Congratulations! After sending out resumes, applying online, networking at every chance, and painstakingly preparing yourself, you’ve made it through the interview process and you’re feeling confident about getting a job offer.
How do you know you might be receiving one? Here are some common signs:
- The hiring manager is 'selling' you on the company
- The employer has started to discuss or negotiate compensation
- The people you are interviewing with talk in phrases like 'you will' rather than 'you would'
- Your interviewer(s) are starting to mention start dates
- You’re being introduced to other managers and peers, and you’re getting a tour of the office
- The employer asks for references or tells you that they'll be conducting a background check
- You find out the company has actually checked references
- The employer’s managers, executives, or employees add you as a connection on LinkedIn
Getting an Offer
And then it happens… the hiring manager calls or emails you and informs you that the company wants to extend you an offer of employment. You did it!
Companies often extend offers verbally and when that happens, you want to do three things: 1) thank them and express your appreciation, 2) ask for the offer in writing, and 3) tell them you’d like to take time to review everything.
Reviewing the Offer
Before you take that offer and quickly sign and accept, think the offer through. Remember, with a job offer, the ball is in your court: they want you! You want to be excited about starting off with a new organization, and the job offer is the first step.
When you get your offer, don't feel that you need to accept or start the negotiation process right away. Give yourself time to think things over. Respond to the employer and tell them you are excited about the offer. Find out their expectations for hearing back on your answer. If they want the position filled immediately, you will want to evaluate the offer and respond back more quickly. A fair amount of time to think about the offer can be anywhere from a day to a week.
Don't worry about losing the job offer after asking for time to decide. An employer that really wants you will give you enough time- within reason- as you need to decide.
Once you’ve thanked the employer for the offer and you’ve clarified the expected response time frame, make sure you think through the following:
- Completely understand the proposed compensation. Your base salary is pretty straightforward but you’ll want to know how often you’re paid. You’ll also want to know when you are eligible for raises, and how salary increases are determined. If incentive compensation (i.e. a commission structure) is offered, be sure you’re 100% clear on how the incentive compensation works. Finally, explore whether or not you are eligible for bonuses and if so, understand how the bonus potential and payout is structured.
- Paid Time Off (PTO). Get clarity on how many vacation, personal, and sick days you are eligible for. You also want to find out how PTO allowances increase over time.
- Your Benefits. Benefits can vary widely from company to company and as a major component of your total employment package, you should understand how benefits work when you are made an offer. Many employers offer a scale of insurance options (PPO, HMO, etc.) and each option will cost different amounts and have different degrees of insurance coverage. Ask about other kinds of insurance, too, such as vision, dental, life insurance, and long/short-term disability. Make sure you understand any additional benefits that the employer offers and factors those benefits into your overall offer consideration.
- Commuting. Parking can be a big deal in some cities. Some companies have parking set aside for employees. If your potential employer does not, is the parking offered close to the building, or is it quite a walk? Does the company cover employee parking costs, and if so, how much do they cover? Does the company have a discount plan on public transportation?
- Your Working Hours. Ask for realistic working conditions. If you’ll be expected to regularly work on evenings and weekends, you may want to negotiate your base pay or ask for additional vacation and personal days. Be informed. You do not want to find out you just quit a $50,000 job working 40 hours per week for a $60,000 job working 60 hours per week.
- Your Start Date. This seems obvious, but make sure you know exactly when the employer wants you to start. You don’t want to realize too late that the start date is too far away financially, too soon for relocation, or too soon to respectfully finish up your work with your current employer.
Negotiating the Offer
Sometimes a job seeker gets an employment offer that fits perfectly with their expectations. More often than not, however, job seekers want to negotiate part of the offer, most likely the salary. This is a common cause of job offer stress for many, and understandably so. You've worked hard to get an offer and the idea of potentially jeopardizing that offer because you want more money is daunting. In reality, the chances of an offer being revoked are low, as long as you navigate negotiations reasonably and professionally. Salary negotiation is totally normal for employers and not only are they accustomed to it; they probably even expect it!
Before you start negotiating, realize when you’re in a position to negotiate, and when you are not:
DO negotiate if:
- You have the offer letter in hand. You don’t have a true offer until you have an offer letter. Still waiting? Don’t start to negotiate.
- You can clearly spell out the value you’re bringing to the organization. If you can support it with data, do so.
- Your intuition is telling you that you might regret joining the organization unless you get more of what you were hoping for.
- You’re going to decline unless the salary is higher.
DO NOT negotiate if:
- You already accepted the offer. Coming back after the fact is poor form.
- The employer tells you this is their best offer.
- You cannot justify a higher salary.
If you have decided to negotiate, the first thing is to respond to the employer’s offer with enthusiasm and grace. Say something like:
“I’d like to accept your offer. The job is what I want, and the company and the people are where I want to work. I’d like to work on the terms of the offer with you, if you’re open to it.”
You can then take one of several approaches to negotiating:
- Ask for more money without actually stipulating a number. If the employer knows their offer was too low, and you ask them to renegotiate, they think carefully about offering you a number that low balls you twice in a row.
Here's how you might bring it up: "I'm excited about the opportunity to start, and I feel like our partnership is going to be beneficial for both parties. Is there any way we can increase the starting salary?"
- Present a better offer if you feel like you're worth more. As long as you’re being realistic, staying firm about a high number could help you close the gap between your minimum salary and your target salary. Keep your offer high if you think you have leverage. Do you have another offer from a competitor? Are you highly sought-after talent? Don’t be overly confident, but make your case for why you should get the job at or near the salary you're asking for.
In either case, when you negotiate you need to be ready to walk away. When putting together a better offer, remember that the employer may not be able to meet your requirements.
- Weave benefits or other perks into the negotiation. If the salary discussion grows stagnant, consider trying to get make your case for added perks or benefits. Ask for things like a matching contribution to your retirement savings or additional paid time off. Although these things seem small, they can have a huge financial impact over the course or months or even years.
- Get everything in writing. After you've negotiated your best salary and benefits, get the offer in writing.
Remember to be gracious and responsive throughout your negotiations. The tone you use in negotiating is important in conveying that you are professional, pleasant to work with, and collaborative.
Accepting the Offer
When you’re through negotiating and ready to accept, reiterate all of the details in a written acceptance. If negotiations took longer than expected, share your appreciation for their patience. Negotiation is stressful for both sides and expressing gratitude shows that you’re ready to move forward.
Finally, ask about the next steps. For example, is there any onboarding paperwork you should get started on? Will there be an orientation? And how can you prepare for your first day? This shows that you’re proactive and enthusiastic to start.
Click here to download our guide to Accepting the Job Offer.
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