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Evaluating Offers

Getting an offer does not necessarily mean you will accept the job. This thought may seem a little ridiculous to those who have been waiting to finally receive an offer, but it's true. Luckily, most employers will not expect an immediate answer to their offer. You may even be given a couple of days to respond. This time will come in handy to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the offer and help you make a more informed decision.

Remember that discussing your job offer with a career adviser can be helpful. You will also want to consult with family members, professors, mentors or other trusted people. Give yourself time to ask any questions about points that haven't been clarified before you accept or decline. Keep in mind that even giving a verbal acceptance over the phone means you have committed yourself to that position. If you turn around and reject the written offer, this is considered "reneging" and is an unethical and inconsiderate thing to do. You may be excited and anxious to get to work, but ask for time to think it over; employers get this request all the time.

Points to Consider
Here are some considerations to keep in mind when evaluating an offer:

• The duties of the job itself will be the most important. This is how you will spend your days. Is it something that appeals to you? Can you do it on a regular basis or for an extended period of time? Is it interesting? Does it fit into your long-range goals? Is it a company or job you can be proud of?

• Is your supervisor or boss someone you can work with? Could they be a mentor? Try to find out about this person's past experience or work style.

• Salary is not the only form of compensation you will receive. Remember to be flexible in your demands. Don't underestimate the value of non-salary items. Take a good look at the benefits package when considering the offer. How useful will it be to you and/or your family? The employer may be willing to negotiate on the benefits and perks that accompany the position if the salary is absolutely non-negotiable. Some of these points can include reimbursement of student loan debt, holiday time, a shorter probationary period, car or travel expenses, relocation/moving allowances, company car, laptop computer, professional development opportunities, etc.

• Is the salary at market level? Is it more than your current or previous jobs? How does it compare to the workload and responsibilities? Salary reviews and promotions will quickly become more important than your starting salary once you are past the probationary period. How often are reviews conducted? How are pay raises evaluated?

• Sometimes peers can be difficult to deal with and make a job unbearable. Ask about the morale of the staff or the corporate culture before you accept.

• How many work hours per week does the position require? What are the regular office hours? You should also inquire if the work can be done from home via videoconferencing or telecommuting. Will the amount of time or responsibility required interfere with your commitments to family, friends and other activities?

• Do you like the location where you'll be working and living? How long is the commute? This may not seem important now, but after three weeks of being stuck in traffic on a regular basis, you'll come to realize its value.

Consider all of the answers to the above questions when evaluating an offer. Just as important will be your initial reaction about the people and workplace you visited. Then...

Think it over
Express appreciation for the offer. Tell them that because this is such an important decision you would like some time to think about it. Agree on a reasonable time frame to get back to the employer with your decision.

Engage in the art of negotiating
You only have one chance to make a counter offer. If you do decide to counter, know ahead of time what you will do if the employer needs an immediate answer or is not willing to negotiate. Keep in mind the amount of money you need to cover your budgetary needs and your estimated market value.

When making your case for needing a higher salary than the one initially offered, be prepared with some compelling arguments that explain why you are worth this much. Focus on your competencies and emphasize your results-oriented accomplishments. If you are told during the discussion that something is non-negotiable, ask why. You want to find out if all new hires receive the same package. If you have recently graduated from an executive degree program, you'll want to point out the benefits of your past experience and why you should not be considered equivalent to new hires without as much experience.

Comparing offers
The way you handle salary and benefit negotiation will reflect on your potential as an employee, just as much as the interview. If possible, conduct the compensation discussion in person rather than over the phone. Face to face discussions will allow you to read body language that would be missed in a phone conversation.

Be professional, tactful and well prepared. If you are declining the offer, whether or not this company may hire you in the future for other positions may be a consideration.

If you are waiting for an offer from another employer, it is much better to ask Employer A for an extension while you wait for Employer B's offer, than to accept the original offer and then turn it down later. Once you accept a position, notify your other interviewers that you are no longer available.

As soon as you've made your decision, call the hiring manager to accept or decline. You may feel the need to have a written copy of the terms of employment. If so, verbally confirm your acceptance of the offer, then follow up with a written confirmation letter which reiterates salary, start date and position title. Express your appreciation for the offer and state that you are looking forward to joining the organization.

Even if you've accepted a job offer over the phone, it's important to write a formal acceptance letter. Stating your understanding of the terms of employment will help clear up any misunderstandings.

If you are declining the offer, the company will need to offer the position to someone else, and you shouldn't hold up the process. Again, verbally decline the offer and ask if a written letter is required. If so, keep your letter professional and courteous. Let them know you were impressed by the company and carefully considered the offer, but are accepting a position that better suits your career objectives. Keep track of this company for future opportunities. They were obviously impressed by you and feel you would be an asset. This may be an important contact to keep. The most important part of your job search will be closing the deal and accepting an offer that fits both your career interests and financial needs. No job offer you receive will be perfect. You will have to find a balance between the offer you need and the offer you want. Ultimately, getting an offer whether you accept or decline means all of the time and effort you have put into your job search has been an effective process.

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