One consequence of the tough economy: People are reluctant to relinquish any job offer, even for a position they don't want.
"One (client ) was a VP of business development, and now he only sees offers as a director or manager," said Jo Prabhu, founder and CEO of placement firm 1800Jobquest.com of Long Beach, Calif. "It's hard to say 'no,' but that could be $30,000 less in salary. Working your way back to a vice presidency is a long and arduous climb."
There are ways to delay your response. You can consider the offer for a week, for example, or accept in principle but plead obligations to consulting clients that will delay you from making a formal agreement for a set period of time.
That may work for a couple of weeks. Nevertheless, in this market, no one is going to keep a job open for someone who seems ambivalent about taking it, Prabhu said.
"That's why companies are worried about consulting; they want to know they have your full commitment," she said.
You can avoid getting into that situation by applying only for jobs you know you'd be willing to take, which has the double effect of making your search far more efficient and keeping you from having to hem and haw, according to Arlene Barro, founder of executive search and coaching firm Barro Global Search Inc. of Los Angeles.
"If the candidate, or more often the employer, does not have a clear picture of what would be the right fit, they're comparing and contrasting what they see, not thinking about what they want," she said. "That's like picking one apple from a barrel that's all rotten apples. It might be the least rotten, but it's still rotten."