Your Career Q&A: How to Ask for Time to Consider a Job Offer

By Martin Yate Dec 27, 2016
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​Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR. Contact him at the e-mail address at the end of this column.  

I had a job offer from the first company I interviewed with. Frankly, I was shocked and asked for a week to consider; then when I called them at the end of the week, they told me they'd rescinded the offer and given it to someone else. What went wrong here?

Anonymous 

When an offer is made, the managers have publicly put themselves on the line by telling their peers and higher-ups they think you are the best candidate for the job. Plus, they want to fill the position and get back to work. Telling the bosses who offered you the job that you needed a week to think about it left them in limbo. Your lack of communication was probably seen as a lack of enthusiasm, and this may have led them to believe you were going to turn them down. And, of course, you're not the only fish in the pond. Trying to avoid a rejection, they likely weighed the pros and cons and made the decision to go with their second choice. 

All job searches are highly competitive, and many hiring decisions are made between two closely matched candidates. If they made the offer to you and got a "maybe," and meanwhile had an almost equally qualified candidate in the wings who really wanted the job, it's not hard to see why they might have had a change of mind, mainly because your response gave them nothing positive to anticipate. 

Staying in touch with the hiring managers while you make your decision is key. While you may have really needed time to decide, it is better to ask for just a couple of days. Then on day two, if you still have questions, ask them. It is usually easy enough to stretch it through the weekend without causing alarm, as long as you stay enthusiastically in touch. There are a hundred questions you can ask of HR about benefits. Or you can ask to meet with the team you would be working with, or say, "I need to talk to my father (or your pastor or your spouse)." You need to show them you are actively engaged. 

Whatever timeline you give—having stretched it as you need, and having kept the lines of communication open—accept or reject as soon as you have reached your decision. Accept enthusiastically or reject graciously and professionally, because you'll invariably run into each other again and you want those doors to remain open for future possibilities. 

Don't beat yourself up about this bump in the road. It has been a valuable learning experience. Focus on having received an offer, and go on with your job search with confidence that you were able to turn a job interview into a job offer so quickly—it's a critical skill that many never truly master. 

Have a question for Martin? E-mail your queries to YourCareerQA@shrm.org. We'll only publish your first name and city, unless you prefer to remain anonymous—just let us know. We look forward to hearing from you!

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