Ask a Recruiter: How Can I Tactfully Stall Accepting A Job Offer?

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Jeni Lambertson217
Founder + CEO of the constellations

Want to know what recruiters are really thinking? In our Ask a Recruiter series, we invite you to take an exclusive look inside the mind of a real recruiter — Jeni Lambertson — to see how she approaches the hiring process.

Twice a month, Jeni will answer a question from one of our readers. If you have a question about finding the right job posting, emailing the right person, or landing yourself on a recruiter's desk, drop it in the comments.

Q: How can I tactfully stall accepting a job offer?

New things can be intimidating, especially when that something new is a job.  For some reason,  I always think of the old saying: "Better the devil you know."  I don't necessarily agree with it, but I can identify with the feeling of fear around the unknown. And I know that fear can come into play when making a significant decision about one's career trajectory.  
As a recruiter and founder of the constellations, I am fortunate enough to assist women in finding roles where they cannot only grow, but thrive.  I always say I am in the blessed position of working with so many brilliant and multi-faceted women. And because they're so great, they often see multiple job offers.  Sometimes, after engaging in the interview process and taking it all the way to an offer, they come to realize their current role is a better fit. And sometimes they need some extra time to sit with their options.  
This can cause hiccups if the company extending the offer has a timeline that is not in alignment with my candidate's.  And one of the great things about working with a recruiter is that they can manage this sometimes difficult conversation for the candidate.  
But what to do if you are on your own?  How can you tactfully delay accepting an offer without seeming wholly disinterested? 

First, check the offer.  

What is the "accept by" date?  In my experience, most companies give five business days before the offer expires.  If this is still not in alignment with your timeline or you are holding out for another offer that might be an even more perfect, then it is your responsibility to manage expectations.  

The best way to queue up any uncomfortable conversation or email is to begin with a positive.  

As an aside, I believe most "uncomfortable" discussions should be over the phone or in-person. But because a job offer is a contractual agreement, it is best to have everything in writing.  Begin your email with something like: "I am so thrilled by this opportunity and believe this role is one of a kind.  However, I am going to require a few extra days before the offer expires." 

I would encourage you to ask questions if your hesitation to accept isn't because you are holding out for another offer.  

What is it about the role that isn't making you giddy?  Are some job details still murky? Ask for clarification. Is the money not right?  Negotiate.  Now is the time to be honest. And if a company has decided you are the one they want, I assure you they will be much more amenable to making changes to the offer.

It is also important to ask yourself if the timeline you need is reasonable. 

Be mindful that recruiting talent is a long and challenging process. While you are the desired candidate, there are likely others who would jump at the chance to accept.  A few extra days or a week is entirely acceptable, but more than that is unfair and shows disrespect for the time of those on the other side.  
From personal experience, I will say I only accepted one job offer I was not thrilled about receiving, and the job was just plain wrong from day one. It is important to remember just because a company has extended you an offer does not mean you are required to accept.  Perhaps the hesitation you are feeling is intuition, and you should respectfully decline rather than delay.

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Jeni Lambertson is the founder and CEO of the constellations, a female-first procurement service. She's passionate about bringing diversity to future-thinking companies while simultaneously doing her part to close the wage gap.