Your first post-college salary will have a significant influence on your lifetime earnings, so it pays to carefully evaluate job offers and negotiate if the initial offer doesn’t align with your goals! Be sure to watch our Salary Negotiations video for tips, and meet with a career adviser to discuss strategizing about your offer.
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Consult PayScale.com to find helpful information about market-rate salaries for particular positions and employers. Once you’ve finalized your offer, be sure to complete PayScale's salary survey to help your peers better negotiate future offers!
How to Evaluate a Job Offer
Step 1: Know Yourself and Your Priorities
Determine your negotiating conditions and priorities by identifying and ranking your values. What are your non-negotiables, and what might you be willing to go without?
An offer is more than salary. More components you may want to consider:
- Job Security
- Work/Life Balance
- Stress Level
- Hours/Work Schedule
- Growth Opportunities
- Work Environment and Culture
- Vacation Time
- Professional Development
Step 2: What to Do When You First Receive the Offer
First, congratulate yourself! Your hard work has paid off. Typically, when an employer makes an offer, it is customary to provide you with a few days to a week to decide to accept or reject an offer. Even if you are confident you will take the job, it’s always a good idea to take some time to think about all aspects of the offer before responding. Most employers don’t expect an immediate decision.
If you receive an offer that requires you to make a decision within a very short timeframe, it is appropriate to politely explain that you wish to consider the offer before responding. Career Advancement is here to help you consider and review the offer, so please feel free to make an appointment with one of our advisers for assistance.
If you receive an offer through email, you should formally acknowledge receiving the offer. It is important to express your gratitude for the offer and indicate the date by which the employer will receive a response from you. The deadline for accepting an offer is typically determined by the employer. In such situations, simply restate this date in your acknowledgment.
Step 3: Thinking Through the Offer
Before you can evaluate the offer, it is important to know all the components of the employer’s offer. Confirm that you know:
- Signing Bonus (if applicable)
- Benefits (health insurance, vacation days, etc.)
- Start date
- Deadline for your decision
Never make assumptions about the offer. Ask for the details and make sure you understand them. You may need to browse the company website or speak with someone who works in the HR department to get details on benefits.
Step 4: Negotiations
If you receive an offer you’re not satisfied with, in most situations it is okay to negotiate! Before beginning the negotiations process, be sure to first assess your value to the organization, do your research on salaries in comparable positions and organizations, and provide clear examples as to why you’re negotiating a higher salary. Here is a suggestion on how to begin the negotiation process:
“Thank you for the job offer. I am very excited and interested in working for your organization but I would like to discuss whether there is flexibility in the compensation offered.”
In some cases, once you receive an offer, there is room to negotiate the salary. However, some entry-level position offers (e.g., large banking firms, consulting firms) are not negotiable. Students should check with a career adviser if they have questions about negotiating these types of offers.
Step 5: Accepting or Declining the Offer
Accepting the Offer:
If you accept an offer verbally, be sure to follow up via email The employer may also provide an acceptance form for you to sign. Once you accept an offer, it’s professional to let all other organizations to which you applied know that you have accepted an offer and should no longer be considered for their position. Only accept offers for which you intend to take up the position.
Declining the Offer:
If you choose not to accept an offer, you should communicate that to the employer in a professional and timely manner via phone or email. Be polite, tactful, and state your appreciation for the employer’s time and interest. Though it’s important to decline in a timely manner, it is OK to express an interest in considering an opportunity with the organization in the future.
Make sure to have all components of the final offer in writing, especially if any aspect of your offer differs from the organization’s normal policies.
- Maintain professionalism at all times. The person you are negotiating with may be your supervisor or your coworker.
- If the initial offer is acceptable to you, do not feel like you have to negotiate.
- After negotiating, be ready to make a decision once the final offer is given. Establish a “walk-away” figure for which you’re unwilling to accept lower. Do not try to hold out for more time or another offer.
- Remember, your offer will not be rescinded if you decide to negotiate, even if the employer decides not to engage in negotiations. However, remember to provide to be respectful and enthusiastic about the position if you do start a negotiation.