Congratulations! You got the job. Now for the hard part: deciding whether to accept it or not. How should you assess the salary as well as the other perks? Which publicly available information should you rely on? How should you try to get a better deal? And what’s the best way to decline an offer if it’s not the right job for you?
Evaluating a job offer is not always straightforward as you may not have the luxury of comparing it to others. “Step back and think expansively about your goals. Think about the offer in terms of your development, your quality of life, and the variety of the work you want to do.” No job offer will be perfect, so a big part of the evaluation requires you to “think about the trade-offs you are willing to make.” Here are some ideas to help you figure out if the job is right for you.
Shift your mindset First, you must recognize that receiving an offer represents a “new and different phase” of the job search process. The purpose of the interview is to get the offer. The next stage is about weighing that offer and then negotiating with your new employer. Pause, you are starting a new chapter.” Bear in mind that even though the job is yours if you want it, you must “continue to be enthusiastic” in your dealings with your prospective manager. By sounding critical or suspicious or by questioning something about the offer, you are sending a negative signal. It sounds as if you’re uncertain that you want the job. That may indeed be the case, but it’s not the message you want to send to your would-be manager.
Be methodical Next, you need to think about what matters to you in both your professional and private life and then “assess the offer” against these metrics. People tend to focus on the money, but it is useful to ask, “What is of value to me? Very often it comes down to, ‘I would rather make X amount of money and be excited to go to work in the morning than make X plus 10% and hate my job. Below are the most important components to take into account as you assess the offer.
Salary. Even when the money on offer is enough to live on, you need to figure out if it’s an amount worthy of your knowledge and skills and whether it’s in line with the local market. Look at the financial package, the key question is “What is someone with my competencies and experience in this role and in this city paid?” Databases and job search websites are a good starting point. Find anyone who knows the sector and the range. As part of your detective work, you must also device “a good argument for why you are in the top 10-15% of that range. You must have a backup plan if there is no flexibility on money in terms of what other areas you want to push back on.
Job content. It’s very important to think about whether you will derive job satisfaction from the offer presented to you. To answer this question, you need to know the kinds of activities you want to be involved in and the skills you want to use as a professional. Ask yourself questions like, Do I want to lead a big team, supervise only a few others, or have zero management duties? Do I want to be in front of clients? Do I want lots of international travel — or no travel at all? What kinds of projects do I want to be engaged in? And what kinds of professional tasks do I want no part of? Then see how well the offer matches up against the responsibilities you’re being asked to take on. “Also, look at what you will be doing, what success looks like, and what benchmarks you’ll be judged against,” he says. Having a deep understanding of what’s expected of you is critical for deciding whether you do indeed want the job, he adds. Think hard about whether the job is achievable and whether you feel you are going to be able to hit the targets set out. If the answers are no, then maybe the role is ill-conceived or not for you.
Cultural fit. You must also do your due diligence on the organization and its people to make a sound judgment on whether you will enjoy working there. Ask yourself, “Is this a place where I will be happy? Where will I be challenged? And where I will thrive? To answer that, reach out to your contacts and LinkedIn network, and asking questions. What is the organization like? How long do people stay? Find out what happened to the last person who did the job. You may not be able to negotiate or change the organization’s culture of course, but it is helpful to know beforehand what you’re getting into. It might make sense to do a trial run at the company during the evaluation stage. Say, I really want to learn more about this organization. Can I spend a few hours with the team? That’ll give you a sense of what your colleagues are like and what it would be like to work there.
Flexibility, vacation, and other perks. For many employees, vacation time and the ability to work flexible hours is an increasingly valuable perk. While health benefits are a typically standard issue, extra paid time off may be negotiated. If flexibility is not an explicit part of the job offer, you can broach the topic in the negotiation stage. But bear in mind that things like that are much easier to raise when you’ve made yourself invaluable, and have been working on the job for a certain period. It’s important during the evaluation stage to find out whether current employees are given such benefits. Get a feel for how an ask for flexibility might be received by senior management. If you are a perfect match for the job and it’s a tight market, you have a lot of leverage. But if the market is more fluid, you may have a little leeway.
Other options. You must also assess your walk-away alternatives. Even if you don’t necessarily have other job offers in hand, you need to consider other possibilities. Think about the offer in terms of the cost and benefit of starting the job search process all over again, of staying in your current job, or of waiting to see what other offers materialize later down the road. If nothing more, this exercise is useful in helping you realize that you have options.
Devise your plan Once you have determined the most important elements of the offer that you would like to change, you need to decide which cards you are going to play and how you will play them. Formulating your negotiation strategy requires creativity. If you are dealing with an intermediary — an HR administrator or a recruiter, for instance — remember to not only make requests but also arm that person with questions, information, and ideas. Come at it from the perspective of joint problem-solving. Saying something like, The salary you’re offering is great, but I want to keep developing in this role. I can imagine some possibilities that might make the job more palatable such as having access to a mentoring program, a rotation program, or an educational allowance. Which of these might be possible?’”
Be tough but cheerful you will want to maximize the cost of the things you are willing to accept and cut the things you’re asking for. Demonstrate that you’ve undertaken a thoughtful evaluation. Seek to come across as a tough but cheerful negotiator. Go into the deal-making with your eyes open. You can’t negotiate everything, and once you’ve agreed on something you can’t go back on it. It’s not what you ask for; it’s how you ask for it. Be ready, respectful, and constructive.
Say no (politely) if it’s not right Ideally, there will be some give and take in these negotiations, but if you keep coming up against a ‘no’ for everything you ask for, that demonstrates inflexibility on the part of your prospective employer, and that could well be a management style you don’t want to live with. Pay attention to your internal monitoring system. If due diligence tells you that you should not take the job, listen. As long as you turn it down politely with one or two good reasons — it will not stretch you enough or you want to work in a different sector — you shouldn’t feel bad about it. And yet, you should always leave the door open. The people you are dealing with are your potential customers, potential advisors, and perhaps even your future employers. Be respectful.
Principles to Remember
Think about what you want out of your job and use that as a framework to decide the elements of the offer you would like to alter
Be selective about what you push back on
Employ classic negotiation techniques by maximizing the cost of the things you are ready to accept and minimizing the things you seek.
Be critical or suspicious when questioning something about the offer.
Neglect to consider your walk away alternatives.
Ignore red flags. If your instincts and due diligence tell you that you should not take the job, listen.