The HR Director was irritated. “I told the candidate he could have a week to decide about our job offer,” she complained, “But the department really wants his answer sooner.” This candidate had first interviewed almost three months earlier, so after all that time, the Director felt like she was not in a position to deny the candidate some time to think it over.  Although I never recommend giving more than 2 days to decide on an offer, the real issue here is that the HR Director did not ask for what she really wanted (a fast decision) so she was left in limbo.

But not asking for what you want applies to both employers and candidates at every stage in the interview process. To make a nice first impression, people often indicate maximum flexibility at the beginning of the process:

  • Candidates indicate they would consider a much lower salary than they really want.
  • Employers indicate they have far more upward mobility, or workplace flexibility than they really want to offer.

Everyone plays nice at the outset. The courtship phase of recruiting is all good feelings about a mythical future with lots of bright possibility. But then as the hazy distant future comes into focus … things change. And when a job offer hits the table, reality comes right along with it, and everyone’s perspective instantly shifts. That sought-after candidate could take a week to schedule an interview, but once the job offer was on the table, well then, that employee was making his new boss wait a week for an answer … unconscionable.

I recommend you pause before you run from the warm sauna-like haze of the recruiting process and plunge into the ice cold water of job offer reality.

Once an offer is made:

  • The hiring manager thinks, “This hiring process has taken far too long. Now I’m behind on my work. I need that employee to get here soon and hit the ground running!”
  • The candidate/employee thinks, “Oh geez, this is real, now I have to decide. What have I gotten myself into? Is this job really any better than my current job? And, ugggghhh, now I have to give notice to my current job–and the thought of that makes me really uncomfortable.”

So before you make a job offer, before everything changes, while you are still in the warm sauna of the recruiting phase …. hit the pause button. Check in with your candidate. Have a conversation about your expectations, and theirs. “Hey Sally, we are seriously considering making you a job offer and wanted to check in with you on that. I know we initially discussed (whatever), are you still thinking along those lines?” And “Have you thought about what your current employer might do? Are you expecting a counter-offer? How do you plan to handle that?”

Just dip a toe in that water before you plunge in.


For more perspective on making job offers, How to Make a Job Offer and Negotiate Salary for a New Hire.