Negotiating and Accepting Offers
Congratulations, you got a job offer! All the hard work you did in networking, perfecting your resume and cover letter, interviewing, and following-up with employers has paid off. There is no reason to accept an offer “on the spot,” and most employers will not expect you to do so. Give yourself several days to evaluate the offer before making a final decision, even if you are fairly certain you want the job. To assist you, take into account the following factors:
First and foremost, think about the nature of the work you will perform. Ask yourself these questions:
Is the position interesting and challenging?
Does this position fit with your career goals and your core values?
Are you proud of the work you will be doing?
What is the potential for job growth and advancement?
What is a typical work week? Is there overtime?
What are the working conditions?
Is there potential for relocation?
How long do people who start in this position stay with the company, in general?
An ideal time to obtain answers for these critical questions is during the interview process.
Corporate culture, image, reputation, history of layoffs and restructuring, employee training and continued education, financial stability, personnel policies, employee recognition, community involvement, and flexibility are all areas to consider. If possible, talk to a current employee; you will be able to gain some valuable insights about the organization.
This factor takes into account much more than geography. Think about your commute, the cost of living, availability of suitable housing, recreation and entertainment opportunities, quality and proximity of schools, the climate, and the environment. Although relocating can be challenging, it can also be a first step toward a great career.
One of the prime areas of consideration for individuals accepting employment is the salary. Remember that your salary includes much more than the actual dollar figure presented. Consider also the value of the benefits package, which can sometimes be worth as much as 30-40% more than the actual salary. Benefits can include insurance (health, life, and disability), stock options, profit sharing, bonuses, retirement packages, cafeteria plans, vacation/sick leave, educational benefits, childcare, flextime, telecommuting, maternity/parental leave, recreational/wellness programs, and employee incentives/discounts. Keep in mind that your potential for salary growth, and ultimately your job satisfaction, quickly becomes more important than your starting salary.
All organizations have a corporate culture, which is dictated, to some extent, by the employees. Talk to your potential supervisor to get a sense of the employees’ personalities and work styles. Think back to your interview; as you observed employees throughout the organization, did they appear to enjoy their work? When you spoke with potential co-workers, did they seem to be cordial and welcoming, or were they aloof and uninterested about the prospect of your joining the organization? When you consider the amount of time you will spend at work, it is important to have a positive working relationship with your co-workers.
More so than anyone else, your direct supervisor can play a significant role not only in your job satisfaction, but also your advancement potential. The ability to work and get along with this individual is critical. Almost as important as the working relationship is how this person will serve as a mentor. First impressions aren’t always accurate, but you should trust your instincts. Asking a few key questions of your potential supervisor will assist you in determining your compatibility. These could include:
“How do you motivate employees?
“What do you enjoy most about working for this organization?”
“What is your management style?”
When you do accept an offer, it’s a good idea to notify the hiring manager of your decision by telephone and then to confirm your acceptance in writing. Re-state the position title, salary, start date, and other specific information that relates to the offer. Ask the employer for a letter confirming these details, as well. Once you’ve accepted an offer, your active job search will end. It is also courteous to notify all other employers you’ve been talking to about your decision and remove yourself from the search process.
As in all interactions with any employer, be courteous, direct, and honest when negotiating. Once a job offer has been made, it is appropriate to discuss salary. Salary negotiation is an acceptable part of the job search process, especially if the salary doesn’t fall within your target salary range. Employers are generally willing to negotiate salaries. Reasons to negotiate include: a competing offer from another organization, an offer lower than the national average, a high cost-of-living index, or unique skills/experience you possess.
Before negotiating, be prepared with national salary averages in your field; cost-of-living estimates for the area; and your experience, education, and skills that warrant a higher starting salary.
Based on salary averages and the area cost of living, have an acceptable salary range in mind; a $3,000 to $5,000 range is suggested. The bottom of the range should be the lowest amount you are willing to accept. When asking for a higher starting salary, convey your enthusiasm and interest in the position.
An example might be, “I am very interested in this opportunity and excited about my future with ABC Company. Based on my research, however, the average starting salary in similar fields is $44,000. Given my excellent internship experience and communication skills, I was hoping for a salary in the range of $44,000 to $47,000.” A simpler statement might be, “Given my qualifications and skills for this position, I was looking for a salary closer to $44,000.” You and the employer can then negotiate a figure from here.
Keep in mind that many employers have formal pay structures or set entry-level salaries at fixed levels, both of which may be non-negotiable. Given this, employers may negotiate benefits, signing bonuses, vacation time, relocation costs, and flex-time schedules. The only way to know if an employer is willing to negotiate is to ask.
Once you accept a position, you should be prepared to fulfill that obligation. It is highly unethical and unprofessional to renege on an offer.