What to do when you’re offered a job and you need more time to decide

Take some time to think. Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr

• Job offers can seriously complicate your life.

• Sometimes, you need more time to mull the opportunity over.

• But, at the same time, you don’t want to burn bridges by leaving the hiring manager hanging.

• Here are some tips on how to postpone accepting a job offer like a professional.

How can you delay accepting a job offer without burning bridges?

Landing a job offer is usually good news, but it can prove to be just as stressful as the process of searching for a new gig. Sometimes, it’s simply not immediately clear whether or not you should accept the opportunity. In those cases, it’s always better to take some time to think things over.

But what’s the best way of doing this without seriously ticking off the hiring manager?

“You’ve finally received that long-awaited job offer, but don’t want to jump at the opportunity – nor do you want to seem uninterested,” Lynn Taylor, a national workplace expert and the author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behaviour and Thrive in Your Job,” told Business Insider.

It’s quite a conundrum. So how do you politely stall to ultimately get what you want?

“It’s not uncommon for employers to ask for a response within 24 hours, but that doesn’t mean you must comply,” Taylor explained. “The company may try to push you to make a decision in a short period of time, but a little pushback is often expected, as daunting as that might seem with a prospective employer.”

She said even if you plan to take some time with your decision, you should always acknowledge the job offer promptly. “A general rule of thumb is that you can take two to three days for your final response,” she said. “If the employer is vague about the requested response time, you may have up to a week, but a lot depends on the circumstances.”

Most employers understand that you need time to think over the opportunity and that it’s an important decision. If they don’t and use hardball tactics, that should be a red flag.

Here are some steps to follow to help you bide time, but stay in the game:

Show excitement and gratitude


You can be enthusiastic and gracious without giving an immediate response, Taylor said. “Let them know that you’re very appreciative of the offer, but would like a little time to make an informed decision.”

Understand the whole picture


Are there remaining questions you must ask that will help tie up any loose ends? Have all compensation factors been addressed beyond salary, such as bonuses, medical, dental and vision coverage, vacation time, frequency of reviews, 401(k) plans, stock, a company phone, car, personal time off, training, education, and other perks? Have you evaluated the culture and things like your expected hours and commute time?

By asking for more time, you have created room to get more clarification, she explains.

Plus, asking questions is a good way to stall for time.

Ask for a specific amount of time


Give a specific date: “I greatly appreciate this offer and I’m really excited about working with your company. I wonder if I could have until Wednesday to get back to you on this opportunity.”

“Stay true to your deadline, or risk the offer being withdrawn,” said Taylor.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate


Nobody wants to jeopardize a hard-won job offer at the last minute. But would you even want to work for an employer that would rescind an opportunity because you asked for a little time?

“Remember that you are interviewing the company, too, and now is the time to get it right,” said Taylor.

Strategize with any other offers


If you have another offer pending, and the second job offer – let’s call it job “B” – is the preferred one, you’re best served to put some diplomatic pressure on job B. “You want to let job B know upfront that you have another offer,” Taylor advised. “This is always better than accepting the first job, and then quitting once job B comes through.”

Also, if you’re asked whether you have job offers by job A, be honest – but don’t feel compelled to give details.

Don’t burn bridges


No matter how you handle your pitch for more time, do it professionally, suggested Taylor. “The business world, your industry, and market are all small. Your hiring manager can likely reappear in your career, so put your best foot forward, especially when you refuse a position.”

Formally accept or turn down the job


Never leave the employer hanging or assume they know you’re going to accept, since you once casually told the hiring manager you would take the job if you were to get it.

“When you’ve made your final decision, do it verbally, but make sure it’s in writing,” said Taylor. “You will likely be asked to sign an acceptance letter, but if you refuse the job, you should also follow up with a gracious email.”

Jacquelyn Smith wrote a previous version of this article.