Looking for some quick advice / validation of thought regarding my current situation. 


I feel like it would be 'wrong' to accept a verbal less-than-exciting offer as a 'safety' when I MAY have something else before the offered start date, but I'm not sure if I'm "old-fashioned" here or what...  I know lots of people who would take the safety and then decline or quit before starting if they got a better role offered.

Am I being "too nice", or is it right to decline the 'safety' offer?



I'm out of work (laid off recently due to major restructuring) and interviewing for 2 good, similar, roles at Company A & Company B.  My wife doesn't have a paid job (house & kids), so my salary is everything.

Company A won't send me a paper offer until I accept verbally, and the offer is significantly less that what I was previously making.

Company B hasn't sent me anything yet; they have accelerated their interview schedule for me because they knew I had gone through many rounds of interviews with Company A (this was prior to receiving the verbal offer).

If I decline A, I have nothing (potential from B) and will kick myself if B evaporates.

If I accept A, and B sends something before I start at A, I either feel like I burn bridges and look bad at A for reneging, or kick myself at the missed opportunity at B.

I would have declined A's offer on the spot if I was still employed.  If B sent me the same offer as A right now, again I'd have NO hesitation to accept B, but would still decline IF I was still employed at my last role.

And I'm not in a spot right now where I NEED to take something, my settlement from previous employer still covers me for a while.



mattpalmer's picture

What you have is a verbal description of a possible offer.  You can certainly accept an "offer of an offer", as it were, without accepting the actual offer.  Whenever I've been given a verbal offer, I've said "that sounds great; if you'd like to send through the written offer I can review the legal fine print and let you know when everything's OK".  I will admit that I've never rejected an offer from that point, but I wouldn't have a hesitation in subsequently saying "based on further review, I've decided to decline your offer" (or other wording as suggested in the "How to Decline an Offer" cast).

There's another way you can go here, as well -- ask company A for more time to consider their (verbal) offer.  You can explain to them that you're awaiting another offer if you feel like being up-front.

I certainly wouldn't recommend formally accepting A's offer and then ditching them if B comes through.  Once you accept an offer, you're putting the company to a lot of work that is wasted if you dump them (in addition to rejecting their next choice candidate and as a result having to go through the *entire* interviewing process again).  It'll piss them off something fierce, and I'd certainly never consider having *anything* to do with a candidate who did that to me.  It's not old-fashioned to not want to burn bridges; it's *professional*.  Those people you know who would do that are just setting themselves up to commit career suicide.

Mattias's picture

Go with offer A. If you're significant other had a job the situation would be totally different but thats not the case. Do what you have to do. You wouldn't have to stay more then 2-3 years and you could spend that time to plan your career better with your SO.


Take offer A.

Get your SO to a job.

Rack up accomplishments in 2-3 years.

Career change.


However, do use MATTPALMERs advice on stalling by accepting the verbal offer of an offer to get the offer in written and ask how long you have to review the written contract.

maura's picture
Training Badge

"Old fashioned" is not a bad thing.  I like Matt Palmer's approach a lot, and like you, I'd be inclined to wait and see what happens with company B...the fact that you would have rejected the offer from company A if you were currently working is important - listen to that internal voice, and only go to company A if that's what you have to do to keep food on the table.   Responding to the verbal offer in the way Matt describes doesn't lock you in, and will buy you a little time while you see if there is a future with company B.

mpaiero's picture


MATTPALMER,  Thanks for the suggestions.  I may go down the route of asking them for an extension on the verbal offer - they were adamant about not sending me the paper copy until I accepted their 'offer' verbally - I don't think they listen to MT or see eye-to-eye on the definition of an offer :) .

Mattias, Maura, thanks for the input.  Fortunately the Layoff Immunization casts have been pretty well followed by me, so we/I am not rushed by necessity.

mattpalmer's picture

I forgot to mention a strategy I've used (once) to get a written offer out of a company in my last post.  In addition to saying that I'd like to look over the details, I said that I couldn't formally accept until I'd had my lawyer double-check everything.  In effect, what I did was provide a "conditional acceptance" (similar to the "conditional offers" that employers like to provide -- "we'll hire you unless we find something out in the meantime that we don't like").

In my case, it was *truly* because I wanted to double-check the provisions of the employment agreement I was signing up for.  In your case, where an employer is being a complete *CENSORED* about giving you something in writing, a small sliver of my professionalism and sympathy for the employer dissolves.  I'd still recommend you try to get an extension on the offer acceptance, but consider the lawyer as a backup if necessary.  If you do get a better offer from company B, though, I wouldn't blame your lawyer for rejecting their offer -- you can, quite legitimately, state that on further analysis of the written offer, you've decided to reject their terms and take another offer.

By the way, does it strike anyone else as a bit suspect that company A isn't willing to put *anything* in writing until they've got someone verbally on the hook?  Apart from the fact that they're practically *begging* to be bait-and-switched, I'm always a little wary of anyone who isn't willing to commit to something in writing.  I know the claims that at big companies it can take weeks to "generate the paperwork".  Seriously, though?  It's a standard template you search-and-replace the name, job title, and salary into.  I've gotten offers (plural) from a big company (that has a very well-deserved reputation for being slower than molasses in the arctic on hiring) where I had a hard-copy of all the offer paperwork within 48 hours of coming to verbal terms (FedEx'd from the US to Australia).  I just can't see a good reason for withholding written terms from someone, so the needle on my "shonkometer" starts twitching when I see this sort of thing.

Whenever I make an offer, I give the offer verbally over the phone (in the MT style), and whether or not I get verbal acceptance on the spot, I e-mail the offer letter and employment agreement straight over afterwards for the candidate's review.  Not hard.  Takes me about 5 minutes to do up the PDFs.

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

That said, they are being disingenuous by attempting to use your honor against you by not doing the work necessary to finalize the offer.  Other organizations cannot use your honor against you to benefit themselves.  Well, they can TRY, but their arguments fail.

So, accept A.  That said, since they're implying the offer isn't really official until it's written, you haven't accepted anything.  The IDEA that you accepting verbally would somehow be binding when they admit they NEED to create it in writing is ludicrous (see para 1.)

Accept A.  Find out how long you have to REVIEW (not accept) the written offer.  If they balk ("but you already accepted") you say, I did, verbally, but a written offer is a specific thing, and written offers are like contracts that any professional knows to review carefully."  Ask for 2-3-4 days.

Further... I have some question about whether they HAVE given you an offer.  Do you yet KNOW the benefits?  Because if you don't, then your verbal acceptance really truly means NOTHING.

Hope you end up where you want to be.  Just VERY careful of stringing out A for a  chance at B.  At some point, it will be time to choose.

And here's to old long as it's not "being manipulated by" one's old-fashioned-ness.


jonno12131's picture

To echo Mark's words, until you sign a contract you are not committed to anything. Verbal is fine, pending your review and acceptance of the contract. If they push back you can tell them no professional (at least not a competent one) would ever formally accept a role without seeing a written offer containing the terms and conditions of the role.

If they CAN'T give you a written offer there may be doubt about the job actually being available internally. Maybe the budget or headcount is in question. Or they may just be too incompetent to get a written offer together. If they WON'T give you an offer then that are being unprofessional and unreasonable. Either way alarm bells should be ringing.

Finally if you accept verbally there is no added pressure on you to formally accept once you have the written offer. Recruiters know that people are looking around and if you are a good candidate they will understand if you turn them down. But again don't reject the offer unless you are comfortable with your offer from B, or are comfortable not having an offer at all.

Hope this helps! Jonno.

jrb3's picture
Licensee BadgeTraining Badge

I guess I treat it like buying a house.  Until the agreement *with all terms* is in writing, I'm still in the fast-feedback period of early negotiating, and I say so openly and frequently.  So, until company A provides a written agreement, in my mind, you have not "accepted" or "rejected" anything, merely chosen whether or not to continue the negotiations which lead to a written offer to consider.  If they later lose out to company B from sloth, so be it.

I have had a company want to make sure what they were going to offer was highly likely to be accepted. I told them I needed to see details of benefits and written salary offer -- and in the same breath said what I would find acceptable.  I phrased it specifically as "that'd work for me" rather than "I would accept that" or "I accept that", so as to reinforce my concurrent statement that I didn't consider there was yet an offer which could be accepted!  (A reluctance born of my layman's understanding of US contract law.)

I have also had to walk away from one opportunity where I thought a bait-and-switch was probably underway:  the hiring manager flatly refused to issue a written offer, gave only vague response to questions about benefits, and tried to get me to say "I accept your [verbal] offer" in as many words -- across three sessions!  No thanks, baby on the way meant needing numbers and names on medical benefits right away ....

Alex_W's picture

 I have yet to read through the comments, but this recent CT podcast may be of use:

mattpalmer's picture

I listened to the "How Not To Accept an Offer" cast and thought about this thread the whole way through.

That being said, the situation is subtly different.  It is certainly true that insofar as there is an offer on the table, you need to deal with it on its own merits.  You should not give knowledge of the state of any other offer (potential or concrete) with the intention of varying any part of the offer (contents *or* timing).

However, in this case, the problem isn't so much that the OP is trying to use one offer to change the state of another, but instead he/she is trying to get a real offer at *all*, and in reality the existence of a potential offer from Company B really doesn't enter into the core of the equation.  Even if there was no Company B in the mix at all, I wouldn't recommend unconditionally accepting *any* verbal offer, and all of my advice regarding how and why to get a formal written offer of employment still stands without adjustment.