’s just across the city. It might mean a disruption to family schedule (as in, perhaps they can’t take the bus anymore and will need to buy a second car, or perhaps the parent can no longer pick the kid up from daycare and they will have to look into whether or not that change is feasible). Job changes typically involve a change in money, benefits and/ or responsibility which all merit careful thought and perhaps discussion with a spouse. Waiting on another job offer is only one possibility out of many reasons why a person may request some time to think the offer over. A company typically doesn’t make a decision on a candidate immediately, why should the candidate make a decision immediately?

      1. AB Normal

        I’ve recently went through this experience, and did need a few days to think about several things: amount of travel expected, something I heard from a C-level executive that indicated the job might be a bit different than what I expected, and so on.

        The offer came right after I learned about these things that gave me pause, so I was grateful that the company allowed me to have 4 days to think things over.

    3. Joey

      Hmm. Id think you had staffing issues that were out of control or that I was just a number and you really didn’t care that I wanted to carefully decide.

    4. Julie

      If I was asked “What else would you need to know to make a decision?” it would make me feel like you’re trying to sell me something RIGHT NOW that I need to think about. Sometimes people need time to think about a big decision like a new job – for a whole host of possible reasons.

      1. Dan

        Exactly! That sounds too much like, “What can I do to have you drive home in this baby today?”

    5. EngineerGirl

      I would run from an organization that demanded a quick turn around on a major decision like this. In fact, most introverts would because they like to mull things over and consider all the facts before they give an answer.

      Putting someone on the spot like that is really disrespectful.

      1. Science Teacher

        I am so glad to read this post. I just had my first experience with high pressure to accept a job position. As a matter of fact, I was called up and paperwork questions that didn’t make sense to me. This was like three days after my interview. I said I was confused and where are we in the process? I found out then this organization began a hiring of me. I said, “No one said anything to me.” This VP says, “No one told you?” then continued “Well, congratulations, you have the job” and continued to go down this paperwork request. I stopped her, and asked, “Can you tell me what my salary is?” She made reference to a pay scale on their webpage. (Uh, duh, but specifically?). Once again, she said something like, “Didn’t someone cover that at the interview?” I said no, and I didn’t ask because I don’t think I’m supposed to do that at an interview. Then I had to practically beg to think it over. This is choice: she said, “the general assumption is that you want the job, so lets get going, the kids are waiting.” I asked what the HR policy was, and I needed to at least tell my family. She said she would give me 24 hours. During that time, I planned by gracious decline letter. I would be relocating and changing jobs. I will never reapply to this establishment. I don’t even want to contemplate the treatment with my contract and salary are held in their hands and over my head.

    6. LAI

      While I agree that a week sounds like a long time, and I think a lot of your suggestions for improving the process (giving a tour and letting them meet their coworkers) are awesome, I would still strongly recommend at least offering people a day to think it over. The strongest candidates are going to be people who have options, and who want to be thoughtful about making a decision this big. I do think it’s perfectly fine to offer people a day or two though, rather than offering a week up front.

      1. Melissa

        I don’t think a day is long enough, personally. I’d want at least 3 days so I could let it sink in a bit and turn it over.

    7. Neeta

      This was pretty much the way I had to decide for almost all job offers. I remember, I was so nervous at the last interview for my previous job, that I drew a total blank upon being name a salary figure.

      In the end, I ended up having a day to decide, but I really panicked when I was told “We were thinking of this figure. How does that sound?”.

      I got used to this type of pace in the meantime, so right now having a week to decide seems rather surreal to me.

    8. RobM

      “If candidates are requesting a week to consider an offer, it sounds like they are waiting on other job offers. ”

      Not that there’s anything wrong with that of course… But equally they could need time to talk it over with their family, especially if accepting the job would call for relocation (and I don’t even mean across the country; ‘just’ moving to the other side of a large city to make the commute easier can still be a substantial move).

    9. Christopher

      Unfortunately, this is a very “recruiter” mentality.

      Some people need time to mull over decisions. In some cases there are other offers already on the table which need to be weighed as well. Considering one offer can be daunting enough, considering 2 or 3 even more difficult.

  2. Anonymous

    If they’re waiting on another offer, and don’t know the salary offered by the other position, tweaking the pitch isn’t going to help – they need to have good information from both sides to decide.

    That is, if they love your company and know what they’ll get, and they love the other company too but don’t know the last details, how can they be comfortable deciding? They can’t.

  3. Erik

    Normally you’re given a week to accept an offer, but that varies depending on the company. I always ask for at least 48 hours to decide, no less.

    It can be a major move and you do need some time to think things over before saying yes or no.

    1. Chinook

      I think 48 hours is a good minimum – you get a chance to sleep on it and work through possible logistics. A week seems too long, to me, though, but I could see wanting that if the job required a major lifestyle change.

  4. Adam

    Once the person accepts the offer, what’s the common timeline for letting other potential candidates know the position has been filled? Do you advocate letting the alternate candidates know same-day/within 24 hours or do you commonly wait a little while just in case something comes up with your first choice? I’m not likely to ever be in a position of hiring people; I’m just always curious how these things work.

    1. Joey

      There are different philosophies on this. Some send out rejections soon after someone accepts while other wait for the person to pass all of the bacround/drug screen stuff and schedule a start date.

    2. Julie

      I started out by letting everyone know as soon as our first choice had accepted the position. I felt it was important because our hiring process takes a long time, and I didn’t want to keep people wondering any longer than necessary. Then I had someone accept the job and back out before she started, so after that, I waited until a start date was set and the person actually started. I didn’t like making people wait so long, but I wanted to be able to get back to our second choice candidate if necessary. And of course there’s no guarantee that person would still be available.

      1. Lia

        That is the same philosophy we use now, after a hire backed out the Thursday before a Monday start date (our secretary had already ordered business cards, and IT had set up his machine! Ack). Luckily, there had been a delay and the “no thanks” letters hadn’t been mailed yet, so we were able to get the #2 candidate after all. He turned out to be way more awesome than we expected, so it all worked out.

        1. Dan

          Ok, the only story that I can tell that comes even close was a company that as part of the offer, fedex’d me a HARD COPY of the employee handbook. 5 years ago, the job I had emailed it to me…

          This company also included a bunch more other stuff (like harassment policies and what not) that seemed more appropriate to send after the offer has been accepted. I mean, they sent me a bunch of hard copy stuff before I even signed the offer.

        2. Chinook

          IT should be able to undo a computer setup at minimal cost (as someone will have to use it, so all they would need to do is change user information), but a potential change of mind was why I would never get business cards printed until an employee arrives (unless I am making a bulk order anyway and it would put us above a threshold to save money). But, it comes down to whether or not you value the cash spent over looking organized or if they will needd the cards from day 1.

  5. Lisa

    Insurance things are what made me take a long time to consider a new job. I was going to say no, then I was told that the offer didn’t include 1/2 the benefits. So +3 more days to decide, but they took 3 days to give me the updated offer. +4 more days. I called on day 3, asked more questions and asked for more PTO, +3 more days to consider. By the time it happened, I had a full 2 weeks to think about and change from No to Yes. The employment gods really wanted me to say Yes, and I was happy to think it over more since the ‘raise’ wasn’t more since the benefits were not equal at all.

    1. Julie

      I’m glad that worked out for you! It sounds like a lot of thought and discussion went into making that happen. In my experience, it has been really difficult to get information about the health insurance benefits before I’ve decided whether to accept a job offer. The people I get in contact with say, “Oh, you’ll get all that information once you’ve started.” When I tell them that I’m gathering information in order to decide whether I will take the job or not, they seem surprised, as though they’d never heard of such a thing. The last time I started a new job was a while ago, so maybe getting details on the benefits is more common now.

      1. BeenThere

        I had the same issue with current job. Acted like it was weird for me to ask benefits details. It’s really something I factor into the salary negotiation so I can’t talk numbers without a complete picture.

        1. Dan

          The thing that I still get surprised about are when companies thrust the benefits package at you during the interview. Yes, I certainly need the information to make a decision, but it’s only half of the puzzle. I need the $ too, and they *never* tell you that during the interview…

        2. Ruffingit

          I think a lot of employers believe that offering any benefits at all is good enough. Some don’t seem to realize that it does matter. If your current company offers benefits covering 80% of your medical care for example, and the new company covers only 50%, then yeah you may opt to stay where you are especially if you know your family is going to need some surgery, etc. in the coming year.

          I also think that employers are more used to people being so desperate they will accept anything (thank you recession) and therefore a person who asks about benefits is seen as weird because hey, you should just be happy to get an offer.

          I’m not saying all employers are like this, but certainly they are out there.

          1. Meg Murry

            Exactly. Especially since insurance costs have gone up so fast over the past 10 years and some companies cover more of the costs than others. For instance, if I was paying $1000 per year in premiums for a $500 deductible (actual cost to me 10 years ago) and new company premiums are $5000 per year with $5000 deductible, that effectively lowers the salary by $4000 to me, and would result in $8,500 less if I had an emergency where I actually had to use the insurance. So yes, the actual insurance cost is huge. Also whether your current doctors are part of their network is something that you can’t quantify, but is part of the thought process of “how much is taking this job going to change my life” similar to commute, working hours and company culture.

        3. Lisa

          My fave is asking for maternity leave policy, and them saying I am sure we can come to an agreement when the time comes. Butthead, I am a woman in my 30’s … I want to know now not when I get pregnant and leave it up to chance that you want to only give 8 weeks unpaid when the other guy is offering 12 weeks 100% paid. Oh and how they seem offended that you even asked the question. Saying you have great benefits that only covers healthy people is not good enough. I want premium costs, deductible info, copay, and prescription tiers. Claiming you have health insurance, but calling it Obamacare when you don’t contribute a cent and expect me to use the healthcare exchange isn’t the answer I am looking for.

  6. Meg Murry

    I would add that I’m not accepting ANYTHING without an official offer letter in hand with all the details. That includes my salary, how much PTO I will be receiving, how much insurance (medical, dental, etc) will cost and what the waiting period is, what the 401k matching looks like etc. A verbal offer over the phone with a salary amount is nice, but I wouldn’t commit to anything until I can see it all in writing, because who knows, the insurance cost could be 5x what I’m paying now, making the increase in salary actually a loss. Two jobs ago I got a scanned copy my official offer letter emailed it to me, along with all the supporting paperwork, as well as putting it in the mail, and that definitely shaved a couple days off the offer-read & calculate-negotiate-accept cycle. On the other hand, my most recent offer is a great place to work, but its a large bureaucracy with dinosauric HR, and although the hiring manager wanted to move quickly, but I had to wait almost a week for my “official” offer to arrive in snail mail. I accepted because I really like the company overall, but the stone-age glacial pace of HR really drives me crazy.

    1. Julie

      And sometimes you need to know what the health insurance covers (in addition to how much you’ll need to pay for it). If there’s no dental coverage, for example, I’ll need to find out what that will cost me and factor that into the whole offer.

    2. JC

      Would you be okay with accepting verbally if the salary was told to you verbally and you’ve seen the benefits in writing so you could consider the costs, but hadn’t yet gotten an offer letter? I could see not wanting to accept without things in writing if you were negotiating specifics other than salary that didn’t apply to all employees, or if there was something non-standard about your salary arrangement that you’re worried they’ll get wrong, but otherwise I don’t see the big deal in needing to see the letter to accept. But yes, I do agree that non-bureaucratic company should be able to get you something in writing quickly if it’s important to you, and if they can’t it is a sign of how their bureaucracy works.

        1. JC

          I see the point, but it just seems overly cautious to me. As if you’re assuming the employer is going to screw you, or something. I wouldn’t start a job without getting the things that we agreed to in writing, but I’d have no problem verbally accepting an offer based on an employer’s word. Especially if what we agreed to was a salary and standard benefits package, and not something more complicated/easily misinterpreted than that.

          If I really wanted to see something in writing, I’d probably say that I accept but would want to see things in writing before notifying my current employer that I’m leaving and committing to a start date. And maybe that’s just what you guys mean by “not accepting!” But it would seem weird if you didn’t let them know that you will accept the terms of the offer they have told you about once you see it in writing, as opposed to keeping them guessing until they show you a letter.

          1. thenoiseinspace

            Yes, that’s exactly what I mean. A verbal offer gets a verbal confirmation, but I wouldn’t leave my current employer until I had a concrete, written job offer.

          2. AB Normal

            “If I really wanted to see something in writing, I’d probably say that I accept but would want to see things in writing before notifying my current employer that I’m leaving and committing to a start date.”

            That’s what I do — I accept verbally meaning “I’m OK with these terms you verbally explained to me”, but also indicate that I’ll wait to receive the written letter before notifying my current employer committing to a start date.

          3. Chinook

            I agree that I prefer a written offer over a verbal one but I have usually gotten around this by asking them to email me details so I can think about it. It technicallyisn’t an official offer letter but atleast I have a written record of what was offered.

            1. meesh

              I had both my offers emailed to me and I took the weekend to think about my recent one, and accepted on MOnday. My previous, I accepted that night LOL- recent college grad.

      1. Meg Murry

        In my case, I indicated something to the effect of “I’m really excited about this offer and I hope we can work it out but I need to do the math on insurance costs etc before I can formally accept.”

        If you aren’t going to take the job, than sure, just say so right away, but I don’t see anything wrong with taking a couple of days to review the offer and ask relevant questions – especially if you are leaving a current job for the new offer.

    3. Lore

      Yes! I had a weird situation last year where I was told a decision would be made at a certain time, then two weeks earlier than that, I got a verbal offer that they wanted me to verbally accept, and only then would they prepare the written offer letter and paperwork. Their logic was that they didn’t want to have to go through all the paperwork twice, so they wouldn’t bother if I didn’t “pre-accept” within a few days…one of which was a holiday. I had been on the fence, but the offer process actually went a long way toward turning me off to the job.

      1. LL

        That’s typical in the medical field. I’ve NEVER had an official written offer prior to accepting a job verbally or by email. In fact, after an interview I’ve often had to go to them to say I would take the job in order to even get the verbal offer….they seemed to be waiting to see if i was interested. Maybe this is because there are a greater ratio of jobs to candidates in medicine than other fields? I also feel in my field up to 2 weeks is standard to let someone consider an offer.

  7. A

    I got an offer and said I wanted until the end of the week to decide. It was my first job out of college and the salary was very low, I expected low but this was startling. I thought it over and called back the next day to accept because a job was better than no job. The hiring manager said they had interviewed more candidates and would let me know if I still had an offer soon. Never heard back.

    1. A

      I actually waited that first day to see the offer in writing. Under pressure from my parents I called back the next day was going to accept without receiving the offer in writing.

      1. Ruffingit

        +1 seriously. One day should not have made any difference there. Something was very, very wrong with that workplace.

        1. R

          +2 I always advise people to ask for a day to think over any offer before responding, even if they’re sure they want to accept. It’s amazing how such a simple piece of due diligence can highlight psycho management behaviours like this, that might otherwise have gone unnoticed until you started. Good companies won’t mind you taking a day or two to make sure the fit is right for both of you. Sociopathic hiring managers with egos that have their own gravitational pull, by contrast, will completely over-react to such a perceived slight to their esteem.

  8. Joey

    I think a week is overly generous. If you need more than a couple of days to make the decision I’m going to worry about how interested you are and about keeping other candidates in limbo. Not to mention Id feel like time was unnecessarily wasted if it took you that long to decline.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      In my experience, most candidates decide within 1-2 days (if not on the spot). But I’m willing to give up to a week because (a) it SHOULD be a big decision and (b) I don’t like the message it would send if I told them they couldn’t have a week, unless there’s some unusual reason why (which I would then explain).

      That said, I’d be skeptical if a junior level candidate asked for a week; I’d figure they were waiting on other offers. With senior level candidates, it feels much more reasonable.

      1. AmyNYC

        I don’t see a problem with waiting for other offers – as long as you don’t tell the interviewer!
        It’s an open secret; you’re interviewing other candidates and I’m applying to other jobs.

        1. Dan

          For my last go at job hunting, I received an offer from Job 1 one business day before my interview with Job 2. (Job 1 offer came on Friday, Job 2 interview was on Monday.) They called me with the particulars on Friday, and asked how it sounded. TBH, it was the absolute lowest number we talked about. I was somewhat offended. They overnighted me the paper work, and I got it on Saturday. Paperwork said I had to let them know in a week.

          On Monday, Job 1 VP calls and asks how I was feeling about things. I tried to up him on the salary (got an extra $2k, so at least that’s something) but then told him I had just finished interviewing with Job 2 and would like to hear their response before making a decision.

          Since I was laid off, Job 1 was within a 15 minute drive of my residence, a decent offer, and a very good match for my background, I just didn’t know how to BS the VP and tell him I had to “discuss things” or “think things over” in a manner that required more than a day or two.

      2. Sarahnova

        Is it really so bad to be waiting on other offers? If I’m jobhunting, I’m (hopefully) in discussions with a number of companies, all of which have their pros and cons. I probably have a #1 favourite, and if they make a good offer I will have no problems quickly accepting, but if, say, they choose not to and it comes down to a close #2 and #3, well, I’ll commit to and work my tail off for whichever company I end up accepting an offer from, but I want to see exactly what each can offer me so I can make a weighted decision.

        Yes, it means you might lose me to someone else, but that’s the deal; I’m not guaranteed you’ll make me an offer until you do, and you’re not guaranteed I’ll accept an offer until I do, and both of us need contingency plans, because hiring is a search for a mutually beneficial agreement, right?

        1. MissD

          Going through that a bit now too. I have two jobs I’ve interviewed for that show signs they might be making offers this week. I have a preference for Job 1, because of the industry and the location, but Job 2 seems to be moving a bit faster.

          Job 2 is great as well, but I’d hate to accept an offer from them and then have Job 1 come in a week later with their offer.

          1. Dan

            See, if Job 2 moves quick, one option is that you accept their offer and burn them when Job 1 comes through. I’m not advocating it at all, but it’s a natural consequence of “rushing” candidates. If we’re all reasonably up front with each other to begin with, everybody wins, right?

            1. Rayner

              No, that’s a bad idea. It’s not even an option, or a ‘natural’ response to rushing candidates.

              Ruining your reputation with job 1 by choosing to leave them after only a few weeks without a solid reason (and no, I got a better job is not one) or back out of an accepted job is unprofessional, and it can definitely reflect badly on you if it’s in the same industry or if you later have to apply there.

              There best thing to do would be to call up Job 2 and explain that you would love to work with them etc but you have a faster time response to Job 1, and ask if they can give you a time line for their processes. Only if you’re a strong candidate, though.

        2. Dan

          Absolutely. I had two interviews a week apart. Job 1 would have been perfectly acceptable in my field. Job 2 is a big name in my field with more stability. Job 1 was able to move quickly in their process, Job 2 was a bureaucratic PITA. I *almost* told Job 2 to shove it.

          Job 2 has more PTO to start (they both catch up in the “end”.) Job 2 has a double-digit 401k match, Job 1 has a 3% match. Job 2 has more stability. Job 2 told me they would beat Job 1’s offer (and they did). Job 2 has a better data (I’m a data analyst for a living) had gets much more high profile work.

          Job 2 was certainly my favorite, particularly if the HM could actually beat the offer I had on the table. Not that everything comes down to $, but Job 2 edged out Job 1 in every category — they gave me the benefits run down at the interview, so I knew exactly where I stood. So the right $ made it a slam dunk.

          But I’m not telling Job 1 that Job 2 is my favorite, I just “want to give everybody a fair shake.”

      3. books

        Our recruiters tend to ask candidates if they have any other offers/interviews/things that might impact a decision – so we get a bit of heads up if they’re playing the field.

        1. thenoiseinspace

          What? Why on earth would you need that? Of COURSE they’re applying to other jobs, and it’s not like it’s cheating or “playing the field.” It’s making it even. Employers don’t get to control our lives THAT much. I hope you realize that almost every candidate you have is applying other places as well, regardless of what they’re telling you. And I hope that you realize that they have every right to do so.

          1. anonynonon

            Well, it sounds like they want to know not because it would impact the likelihood of them extending an offer, but more because they would know what to expect up front. Not every job candidate is actively looking.

          2. RobM

            This is a bit of an absurd double-standard if taken to extremes. After all, employers don’t expect candidates to get upset that they’re interviewing other candidates.

        2. Anon Accountant

          The only time I’ve heard of this being asked was when it was a strong candidate and the company may have sped up their processes a bit if they were afraid the candidate was close to an offer with another company.

          And I hope that I misinterpreted this about “playing the field” but it’s absolutely wise to apply at different places you’re interested in. As AAM says you don’t have an offer until you actually have an offer.

        3. Jen in RO

          I’ve also found this quite common and no employer seems to have minded that I was also interviewing with other companies.

      4. Dan

        At my previous job, they took a whopping month from interview time to offer. It was my first job out of grad school. The HR person indicated to me that I should hear something “by the end of the week.” Nothing. Two weeks later, I got an email from another company asking me to interview. Sure thing — except I was out of the country. So I email back Job #1 and ask where things stood. Radio silence. So I set up an interview with Job #2 for a time right after I returned from my trip. Two days before the interview, I get an offer (out of the blue) emailed to me from Job #1. It was a good offer, but they made me wait so long that I wanted to hear what Job #2 had to say, and give them full consideration.

        During the interview at Job 2, we talked about the particulars of Job 1’s offer. Job 1 gave me a week to decide, but I liked Job 2 well enough that I wanted to hear how things went. I asked Job 1 for an extra week, which they gave. Job 2 did extend an offer, and I wanted a couple of days to think about it. Choosing between those two jobs was the hardest choice I made after college. I ultimately chose Job 1.

        Job 1 could have sealed it sooner if they could have gotten back to me in a much more reasonable time period. They were hiring for multiple positions, and it really took them a month to figure out whether or not they wanted an entry level candidate? I certainly didn’t feel pressured to respond on “their” schedule, considering I had written them off by the time they finally got me the offer.

  9. Elizabeth West

    On a Monday, I got offered a temp position with a company I had interviewed with for another position (I didn’t get it) and asked them if I could get back to them by the end of the week. The job I wanted hadn’t decided yet, but I’d had two interviews, so I emailed the hiring manager to check up on the timeline and mentioned the other company was asking if I was available, but that they were my first choice. I had the offer within a day. It was nerve-wracking to do that, but it got them moving. :)

    I called the temp offer place and told them right away; I didn’t want them to have to wait any longer to find someone.

    1. MissD

      I was just going to ask if that was acceptable to contact your first choice company to see if you were: a) still being considered as a top candidate, and b) that you did have other offers, but they were your first choice/level of interest.

      I feel a little like that may be pushing the issue, but how else are you supposed to make a choice?

      1. CAA

        Yes, it’s totally acceptable to do this. You just have to be prepared for them to not be interested enough in you to speed things up.

  10. Mike C.

    OP, is there a way you could streamline your process earlier on so that there’s more room for these situations? Is your company being upfront with everything including salary range in the job opening? Are benefits clearly described?

    I say this because if your company is open and transparent, the folks who apply will already know what they’re in for and be more likely to give you a fast answer.

    1. AB Normal

      +1

      If all info is available upfront (including things like expected amount of travel, which is rarely included in the job descriptions for my type of role, and could vary wildly), it makes it much easier for candidates to respond faster to an offer.

    2. Elysian

      Agree with this – if you’re pushing them for a quick decision, you’re not even leaving time for (for example) salary negotiations, if there are going to be any. Or other questions that aren’t always appropriate to ask until the offer stage.

      If you want an on-the-spot answer, you have to give all that information up front.

    3. Dan

      Yup. With my current job, I “tentatively” accepted a “tentative” offer. This job knew I was under the gun with a different employer, and that I needed an answer sooner rather than later. HR told me that they hate doing this “tentative” crap, but me knowing that they had something promising was better than me wondering and possibly accepting the bird in the hand. Since I had all of the benefits info from both jobs, I told her that if she could confirm the number in writing, then we had a deal. I got the official word the next day and turned it around on the spot.

      So yeah, if you’re open with your candidates, you can get quick and reliable answers.

  11. Yup

    A lot of the reasonableness depends on how your negotiating process works. I’ve usually been given 48 hours to make a decision, but that clock doesn’t start until we’ve already negotiated most of the terms (salary, anticipated start date, etc). At that point, the company emails the ‘official’ offer letter and I have 48 hours to accept or decline. But if the clock starts when the company makes their initial what-would-you-say-to-an-offer-of-XYZ , then I’d probably need more time because we might be doing multiple rounds of negotiating to we get to the final version. Plus I personally like to sleep on it before I officially say yes/no, so that’s potentially a week when you add up all the steps and delays.

  12. businesslady

    this is an interesting question, but I think there are so many factors at play (seniority level, industry, the extent to which the new job would disrupt the candidate’s established routine) that it’s impossible to give a hard-&-fast rule for the “right amount of time.” for a position that includes a relocation that would uproot kids & a spouse, a week actually seems short–particularly if the interview process passed quickly & especially if the prospective employee was recruited vs. actually applying.

    in general, though, I think most people know their answer as soon as they get the offer, & a one- or two-day buffer is just to help them confirm they’re making the right decision. just as employers should be upfront if there are other factors affecting the schedule, candidates should be honest about why they need more time. (I get that you don’t want to be anyone’s second choice, but I’d have no problem hiring someone who initially told me “I’m really excited about this position but there’s this other longshot opportunity I should hear back from any day now, & I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t fully explore that before committing” or whatever.)

    1. Colette

      I think most people know right away whether they want the job, but they may need time to look over the details (start date, salary, benefits, etc.) and determine whether it’s the right decision.

    2. Dan

      Both times I’ve been on the market, I’ve been in the “yours is good, and I have no problem taking it, but I want to consider all of my options” boat. The first time, I accepted Job #1, then second I accepted Job #2.

  13. NylaW

    If I was relocating I think I would definitely need more time to think about than if it was another job in the same area. To ask for some kind of set amount of time seems shortsighted to me. If you took some time to think about everything in your decision to hire someone, you should extend the same courtesy to them in doing the same about accepting your offer.

    1. Jean

      +1,000! In a perfect world all job offers would be extended in this spirit–and be _in writing_.

  14. Ash

    It feels like such a double standard to me — jobs will take forever to make a decision and I only get 48 hours? I agree with the PP who posted about having a top choice and then other contenders. That is exactly where I am right now. I have a top choice that I know is going to take a while based on the timeline they provided. I am awaiting 2 other job offers right now. I’m a good fit for the job, but they are not necessarily the ideal for me like choice one is. I need the time to ping top choice before making a decision. Just like, you have a first choice candidate, but you have others you’ve interviewed and like. I just feel like for everyone’s sake its better to give the candidate time.

    1. Dan

      And if you won’t give me more time, then I will accept your offer to CYA (mine anyway) and then burn you when the better offer from my “dream job” comes through.

      What would “you” rather have, that or some honesty?

  15. The Nameless

    My husband was verbally offered a job minutes after his third “interview”. They wanted an answer on the spot. He asked for time to discuss with his wife. They refused. In fact, one of the people told him that if he wasn’t man enough to make the decision he might not be man enough to take the job. (It was a beverage distribution company). My husband insisted that he be given the time or the answer was no. They grudgingly gave him a packet with info about the job, benefits, salary and told him he had 12 hours. He ended up saying no the next morning because the benefits offered were minimal at best, the salary was only average and the PTO was virtually non-existant. The hiring manager yelled at my husband for saying no. I could hear him through the handset across the room. It was crazy. I always wonder who the poor guy was that said yes to that job.

    1. KJR

      Wow, how ridiculous!! If that’s how they act during the hiring process, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to work there either.

    2. Dan

      I’m not that old (yet) but I’ve learned over the years that anybody who gives you the high-pressure sales pitch knows that they can’t succeed on the merits alone. This is true when trying to buy something, or accepting a job.

      I’ve posted enough about my recent job hunt elsewhere in this thread, but when I turned down Job 1 for Job 2, I got a guilt trip from about how “they really wanted me” and all of that. They asked if I wanted more time, or what else they could do to change my mind. They really didn’t want to take no for answer. I told them I felt I was leading them on if I tried to answer any of those questions, so there was not even any “fake” negotiation.

      Job 1 even had the CEO call me. Since it was a Friday evening before a holiday weekend, and I already turned them down, I wasn’t sure who was calling from their exchange. I let it go to voicemail, and wow, it was the CEO. I never called him back.

      Quite frankly, I found that call to be really out of line, because I never met or spoke to him before. I felt like they were trying to intimidate me. If they had the most senior person I interviewed with call me, that would have been a different story.

  16. Security Consultant

    Having just accepted a new job this past week (btw AAM’s resume review really helped!), this topic is fresh in my mind. I asked for and got about 4 days to consider the offer; however in reality I had already made my mind up once I received the written offer. The hr contact at the new company had already given me nearly all the details such as benefits etc well before the offer was extended, so the only detail to really consider was salary. Personally, I felt that as long as I was given sufficient information verbally, signing the offer was a formality. I really was only using my time to consider the offer to verify that everything which was promised was in there.

    Note that this really only works if the company is forthcoming with information up-front. I strongly believe that job seekers should never be pressured to make snap decisions; however with 3rd party recruiters it feels like this is almost always the case whereas direct HR staff seem to be much better at understanding job seeker concerns and addressing them adequately.

  17. Anonymous

    Side note; who do you send a thank you letter to when offered a position and say you interviewed with 5 people?

  18. T

    Alison, it strikes me as odd that you would suggest prioritizing the demands of a second or third choice candidate over the number one choice.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s not demands, but if #2 tells me they’re planning to accept a different offer on Thursday but I’m their first choice, then I have no problem saying to #1 on Tuesday, “I’m sorry for the tight timeline, but I’d love to get your answer by Thursday morning if possible because I have another candidate who needs an answer from us by then.” If it’s not possible, they can tell me why and we can figure it out from there.

      1. Joey

        Is thar a salary tactic you use also? Here’s our offer-by the way we have someone waiting in the wings, hint hint.

  19. LibrarianJ

    Somewhat related question — say I don’t need a week or even 48 hours. Is it ever okay to accept a job on the spot?

    When I was job hunting after grad school, my mentor at the time advised me that I should never, ever accept an offer on the spot and should always request 24 hours. As it happened my first offer was with Current Job (and I know we don’t use the phrase ‘dream job’ here, but, it basically was/is). I had the benefits package and salary number in-hand by that point and I already knew what my decision was, so it wasn’t a question of needing to think anything over. In the end I asked for 24 hours and it was fine, but it was a really nerve-wracking 24 hours and I can’t help wondering if that was actually necessary?

    1. periwinkle

      If you think you have sufficient information to make an informed choice, aren’t sensing any red flags, and are eager to get started – then why not accept on the spot?

      I accepted the verbal offer for my current job immediately and without hesitation even though it meant a long-distance move. By the time the offer was made I had talked with them enough to have very positive opinions about cultural fit and the working style of my boss-to-be. Two months later I still walk into the office marveling that I get to work on challenging projects with amazing people, and then to make it even better, they give me money every two weeks. Cool.

    2. Graciosa

      I’m fine with your accepting an offer immediately. I am not fine with someone who accepts an offer, then accepts the current employer’s counter-offer and revokes the acceptance of mine.

      The time to go and ask for a counter from your current employer is before you make a commitment to me – not after. I’d much rather have a candidate take some extra time to give me an answer I can count on.

    3. Library Manager

      I think it’s fine; it doesn’t make me think less of you. Also, many library jobs are civil service, which often means salaries and benefits aren’t at all negotiable; skipping that back and forth can speed up the acceptance process.

  20. FD

    I think a lot of this depends on the position level that you’re applying for.

    I’ve had jobs where I accepted on the spot and it would have been weird to ask for more than a day or so. (Entry-level customer service type positions.) My current supervisor position wanted an answer in 48 hours. At the next level in my field, I would expect to get at least a week, particularly since a relocation is likely.

  21. Azulao

    In universities, this whole thing is sooooo much slower. Months. With the top candidates getting multiple offers and wanting them *all* to come in before deciding; and universities dithering for weeks and weeks about whom to offer to first, second, third, and (no kidding) fourth.

    Also, it’s extremely common to get an offer from NewU, then go back to CurrentU and ask for a counter. It’s the only way you get a raise at all. I wish we DID work more like business for some things.

  22. idasg

    i would like to ask an employer’s perspective on this matter….i went on an interview on thursday…i came 10 mins earlier and sat down…the boss was busy at the moment so i waited…finally he came and sat down along with the Ops Mgr….before anything…the boss starts to tell me about the job and the company…he didnt ask me anything about my skills or myself for that matter and asked if i could start on the next day…i felt a whole rush of pressure upon hearing that…i told him that i needed some time to think about it….but he said that he needs someone to come in urgently for the job and that i am the only one he interviewed that is staying quite near to the workplace….i was still in doubt…finally the Ops Mgr took me on a tour of the workplace…and convinced me to accept the offer….i thot i made a good choice…it was definitely a good place to work…just that i hadnt had the chance to meet the other people i will be working with….anyways…i was still in doubt…i couldn’t move to get up and go on the next day (supposedly the day i start work) i called up the place and a staff answered…told her my situation and she sounded pissed and told me that i should have mentioned to the boss or the Ops Mgr that i am still uncertain about the job offer…finally she said she would relay the message to the Ops Mgr…waited a whole day and no reply from them…so now it’s Saturday….i’m not sure what’s going on here….or what should i do from hereon….can anyone offer any advice or opinions on this?

  23. SheBeSmallButFierce

    I think a week is too long, and a day is too short. I think three to five business days would be adequate, even if there are other candidates. It IS a big decision, and even if I’ve decided 80% to accept, I still need time to digest the offer, rather than “settling”. Been there, done that. No fun.
    I have just received a job offer in writing (email), and I acknowledged it via email, asking for two days to consider the offer, saying that I intend to stay in my next position for many years to come. It is a serious decision for me, even though I’m thrilled to have received the offer.
    The hiring manager responded by saying please decide by end of business tomorrow; you are the first of three choices we’ve made. The written offer also says that the first 60 days would be a trial period, in which I’d be classified as a “1099 employee”. From my research on the web, this is very dicey, because there are laws about what constitutes an “employee” and a “1099 contractor”, and heavy penalties against an employer if they misclassify someone. There is no such thing as a “1099 employee”. I would be working at specific times, using the employer’s equipment and computers, etc., which puts me in the “employee” classification, according to the IRS. Seems fishy to me to put me down as a “1099 contractor.”
    I’m used to “trial periods” of 60 to 90 days, in which a salary is paid, but no benefits. It has been termed by past employers as a “no fault” period – no hard feelings on either side if we determine it’s not a good fit. I’ve never been classified as a “1099”, and it means that for those 60 days, I would be responsible for Federal, State and Social Security taxes (or an estimate), which I’ve never done before. I would also be ineligible for unemployment benefits, were I not to be a salaried employee at the end of that period. I would be salaried “…if they were satisfied with my performance..”.
    I’ve met the team, and like the people that I’d be working with – but there’s something about this whole process – the interviews to the offer – which sticks in my craw and puts me on edge about accepting.
    I’m looking for advice, so please feel free to comment!

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