How to Accept or Decline a Job Offer

By Published On: March 26, 2021

Congratulations on the job offer, possibly more than one. It is always possible to simply accept what the employer has offered and let them know you trust their ability to put together an offer that is fair to you both. That simple message can be the best choice when working with employers that have been working with your school for a long time and currently employ other students from your program. However, if there is little history with the company, the question about negotiation becomes uncertain. If you add in having multiple job offers, then you may have more flexibility to ask for additional benefits and other options, if not additional salary. Let the company know that you have received the offer, take some time to think it over, do some research, then some hard thinking. It is a big decision, so it should not be rushed, but be mindful of the time the company is providing. Here are some tips when determining how to accept or decline a job offer.

Make Sure You Wait for the Offer Letter

Make sure there is an official offer letter that lays out all the details about what you will receive regarding title, job description, salary, benefits, and start date. You may get a call with a verbal offer, making sure you are still available and interested in receiving the offer. Don’t accept immediately over the phone. Ask to see the official, signed offer. Then they will draw up the official offer and send it to you for consideration. There is no standard time for offers to be available. Depending on the company’s situation, they may only be able to provide a few days, but most will give you 1-2 weeks.

Do Your Research

You are encouraged to talk with friends, family, professors, and your career services office about the offer. Make sure you research aspects such as cost of living, online salary resources for the title and job responsibilities you have, plus relocation expenses. These all contribute to the full value of the offer. Do internet searches for similar job titles and go to your career services office to seek help regarding comparable salaries and benefits. Research is beyond necessary when determining how to accept or decline a job offer.

Asking for Additional Time

Companies are used to having students ask for additional time if they have circumstances that justify it. Maybe you have a full-time graduate school offer that is pending that you would like to consider. Maybe you have another offer on its way and you want to compare it to what you have received. The best policy is to let the company know you are still very serious about their offer, but there are other options that you are expecting. You can’t leave the timing wide open, so you need to be as specific as you can about the additional time you need. Be prepared as well if the company says that no additional time is allowed. They may need to fill the role quickly and they don’t want to lose their opportunity to extend the offer to the next candidate after you.

Evaluating the Plusses and Minuses of Multiple Offers

If you get multiple offers, congratulations! A good position to be in. If more than two, then treat them as pairwise comparisons as one vs. another until you are down to the final two. Create a detailed table of plusses and minuses and even put weights on each of the offer and situational details. In the end, it may come down more to a gut feeling of interest in working for a particular employer and how their people made you feel like it was the right place for you. Make sure you follow both your head and your heart. Chasing the highest money offer is rarely a great decision at this point in your career unless everything else is almost equal. Go for the best opportunity for advancing your career by doing work that is interesting to you.

Negotiating Do’s and Don’ts

If you want to negotiate, let the employer know you are interested and want to negotiate one or more aspects of the offer. You should let them know what you want to negotiate so they can prepare themselves to determine what flexibility they may have prior to a call. If you start the negotiating process and get what you asked for, you should be ready to provide your verbal acceptance and ask for the updated official offer letter to arrive, followed by a quick acceptance. Don’t one-up your negotiation once you get the company to step up to a first demand. Don’t be surprised if a company says that the offer was the best they can do and that it is competitive in the industry. At that point, you can ask for some additional time, but you may still need to meet the original date.

Asking for Additional Salary

Companies generally provide a salary that they feel is attractive and matches what others have received or what the market seems to be providing. They don’t like to play games and lowball your salary offer. However, if you have been offered more by another company for a similar position, but you like a particular company better, then you should ask for more. It could be a matching amount, an amount that exceeds the other offer, or even a slightly smaller amount than the other offer, but is a good-faith gesture by the company to show their interest in working with you. Try not to stretch your luck too far by just asking for more to see how far you can stretch them. You will tend to get far more later in your career once you get started and prove your worth than you will ever likely negotiate for an initial position.

Asking for Non-educational Benefits

Benefits such as health, vision, etc. are typically non-negotiable unless there is a specific additional need or circumstance you have that you are willing to share to seek the benefit. Retirement benefits are also generally locked into the formula, particularly waiting periods for eligibility and the amount the company provides or matches your contributions. If you have an offer from another company and it is a similar position, but they have better benefits, it does not hurt to ask for something, but what you may get is an answer that can provide you some other benefit as compensation rather than a boost to health, vision, retirement, etc. benefits. This is because companies generally negotiate packages and can’t give you much of a different plan. What they can do is possibly boost other aspects of the offer such as salary, relocation assistance, a one-time hiring bonus, educational benefits, etc. You might also be able to get professional membership opportunities, health club memberships, or other perks.

Asking for Additional Educational Opportunities

Employers typically like hearing that you are interested in continuing your education. Maybe you are finishing your undergraduate degree and are considering either a master’s degree in your discipline or an MBA. Maybe you want a certification. Now is the time to find out what your company does and does not offer in the way of continued education support. Some companies pay for all tuition and fees as long as you make a minimum grade in your courses. Some match what you pay. If you want to pursue a professional certification, it would typically involve training fees and the cost of the certification testing expenses.

How to Accept a Job Offer

An acceptance is best provided personally over a call, but an acceptance can be provided by whatever method the employer specified in the job offer. An email acceptance is possible when it has a very clear message of appreciation and interest in getting started with the company, along with a request for the next steps involved. Congratulations!

How to Decline a Job Offer

You probably shouldn’t break up using a text or a voicemail and the same is true of a job offer. The company went to great expense to interview you and provide an offer of employment. The least you can do is to personally let them know you appreciated their offer, but you’ve decided to go another direction. It is best to do this by phone until you reach someone. If they are unavailable, leave a voicemail that you have reached a decision and you would like to talk with them. Wait for the return call, but your life doesn’t have to go on hold during that time. You can go ahead and accept another offer, but don’t switch back if they call back offering more salary or benefits. Make sure of your choice before you make the call.

Accept, Then Decline, Is Reputation Risk

Whatever you do, don’t accept an offer, then decide you did the wrong thing and decline it later. It is best to wait and be absolutely sure what you would like to do, then accept. Don’t pursue a strategy of accepting with the thought of seeing whether something better comes along, then declining. You put your reputation at risk and you put other students and the school at risk because companies do not like to be put in that kind of situation. You know how you feel when someone makes a promise then backs out. If there are difficult circumstances that have drastically changed your life, you can be honest with the company and they would typically understand. Such as not being able to move after all due to obligations at home. Be as open and honest as you can, but you don’t have to provide all your personal situational details, just as much as is needed to help them understand. In some cases, companies may appreciate the open honesty and consider you again.

For more information on Offer Negotiation and How to Accept or Decline a Job Offer check this out!