You’ve completed the interview process, wowed the hiring manager, and now you have an offer for a new job. That’s good news, right?
Well, usually. But sometimes, a job offer doesn’t feel like a cause to celebrate. If you’re not sure whether you want the job, you might be feeling stressed and confused. So, what should you do now?
When You’re Not Sure You Want the Position
If your gut is telling you to hold off on accepting, listen to it. Step back and take some time to consider whether you really do want it before you commit to the employer.
One of the worst things you can do is to say “yes” and accept a position that you’re not sure you want.
It’s awkward if you change your mind and decline after you already accepted. It’s even worse if you start the job and decide you hate it from the outset. It’s much harder to undo something than it is to take the time to be sure.
If you’re not sure that this is the right job for you, or if you’re juggling multiple job offers, the best thing to do is to try to buy some time to make an informed decision before you accept. Take the time to analyze the offers before you decide which one to take, and which one to turn down.
It’s also fine to decline right away, rather than dragging out the process if you don’t believe the job is a good match.
How Much Time Should You Ask For?
The amount of time companies give applicants to accept a job offer varies depending on the employer. In general, one week is the time frame a company typically provides a candidate to make a decision.
What to Say When You Ask for More Time
When you’re offered a job, your response doesn’t have to be immediate unless you're thrilled with the offer and ready to accept.
The employer may expect you to request time to consider the offer or to make a counteroffer. Don’t feel like you’re on the spot and have to say “yes”—or “no”—right away. That's especially true if you're not absolutely sure you want the position.
It’s important to be careful about how you ask for the opportunity to think it over. You don’t want to insult the hiring manager or lose the offer because you didn’t respond promptly.
The best way to handle it is to start by relaying your thanks and appreciation for the job offer. Keep it positive and professional, reiterating your interest in working for the company.
Options for Getting an Extension
There are a few options for buying some time when you’re not prepared to accept immediately.
1. Ask About a Deadline
When you receive the offer, it’s acceptable to ask the employer if there is a deadline to respond to the offer. However, preface your question by relaying your thanks for the opportunity. If there’s a deadline and it doesn’t seem like it’s enough time, ask if it’s possible to get an extension. Either way, you’ll know exactly how much time you’ll have to get back to the hiring manager with your decision.
In most cases, it’s a better idea to carefully evaluate the salary, benefits, perks, job responsibilities, and whether this is the direction you want your career to move in before you accept.
2. Ask Questions
Another option for gaining extra time to decide is to ask questions. It may take some time for the hiring manager to get back to you, and it will help you clarify any concerns you have regarding the offer. It’s important to know about the compensation package in its entirety—salary, benefits, vacation, retirement plan, and perks.
You will also need to know when the company wants you to start so that you can plan a transition from your current job to the new one. That will factor into your decision making, as well.
If you’re not 100% sure you want the job, consider negotiating the compensation package. There are many parts of an employment offer that are negotiable, in addition to salary. You may be able to negotiate an offer that will make you feel more comfortable about accepting.
When you start the job may be negotiable as well, and having extra time before you join a company may make your decision easier.
What Not to Say to the Hiring Manager
There are some things you shouldn’t say when you’re looking for an extended time to contemplate a decision. Don’t lose the offer because you were rude or abrupt when you got it.
Even if the money isn’t enough and the job isn’t what you want, be gracious and appreciative when you decline. Nobody likes to be rejected, and that includes hiring managers.
Here are a few things you should avoid saying:
- I don’t know if I want the job, I’ll let you know.
- I’ll get back to you.
- I’m not sure, I’ll think about it.
- I thought the job would pay more.
- I don’t like the position or hours.
If this job isn’t a perfect match, but you like the employer, there may be another position available that you’d be interested in.
Keeping the conversation positive will open the door to those future opportunities. Negativity will probably knock you off the potential hire list.
The Dangers of Delaying
It’s important to note that you shouldn’t wait too long to decide whether to accept or reject a job. Most job offers aren’t open-ended, and you don’t want to risk losing yours by procrastinating or waiting too long. It’s also important to respond to the employer right away, even if it’s to ask for more time. Ignoring the offer while you figure out what to do could cost you the position.
Keep in mind that if you don’t respond promptly, the company could withdraw the offer, as some parts of the offer (a hiring bonus, for example) could be time-sensitive and could expire, or the employer may need someone who can start by a specific date. If you don’t have the availability, you may not get the job.
Do take the time to be sure the job is the right one for you, but don’t spend too much time deciding. Most employers like to fast-track the hiring process, and delays make it difficult for everyone.
Listen to Your Gut: If your instincts tell you to hold off on accepting, listen. The worst thing you can do is to accept and then change your mind.
Ask for More Time the Right Way: Express your thanks for the offer. Then, ask the hiring manager about a deadline for accepting.
Follow Up on Outstanding Issues: Ask about benefits, vacation time, and so on. If the compensation or PTO is less than you’d hoped, consider negotiating.
Avoid Saying the Wrong Things: Hiring managers are sensitive to rejection just like everyone else. Be polite.