Responding to Offers

Congratulations – you’ve gotten a job 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.  It’s important to keep the focus and drive that sustained you through the process a little while longer to determine if the job is right for you.

Sometimes you apply for a “dream job” and, when the offer comes, you have no doubts about accepting it.  More often, a position has both positive and negative aspects that you must weight carefully before making a decision.

First Things First

When you receive your offer – which should include a job title, terms of employment, salary figure, indication of benefits, and, often, a start date – express your excitement and thanks to the organization’s representative and request a few days, or weeks, to consider it.  This period is not meant to heighten the company’s suspense!  Instead, use it to reflect carefully on both your priorities and needs and the specifics of the offer in order to make an informed choice.

At the time of the offer, ask the person how to get back in touch should the need arise for clarification on any aspect of the offer.  Try to ask any questions you might have during the same conversation, rather than contacting the organization multiple times.  When you have the information you need and have considered the offer carefully, contact the person with your final decision.

Important Decision-Making Factors

Throughout the application and interview process you have had to reflect on identity and discuss your goals, skills, abilities, and experiences.  When considering an offer, revisit these important factors in the context of the specific opportunity to inform your next step.  The questions below – and many others that are unique to you – will help you to gauge the “fit” of the position; keep in mind that jobs do not usually meet all of our needs.  This assessment will also reveal if you need more information from the employer to make your decision with confidence. 

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?

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?

Salary and Compensation Packages

Compensation (salary and other benefits connected with the position) is only one aspect of many factors to consider when deciding about a job offer but, as we know, it is an extremely important one. Compensation can play a role in critical aspects of our lives, such as financial security, personal well-being, education, future career development and professional self-esteem. 

Typical Forms of Compensation

  • Salary
  • Health, dental and/or life insurance
  • Paid time off (vacation, sick days, personal days, bereavement leave)
  • Organizational contributions to employee retirement accounts
  • Wellness programs
  • Discounts/subsidies on commuting costs and parking
  • Professional training programs, conferences, tuition subsidies

Learn more about the most commonly offered benefits.

Determining Salary

The salary connected to your offer should be considered in the context of and balanced by the entire compensation package.  However, there are several ways to consider the salary figure itself:

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.

Salary Calculators: Research salaries for 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 (non-profit v. for-profit companies), experience level (entry level v. mid-career), or education level (bachelor’s degree v. master’s degree).

Cost of Living: Some places are more expensive to live than others.  Though this sounds like an obvious statement, it has a significant impact on what a salary is actually worth.  For example a $30,000 salary in Chicago would offer you the same style of living as a $35,000 salary in Boston.

Salary Negotiation

If you wish the employer to reconsider the salary offer you must be clear in your own mind about the basis for your request.  If you wish to negotiate a higher salary, make note of any special “value added” qualifications that make you a particularly desirable employee and may warrant special consideration by the employer in determining salary.  These can include advanced degrees, sustained or extensive experience in the field, publications, industry awards, specialized technical knowledge or expertise, past contributions to the organization (if the new job is with the same employer).  You may also be able to use your current salary for leverage.

Remember to take into account that average salaries vary for different industries and organizations across geographic locations.  Reconsideration is a brief negotiation in which you express your thoughts and also listen closely to the employer’s needs.  Ultimately, the employer will make a final offer – either the original or a revised figure – and you will have to decide whether or not it is satisfactory for you.

Saying Yes or No

When you have decided whether or not 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 honor of the offer and the consideration shown to you throughout the process; express your hopes for the organization’s continued success.  Remember, be gracious – these individuals are doing good work and they 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.  You are on your way!

Handling Competing Offers

Timing is everything when you are engaged in multiple job searches.  Once you accept an offer at a company, you must 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 and with whom you’ve interviewed to say that you appreciated their consideration and have taken a job elsewhere.

In some cases, 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.  In that case, you will have to make a decision about the first position based on an informed assessment of its suitability without knowing the outcome of the second search.

However, 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.