exploding job offers, fireworks, sparks

How to Handle Exploding Job Offers

Exploding job offers are the norm these days, requiring candidates to give an official “yay” or “nay” decision anywhere from 5 days to 2 weeks after an offer is extended.

On rare occasions (and we mean extremely rare), a company may give you a 3-week to 2-month time frame for an offer decision – but we don’t suggest you count on this to happen.

The exploding job offer trend makes sense for companies, and can be an indication of how important a role is to an organization.  Realistically, if the opportunity for which you’re interviewing is one of high-impact, it is not unreasonable for a company to want to know relatively quickly whether or not you’re on board to start making that impact, or if they need to start seeking alternative options.

Given you’ll likely be faced with an exploding offer at some point in your career, what is the best way to handle one? A few tips below:

Know what’s coming:

The interview process is a fairly predictable chain of events. Given you continue to do well, your first round of interviews will likely be followed by a second, and maybe a third and / or management assessment before you are given an offer. The whole process lasts an average of 4 to 6 weeks for executive roles – some can be slower if scheduling is particularly challenging, and some can be much faster (we’ve seen certain assignments go to offer within 2-10 days of an initial conversation).  Think ahead and be prepared to make a decision if signs are pointing favorably in your direction, and importantly, be open about the key elements you need to cross the finish line throughout the process.

Buying time:

You can buy a few days on a decision if you are traveling or overseas when you get an exploding job offer, or if you haven’t received it in writing (note: never resign from your current job until you have the written offer in hand). Understand, though, that if you do buy time, it is not so you can continue interviewing at other firms. If you’re managing multiple processes with companies, alert and update your contact (whether it is a recruiter, hiring manager, HR team member, or connection from your network) throughout the process so they can help the company speed up or slow down to your advantage. In any event, it is highly unlikely that the offering company will extend its decision timeline indefinitely just so you can see other, competing opportunities through.

Note: The offer decision is different than the start date decision. 

An important distinction – just because a company gives a short and firm deadline for offer decisions does not mean your start date must play out in the same way.  Start date is an item you can negotiate throughout the interview process, because most companies are more interested in whom they’re hiring than whether he / she starts one Monday versus the next. If you have a trip planned, or need some time before you start a new opportunity for other personal reasons, make sure you are upfront with the hiring company throughout your interviews. Many companies can be understanding to bring the right individual on board, but are less likely to show leniency if “crazy” requests are made at the very end of the interview process (especially if those surprises come after heated compensation negotiations).