should you really 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?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 62 comments… read them below }

  1. Lil Fidget*

    I have actually had something similar happen, usually in second interviews when they say they want you to meet with some higher-up. In some cases you really are meeting with the higher-up to continue the discussion about the job, but occasionally this second meeting is more of a formality while they make you the offer right there or at the end of it. I’m not sure what they’re thinking when they do this – I suppose it’s just a way for the senior person to get sign-off, and maybe if they really don’t think you’re a good fit they wouldn’t proceed. But either way, I recommend thanking them and declining to answer right on the spot. You need to look over the benefits carefully, as people can really get screwed over by insurance costs etc. The hard sell in the moment is a sales tactic to get you to make an uniformed decision.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      Literally every single time I have *ever* let someone hard sell me into anything, I have regretted it, because it turned out they had something to hide. 100% failure rate. That kind of thing is a guaranteed deal breaker for me.

    2. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      I totally agree, and spend at least one night thinking about the job, especially the benefits package. I know focusing on salary is an easy benchmark, but benefits play such a bigger role in our day-to-day work lives and our net income.

      For example, does an employee have to pay for health care with this employer and if so, how much? What types of health care plans are in the benefits package? Are they all high deductible PPO plans? Does the employer offer a pension or a 401(k), or gasp, both? Is there an employer matching with a 401(k) contribution and how much will they match? How many days sick leave and vacation do you get? Are they segregated or are they pooled into annual leave? Are those days paid out if you leave? If you’re not an exempt employee, how does the office handle snow days, hurricane days, or tornado days? Can you work from home? And so on.

      I’m in the public sector and my wife was in the private sector before being laid off. She always had more sick leave and vacation days than I did, plus she could work from home whenever she wanted. But my benefits package is 10 times better than the one she had. Now that my wife is a stay at home mom and with my son being a very adventurous 3 year old, I’ll take the benefits please!

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I once had a good friend believe she had accepted a new job at a good increase over her previous salary. She didn’t look too closely but thought it was 5K more. Well, her old job paid the insurance and had a generous 401K contribution and she realized her take home pay was almost the same, for a LOT more work :(

  2. Jesmlet*

    I know there’s some god-awful advice out there but this one I’ve never heard.

    The fastest I’ve gotten a job offer was two days after the first interview early in the morning so I had maybe 32 hours in between to think about everything. I can’t imagine someplace so unprofessional that would offer it on the spot and honestly if that happened, I might be inclined to say no just based on that. Of course, it’s a totally different story if you’re several interviews down and you’ve all had time to consider, but please never accept something in person without fully looking through all benefits and compensation to make sure it’s a good fit for you.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      I do think we’re probably biased towards office jobs here. In many service fields, I think it’s common to ask/be offered the job “on the spot.” That’s certainly how I got every server / counter job I ever held. But otherwise, I agree with you.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Yeah, it’s not uncommon in retail jobs, where a) turnover is high no matter what you do, b) the job isn’t all that complicated, and c) the interview really is all, because if you can’t sell yourself, you aren’t likely to be good at selling anything else.

        (It’s changing, though, to a more thoughtful, and slower process.)

        1. SophieChotek*

          Same thought. in Service jobs/retail/food industry – it’s not uncommon to offered job on the spot. But that is the only situation where I would expect it – and be willing to say “yes” – but even then I would probably try to negotiate hours/shifts, or something like that.

      2. cataloger*

        In a past job where I hired lots of students, if we were reasonably confident after the interview that things would work out with a student, we offered them the job on the spot. This didn’t work perfectly, but I was surprised by how well it did work. That said, I’m not sure how I would have reacted if the student asked for the job before we offered.

      3. Jesmlet*

        That’s probably true. I was hired on the spot for my only restaurant job and I didn’t really think to count that since it was so long ago that I figured conventions probably changed. I do think though that now that retail jobs have moved away from the “walk in and ask” interview process, things are a bit more structured. At my last job I worked with the mentally ill to help them find work, and the retail and restaurant interviews they’d go to were definitely more formal than you’d expect.

      4. CMart*

        Yeah, with a lot of service industry jobs there’s not terribly much to think about if you know what the pay rate is. There’s rarely any benefits you should consider.

      5. Miss Betty*

        Yes, I’ve been offered retail and fast food jobs when I was younger by the the manager glancing over my resume and saying, “Yeah, looks ok, when can you start?”

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      I have one or two entry-level positions per year that are offered on the spot, however, the way we choose to handle it is to present the offer letter and benefits information package and ask the candidate to contact us with their decision no later than X date, after they have had a chance to review everything and get the answers to questions they have. Occasionally, people do accept on the spot, but it’s unusual.

      Interviews for experienced people tend to go 2 rounds (phone/skype interview with HR and with me and then in-persons with their work team with a wrap-up with HR/me to answer any questions that arose), and we never offer them at the interview. For someone we really want, offers tend to go out within 24 hours (call followed by formal offer letter), but never at the interview.

      If someone asked for the job at the end of the interview, that would be weird. We would also have to tell them that we needed to gather interviewer feedback and make a decision before we could offer it to them.

    3. Turquoisecow*

      I went for an interview in the morning, went home to take a nap before working in the evening, and woke up to several missed calls from the HR person and a voice mail saying they wanted to hire me, could I call them back asap?

      It was fun having the “how did the interview go?” conversation after that. “Good, they offered me the job!”

      I also interviewed for a job and then the next morning got an email asking if I was still interested as I hadn’t followed up (I was intending to write a thank you email that day). I confirmed and then that evening was offered the job.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        In each case, they did let me actually get home before offering the job, though. In the first case, I think it was because the hiring manager needed HR to do the actual paperwork & etc.

      2. Eli*

        Yep, I was offered my current job just a few hours after the interview. I took the weekend to think about it because I wasn’t expecting such a quick offer! Some jobs it’s taken weeeeeks, for whatever reasons.

    4. Birchwoods*

      It really differs! In academia we’re often so desperate that we’ll take anything, but a quick offer isn’t necessarily a red flag. I got offered a position four hours after my interview, and it just happened that the I had exactly the skills and specific areas of expertise they were looking for.

      1. Jesmlet*

        Yeah I don’t think hours later is totally strange, but if they’ve only interviewed me once and don’t even take the time to discuss amongst themselves, I’d be concerned that either they just want a body, or the turnover is so high that there’s bound to be something wrong with the job.

      2. TrainerGirl*

        True. My second job out of college was a similar experience. I was told at the interview to expect it to be up to two weeks for them to make a decision, and they called two hours later offering me the job. It ended up being a good position that I stayed in for 3.5 years, so not necessarily a red flag. I recently interviewed for a position on Friday afternoon and received an offer on Tuesday morning, which was a bit surprising.

    5. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      My first accounting job I was offered the same day within a few hours of the interview. The company ended up being a train wreck.

    6. Children's Librarian Also*

      I have gotten a job offer on the same day for a librarian job once. I have gotten it the day after also. (I was the only candidate they interviewed on a Monday, everyone else went on Tuesday and that’s when they offered it to me.)

      Also been offered retail jobs on the spot.

  3. AndersonDarling*

    Back in the day, you could walk into a restaurant, talk to the manager about an opening, and then ask if you could have the job. But now most restaurants are part of a corporate chain that still needs an application and they need to check references.
    If I interviewed someone today and they immediately asked if they had the job, the answer would be “What? No.”

  4. ArtK*

    One of the things that bugs me about this is the idea that hiring managers are looking for some kind of clue that the candidate is really interested in the job. Frankly, I assume that if they’re there and interviewing, they’re interested in the job. I’m not going to waste my time in a mind-reading exercise that could easily result in my rejecting a perfectly viable candidate.

    I realize that the hiring process is full of uncertainty on both sides, but trying to seek out clues and engaging in mind reading is an exercise in futility. I prefer to go into the process assuming that people don’t have some hidden agenda that I’m supposed to suss out.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is hard for me to imagine someone not saying something like ‘I am really interested in this job and hope we will be talking further’ at the end of an interview where they are interested in the job. It should be no mystery to a hiring manager that someone is interested and if one things they are naturally less effusive and therefore might send false signals, then they should say something like this. Asking for the job is cheesy.

      1. Trotwood*

        On the other hand, I’ve seen people who try to play hard-to-get with an employer or act like the employer should sell them on the job, and that’s not a good strategy either. If you act like you don’t care that much whether you get an offer or not, I’m probably not going to make you an offer. Whenever I’ve heard people talk about “asking for the job,” I’ve assumed it meant more along the lines of what you described, where you reiterate to the interviewer that you’re very interested in the job. I didn’t think it was meant to be taken as literally “ask the interviewer to give you the job right there.”

    2. Jesmlet*

      Understandably, neither side wants to invest too much in a particular choice if they don’t know if that choice is equally invested in them. Unfortunately, that uncertainty is just an inevitable part of the hiring process. Regardless of whether it’s a 2 person company or a 2000 person company, it’s still people making decisions and people generally don’t like the unknown.

    3. TrainerGirl*

      I recently had two interviews on the same day and was far more interested in one position than the other, but I was being laid off, so I couldn’t afford to be that choosy. I had the interview for the job I really wanted first, and did say during the interview that I really wanted the position. I’d interviewed for it 4 years ago and it didn’t work out then, but I wanted them to know that job was my first choice. But I wouldn’t “ask” for a job…that just seems disingenuous and pushy.

  5. beanie beans*

    In all of my interviews over the course of my career there have always been multiple people on the interview panel. In addition to needing your own time to decide, the interview panel surely has to discuss their thoughts before they make a decision! The idea of asking for the job at the end of the interview is really foreign to me.

  6. Amber Rose*

    This sounds super desperate to me. If someone asked me that, it would feel like they were begging and leave a bad taste in my mouth. At the very least, I’d be wondering if there was a reason they were hoping to skip the reference checking stage.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Yes. I think at that point I would just tell them that I definitely wasn’t going to offer them the job, unless they had been a stellar candidate up until then.

  7. Risha*

    I’m baffled by the ‘don’t think the candidate is sufficiently interested if they don’t ask for the job at the end of the interview’ bit. Why would the candidate be even interviewing if they weren’t on some level interested? I mean, we’ve occasionally heard here from people who already had an interview scheduled when they accepted a different job and don’t feel like they can cancel, but that’s got to be fairly rare.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I’ve heard this same thing occasionally about candidates for office–that some voter won’t vote for Wakeen Smith because he came to their town and gave a stump speech but didn’t “ask for her vote.” It seems like being hung up on really specific phrasing, when I think the stump speech and the “Smith for President” signs convey the candidate’s intentions pretty clearly.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        That is mind-bogglingly dumb. I will never understand people who don’t vote based on actual substantive issues and instead vote based on silly superficial garbage. Politics is not a game; actual people’s lives are at stake.

      2. Risha*

        If I were Wakeen I’d feel like an idiot literally asking for a vote while surrounded by “Vote For Wakeen!” posters, but I suppose that’s why I’m not a politician.

      3. TrainerGirl*

        That sounds like someone who really really likes to be catered to, and needs their tush kissed…if it isn’t, they pay the person dust. Ugh, that attitude is the worst.

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      My guess is that asking for the job (or for one’s vote) demonstrates Gumption. And Gumption is what employers/voters are looking for!

      (I have about had it with gumption, to be honest.)

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        Maybe it’s an acronym!

        G- God bless America!
        U- U need 2 vote 4 me!
        M- Make America Great Again!
        P- Persist!
        T- ….. ok, running out of steam on this gag

  8. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    I’ve been offered a job at the end of the interview two and a half times.

    Time #1 was an “interview” for my college fast food job. It wasn’t actually an interview; the manager asked if I’d worked retail before, we chatted for a few minutes while she got a scope of my personality and presentation, and then she handed me new-employee paperwork.

    Time #2 was my “and a half.” At the end of the interview, I asked for the interviewer’s card to follow up; he laughed, gave me the card, and told me not to worry about followups, because he knew he was going to recommend me strongly for hiring, and I was a shoo-in for the position. Not quite the same thing as an offer on the spot, but very close!

    Time #3, it was a job I was entirely overqualified for; I’d been doing work in the same field for four years already, at a higher level, for more money. The interviewer told me flat-out that the job was mine if I wanted it, but that she would understand if I was reluctant to take a step back in both responsibilities and pay.

    In other words, yes, I could have had the job if I “just asked for it,” but that wasn’t a good thing — that was a reflection that I could and should have been doing better, and we both understood that I was there because I was getting laid off and was desperate (the layoff was widely known in the industry in that area; the entire office was closing and we’d had job fairs onsite).

    1. Turquoisecow*

      Your first story reminds me of a retail job I worked. I went in and asked if they were hiring, and the customer service manager gave me a paper application. I filled it out and handed it back. She looked it over and then called over the manager who would be my boss. That manager glanced at it briefly and said, “oh, I think the girl who does the training is here, hang on.” She went looking, so the woman had already left for the day, and told me to call her in a few days.

      I found out later that the hiring woman was annoyed that the manager had handled the first part on her own, as the hiring woman usually took care of this. And they shortly thereafter switched to a computer system where applicants had to fill out an application and answer some psychological questions on a terminal either in the store or online. That was then sent to a processing center and either not approved (so the store never saw it at all), or went to a terminal where the hiring person saw it and called you back to schedule training.

      She got so many calls from people who didn’t pass the psychological part of the test asking if she had reviewed their applications, which she hadn’t even seen. She also got in the habit of having seasoned employees who were hired that way walk people through the psychological test so that they wouldn’t be flagged and she could hire them.

      1. Jesmlet*

        Those psychological tests are a load of crap and should be banned. If they want to factor in the results, fine, but no company should use that as a pass/fail component of their hiring process.

        1. Turquoise Cow*

          Yeah, I think that’s why she’d get someone who’d already successfully completed it to walk them through it. Some people re-took it a dozen times before getting hired. I don’t recall any of them being particularly psychopathic.

    2. many bells down*

      I was offered a job WITHOUT an interview, once. I’d applied to a test proctoring company and was asked to come in and observe the job for an hour. The person who invited me was in a different state, apparently observed me observing over a camera, and called the next day to offer me a job.

      I did not take it.

  9. Anne of Green Gables*

    I once showed up for what I thought was an interview and was instead trained on the job. It was an unusual circumstance, though, so while I was surprised to find out I wasn’t interviewing but they apparently already wanted me in the job, I wasn’t bothered by it.

    (It was a public library where my mom worked, but in a different department. I was a few years out of college and living with her for a few months while waiting to hear if a grant proposal I wrote would be accepted. I had worked as a library page (shelver) at another library for years. The person this department hired stopped showing up after her first day, so they were in a bind. I guess they figured that since they had met me during my previous visits to my mom, they didn’t need to interview and could just show me which collection went where and I’d be good to go. I was only there a few months because my grant went through and I had a job through the grant, but it worked well for both of us in the interim.)

    1. Lil Fidget*

      In general, I’d say that would be a big red flag to me! Like they want to rush you so you don’t consider the salary / benefits. Glad in your case it worked out though :)

  10. kc89*

    I was hired on the spot at my first two jobs so it did take me a bit to realize that it’s not a bad thing to not be hired on the spot for professional jobs haha

  11. Oryx*

    This was a piece of advice my dad would give me. Well, not to ask for the job but to make sure the interviewer knew I wanted the job. Like at the end of the interview when they ask if there was anything else I wanted them to know, I should tell them “I really want this job.” But it’s wrong for all of the same reasons Alison mentioned: I don’t really know enough after one interview if I really do want the job.

    My dad hasn’t job hunted in 35 years, he’s been with the same company for 30 years and he was head hunted so, yeah, I take all of his job hunting advice with a grain of salt.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      Alison had a whole column on why parents’ job-hunting advice is terrible. “Ask for the job because it shows you really want it!” is up there with “Just walk in and apply!” as Bad Grandpa Advice.

  12. Jana Appleseed*

    I would find someone asking for the job outright very weird and off-putting! But I’ve been prepared to make an offer at the end of a final interview. Typically, it’s someone we may have recruited and who has been through several rounds of interviews and remains first choice. I’ve often already called their references. It’s always been preceded by a conversation with all the stakeholders on what red flags would be in the final interview that would make us want to regroup, and a chance for everyone to signal “no” if we don’t want to after all.

    But I would never expect someone to accept on the spot. We hand them the offer letter, tell them we’d love for them to work here, and tell them to give it some thought.

    1. Jana Appleseed*

      I often get thank-you notes that say “I remain very interested,” though, and those I think are absolutely appropriate. Part of the point of an interview is for candidates to see if they like us, not just if we like them.

  13. Lama glama (Snark)*

    If you’re a candidate, and you press me for a snap decision and answer at the end of the interview….well, my dude, I will give you one. You won’t like it, but you’ll know where you stand before you walk out the door.

  14. SheLooksFamiliar*

    There are jobs, and then there are career opportunities. When I was in college, I pushed for, and accepted, jobs to stay alive and pay bills – fast food, retail, bartending, anything that let me earn money ASAP. I was grateful to have the work and did it well, and put up with the fact that the beer garden manager was the biggest drug dealer in town. So yeah, you can probably ask for the job on the spot under these circumstances.

    For a more meaningful career option? No. Never. Even if your gut instincts say, ‘I love this place, ask for the job!’, don’t do it. If they offer on the spot, and your gut is still yelling at you to take it, don’t accept on the spot. It’s too easy to get carried away by momentum and adrenaline. I’ve been in corporate staffing over 25 years and can’t think of a time a solid, qualified candidate ever asked for the job on even the second interview. A lot of bad ones did, though.

  15. HRish Dude*

    Advice like this, to me, is the worst. There’s no secret code. There’s no way to hack the system to get a job. Hiring managers, HR, recruiters, etc. are humans and are going to respond as humans do.

    I promise there’s no secret phrase or handshake that gets you a job. We assume that since you’re there for the interview you’re interested. You should assume that since we have you there, we’re interested.

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      This is one reason I love Alison’s column, and wish it had been around when I was a wee baby job-hunter! She’s very firm on the “Gimmicks don’t work” advice. Don’t send cookies to the interviewer, don’t format your resume like a newspaper, don’t try to show Gumption. There’s no gimmick and no magic code that will guarantee you a particular job – unlike what countless old-school job-hunting books will tell you.

  16. Edgar Allan Bro*

    I was actually offered the current job I have on the spot after a second phone interview. I was a little bit surprised because it’s a competitive industry especially for entry level jobs, and I know they had a decent amount of applicants, so I don’t actually if they had talked to everyone else and not liked them, or what exactly prompted them to do that but it’s worked out okay so far! Although it might be pertinent to note that it was for a contract month and a half job, not a full time full benefits job.

  17. CatMomLiz*

    Many years ago, I blurted out in a morning interview that I really wanted the job that had just been described. I went on to say that I wasn’t playing a game and that I had never before said such a thing in an interview. The job did make sense in terms of my career progress to that point (over 10 years with the same large company). Within four hours, the interviewer called me and offered me the job. I stayed in that job for 15 years, only leaving because of a reorganization that shifted me away from that department. I have never regretted my blurt, but I would not recommend such a course of action as a regular policy.

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