Exploding Job Offer Question:

I received my first strategy consulting offer with (Name of Top 10 Firm Withheld). What is your view about this?

They gave me 2 weeks to decide on this exploding offer, I have other interviews lined up as well.

I was wondering, you mentioned you had many offers with the leading firms, how did you mention to avoid offers to be exploded. I am quite worried about this. One can easily get rejected in interviews:

What if:

-I get an extremely difficult case in an interview
-A interviewer (across all ranks) doesn't like me which causes a rejection and my offer expires, at that time I don't have anything.

Please would you able to advice on how to proceed with the interview schedules and exploding offers?

My Response:

Congrats on the offer.

When I interviewed, I never received an exploding offer from a management consulting firm. At the time, it was not common practice among consulting firms to do this. Also at the time, it was quite common to do so among investment banking firms.

I don’t know if exploding offers are the norm amongst consulting firms these days, but I would encourage you to find out from friends, alumni, career services. It’s important to understand if this is one firm that’s doing this or if all the firms are doing this.

Here’s why.

If it’s just one firm doing this, I generally interpret this as a sign of weakness for the firm. The thinking is they have to rely on the exploding nature of their offer to get you to accept it, presumably because you might not otherwise.

A firm that is recruiting from a strong position, generally does not need to rely on exploding offers. When I received an offer from McKinsey Los Angeles and later McKinsey New York, I was given ample time to make a decision. The time frame was more than enough time for me to hear back from all the firms I interviewed with so that I could make a well informed decision.

It worked. I was able to accept McKinsey New York with confidence that it was the right firm for me. I was able to speak to the other firms to ask my questions, etc… In the end, I felt like I made a well informed decision and never second guessed it.

If a firm is the only firm in an industry to use exploding offers, I interpret that as they do not want you to make an informed decision — presumably because when all the information is known they may not appear attractive.

However, this entire line of reasoning goes out the door if exploding offers is common place among consulting firms today. I don’t know one way or another if this is the case or not.

Also, at the end of the day, you have to make your own decision on this one. It has to be one that you are comfortable with regardless of anything I’ve mentioned in this post.

I think the risks you point out as to rejecting a firm offer are legitimate concerns.

If you know how much time you’ll need to decide, you can always approach the firm and ask for additional few weeks to make a final decision. I think most firms would be reasonable in this unless they were fearful of their own attractiveness amongst their competitors.

However, if you were to ask for several months (or some arbitrarily long period of time), I can see most firms having a problem with such a long extension. It makes it very tough to forecast how many new employees they’ll have and whether or not they need to extend more offers/interview more candidates to meet their recruiting goals.

Hope this helps some and remember that whatever decision you make, you have to be very comfortable with it… and under no circumstances would I recommend you let anyone make this decision for you. (e.g., don’t blame me if you make a decision and aren’t happy with it a year from now!)

Good luck.