What To Do When You're Faced With An Exploding Job Offer

If a company sends you an exploding offer, alarm bells should be ringing.

Interviewing for a job is already stressful. Getting on the phone with your hiring manager, after multiple rounds of interviews, to hear, “We'd love to have you join us—but we need a decision in 48 hours,” is an actual nightmare.

Despite being horrible pressure on candidates, exploding offers like the one above are not uncommon in the tech world.

Navigating an exploding offer—especially if no other company has extended an offer to you—is tricky. Do you accept immediately and tell other companies you're no longer available? Or do you consider it a red flag and pass on the opportunity, despite what that might mean for your future?

In this guide, we'll explain how to respond to an exploding offer, depending on your situation.

What constitutes an “exploding” offer?

An exploding offer is not simply an offer that expires. Expiration windows of two weeks or more are standard. An exploding offer is one that expires in under one week. While all exploding offers are red flags, there a circumstances that can make some worse than others.

If the CEO gets on the phone with you and pressures you to accept the job—that's the most explosive exploding offer. Similarly, if the hiring team communicates early on in the process that any offer will come with a short expiration window, that should be less concerning than one that comes without warning.

In short:

  • Any offer that expires in less than one week is an exploding offer.
  • Any exploding offers should be considered a red flag.
  • The shorter the expiration window, the worse the exploding offer.
  • Exploding offers that are extended without warning are extra terrible.

How to respond to exploding offers

If a company sends you an exploding offer, alarm bells should go off in your head. However, that doesn't mean you should reject it outright. Instead, ask yourself a few questions first:

  • How excited am I about this job? If the company has done a fantastic job of selling you, the role is your dream job, and the compensation package meets your needs—it may be worth accepting the job despite the exploding offer.
  • How explosive is this offer? If the company proactively shared throughout the process how long their offer window is, and it has a good excuse for the shorter window (like a near-future start date), then the hiring manager has been as fair as they can be, given the circumstances.
  • Where am I in other interviews? Assuming you're interviewing with multiple companies, take stock of how far along you are in each interview process and how excited you are about joining each company.

Your answer to those questions will determine your response to the offer. For example, if this is your dream job and you're not speaking to other companies, taking the job is probably the right move. Similarly, if the company has a legitimate reason for needing to enforce a shorter window, and you really want to join, you should.

The important step, regardless of situation, is to discuss the exploding offer with your hiring contact.

Even if you are going to accept the job, an exploding offer could be a cultural red flag—especially if it was a surprise. Reach out to your hiring contact and tell them, “Thank you so much for the offer. I'm very excited to potentially join the team, and have really enjoyed getting to meet everyone while interviewing. Before I make a decision, I just wanted to clarify, is there a particular reason for the length of offer's expiration window?”

Asking this question gives the company the chance to assuage your anxiety—or reveal a less-than-fantastic reason for the approach.

Discussing the offer may also mean asking for more time, particularly if you are considering other jobs. Unless the company has a real need for the person who takes this position to start immediately, its team should be open to extending their deadline, as long as you reinforce you're excited about potentially joining but that you need a bit more time for due diligence.

One caveat to all of this: If you do ask for extra time to make a decision, communicate openly with the team about why. It's also important you set a realistic expectation of how much more time you might need—and stick to that timeline. If you are in the final interview stages with other companies and need two weeks to finish them, ask for two weeks. However, asking for an extra few days, then a few more, then a few more, is a terrible look.

Don't panic under the pressure

Exploding offers are designed to ramp up the pressure for you to make a decision now. Companies use them when they're desperate, or when they've been let down by candidates who dragging their feet for weeks and then went MIA. Remember, joining a new company is a commitment. You stop interviewing for other opportunities. You commit to spending most of your time each day with these people. You have to live, at least in the short term, with whatever compensation package you accept.

Before you respond to an exploding offer, remember you do have time—time to collect more information, time to make sure you're passionate about the a company, and time to understand if they're able to offer the compensation you need. Remember, this is in the best interest of the company as well. The better the match between you and the company, the better the work you will deliver.

Take your time making your decision, and if you need more, ask for it. If the company doesn't want you to do your due diligence, it's probably not a place you want to work anyway. Handled correctly, the right company will be appreciative of how much energy you're putting into choosing your next team.