When a job offer finally comes after a diligent and perhaps lengthy job search, you might be tempted to respond with an immediate "yes." Whether you're holding out for the perfect job or want to ensure you're making a wise choice, you might want additional time to review the job offer and your options. Before you take too much time to reply, though, find out how soon the company wants a response to its offer of employment.
Federal and state employment laws don't govern the length of time within which a candidate has to respond to a job offer or how much time the company has to provide the candidate to consider a job offer. Business practices vary widely regarding hiring processes. A lengthy interview process doesn't mean the company will wait very long for a response to its job offer. Likewise, an expedient interview and hiring process doesn't mean the time within which you have to respond is short. It depends on the business and its hiring practices. Also, best practices vary according to industry, size and staffing needs.
During your interview, if you asked how soon the company wanted to fill the position and the hiring manager said, "Immediately" or "As soon as we can," chances are the company wants an answer fairly soon. How soon depends on when you receive the job offer. If you receive the job offer on a Thursday or Friday of a normal business week, you might have until Monday to weigh your options and get back to the company with an answer.
For some employers and for a noncritical position, it's not unusual to request an answer within 48 to 72 hours, or two to three business days. At first glance, that might not seem like a long time, especially given the candidate's decision will affect her livelihood and her lifestyle. On the other hand, when an organization knows its job offer is among others the candidate might receive, it can swing either way in providing more or less time for the candidate to respond to its offer.
The best way to know how long you have to answer the job offer is to ask about the company's deadline. Inquire about its staffing needs and judge from the answer how much time you should ask. Ask the recruiter or hiring manager who extended the offer. This can be done via phone, email or, if you received a verbal offer at the of your interview, in person. If you want more time to consider the offer because you're anticipating an offer from another company, it's your choice whether to disclose why you want an extension. Be mindful of the consequences that disclosure poses because an organization can withdraw an offer just as easily as it can extend one.
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