Upfront disclaimer: This isn’t a post about negotiating a job offer’s details (like compensation, etc). This is just about negotiating (ie extending) an offer’s deadline.
Most job offers come with a deadline attached. If you’re interviewing with multiple companies, these deadlines can be a bit stressful. Ideally, you want enough time to collect job offers, think them through, and negotiate their terms as well. But often, you end up receiving an offer with a d deadline and wishing you had more time.
As a candidate, you’re at a bit of a disadvantage. Chances are, the person giving you the offer (a recruiter or hiring manager) has done this many more times than you. This post will give you some tips on how to navigate that asymmetry from someone (me) who has both written a book on hiring and probably extended over a hundred offers.
First, it’s good to understand why job offers have deadlines. There can be many reasons:
- They need to hire ASAP. Hiring takes time, and often by the time you’re getting an offer, the role you’re joining for has been an active need for weeks or months.
- As a pressuring tactic to get you to prematurely accept their offer. As a hiring manager or recruiter, if I give you an offer and you don’t accept it yet, chances are you’re waiting for something “better”. In order to preempt that, I can put you in a position where you either accept my offer, or risk not getting better offers in the future. This is actually a poor tactic because pressuring someone to accept an offer that isn’t the best fit for them out of fear is probably a poor outcome, but it’s often used by hiring mangers or recruiters with short-term incentives (ie they get paid per placement, or have a hiring target they have to hit, etc).
- As a negotiating tactic. The longer you wait, the more offers you might get, which might leave you in a position to negotiate a higher offer overall. Again, this probably isn’t a great tactic (a company’s goal when hiring shouldn’t be to nickel-and-dime each candidate), but it is often considered. Recruiters can be especially nervous about “offer collectors” who are just wasting their time but unlikely to accept the offer.
- To “avoid losing momentum”. This might sound silly, but any person who has hired candidates (or worked in a sales role) knows that the longer things drag on, the less likely an offer is to be accepted. That visceral feeling of excitement of a new job (and the package that comes with it) will naturally fade, and so the “first offer on the table” loses advantage as time passes.
- Other candidates and limited head-count. This is probably the most valid reason for offer deadlines. A hiring manager or recruiter may have a limited number of people they can hire for a role (sometimes just one), and if they’ve done their job well, several candidates in process. If you’re the top choice, but aren’t going to join, they want to know as early as possible so that they don’t lose out on other candidates. If you are going to join, they also probably don’t want to drag things along with other candidates only to let them down.
Now, depending on the company you’re talking to and the person you’re talking to, your offer deadline may be due to one or a mix of the above reasons, and thus, companies may or may not have flexibility. It’s also worth pointing out that some of the reasons are more valid than others. In fact, some are purely artificially-created urgency that will disadvantage you and lead to poor outcomes for both parties, and unfortunately, there are a lot of dishonest and/or short-sighted recruiters and hiring managers out there.
So how can you get your offer deadline extended? Here are some tips:
- Line up your interview timelines as much as possible. You often have some flexibility in when you schedule interviews, and you should be able to get an idea from each company on how long their offer timeline is, so try to line everything up so that you will be roughly getting offers all within the same week.
- Ask early. The worst thing you can do is ask for an extension the day of your deadline (actually, the worst is surfacing a day or two after your deadline to ask for an extension). It signals lack of seriousness or conscientiousness. So ask early. If you forecast that you will need more time, ask for it as early as you can. Some recruiters might then delay their timeline and hold back their offers a little longer, but that’s fine—you want your offers arriving close anyway.
- Be reasonable. Most of the time, asking for a few extra days should be fine. In fact, for most of the valid reasons listed above for offer deadlines, I’d say a day or two (or even a week) should always be negotiable. As a hiring manager, I’d rather wait a couple days to get someone who’s really committed and excited to join, even if it sets my team back a couple days. If I have other candidates, I can probably maneuver a day or two (though sometimes, I might have another candidate with a hard deadline that I want to be fair to).
- Ask why there is urgency. Try to find out whether the urgency is real or artificial. As mentioned, if someone isn’t even open to giving you an extra day or two to make the right decision, and can’t give you a good reason, you should question their intentions. A reason like “this is our policy” should make you question whether you want to join a company with arbitrary policies in the first place.
- Do some research. If you know people who work there or interviewed there, ask them. What timeline did they have to make a decision? Is the company working with limited headcount to fill, or can they hire as much as they need? Is the role super urgent?
- Show seriousness. For instance, offer to hop on a quick call to explain your timeline. This shows that you are serious about the offer, but still committed to your own timeline, and will allay any fears on their side that you’re just “collecting offers”.
- Be transparent (but not revealing). Explain why you need more time. This is a big decision for you, and there are multiple variables. You want to accept an offer without any doubt in your mind, and you’re looking for a long-term commitment. This will help build trust (especially if the person hiring you is a hiring manager you might report to). That said, do not reveal any information that be used against you. Don’t give out, for instance, the names of the other companies you’re talking to or compensation you are offered from other companies.
- Ask for more conversations. This might seem like a stalling tactic, and so you should only do it if you genuinely have questions where answers can help you make a better decision (a good recruiter will see right through you otherwise). But if you have questions about the product vision, ask to speak to a product manager or executive. Questions about culture or day-to-day work, ask to speak to someone who might be your future colleague. Be honest and don’t waste people’s time.
Ultimately, the industry will work better if we all have as much information and time to make the right decisions. Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a premature decision, but also, be respectful of others’ time and priorities. Hope this helps!