Evaluating and Negotiating a Job Offer

Congratulations on your offer! Now, it is important to understand all aspects of the offer to ensure it will meet your goals and needs.

Do not start discussing or negotiating conditions of employment until you have received an offer of employment.

Step 1:  Evaluating the job offer

Know Your Priorities and Needs

  • How closely does this position match your career goals? What will keep you motivated on the job? What are important skills for you to acquire in this new position?
  • Below are three lists of considerations relating to the position itself, the employing organization/environment, and potential rewards. Rank each factor to determine your unique priorities.
PositionOrganization/Work EnvironmentRewards
Nature/variety of the work
Level of responsibility
Training/new learning opportunities
Advancement potential
Uses my skills
Tools and resources provided to do the job
Level of interaction with others
Prestige of company
Relationship with supervisor
Relationships with colleagues
Culture and values
Work hours/commute
Location and amenities
Organization size
Financial strength
Performance review structure
Job security
Compensation package
Flexible schedule options
Vacation/personal days
Telecommuting options
Mentoring
Tuition reimbursement
Pay for performance

Do Your Homework

Living within your means

  • What salary do you need to meet your financial obligations and preferred lifestyle?
  • What is the minimum salary you are willing to accept? What might you be willing to sacrifice for a position with a lower salary? What are your “needs” and what are your “wants?”
  • There may be hidden costs within your expenses/budget. Take some time to develop a simple spreadsheet (see “financial information” under “additional resources”) to calculate your expenses.
  • Don’t forget that unexpected costs occur and should be factored into your expenses (medical costs, a new car, home repairs, etc.). Seek a salary that allows you to save 3-6 months of living expenses for an emergency fund.

Equitable compensation

  • When anticipating a job offer, it is wise to research the pay of comparable positions (glassdoor.com, etc.)
  • Salaries for similar jobs may vary with geographic location.
  • How does your experience and education measure against industry norms and the specifics of this position? The strength of your negotiating position will reflect the specific requirements of this employer, as well as the qualifications of other applicants that have interviewed for the position.
  • What is the current condition of the candidate market? In a saturated market, you may have less room to negotiate. Are openings in this industry—and at this level—plentiful or scarce?

Discussing salary requirements before an offer is made

  • You may be asked to provide a salary range in the interview. The best approach when responding is to avoid providing an answer until you have the offer. Sample responses might include:

The position is my main focus at this point. I would like to learn more about the job scope before discussing salary requirements.

What is the range for the position? Is it negotiable?”

I am confident we can reach an agreement if we determine I am the best candidate for the position.”

  • An interviewer may require you to commit to a range. You can approach this situation by stating, “I know that comparable positions typically pay____.”

Step 2: Job offer

You are in the best position to negotiate before you accept a position. Do not negotiate before an offer has actually been extended.

What to Expect

The initial job offer is usually extended via telephone or email. The offer will most likely include the salary, position title and summary, benefits, and proposed start date.

Responding to the Job Offer

  • Listen to/read the offer carefully.
  • After expressing your enthusiasm and thanking the employer, ask for their preferred date for a decision. Be prepared to explain if/why you need additional time and how much you will need.
  • The CPD holds employers participating in the recruiting program accountable to offer timelines, ranging from 1-2 weeks depending on the term and start of the opportunity. Employers outside of the recruiting program are not bound to our timelines. Employers outside of the recruiting program typically tell candidates when extending the offer when they want to receive a final answer from the candidate. That is the point from which any negotiation for additional time begins.
  • The initial offer may not always include information about benefits. If that is the case, gently ask how you can obtain this information. 
  • Take at least a couple of days to think about the offer and develop questions. Almost always, candidates come up with questions they had not initially considered.

Sample Response

I am thrilled to have this opportunity at your organization. This is a very important decision and warrants careful consideration. I would like to take some time to review the offer and discuss the opportunity with my family. Would it be okay if I followed up with you on [insert date]?”

In the event that you find yourself in multiple hiring processes at the same time and are awaiting a response from another employer (or more), discuss your options with family, friends, and/or a career coach at the Center for Professional Development. Also, consult our tips for “Asking for a Job or Internship Offer Extension.” Once you have agreed upon a time frame, ask for the offer in writing before you provide your final acceptance.

Exploding Offers

An “exploding offer” requires you to make a decision within a very short timeline (24-48 hours). In this scenario, politely explain that you prefer to consider the opportunity before providing your response. Employers sometimes pressure candidates to accept their offer immediately to diminish the possibility of competing offers. If faced with an exploding offer, schedule time to meet with a CPD career coach as soon as possible. Note: Exploding offers and bonuses are prohibited as part of CPD recruiting.  

Written Acknowledgment

The employer may appreciate written acknowledgment of the offer, which is also beneficial for your personal records. In either a formal letter or an email message, state your understanding of the terms of the offer and the agreed upon date to respond with your decision. This also provides an opportunity to ask for an extension in the case you are not comfortable with the date provided by the employer. The employer may simply ask you to sign and date an offer letter that contains relevant details. Just make sure any concerns you have are addressed in the letter or your response email. 

Step 3: Evaluating the job offer

Should you negotiate?

Revisit your ranked values (found at the top of this page) and determine how the job offer matches your requirements and preferences. If the offer is fair—based upon market pay and your qualifications—you may decide to accept it. However, you may feel that your qualifications warrant additional compensation and/or benefits and opt to negotiate. Keep in mind that there are a variety of factors to consider when outlining your negotiation proposal.

Compensation

Is the salary acceptable to you? When assessing compensation, it is imperative that you clearly understand potential commission, incentives, and bonus structures. Additional perks may include: relocation reimbursements, stock options, additional insurance coverage, deferred compensation, retirement contributions, and/or severance protection. Also consider how often you will be reviewed for pay increases. It is also imperative to be cognizant of differential costs of living if you have offers in various locations. If you are thinking about a remote/work from home job, check if there are any home office expenses that an employer might be willing to cover. 

Benefits

What are the benefits? In addition to health care, consider intangible benefits, including work hours/flextime, whether remote work is an option, time off before vacation has accrued, amount of vacation time, retirement plans, professional development and memberships, tuition reimbursement, transportation allowances, etc.

What Additional Information Do You Need?

Talk with family, friends, and/or advisors to brainstorm additional questions to consider. You may decide to request additional time with the employer to address supplemental questions.

Potential Reflection Questions

  • What do orientation and onboarding look like?
  • What training and support will you receive once in the position? If/how is it built into your work schedule?
  • How and when will your performance be evaluated?
  • How do your values align with the organization’s mission and culture?
  • How does this employer demonstrate a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion?
  • How does your work and communication style complement your team and your direct supervisor’s management style?
  • Do the economic benefits offset potential disruptions to your work/life balance?
  • Are the skills you would be developing in this opportunity the ones you want to develop further?
  • How stressful is the nature of the work? How do you perform under pressure?
  • When are you expected to start?
  • Think about the future. How does this job scope and salary help position you for your next career move? How supportive is the organization/your supervisor of professional development and growth opportunities?

Once you have answered and reflected on the various aspects of the offer, make your decision with confidence.

Step 4: Negotiations

Preparing to Negotiate

Most employers have more flexibility than they care to admit, but not everything is negotiable. Room for negotiations may vary according to organizational size, culture and profitability, economic conditions, and the urgency to fill the position. Before contacting the employer, be prepared to justify your argument. The employer will expect you to present a strong case for why they should meet your additional requirements.

  • Propose a salary and benefits package at the upper end of your acceptable range. Base your “acceptable range” on marketplace averages for your geographic location and qualifications. Check first with a reliable source (CPD coach, industry connection, etc.) on whether your proposal sounds reasonable. 
  • Cite your sources, including firms you have researched in collecting market statistics.
  • Here is one link that you might find helpful: https://www.contractrecruiter.com/hr-tools-research-salary/
  • Link your skills, experience, and expertise to your prospective employer’s needs. Consider creating a list of these qualifications to strengthen your argument.
  • Plan your approach, and practice aloud with a CPD career coach, friends, and family members.
  • Make sure to read this article about “Questions to Ask Before You Take the Job”.

Negotiating

Below are some suggestions that may be helpful to start the negotiation process:

“Thank you for the job offer. I am delighted by this opportunity. I am very interested in working for your organization; however, I would like to explore any flexibility you have in the salary range.”

“I am very excited about this position and would like to discuss the benefits you are offering.”

In the event that your primary objective (e.g., salary) is not negotiable, have a backup list of other options you could potentially negotiate. These may include benefits, start date, relocation reimbursement, signing bonus, vacation time, flexible schedule, tuition reimbursement, remote work, compensation review/raise schedule, or bonus structure. These should be factors that are genuinely important to you. Don’t negotiate for the sake of doing so.

It is highly unethical and uncommon for an offer to be rescinded if you decide to negotiate. Keep in mind that the person you are negotiating with may be your supervisor or co-worker. Always remain respectful and enthusiastic about the position throughout negotiations and be prepared to make a decision within 1-2 business days once the final offer is given.

If you are weighing one offer against another, start by consulting your list of priorities from the top of this page. Perhaps a missing piece of information might clarify things for you. You should feel comfortable asking an employer for any information you need to make a good decision. Do not share details of an offer with a competing employer. Schedule an appointment with a CPD coach to discuss your offers and the criteria for making your decision.

Step 5: Accepting or declining the offer

Accepting the Offer

Get the final offer in writing to avoid any potential misunderstandings. Review the written offer with care to ensure that all agreed upon components are reflected. It is best to call the employer to accept your offer, followed by a confirmation in writing (email or letter is acceptable). In your written confirmation, include the position title, start date, salary, and any additional negotiated items. It is professional protocol – and critical – that you immediately decline any other organization with which you are interviewing/being considered. It is also wise to keep a copy of all written correspondence with all employers for your personal records.

Declining the Offer

If you should decide to decline an offer, contact the employer in a professional and timely manner. Communicate your decision via telephone or email. Thank your contact for their offer and for the opportunity to interview. It is generally recommended that you briefly explain why you have decided to decline their offer. Be sure to stay positive and offer an explanation that can leave a channel open for you with this organization and/or with this particular person. Many professionals working in the same field know one another, and your paths may cross again.

Honoring Offers – Don’t Renege!

A renege occurs when you accept a job or internship offer and reject it later. Both employers and students are expected to fulfill offer commitments made during the hiring process. Student reneges – and offers rescinded by employers – are considered serious infractions of Dartmouth’s recruiting policies. Once you accept an offer, you must stop further interviewing and notify employers where you have an offer or interview pending. A student who accepts an offer and subsequently reneges – or fails to show up on the start date – risks losing access to all CPD resources, including access to the career platform. If you’re facing a dilemma, schedule an appointment with a CPD career coach to discuss your situation.

Additional Resources

Financial information

Career information

Additional questions?

Schedule an appointment with a CPD career coach through Handshake here

Sources

  This guide was adapted from harrisschool.uchicago.edu/sites/default/files/cdo/s