Further Questions: Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer?

This week we asked people who hire librarians

Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer? How quickly would you expect a response?  Do you expect candidates to negotiate things like pay and benefits? Can a candidate decline your offer without burning a bridge with you?

Petra MauerhoffGenerally speaking, we are excited to make an offer to a successful candidate and we love to hear excitement from them when the offer is made. Having to take several days to make a decision and weigh all the options is not a problem. We have had situations where candidates attempted to negotiate pay, in some cases successfully, in other cases not. Our benefits are set out in our policies and are not negotiable.
In our case, it is definitely possible to decline an offer without burning a bridge with us. We understand that the interview process is a two-way conversation and information gathering exercise and that candidates might find out details about the position, the organization or the community that would make it not a good fit for their current situation. When we make an offer, we do so because we believe that candidate to be a good fit right now.


Generally speaking, if they have to decline our offer at that point, we do encourage them to apply for future opportunities, because chances are what we liked about the candidate/saw in their potential, will still be there (but perhaps with even more experience) in the future.

>– Petra Mauerhoff, CEO, Shortgrass Library System

Marge Loch WoutersMy best advice is reply quickly! If you decline or we can’t agree on terms of an offer, there are other top candidates we need to turn to and we hate to keep them waiting too long.  Your best strategy is to be prepared for an offer after an interview and have your terms in mind to expedite the process.


Candidates can certainly decline our offer. Sometimes at an interview, you sense that the fit would not be right for you. That has happened and is never a problem. Hiring is a two-way street – you want to hire the library as a great work environment as much as we want to hire you as a great librarian!


I will say that if you  want to burn a bridge with us, say you weren’t serious and just wanted to hone your interview skills. Libraries spend massive amounts of time on the selection and hiring process. Be honest and say this at the end of interview, not when you are offered the job. Wasting the time of a hiring committee is never wise.

– Marge Loch-Wouters, Youth Services Coordinator, La Crosse (WI) Public Library

Marleah AugustineI think a response (or at least an “I’m thinking about it and need some time” response) should happen within a few days of the offer. For professional positions, I would expect some negotiation, although in the public library field there is often not a lot of wiggle room. I don’t understand why a candidate declining an offer would lead to burning bridges — I have no idea what situation the candidate faces, and maybe something has come up that would not allow them to fulfill the responsibilities or just to take the position in general. And if the declining happens because an adequate pay/benefits package agreement cannot be reached, that’s unfortunate but again I don’t know their situation so I can’t hold that against them. It’s a fact that hiring managers should be prepared that their first choice of candidate may not take the position, and that is no reason to count them out in the future.

– Marleah Augustine, Adult Department Librarian at Hays Public Library

Samantha Thompson-FranklinI would say that 2-3 days would be an appropriate amount of time for a candidate to respond to a job offer. I would fully expect a candidate to at least try to negotiate pay, and perhaps benefits to some degree. There is a great book called “Getting to Yes” that I think everyone should read regarding how to handle negotiations of any kind.  If a candidate declined an offer, I would not consider that person to have burned their bridges with us. Life circumstances and situations are in constant change and I think you have to remain open-minded that sometimes a situation at certain time in a person’s life may lead them to make varying choices. I think if the negotiation is done in a professional and respectful manner and then the offer is declined, there should be no hard feelings but a mutual agreement that perhaps it was not the right time and place for that candidate and a respect for that person’s decision. Life is too short to hold grudges.

– Samantha Thompson-Franklin, Associate Professor/Collections & Acquisitions Librarian, Lewis-Clark State College Library

Laurie Phillips

I don’t think I would make the library wait more than a week, maximum, but make sure the library know when they can expect to hear back from you. We don’t really have any control over benefits, but we do expect people to do some negotiation on salary but they should have solid reasons for why they believe they should be paid more than the original offer (such as your experience, cost of living compared to where you live now, or other salaries for comparable positions in that state). So far as etiquette goes here though, be sure you do your research before making a counter offer, you may think you are worth $20k more per year and maybe you are but if you look at the other salaries in the institution, that very well may be close their best offer. As far as declining an offer, I would say yes, you may very well be burning bridges with that library so it better be for a very good reason and the candidate should be as polite as possible, I would even suggest calling to talk to them instead of just an email. Reasons for declining could be another job offer or some unexpected family health related emergency.

– Laurie Phillips, Associate Dean for Technical Services, J. Edgar & Louise S. Monroe Library, Loyola University New Orleans

A candidate should never assume that an offer is negotiable, although it’s okay to ask how much wiggle room there might be and proceed from there. Any subsequent discussion should be approached from the point of view of giving the candidate full credit for knowledge and experience when placing him on the salary scale — not how much he is making now or how much he thinks he is worth. Those are irrelevant.

After a campus visit, any candidate turning down an offer should proffer a reasonable (and, obviously, true) explanation if she is genuinely interested in being considered for future openings. If she is not, as far as I am concerned, she owes no explanation. It doesn’t seem fair to demand information from the candidate that the institution itself would not provide if the shoe were on the other foot.

– Anonymous

Celia RabinowitzI have had the experience of a candidate accepting a job at the time it was offered and I encouraged the person to take a few days before committing. And I have had a candidate ask for two weeks and then respond with a request for a higher salary. Both of these seem acceptable to me. I would probably not want to go longer than two weeks. Negotiations probably depend on local practice and conditions. Salary can often be negotiated. At public institutions where I have worked benefits are not really negotiable although the possibility of a start-up benefit might be (extra conference attendance, some arranged release time for research, etc).

Someone turning down a job would not burn bridges. People have lots of reasons for seeking a job and for discovering that a potential job might not be a good choice.

– Celia Rabinowitz,  Dean of Mason Library at Keene State College in Keene, NH.

Thank you as always to our contributors for their time and insight.  If you’re someone who hires librarians and are interested in participating in this feature, please email us at hiringlibrariansquestionsATgmail.com.

Thank YOU for reading!  If you liked reading, you’re going to really love COMMENTING.


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2 responses to “Further Questions: Do you have any etiquette tips for candidates who have received an offer?

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