Outlined in the sections below is specific advice for evaluating the terms of a job offer and salary offer, researching the market rate for salaries in a given industry or geographic area, professional etiquette and reasonable timeline expectations for responding to an offer, and negotiating an offer when that is possible (it isn't always possible). This is new ground for you, so don't hesitate to contact a career adviser in Career Services for help with any aspect of your job offer considerations.
Evaluating the Offer
Congratulations! After all your work, you've received a job offer. Now, evaluating the offer means that you must consider what is important to you in your first professional job. No matter how pleased you are with the offer, it's still wise to delay your acceptance for a short time so that you can objectively evaluate the offer in relation to your personal and career goals. When the offer is made, ask the employer for the latest reasonable date by which they would like your reply.
What is a reasonable time frame for responding to (accepting/declining) a job offer? And what is considered unreasonable pressure from an employer for an instant response ("exploding" job offer)? Here are some guidelines from the National Association of Colleges and Employers:
When evaluating or comparing offers remember that, for most entry-level employees, the responsibilities of the first job and the career growth potential it provides can be more important than the actual starting salary. For example, the opportunity for advancement can sometimes offset an initial salary differential of a few thousand dollars.
Some of these factors may be relevant for you in evaluating a job offer:
- Responsibilities and tasks of the job.
- Working conditions (colleagues, supervisor, size of organization, organizational culture).
- Training and development opportunities.
- Salary, salary review, and increases.
- Frequency of performance reviews (potential for salary increase).
- Benefits (i.e., relocation allowance, vacation, leave, insurance, retirement savings plan, profit sharing, tuition reimbursement, professional membership, and association activities, etc.).
- Geographic location; cost of living.
- Number of hours expected in a typical work day/week.
- Parking/transportation costs.
- Travel on the job.
- Lifestyle that the job will involve.
Negotiating the Offer
Negotiating a Salary Package
Negotiating an offer can include items such as the salary, start date, benefits, job responsibilities, title, relocation allowance, and (sometimes) a signing bonus. It is also common to negotiate the time frame in which you must accept or reject the offer itself. If a job offer is made over the phone, it should then be confirmed by the employer in writing. Assess whether the compensation package (salary + benefits) meets your financial needs and whether it is at the market rate for the job in your geographic area. Here are some resources for researching and comparing salaries in different industries and geographic areas.
If the salary is not at market rate, you may wish to ask if the salary is negotiable. Remember - when evaluating or comparing salary offers, consider the net value of all monetary benefits and expenses (the total "compensation package"). Benefits such as health insurance, retirement contribution, and tuition reimbursement for graduate studies can add, in value, as much as 25-40% to the stated "salary." On the other hand, factors such as cost of living for that geographic area or transportation costs might significantly decrease your net income.
Often, negotiating salary as an entry-level employee is not possible immediately. But sometimes a 60-day, 90-day, or 120-day performance review and pay raise possibility might be an option. So, if salary negotiations are not an immediate option, you might ask about the time frame and frequency of future salary/performance reviews. You might also inquire about annual bonuses and benefits such as association membership, tuition reimbursement for future education, or travel. Also, in some cases it may be appropriate to ask whether the employer offers a signing bonus (depending on the industry and competitiveness of the position).
Here are some online resources for researching salaries by industry and geographic regions, the market rate for jobs, and other information such as cost-of-living estimates, salary calculators, etc. Career advisers in CCI are also available to meet with you to help guide you through this process. Contact us for an appointment to discuss!
If you have other offers
Explain this to the employer. Reaffirm your interest in the offered position, but also express that you wish to carefully evaluate the other offer(s) as well. Keep in mind the importance of preserving your positive relationship with your future employer throughout the negotiation process.
NOTE: What is a reasonable time frame for responding to (accepting or declining) a job offer? What is considered unreasonable pressure for an instant response ("exploding" job offer)? Here are some guidelines from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
Delaying Your Response
If you are not ready to accept an offer, it is appropriate to ask for more time. You may have other offers to consider, or you may simply be unsure whether the offer is a good fit for you. However, also be mindful that the employer is working under a certain hiring timeline. Ultimately, the match between you and the employer will be best if you can take the time up front to evaluate properly.
Accepting or Declining the Offer
Whether you accept or decline the offer, certain etiquette and other considerations come into play.
Sample Acceptance/Declination Letter (.doc)
Accepting the Offer
Verbally confirm your acceptance of the offer and follow up with a written confirmation letter that reiterates salary, start date, and position title. Express your appreciation for the offer and convey your enthusiasm for joining the organization. If applicable, specify when you will meet additional conditions of employment, such as a completing a medical exam or sending required documents. As soon as you officially accept an offer, you should withdraw your candidacy from all other employers. If you are participating in Middlebury's on-campus recruiting, this is a requirement. Once you have accepted an offer, please also notify career services staff of your good news!
Declining the Offer
Verbally decline the offer, then also send a well-written letter thanking the employer for their efforts in recruiting you and for the offer. Explain (generally, not in great detail) why the other offer you are taking better matches your needs or desires at this point in time; but express your sincere appreciation for the opportunity to interview (contact a career adviser if you would like assistance in drafting this letter). Remember, even though you are declining their offer now, it's always a good idea to keep keep the door open for a possible future connection with the organization!
Accepting a job offer and then continuing your job search for a better offer may seem like savvy strategy; but it's not. In fact, it is considered unethical to keep yourself "on the market" once you have made a commitment to an employer. If, for example, the employers are Middlebury alumni working in the same field, they probably will know each other and you may lose both offers. Your acceptance to any employer is a commitment that implies you have ended your job search and will soon be a part of that organization. Remember, how you handle such decisions is a reflection of your values, priorities, and ethical/professional conduct. Please contact a career adviser in Career Services if you have questions about evaluating and negotiating any aspect of your offer. We can help you navigate these waters!
Researching and Comparing Salaries
Here are some resources for researching and comparing salaries and benefits in different industries and geographic regions:
NACE: Job Seekers Salary Calculator
(National Association of Colleges & Employers)
The Salary Calculator program will ask you for information relating to your education, employment history, and other factors, to create compensation and employment guidance for you.
LifeHacker: "How far your salary will go in another city"
Simplified comparison of salary from city to city.
Online compensation information for individuals, business managers, and human resource professionals.
The Salary Calculator
Compare the cost of living in hundreds of U.S. and international cities.
A leading provider of online compensation data.