How to Stall a Job Offer

What to Do When Your First Job Offer Isn’t Your First Choice

You’re in the process of interviewing for jobs at several different places, and you haven’t received an offer from your top choice. You have, however,  received one from another company, which leaves you wondering how to stall a job offer without jeopardizing your chances. It is definitely a challenge to balance a sure thing against the uncertain possibility of working at your dream job. But if you handle it with finesse, there is usually a way to stall a job offer without damaging your reputation or the opportunity. 

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This is a nice problem to have, but it’s still a problem. Your next move will depend on many different factors, such as how badly you need a job and how strong your chances are of receiving an offer from the other company. Here are some tips on how to delay a job offer without burning any bridges.

How to Delay a Job Offer While Waiting for Another

Show Gratitude

Share your appreciation for the time and resources they have spent on you.

Make it clear that you’re appreciative of the job offer. If it seems you’re balking or lukewarm, they’ll start to reconsider and feel less charitable about giving you extra time. Say something like, “I’m very excited about the offer, but need a little time to make an informed decision.” Give them a specific date by which you’ll respond (if you can, find out the timing from the offer you’re waiting on) but always be cognizant of their time restraints.

Figure Out What’s Missing

Assess why you don’t want this role and what might make it more desirable.

If this were your dream job, you’d have probably said, “yes” right away. Clearly, there are some things about the job that are missing. Identify those missing elements and determine if they’re non-negotiable. Is it possible to add them to the current offer? Are they even realistic?

Think about whether there are unanswered questions that could help you decide. Consider all the components that make up the job offer: salary, hours, job responsibilities, the potential for career advancement, benefits. Don’t forget the quality-of-life questions such as flexibility, workplace culture, commute times, etc. Getting clarification on the details will not only make it easier to decide, but it can also buy you some time.

Be Honest

Tell them you want to make sure you have a full sense of your options.

In a previous blog post on negotiating job offers, we pointed out that being in this position could actually be a benefit. The employer might ask your reasons for needing to push your decision. There’s nothing that says you need to only consider one company at a time, and it is a completely legitimate excuse to say that you are still meeting with other companies. But the way you deliver your answer can greatly influence the outcome.

Do not make it seem like the employer is your fallback choice, even if they are. Let them know that you’re in the midst of a process that you need to see through and want to carefully examine and compare all offers before making a decision.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that a company will give you all the time you need. Your responsibility is to try to expedite things by scheduling interviews as close together as possible and understanding the pros and cons of each company before you get an offer. If you’re gracious and diplomatic, it might work in your favor by making you seem like a more desirable candidate.

Be Proactive

Do what you can to move your top choice along.

Sometimes you can use multiple offers to your advantage, especially when a little gentle, diplomatic pressure is required. If you want to work for Company A, but Company B has already made an offer, you can use this to your advantage. Tell your top choice that Company B needs an answer from you, but you’d much prefer to work for them. Ask if there is anything you can do to help speed up the process. If they say “no,” it’s possible that you weren’t a legitimate contender to begin with.

Don’t Lead Anyone On

Be upfront about your intentions and make room for other candidates.

Always be respectful of a company’s time and consideration. Don’t leave them on the hook if you really can’t picture yourself working there. Unless you’re in dire straits financially, your reason for accepting an offer should not be, “because nothing else better came along.” When you do decide, always tell them verbally, as well as in written form. Treat them with the same courtesy that you’d hope to receive from them.

Make Your Decision with Confidence

Now you know how to stall a job offer when waiting for other opportunities, without frustrating the company that presented the initial offer. At some point, you will need to make a choice, but giving yourself a bit more time can help you make a truly educated and informed decision. It is also a benefit to the company—just as you don’t want to work for a company that’s not a good fit, a company doesn’t want to hire someone that isn’t all in. Whatever you decide, do so with grace, confidence, and your head held high.

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