company offered me a job but wants an answer the same day

A reader writes:

I’m currently working for a company I’ve been with for nearly a decade. The positions I can promote to are very few and unlikely to be vacated anytime soon. I’ve been at my level now for 3+ years. It’s time to move on.

I interviewed with a promising young company (let’s call them PYC) this morning, and by lunchtime they reached out with an enthusiastic offer below my current base salary, which won’t work for me. I countered with a base salary match and indicated that if the upside was worth the risk (meaning a generous stack of options), we’d be a lot closer to a deal. PYC stressed that they’d get back to me by the end of the day with numbers so that I could proceed with giving two weeks notice right away, as they want someone to start ASAP.

To complicate things, I have more interviews with other companies this week — exciting, big time companies! — and while they’ll almost certainly come with higher pay, it’s doubtful they’ll match that critical risk/upside component. While both are important to me, this offer is putting me on the spot! If PYC offers a base salary match, the same amount of vacation, a title upgrade AND enough options to calm my nerves, is that a good offer, or am I jumping the gun? The rush is spooking me a little; it’s not the way I’m used to making decisions. Should I be rightfully spooked or is this just my decade of being off-market showing?

I think they’re going to be extremely successful. I want to be part of it, the folks I met today were great, and the ship appears to be in great shape.

There are really two separate questions here: Should you be spooked that they’re moving so quickly and pressuring you to as well, and can you slow them down?

First, should you be spooked? Maybe. There are certainly companies that move this quickly, and it doesn’t mean that people don’t end up happy there. But at a minimum, they’re probably not great at hiring if they’re offering people jobs only hours after interviewing them for the first time. (They’re almost certainly not checking references, for one thing, although maybe they had already talked informally with people who have worked with you.) And if they’re not great at hiring, that means that you’re probably going to have some less-than-great coworkers, unless they’re really good at cleaning up hiring mistakes quickly.

They’re also assuming that you can and should make a decision as quickly as they have. But deciding where to work is a big, big decision, and they should want you to think it through and be absolutely sure that it’s right for you. The fact that they’re not thinking of it that way indicates that they’re either pretty inexperienced or not quite reasonable in their expectations. Those can both be bad, in different ways. If they’re inexperienced, what else haven’t they thought through or had experience dealing with yet, and how will that affect (a) their business and (b) your quality of life as an employee? (Are they experienced enough to make reliable revenue projections? Is your health insurance going to lapse because they’re clueless about what needs to be done to keep it current? And so forth.) Or, if they’re experienced enough but just not quite reasonable in what they expect of people, will their expectations be any more reasonable when it comes to things like time off, workload, etc.?

Now, despite what it might sound like, I’m not pre-judging this. This might be a great offer that you should be excited to take. But these are all things you want to think through without blinders on.

As for the second question … You should absolutely be able to slow them down. It’s entirely reasonable to say, “I’m really interested in joining you, and I’m excited about the position. However, I need some time to think over the offer and the position and make sure that it’s right for me. Can I give you my answer by Monday?” (And in the meantime, you should feel free to ask for an additional conversation if you have unanswered questions, which you probably do — or should — after only a single interview.)

They might be hesitant about waiting a full week, but they should at least give you a few days. And if they push you for an answer faster than that, I’d consider that a much bigger red flag than the fast offer itself. They should want you to be sure about your decision — both for your own comfort and for theirs; people pressured to accept a job offer faster than they’re ready to are at high risk for reneging later.

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