Understand and Negotiate Offers

Congratulations – you've received an offer! Pat yourself on the back. A great deal of hard work and energy went into your success. Now you need to decide whether or not to accept the position. When you receive an offer, express your excitement and thanks to the organization's representative, ask when they would like an answer by so you have time to review and evaluate the offer.

Components of an Offer

An offer should include a job title, terms of employment, salary, indication of benefits, and a start date. In addition to salary these are typical benefits to look for:

  1. Health Insurance - Employer provided health insurance could include medical, dental and vision and often provides cheaper pre-tax rates than you can find if you purchased health insurance on your own.
  2. Retirement Savings Plan - Retirement plans allows you to put a percentage of your gross (pre-tax) income into a trust fund or other qualified investment fund. In many cases, employers will match your contribution up to a certain percentage - this is "free" money that can add to your overall compensation package. Typically, you can take your plan with you after leaving your employer.
  3. Tuition Reimbursement - One way to get ahead in your career is to continue learning - keep up with the latest trends in your profession. In this case, your employer pays all or a portion of your tuition costs for classes related to the business of the company. In some cases, employers reimburse for non-business-related classes and for supplies such as books.
  4. Time Benefits:

Evaluate the Offer

How do you decide if a position is right for you or if the offer is appropriate? Review the following factors to help reflect on what's most important to in making this decision.

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Personal Factors
  • Does the job meet my personal and professional goals and priorities at this time?

  • Am I interested in learning about and participating in this type of work?

  • Will I acquire new skills and abilities that are important to me and/or transferable to work in the future?

  • Is the geographical location right for me?

  • If I take this position, will I be able to meet my other (non-work) commitments and responsibilities?

  • Does the compensation package meet my needs at this time and in the immediate future?

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Organizational Factors
  • Are the organization’s values and mission a good match for me?

  • Is the work environment compatible with my strengths and preferences?

  • Do my future colleagues seem like individuals I can work with easily and trust?

  • Is the system of supervision, training and promotion satisfactory to me?

  • Has the organization adequately outlined for me my responsibilities, work conditions, reporting line and schedule?

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Salary Factors

Performance Raises or Signing Bonus: Depending on the position or the industry you might ask about opportunities for performance raises after a certain amount of time or even some signing bonus when accepting an offer.

Baseline Determination: Calculate the total monthly or yearly expenses (keeping in mind any covered by the employer, such as health care or parking) and saving requirements and then compare that amount to the salary offered. Determine your net pay after taxes with a salary calculator and create a simple budget worksheet.

Salary Research: Research similar positions in your geographic area in order to compare your salary offer. Keep in mind that these are average figures and variations may be linked to type of industry, experience, or education level.

  • ETC Salary Calculator — The Educate to Career (ETC) salary calculator lets you input your education and years of experience to explore salary ranges

  • LinkedIn Salary — Reported salary data by current professionals

  • Glassdoor — Explore reported salaries at companies by job title

  • Vault — Browse compensation information and salary tips by field and company

Cost of Living: The cost of goods (housing, food, transportation, etc) can vary greatly by location. Review a cost of living calculator to help you determine the cost of moving to a new area.

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Negotiate Your Offer

Negotiation is a normal part of the hiring process and you should always ask if there is room to negotiate your offer. Do your research and be prepared to present a reasonable counter-offer if presented with the opportunity. Remember you don't get what you don't ask for.

You are in the best position to negotiate when you know the value of your skills as well as comparable salary and benefits for your position.

Watch a Video on Negotiating Your Job Offer by Christine DiDonato

For in depth interview help, review the Salary Negotiation Myths video trainings from Lynda.com, provided for free by Brandeis.

Handling Competing Offers

Timing is everything when you are engaged in multiple job searches. You might receive an offer from one company while you are being considered for another attractive position in an application process that is only just beginning. You'll have to make a decision about the first position based on an informed review without knowing the outcome of the second search.

Once you accept an offer at a company, you should withdraw yourself immediately from any on-going job searches in which you are involved – you are no longer on the market.

If you have determined that accepting an offer is right for you, write or call the other organization(s) with offers on the table to say that you appreciated their consideration and have taken a job elsewhere.

If you have received an offer from one company and expect to hear within two weeks from another, your request for a few weeks to consider the first offer will allow you to assess both offers at the same time. Give each your full consideration, then make your decision and inform both organizations.

Your Final Answer

When you have decided to accept the position, get in touch directly with the person who made the offer. This is usually done by telephone. Find a quiet place where you can focus your attention on the conversation without distractions.

If you decline, be sure to convey your gratitude to the organization for the offer and the consideration shown to you throughout the process. Remember, these individuals may become colleagues or professional contacts in the future.

You do not need to share detailed information about your decision but you should provide an explanation. One example might be, "After considering all of the information you and your colleagues shared about the position, I feel that the work involved is not a strong match with my professional needs at this time. This was a difficult decision because I think your organization does important work and the staff are very dedicated."

If you accept, you should also express your gratitude for the opportunity and enthusiasm for the work ahead. The hiring manager will provide details about the next steps such as meeting with a human resources representative, signing a contract, and setting a firm start date.