Offer Deadline for Software Engineer Job

Phil Hurd is a leading software technology recruiter in BostonOne of my responsibilities as a recruiter is helping negotiate an offer package acceptable to everyone. A key element is the deadline by which the company expects an answer.

How long do you typically get to decide? Is it ever acceptable to ask for more time? Since every company is different, are there any general rules?

You should reasonably expect to get about two or three days to decide, and not much longer. You can always ask for more time, but that’s about average from software companies these days. If you ask for more time, be careful you don’t create an impression that you’re not interested, or that the company is merely a runner-up for you.

In general, bigger companies usually allow more time than small ones and startups. A big company might let candidates have a few days on up to the better part of a week to decide. Sometimes, even a little bit more. Two weeks is rare, but can occur, especially if the company has multiple similar openings. On the other hand, I’ve seen lots of times where big companies want a quick decision.

A small startup filling a single job might want a decision made overnight. Especially true if they’ve got a good backup candidate available that they’re worried might take a different job. I’ve even seen a few companies present an offer during the onsite interview, and want an answer from the candidate on the spot.

Don’t take a job just because you’re getting pressured, either by the company, or by a recruiter. If you’re being given less than a day to make a decision, maybe something is wrong. It won’t hurt to at least ask why the decision window is so small, and why it can’t be extended a little bit.

At the other extreme, don’t typically expect to ask a company for two weeks to decide. You’re taking a big risk that they’ll consider you not to be a serious candidate, and maybe will even pull back their offer. Candidates should realize that the employer is often worried that in the time it takes you to decline, they will also have lost their backup candidate.

However, forcing a candidate to make a quick decision under pressure can easily backfire for a company. Sometimes there’s a reason they need a quick answer. But sometimes they’re simply trying too hard to close the candidate’s acceptance. There’s never really anything preventing the candidate from accepting the offer to meet the deadline, but then backing out later on. Nobody wants that to happen.

It’s a balance. There’s always a time when it’s “fish or cut bait”, and you as the candidate need to make a decision. If you still can’t, maybe it’s not the right opportunity for you. My experience is that open communication is usually the best. If there’s something that’s holding you back, talk with the prospective employer about it, and see if together you can’t work it out. Maybe you need more information, or to have questions or concerns brought into the open and addressed.

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