Following one or more interviews, an employer may offer you a job. Often the job offer is made over the phone or in person. Avoid accepting the position on the spot, unless of course you know all of the details of the offer and do not wish to negotiate anything (very rare). When an offer is made to you, it is best to ask for some time (a few days to a couple weeks) to consider the offer and discuss it with the significant others in your life. Once you and the employer have worked out a date by which a decision must be made, it is time to get down to the business of understanding the offer (e.g. salary, benefits, start date etc.). It is at this point that you may decide to negotiate the offer. It is important to remember that in most cases you are expected to negotiate so there is no need to feel uncomfortable with the process. Just be sure you conduct yourself in a professional manner throughout the negotiations.
You should also listen to your instincts when considering an offer. Be sure to consider your fit with the organization and the pros and cons of accepting or declining the offer before making any decision.
When to Negotiate
You should never bring up salary or benefits until an actual offer has been made to you. If the employer brings up salary during the interview process to ask what sort of salary range you are looking for, it is always best to answer with a well researched range. Avoid instigating any salary or benefit discussions yourself. Only when the formal offer has been made, does it become acceptable for you to ask questions regarding salary and benefits. If you have already accepted an offer you cannot go back and attempt to negotiate. This is why it is so important to always ask for at least a few days to consider any offer.
What To Negotiate
Salary is always the first thing that pops into peoples’ heads when the term negotiation is mentioned. Although salary is the most commonly negotiated aspect of any job offer, there are many other elements that can be negotiated. Other negotiable aspects of job offers include: start date, moving expenses, paid time off, stock options, bonuses, work schedule, flex time, early performance reviews, geographic location (e.g. Indianapolis office instead of Chicago office), professional development, use of company car, company phone, and further education assistance.
Retirement plans and health insurance plans are not negotiable. These plans are applied to an entire organization and typically cannot be altered for individuals.
Accepting Job Offers
Once you have decided to accept a job offer (having gone through negotiations or not) you must formally accept in writing. Your acceptance letter should include all of the specific points that were negotiated and should always include your start date and salary. Your acceptance letter should look just like your cover letter in terms of formatting. Remember you want all of the materials you submit to an employer to look the same. Below is a sample acceptance letter: