So you’ve gone through a whole interview process and received a job offer – congratulations! But wait, aren’t you supposed to negotiate? What about other places you’ve interviewed? Put your best foot forward by being prepared ahead of time.

When you receive the offer… 

It’s okay to be excited, but don’t say yes right away!  You’ll want to think about the offer before you accept it, even if it feels great. Request a written offer letter that outlines salary, start date, position title, and anything else you’ll need to know. If it’s a position that offers benefits, ask for any information available about those as well (rates and coverage), and if they don’t have that information, see if there’s someone you can talk to in human resources. Most employers aren’t expecting you to accept an offer on the spot, but will want a response soon. Establish a time to reconnect that will give you ample time to review, but respect their desire to complete the hiring process. 

When you evaluate the offer… 

Take all aspects of a job into consideration when evaluating an offer. Some common considerations:  

  • Salary is complicated! You’ll want to do some math to make sure the salary will meet your expectations now, but don’t forget to take into account potential for salary increases, promotions, bonuses, and the benefits package as well. Often these other aspects of total compensation can be significant deciding factors for a job. 
  • Does the job fit your values and expectations for company culture? A job that pays well but pushes you to work wild hours or forgo time with your family and friends may not be worth it in the long run. 
  • How long is the commute? Is there travel involved? What’s the expectation for working during holidays? Think of any questions you might want to ask. 

When you negotiate… 

You don’t always HAVE to negotiate, but you SHOULD negotiate more often than you think you’ll need to, especially early in your career.  Here are some helpful tips to get you into the negotiation mindset:  

  1. Do your research! Websites like the Occupational Outlook HandbookGlassdoor, and Job Search Intelligence are just a few of the places that can help you establish what a realistic starting salary should be in the industry and particular geographic location (but recognize flexibility is important.) 
  2. Employers are often expecting you to negotiate! Most employers have a salary range that they use to establish potential salaries, and most initial offers are going to be on the lower side of that range in anticipation of negotiating. 
  3. Even small salary increases have long-lasting effects! If you are going to get salary increases over your career, your starting salary will often influence what you will be offered next. 
  4. Salary isn’t the only thing you can negotiate! Start dates, sign on bonuses, benefits, and more may be available for negotiation depending on the organization. 
  5. Negotiating has few if any consequences! Unless you are rude during a negotiation process, it is extremely rare for an offer to be rescinded based solely on the fact you asked for something that wasn’t offered. As a result, nothing ventured means nothing gained. Be mindful - sometimes one round of negotiation is all you can expect from an entry-level job.  

Accepting or Rejecting an Offer 

Once you’ve made the decision to accept or reject an offer, it’s important to navigate this conversation in a professional, respectful, and timely manner. 

If accepting the offer, reach out within the agreed upon window of time. Usually this will happen via phone, but if you have been communicating primarily via email, that is acceptable as well.  Make it clear in your acceptance what your understanding is of the offer, and feel free to reiterate that through email.  This is also a great time to send thank you notes to your references for supporting your application. When you accept an offer, you should also withdraw your applications from any other positions for which you are in the interview process.

If rejecting the offer, reach out again within the agreed upon window of time. Thank the employer, and be polite but firm in your refusal. It is important to remember that this employer can be a part of your professional network, and you’ll want to maintain that connection long-term. 

A Few Helpful Phrases in Negotiating 

If someone asks you for an expected salary:  

  • “I don’t think I can provide a number without knowing more about the role and benefits package.” 

If someone insists on needing a salary figure, or you feel uncomfortable passing on the question: 

  • “I would be looking for something along the lines of [low end of researched range] and [high end of researched range], but all of that would be dependent on the total compensation package of your organization." 

If you want to bring up the possibility of negotiating after an offer is made:  

  • “I was wondering what kind of flexibility there was in this offer.” 

If someone insists you respond to an offer on the phone call in which it is made:  

  • “While I’m excited to work at [Name of Company] and I recognize that you have a timeline to keep to, it’s important to me to make an informed decision about this offer. Could I get back to you [reasonable time frame] with my decision?” 


Salary Resources 


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