How much time can you take to decide about a job offer?

QI've been going on interviews the past few weeks in the hope of leaving my temporary job for one with benefits. I would take any of the jobs I interviewed for. What should I do when I am offered a job that I feel I have to accept on the spot? Should I say yes, but that I still have some questions about benefits? I would also want a day or two to see if any other offers materialize. But I am worried that if I don't show immediately that I want the job that they will offer it to someone else. What is the normal amount of time allowable for responding to a job offer?

AKaren Usher, president of TPO Inc., a McLean human resources consulting and outsourcing firm, said the protocol depends on the level of the position. Those offered senior-level jobs generally get a bit more time.

She said that if this worker is seeking an entry- or mid-level job, he "ought to be able to make a decision on the spot if he's got his thoughts together about what criteria he's willing to accept." Still, she said that companies expecting a quick answer "should be more than happy to answer any questions [about benefits or other issues] since they're asking him to make a decision."

And she said asking "to sleep on a decision" overnight is reasonable. "I've never heard of anyone who wouldn't agree to let the employee give their answer in the next day."

"If they try to go beyond that, that's a little worrisome to me, and [the company] might offer the job to someone else if you don't make a decision," she said. "You're shooting yourself in the foot if you go beyond a day."

With senior-level jobs, Usher said "everything works a little more slowly," with multiple interviews the norm. Nonetheless, she said it still would be normal to take no more than a couple of days to decide.

-- Kenneth Bredemeier

E-mail your workplace questions to Kenneth Bredemeier at bredemeier@washpost.com. Discuss workplace issues with him at 11 a.m. Wednesday at www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.