should you ask for the job at the end of an interview?

A reader writes:

I read that if you ask for a job at the end of an interview, you should be prepared to accept the position on the spot. Is this true? What if the offer (salary, benefits, all of those things that you are not supposed to ask during the interview) is unfair/not up to par?

By asking for the job, do you lose negotiation power?

And how likely is the company to offer the job right after the interview?

You shouldn’t be asking for the job at the end of the interview. I know there’s plenty of advice out there that recommends it, but it’s not a good idea.

First of all, you shouldn’t even be ready to know that you want the job at the end of the interview. We’re talking about how you’ll be spending 40+ hours a week. Are you really prepared to sign up for that an hour after you walked into this company, without any further thought?

Secondly, good interviewers aren’t going to make a decision on the spot anyway. They’re going to think it over, talk to your references, and maybe talk to their colleagues. And they might have other candidates they want to interview. And that’s a good thing, because you want to work for a manager who takes hiring seriously (which is part of taking seriously the rest of managing a team, including developing and retaining good people, addressing problems, and replacing those who aren’t meeting a high bar — more things that you don’t want done thoughtlessly). You do not want to work for a manager who manages haphazardly or without much care.

Plus, by asking for the job in that manner, you (a) come across as a little naive about hiring, (b) come across as not especially thoughtful about whether this is really the right job for you, if you don’t even want to go home and think about it, and (c) put your interviewer on the spot in a way that’s likely to be awkward for both of you.

Now, there are some interviewers who like to be asked for the job — who even say that they don’t know how interested a candidate is otherwise. But this is silly. There are plenty of ways for interviewers to gauge interest — including asking outright. But if you’re concerned that you won’t appear sufficiently interested, then say something at the end of the interview like, “I’m really interested in the position, and I’m looking forward to talking further with you.” (And anyone who deems that insufficiently interested in probably someone who is going to require you to wear 37 pieces of flair while claiming you only need 15.)

Anyway, to answer your direct question: If for some reason you choose to disregard my advice here and you ask for the job anyway and they do offer it to you on the spot, then no, you’re not required to accept it if the salary and benefits aren’t what you want. You can still negotiate, and you can still ultimately turn it down.

But you shouldn’t ever have to worry about that, because you shouldn’t be doing it.

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