Offer Response Time - Candidate FAQ

by Jon Lewis

This article addresses some frequently asked questions from candidates relating to how much time they can/should take before responding to an offer.

  1. “I just received an offer I’m really excited about. How long should I wait before accepting so as not to appear over-anxious?” You’d likely be surprised at how often I’ve been asked this question. While obviously a nice problem to have, over the years I have had many candidates express genuine concern about whether they might be accepting an offer too quickly. My typical advice in such situations is for the candidate to relax, take a deep breath, and then move ahead. In the abstract, there really is no such thing as “too soon” to accept an offer that is very attractive. While candidates understandably might not want to accept “on the spot” for fear that there is some issue or question they haven’t yet thought of, if an offer still seems terrific after sleeping on it overnight it’s usually fine to go ahead and say “yes” the next day. In fact, doing so demonstrates enthusiasm to the new employer and can thereby help get the relationship off on the right foot.
  2. “My offer has a deadline of X, but I won’t be able to decide by then. What is the best way to go about getting an extension?” Candidates thinking of requesting an extension of time to respond to an offer need to honestly ask themselves if that is something they really do need, as opposed to merely a way to delay a necessary decision. “I need more time” is never what a potential employer wants to hear in response to an offer, and candidates should think about whether anything is really likely to change if their decision is just kicked down the road for a week or so. Of course, sometimes the answer to that question really is “yes,” as in those cases where a candidate has been interviewing for multiple positions and needs some additional time to find out if they will also be getting an offer from another employer before deciding about one they have already received. In such circumstances it is typically fine to request an extension, subject to the following caveats:
    • Don’t wait until the day of the original deadline to ask for the extension.  Waiting until the last second can create the impression that the candidate is just stringing the employer along, and it is therefore better to make such a request sooner.
    • Be reasonable in terms of how much additional time you request, and forthright as to the reason why you are requesting it.
    • While requests for extensions are fairly common and often granted, it is important to understand that in some instances the potential employer really may not be in a position to accommodate such a request. For example, if a law firm has an immediate need for an attorney with a certain skill set and has also been interviewing other attractive candidates they may reasonably feel they cannot grant any extensions without jeopardizing their chances of landing a different candidate who is more interested and thereby risk winding up with no one.
  3. “I received an offer with no specific deadline. How long can I take to answer?” It is not unusual for potential employers to extend an offer that does not have a set expiration date. In such instances a candidate need not feel the need to affirmatively ask for a deadline. It is extremely rare for an employer making an open-ended offer to subsequently pull that offer based on the candidate’s delay in responding without first going back to the candidate to ask for an answer. That said, an offer without a deadline is not an offer in perpetuity and should not be regarded as such. In the absence of anything to the contrary, it is safe to assume that the employer would like to hear back from the candidate within a week or two of extending the offer. If a candidate is going to need more time than that it is usually best to reach out to the employer to let them know and explain why. Offers without a deadline may seem less pressured, but candidates receiving such offers should still be sure to keep the channels of communication open
  4. “I want to negotiate to try to get a better deal. When should I do that?” As soon as possible. Waiting until close to the deadline to begin negotiating for better terms is generally not a good approach. Neither is going back to the employer piecemeal with a series of different requests over a period of time.  Instead, candidates are more likely to get the result they want if they put all of their “asks” on the table as soon as they can, and let it be known that they are ready to accept if those terms are agreed to. Doing so obviously does not guarantee success, but does increase the likelihood that the candidate can get whatever concessions might actually be available.