Job Offer Response: Asking For More Time to Respond

Q.  I graduate next month and had my first internship interview with a great agency this week. I was surprised to get a call 24 hours later with an offer to start work the day after I graduate. I have two other interviews pending, but not yet scheduled. I need a job ASAP, but I’d like to play out the other possibilities before saying yes to the first offer. How much time can I get before accepting or turning down the first offer?  

A.  Most job offers – written or verbal – specify a desired response time, which usually is three to five days. If that’s the case, you’re facing a “yes” or “no” answer with the first opportunity before knowing if you are going to be considered by the other firms. In other words, you need to make a decision now.

Here are a few steps I’d suggest taking to ensure everyone feels good about whatever decision you make:

Thank You!

If the job offer is verbal, be enthusiastic in your response. Say thanks for the offer, noting it’s exactly the type of organization you always imagined joining. Uncertainty in your initial response sends the wrong signal that can make them wonder if you were the right choice. Same enthusiasm should be expressed in response to a written offer. And don’t wait to reply. Delayed follow up sends the wrong message of equivocation.

How Much Time for Decision?

If the offer doesn’t specify expected response time, it is important to ask when they would like a decision. If you know this is exactly the job you want, don’t wait – say yes. A prompt response sends a positive message about their wise decision to hire you. Most organizations will request a response within a few days. Unless you have some inside information about the other opportunities, it is highly unlikely you can speed up their decision-making process at the other agencies.

Need More Time?

If you are uncertain about the opportunity, request an extension. But only do this if you are sincerely struggling with a decision and need to think through pros and cons. It is critically important to keep this response positive – don’t raise any red flags. Example:

Thank you for this great opportunity. I am both surprised and pleased with your quick offer and know that I would love working with your agency. If possible, could you give me a few days to think about the offer in its entirety?”

Almost always, they’ll say fine. But it it is unlikely they’ll wait more than a few extra days. The fact you got this offer so quickly likely means they have an immediate staffing situation to fill.

Roll the Dice

Since the current job market is booming, you can bet on your likelihood of landing an opportunity with one of the other agencies. But you mentioned needing a job right away, so that’s a big gamble. When in doubt, follow your gut. . .or flip a coin. Just don’t play games that potentially burn a bridge with the firm that made you the first offer.

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