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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

October 16, 2016

How long is it acceptable to keep an employer waiting after receiving a job offer? I’m interviewing for a few other positions and want extra time to play those out before I decide.

Julie Q. Brush

Timing the job interview process with multiple opportunities can be tricky. But even when a candidate has managed it to a tee, timing can be off and s/he may be faced with some tough career decisions and predicaments. In many ways, your problem is a good one to have: you have one job offer and several other opportunities in the hopper. But the stress of playing catch-up is not ideal.

So how should you deal with preserving your current offer for as long as possible and how long is acceptable?

Before my advice, a quick note: How you behave in the offer phase of an interview process is just as important as how you behave in the beginning. So how you handle yourself with this issue…at this juncture…will be important to maintaining your reputation and the goodwill you have earned to date.

Historically, employers provided one week for a candidate to assess their job offer and determine whether to accept it or walk away. But today, this reflection period is more varied and can range from a couple of days to an open end. The “acceptable” duration in your situation will depend on how transparent you have been with this employer about your other interviews – and whether expectations are appropriately managed.

If you have been upfront before receiving your offer, it will come as little surprise if/when you request additional time to hold your offer. And when you do, you’ll likely get it. But the employer will only grant an additional 3-7 days…max. When asking for more time, let the below example serves as your guide on what to say:

  • “Rob, I’m very excited about the offer to join Company/Law Firm XYZ and it’s been great getting to know everyone. I think this could be a great fit. As you know, I’ve been interviewing for a few other positions and I would like to provide those employers with the professional courtesy of completing the process I started. So I’d like to request an additional week to keep the offer open. I think that’s a reasonable amount of time and I will inform those companies/firms of my offer as well as my need to complete their process by the deadline. If that cannot be accomplished, I will comfortable leaving them behind. Let me know if there is flexibility on your end to accommodate this timing.”

If you have not disclosed your parallel interviewing activities, you won’t receive much if any sympathy or willingness to accommodate your request. In fact, the employer will likely be irked that this new information is just coming to light at the very end of the process. So in this situation the best you can hope for is a total of one week, which is entirely reasonable. You certainly can ask for more time, but the odds are low that you’ll get it. Once you know your window, you’ll have the information you need to manage the remainder of your process.

Best of luck!

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