Before you respond to an employer it can help to ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have the information required to make an informed decision or would having any additional information increase my ability to feel confident in my choice?
- Based on what I know about this company and on my previous interactions, does the company and position seem to align with my values and workplace expectations?
- Do I feel pressured to reply too quickly? Would it be beneficial to ask the employer for additional time to decide?
- Have I thoroughly evaluated my options?
Communicating Your Decision
Factors to consider regardless of your decision include:
How will you be getting in touch with the employer? Has the majority of your correspondence been conducted via email, phone call, mail, or in person? Determine how you will be reaching out the employer to communicate your decision. Consider how direct you would like the communication to be. Some communication methods such as phone calls are a bit more direct than an email or a letter, but not necessarily always required of the situation. Determine the method that best suits the situation and with which you are most comfortable. If the employer noted any preference, make sure you adhere to it.
When communicating with a potential employer, make sure to maintain consistently professional language and tone. This is especially true when responding to a job offer, regardless of the decision you make. Use clear and direct language in any emails, letters, or phone calls. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and incorporate more of a formal language and tone rather than casual.
Be gracious, show appreciation, and make sure to thank the employer regardless of your response. Showing gratitude is considered standard professional etiquette. The employer likely invested a significant amount of time reviewing your application materials, meeting or speaking with you, and evaluating your candidacy. It is also in the best interest of all parties to maintain a positive professional relationship. You never know if and when your professional paths may cross again.
While each individual situation is unique and specific details may vary, there are some general guidelines that can be followed in determining the appropriate amount of time to mull an offer and communicate your intent to accept or decline an employer's job offer.
It is fairly common that along with the offer, an employer will provide a certain time frame or request a deadline for receiving your answer. Try to adhere to the employer’s timeline if possible, unless you deem the time frame to be unreasonable or anticipate the need for more time given other potential opportunities that remain fluid or unresolved. It is completely acceptable to check in with any other employer(s) that you may be more interested in regarding your application status or their hiring timeline. Depending on the circumstances, however, it may be necessary to make a decision without this information.
While different situations may warrant different individual details, in general, at a minimum, most employers will provide at least several days or a week for your decision. Anything less than a few days is fairly uncommon. If an employer sets an unrealistic timeline for your answer or pressures you into making a decision before you are comfortable to do so, that may be a red flag and it may be worth examining if it is truly an opportunity you want to accept. It may also serve as an indication of a quicker pace of the office, type of work environment, and what deadline expectations may be like. Chances are that if you are uncomfortable with the deadline for a decision, you may be uncomfortable with other deadlines or expectations of the position.
"Most employers will provide at least several days or a week for your decision."
An important consideration to keep in mind is that it is completely acceptable to ask for more time to make your decision. You may have several potential opportunities that you are still evaluating, you may be waiting on receiving a decision from other employers, or any other number of factors may warrant asking for additional time to decide. Asking the employer for more time is acceptable, but be sure to be clear in your communication and adhere to any self-imposed deadlines or actions you indicate that you will take. In general, employers want you to be confident in your decision too, even if that means taking some extra time to think about it.
"An important consideration to keep in mind is that it is completely acceptable to ask for more time to make your decision."
When you have been extended an offer, maintain consistent communication with the employer. Even if the employer stipulates a preferred decision date that is well into the future, make sure you stay connected in the interim. This is especially true if you are towards the end of an internship experience and the employer extends a job offer that wouldn't begin until a later date.
You may want to thank the employer for the offer and indicate a time frame in which they can expect a response (ex. Thank you very much for the offer. I am evaluating my different options and anticipate making my decision before the end of the week. Thank you again and I will talk with you soon).
Reneging or Revising Your Choice
Accepting an offer, then turning it down (also called reneging) is a practice that should be avoided unless absolutely necessary, as it can be viewed as unethical and unprofessional. However, if after careful consideration you determine that rejecting an offer after you’ve initially accepted it is the best option, these are some considerations to keep in mind (Again, the Career Planning & Development Center strongly advises students to not renege on job offers):
- Ensure that you did not sign a legally binding contract and that there will be no legal ramifications for declining the job.
- Be aware of the potential risks to your professional reputation involved with reneging. Employers typically prefer that candidates not abruptly reverse their previously communicated decision. You never know who an employer is connected to and employers may communicate with one another. If you are in an especially small industry, be aware of the possibility that other industry connections could become aware of this which could damage your reputation as a candidate in the future.
- The best way to avoid the situation altogether is to thoroughly evaluate the offer and consider all of your options prior to making your decision. Making sure you are fully committed to accepting the job prior to responding to the employer is the best course of action. Remember, you can always ask for more time to make the decision if it is necessary to be confident in your choice.