How can I briefly stall on an offer? I'm working with recruiters.
July 25, 2019 10:25 PM   Subscribe

I may have a choice to make between two different job offers and I need advice as to how long I can stall one of the two recruiters. I'm pretty sure that I'm not being assertive enough. What do I need to say?

I was contacted the 18th by a recruiter who had an open corp job that seemed like it would be a good fit. She sent them my resume that day and a couple of hours later called to say they wanted to skip the customary first phone screen and bring me in in person. They said I was the "frontrunner" for the role.

My interview was the 23rd and the recruiter emailed me a couple of hours after I got home and extended their offer. Compensation + benefits are comfortable.

The recruiter for the other job contacted me first on the 23rd. I had a 20-minute phone call with the hiring manager on the 24th and again they brought me in right away: today, the 25th. I loved them! The role ticks all the boxes of things I want. I decided that if there was an offer and the comp + bennies were close enough that I want that job.

I kept both recruiters in the loop about what was happening.

I feel fairly comfortable that the cool company will extend an offer and the c+b will be fine, but the recruiter is camping this weekend and said she'd touch base when she had service. I really want to find out if the cool job will extend an offer so I can make a decision.

Meanwhile, the recruiter for the corp job texted me and said the corp needs an answer tomorrow - Friday.

What happens if I push back until Monday or even Tuesday? If cool-job-recruiter doesn't get in touch with cool-job employer and I don't hear from her until Monday, what are the chances I'd jeopardize the corp job offer?

It's all happened so quickly and I'm overwhelmed. It's a big decision to make in two days and I'd at least like to have the weekend. Plus I really want to have the time to find out if the cool company will extend an offer which I should know by Monday.

Both roles have their pros and cons but overall I think I'd be happy in either one.

I've been unemployed for eight months now so I'm stressed about losing a good, stable offer while I wait an extra day for another offer that I'm pretty sure will materialize.
posted by bendy to Work & Money (18 answers total)
Any reason why you won’t just accept the offer, the paperwork will come through and you read that over the weekend. If there is a problem with that, or if you are offered the other job on terms that work for you, you regrettably have to withdraw from the first application process after all. You are allowed to change your mind.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:02 PM on July 25, 2019 [3 favorites]

Strongly disagree with the above. Don’t accept the offer with the corporation if you’re still waiting to hear from cool job and if you’re sure you’d take that job over corp job. That is acting in bad faith and could really burn bridges. I’d tell corp job that you are very excited by the offer and will need the weekend to think it over. Or can always says, “talk it over with my family,” even if that’s not true.

The corp job recruiter is probably being a bit dramatic and a decision can wait until a Monday—it’s not like they’re going to be interviewing new people over the weekend if you say no. And if you get serious pushback, consider if you're dodging a bullet with a company that has some sketch/pressured hiring practices.
posted by whitewall at 11:48 PM on July 25, 2019 [27 favorites]

I normally wouldn’t be in the "accept it and change your mind later if necessary" camp but after eight months of unemployment I can totally see an overabundance of caution.

The only potential downside is that if you do back out on the hiring agreement it may close the door with corp permanently, which might be regrettable if cool company doesn’t work out.

Given that it’s an outside recruiter for corp and she likely isn’t getting paid if you don’t end up working for them I would guess that she is feeling a lot more urgency than corp is. My feeling is that you could very reasonably say that you won’t have an answer until Monday if you wanted to. But as I say, I definitely understand the urge to just nail something down.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:20 AM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

corp may be pressuring you because unemployment is at historic lows and they know potential employees may have options. Employment in the US is 'at will' (with exceptions), meaning they can terminate employees without reason. Turnabout is fair play. If the better job offer comes through, notify corp you have buyers remorse. You feel it's in the best interests of both corp and you not to take the job. If they or the recruiter asks why, your only answer is "It's personal".
posted by Homer42 at 2:38 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Definitely you should not accept the offer if you think there's a good chance you will later decline it--this will cause Company A to tell the other candidates in their pipeline "sorry, the position's been filled," and they will be very cross with you. For reference, I've been part of the hiring process for two candidates who did exactly this over the course of my career, and I can still tell you both of their names and would never consider hiring either of them again.

You can definitely postpone a decision until Monday. As whitewall said above, if they tell you "we're rescinding the offer Friday at 5," then you have just learned that they are not a company you want to work for in the first place.
posted by Mayor West at 5:25 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

So I wanted to add a bit of color to the "accept it and change your mind later" idea.

It is absolutely, 100% legal and ethical to change your mind about accepting a job at any point in the US as we are an at will environment. If they can fire you at any point for any reason, and cancel your job after you accept it but before you start, you can do the same without legal repercussions.

However, doing so marks you as unreliable and puts you on two related lists. First, assuming the company you bailed on is more than a few people, you will be added to a no-hire list for the company you did this to; this means that HR would filter your resume out before it got to hiring managers and you would not be eligible for any positions of any kind in the company. Second, you would be on a similar list kept in the head of everyone who was involved in your interview process. When your resume comes up, even if they are at a different company, they will just page past it, and if your name comes up in a discussion with their peers they will most likely tell of the time you didn't bother to show up for a job you accepted.

The second list should be scarier than the first, because in professional circles the world is fairly small and you will run into the same people, often in different roles, repeatedly in your career. I have a list like this; it is not long but it has in fact kept someone who would have otherwise been a candidate for a job from being considered. Getting on someone's personal no-hire list is not guaranteed to affect your career, but it might. Be careful doing it.
posted by doomsey at 5:37 AM on July 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

The job who is demanding an answer NOW is sending up huge red flags for me!! Any company who is fast-tracking someone in the course of 3 days (and will probably want you to start on Monday) is a company, in my mind, that doesn't have their shit together. Why are they so desperate for an answer to an offer they gave you... last night?? Places like that tend to have work cultures that are the same -- everything is an emergency, must be done RTFN, and there is no forethought or planning for the future. The "cool" job, OTOH, is being quick but not "we need a body in this chair" quick, which at minimum tells me they are more prepared and planning ahead as a company.
posted by DoubleLune at 5:58 AM on July 26, 2019 [12 favorites]

Why are they so desperate for an answer to an offer they gave you... last night??

This. It's like when a person says they love you on the second date. Why are they so eager to lock this down? I am always leery when a job wants to hire you on the spot. In many cases this means there is a lot of turnover, and they will hire anyone vaguely qualified just to get a body in the door. I mean, it's possible that they've simply never seen a more perfect candidate for this position than you, but if that were the case, I would think they could wait a couple of days for your answer.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 6:15 AM on July 26, 2019 [6 favorites]

Does the recruiter for the offered job work for the company? I'm guessing if not, there may be competition from other, outside recruiters who have candidates they'll try to push because you're taking the time to think over an offer. So if you feel you need the weekend to think things over, then definitely take the weekend. If the company is willing to give their job to another candidate for a one-day waiting period, there may be some red flags you may not know about the position, I'd think.
posted by xingcat at 6:40 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Any company that won't wait until Monday for an answer might be a bad company with poor boundaries. It's unreasonable. That isn't to say that you should not work for them, but it would make me less excited to work for them.

However, I doubt it's the company. My guess - say, 80% chance - is the company is willing to wait but the recruiter is trying to lock you in for the commission. High-pressure tactics from a recruiter are incredibly common, at least in my industry. Sadly my interactions with recruiters are always a mix of cooperative and adversarial. So bear in mind that they don't necessarily have your best interests in mind.

I personally would reply to the recruiter that I can't give an answer today, and I will reply to them next week. I would give no details and if they start hassling you I would ignore everything they send. This is a calculated risk I would take. There's very good chance that the pressure is coming from the recruiter, not from the company, and even if the pressure is coming from the company there's a very good chance that they won't rescind the offer just because they had to wait over the weekend. Not that I can possibly know but I'd say there's a 5% chance this causes the offer to go away - it exists, but very unlikely.

The only thing that gives me pause is you've been unemployed for 8 months. So unfortunately it's hard to weigh the risks. But this is your decision, not the recruiter's decision or the company's decision, and I wouldn't let them make it for me.
posted by Tehhund at 6:57 AM on July 26, 2019 [8 favorites]

Is there anything else you could conceivably need to discuss? Once, at about this stage in the process, my due diligence (talking to others who had worked there) turned up some concern that I had to discuss with them. Scheduling a call could easily take until Monday. Working with recruiters could change this dynamic though.

In general, I think it's completely reasonable to need the weekend to think it over / talk it over with your family. I'd just let them know that that's what you need in a way that's 80 percent telling them and 20 percent asking permission.
posted by salvia at 7:29 AM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

On practical term, I would ask the Corporate Job Recruiter to send the paperwork over. Then you'll be in the process of reviewing, or starting to review it over the weekend at least.
posted by zeikka at 7:36 AM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

"I'll get back to you by Tuesday." Be firm.

If they want to pressure you into deciding right now, then they can reap what they sow when you accept the job and turn it down on Tuesday. That is completely fair and ethical to do. It does burn a bridge, but it's not bad beyond that. I would try to avoid doing it, but if they give you an ultimatum, go ahead and do it.
posted by so fucking future at 8:15 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Congratulations on getting an offer!

My take, based on what I read, is that there's a external recruiter who connected you with the first job. It's likely that the recruiter is looking to lock you in so that they can get paid. Every day that you stall is a day that they could lose the sale, so to speak.

But, you need to do what's best for you. If you have an offer letter, then tell them that you need to review it. If you have a lawyer that you're comfortable with, you might want them to review it as well.

If you don't have a letter, then there's no actual offer being extended. Make this clear - you can't accept until you receive a binding offer letter. Even if you do accept, if they don't have your acceptance in writing, then they don't have it. That rule works both ways.

Feel free to be creative in coming up with reasons that they have to wait, which aren't really challengeable.

Good luck!
posted by Citrus at 8:18 AM on July 26, 2019 [3 favorites]

Recruiters have no leverage in this situation and this is how they try to invent it. You can easily push for that kind of time. It's not a red flag until you're dragging out for > a week with no explanation. They want an answer because if you get another offer they have even less leverage. You can just say "I need time" on this time scale with no problem.

The only risk is that there is a materially identical candidate waiting in the wings who is also carrying a competing offer that they want to decide on. I've never seen this in four years of hiring but it's the only thing that gives the hiring team leverage in this moment. In every case I've seen the hiring manager has said "I want this person, please do what you need to do to get them in" and if the recruiter screws that up they're in big trouble.
posted by heresiarch at 10:39 AM on July 26, 2019 [4 favorites]

"I'll get back to you by Tuesday." Be firm.

This is the right answer. If the first company doesn't have the patience to wait another two business days to get the best person, they're delusional. You have all of the leverage here, and two days doesn't matter *at all* in the long timelines of employment.

I would also add that you should let the second company know that you have a Monday deadline, you have pushed back hard on another opportunity to make room for them to bid, and they need to put up or shut up ASAP. Congratulations!
posted by bbuda at 11:00 AM on July 26, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thank you all for your responses and perspectives. The corp-job recruiter is indeed an external recruiter and the points about there being competition are valid - I received the same job description from eight other recruiters this week.

I hadn't thought about the fact that the deadline pressure is probably coming from the recruiter herself.

However, doing so marks you as unreliable and puts you on two related lists.


If the first company doesn't have the patience to wait another two business days to get the best person, they're delusional.

It's like when a person says they love you on the second date.


Cool-job recruiter emailed and said that cool-employer planned to make a decision by noon today. She's still in and out of wifi range so I haven't heard yet but apparently, I'll be able to meet corp-recruiter's arbitrary(!) 5:00 pm deadline. I haven't responded at all today to corp-recruiter, evil me would ignore her all weekend too.

Thanks again for all your answers and talking me down from my panic tree. I'm really excited to be working again, mama needs a new pair of shoes.
posted by bendy at 3:21 PM on July 26, 2019 [1 favorite]

Final update: cool job extended their offer to the other candidate. Off to corp world I go!
posted by bendy at 3:38 PM on July 26, 2019 [9 favorites]

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