I was made a job offer over the phone yesterday and told by the intermediary recruitment agency that I would be expected to have a response within 24 hours. I have other interviews coming up next week and if I have to decide within 24 hours, that obviously doesn't give me much opportunity to compare offers.

I also did not get any formal offer letter, just a slightly vague package description over the phone.

Is this standard? Am I obligated to say yes/no in 24 hours, or is this unreasonable?

This is only my second job, so.

  • (Note: They want a response by Monday. Weekend doesn't count as part of the 24 hours.) Jan 11, 2014 at 19:11
  • 1
    I would highly suggest reading Joel Spoelsky's "exploding offer" article: joelonsoftware.com/items/2008/11/26.html (I obviously don't think this is sufficient to warrant an answer by itself).
    – BrianH
    Jan 13, 2014 at 20:46

7 Answers 7


They can put any time limit on it that they want. The biggest concern is that they haven't given you an offer.

I also did not get any formal offer letter, just a slightly vague package description over the phone.

They have verbally told you you have a job, but if it isn't in writing you don't have anything in front of you to evaluate, nor do they have any obligations to meet the verbal statements they have made.

If you were asking us if you should put in your two week notice with your current job based on a slightly vague verbal offer, the answer would be no.

So on Monday send an email and ask for further details. Don't cancel the rest of your interviews. If they say they will email them or mail them, wait for them.

If they insist on an answer on Monday say that you are interested, but that you have some questions. Start asking detailed questions about pay and benefits. Keep in mind that any indication of your interest that they pick up on verbally is also not binding. If they are a good company but inexperienced in making job offers they will eventually provide all the missing information. If they aren't a very good company they never will provide the info.

Part of the problem may be that the intermediary is getting in the way, and impacting the timeline and flow of information.

  • Excellent answer. They are being unreasonable, but you can use this to your advantage by making it their fault ("a slightly vague package description over the phone") that they don't have an answer within 24 hours, not yours. Jan 12, 2014 at 23:40
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    I would not consider the 24 hour clock to start running until I had a written offer. You need to see the actual offer before responding period. Even if this is your dream job.
    – HLGEM
    Jan 13, 2014 at 20:22

Is this standard?

There is no standard. A company or recruiting agency can ask for a response within any time frame they choose. That said, such a short time is pretty unusual, in my experience.

Am I obligated to say yes/no in 24 hours

Of course not.

You can turn down the offer. You can simply not respond until you are ready to do so. Or, you could tell the agency that you need more time and propose an alternative ("I really need a bit more time. I can get back to you by the end of the week - would that be ok?")

If you choose not to accept the time frame of their offer, the offer can be withdrawn, but I'm sure you understand that.

, or is this unreasonable?

Reasonableness is in the eye of the beholder.

I would never be pressured into responding before I was ready to do so. But I don't know the reason why they are asking for such a quick response.

It could be that they have another really good candidate ready for an offer and thus need to get a quick decision.

It could be that the company has pressured the agency to get this done quickly for some reason (valid or otherwise).

The agency could feel that pressuring candidates is a good way to conduct business. The company could feel that requiring rapid responses is good business.

You should include several factors in your decision as to how to respond - how good this offer is, how badly you need a job, how likely you are to land other good offers, etc.

If it were me, and I thought this was a very good offer, I'd ask for a few more days. But your situation may not be the same as mine.


Whether it's a standard or not, or even regardless of whether it's acceptable or not, I've come to see that as a bad sign - a big red flag, and as someone else said, it's disrespectful.

I once had to deal with a company that was like that. There was no intermediary, I applied and was offered the job directly by them. They were in a big hurry to get an answer. It didn't stop there. I soon learnt that I had to find it acceptable to recieve an SMS on Friday night, saying "there's work tomorrow, come at the office at 10:00". One day, I was told that I'd be paid only 1/2 of my day's salary because I was 1/2 hour late. Then my manager was smoking indoors, right in front of me (back then it was still legal in that country), and I complained to the general manager - his answer was basically "so what?". I only lasted 2 weeks there.

That's only to illustrate my previous point: Bad sign, red flag!

I consider it to be unprofessional.

But it all boils down to that: They are assessing you but you are assessing them too. Do not think this attitude will stop after employment. It is true that there is an intermediary, but it's quite likely that they are just relaying their client's demand. Do you want to deal with such people?

It's up to you, and your situation. I've dealt with such people. Sometimes I couldn't take it, but sometimes it was bearable and I just had no choice, no reasonable alternative. It's good to make an informed decision.

Thank you for sharing this with us.


Yes, this is completely unreasonable.

By giving you an artificial time limit (theirs) they are telling you:

  1. That their client thinks that their time is more important than yours (It isn't; at least not to you until you accept the offer)
  2. That they are desperate for employees (Why would they need to know right away, if you are indeed the best candidate for the position?)
  3. That the company probably isn't a good place to work at (They are set on time limits vs. making a new hire comfortable)
  4. That they (the recruiting company) need the money.

Unless this appears to be an outstanding job offer for an "industry leader" in your field, I would simply decline the offer. By putting an unnecessary time limit on your response they likely have telegraphed that this isn't the best place to work.

  • I strongly agree with all your points and am going to wait and see what other people say before going ahead with this. They are not an industry leader, and I was not sold on the job. Jan 11, 2014 at 19:42
  • @Aerovistae, in that case don't accept it. If you take a job you aren't sold on before you take it, the chances are close to 100% that you will be unhappy there. There will be another job. The only circumstance where I might go for this in the case where you aren't sold was if the market was really tight (it is not for devs at this point in time), there was some reason why others might not offer to me (criminal record, etc.), and I was currently unemployed. Then yes I'd take it to be able to have a roof over my head. But otherwise, wait, something you like better will come along.
    – HLGEM
    Jan 13, 2014 at 20:25
  • Yeah, I turned it down. I can pay rent for about another 3-4 months, so I'm taking a little risk, but, we'll see. All in all I think you're right. Jan 13, 2014 at 21:04

A 24 hour response period is both ridiculous and massively disrespectful. Someone in the communications chain is lying, incompetent or offensively arrogant. Anything less than a week is unrealistic and two weeks is more normal.

Remember, if you're receiving an offer, it's because they think that you can help them. Don't be pressured into accepting a job when there might be something better just around the corner.

  • 1
    Two weeks to ACCEPT an offer?! Maybe that is more region dependent, but one week is the maximum I've heard of, and 2-3 days is more common. Two weeks before starting, after accepting, is common (in the US). Jan 13, 2014 at 18:49
  • Aye, the local job market would have a big factor. I've recently left the job market and had a few interviews spread across a couple of weeks. During this time, I made it clear to recruiters that I was going to give each of the jobs I was most interested in time to interview and consider whether or not to make an offer. Maybe I was just lucky..
    – Dave M
    Jan 13, 2014 at 19:41

In addition to the scenarios mentioned by Mistah Mix, there is one somewhat legitimate possibility: They want to get your answer before you have an opportunity to interview elsewhere, because they want to know they are your first choice. They don't want you to accept their offer and then start looking for other opportunities right away. And they don't want you to try to generate a "bidding war" between them and one of the other places you're interviewing.

You can reply that you "are very interested in the position and want to see their written offer so that you can evaluate the complete package of salary and benefits."

  • "they want to know they are your first choice" Would a company interview only one person? Of course not. Then it is unreasonable to expect that a candidate would be interviewing only one company. Of course there are lots and lots of unreasonable companies out there.
    – BryanH
    Feb 17, 2014 at 16:01

A job offer without a written offer letter is nothing but hot air.

In general, "first horse past the post" is the offer you want to take.

If they're pressuring you for a reply you can say something like, "I'm very interested, and I'll be happy to give a reply as quickly as I can after I am able to review the offer letter."

If they refuse to give you an offer letter until you accept, RUN AWAY AND DON'T LOOK BACK. Or accept the job and then you can write this same letter on Workplace after you experience a few years of living hell. ;)

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