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Offer Deadlines

controversy When you extend an offer, should it have a deadline or an expiration date? There are differing schools of thought on using timing as a forcing function. Some believe a strict deadline creates urgency and improves the odds of acceptance. And, generally, the longer the elapsed time since an offer has been extended, the less likely it is to be accepted; time can kill excitement.

An exploding offer is an offer that expires if not accepted within a tight timeframe. Anecdotally, an offer is considered exploding if it allows the candidate less than a week to respond,* but the timeframe may be as short as one or two days,* or the offer may even require an immediate response.*

caution Deadlines can sometimes work, but arbitrary deadlines like those in exploding offers can be counterproductive.* They might force a candidate into a premature decision (premature rejections or acceptances are both bad). The pressure of deadlines can make the candidate feel anxious, or give them the impression that the company is behaving unfairly,* and other companies you are competing with might use this to undermine you. Avoid aggressive deadlines and unnecessary pressure around timing.

That said, you might need an answer within a certain timeframe. For instance, you may have limited headcount and need to know whether you should keep trying to hire (or extend other offers), or you may need to fill a role by a certain start date. If you have these types of practical necessities, using deadlines can make sense—you should explain these reasons to your candidate so that the deadline doesn’t feel arbitrary. It’s completely fine to say something like: “We think you’re a perfect fit for us, but we do have to fill this position and we do have other candidates in the pipeline, so we’d love an answer by next Monday. In the meantime, I’m happy to make myself and my team available to answer any questions to help you with your decision.”

caution Some candidates might try to take advantage of open-ended offers by stringing you along, consuming you and your team’s bandwidth even if they aren’t serious about joining your company. They could be indecisive, they could be shopping around for offers, or they could be just using your offer as leverage against another company’s offer. If you’ve been running your process properly, have a good understanding of the candidate’s situation, and are timing your offer delivery well, there’s not much more you can do to persuade them to make a decision. Candidates who aren’t serious shouldn’t receive an offer yet—or maybe at all.

There are a few other approaches we’ve seen work successfully to create a sense of urgency without arbitrary pressure. The first is to use a candidate-determined deadline. Ask the candidate how much time they think they need to reach a decision, and, if it’s reasonable, use that as the deadline. Another is to have a deadline, but agree mutually on when the deadline starts. For instance, tell your candidate that offers are a very precious thing for your company, and so they come with a one-week deadline, but let them choose when the clock starts ticking.

An additional technique is to offer an incentive (such as a sign-on bonus) to candidates who accept an offer within a certain timeframe. Remember to make sure incentives are structured, however—if you’re delivering sign-on bonuses arbitrarily or only to those candidates who appear to be fielding other offers, or whom you see as more competitive, a lot of bias can creep in.

How to Extend an Offer

After all the effort both your team and the candidate have put into the process, letting a candidate know they are formally getting an offer is a fun and celebratory occasion—second only to having the candidate accept that offer, then join and thrive at your company! We recommend you deliver the news in person if possible, or over the phone if necessary.

A common question, at this point, is who should deliver the offer, which can be unclear, especially if a hiring manager and recruiter have been partnering together on the process. Ideally, the hiring manager delivers the good news in person or over the phone. After all, they will be the one the candidate is likely working with and will be best equipped to build the candidate’s excitement about joining the team.

Here are a few things to do when delivering the offer:

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