Job Search

Transition to Work

You’ve mastered resumes, networking and interviewing, and you’ve almost reached your goal. Now it’s time to negotiate offers and put your best foot forward on the job.

Negotiating the Offer

You did it! You successfully conducted the interview and got the offer. You’re in the home stretch and ready to start your new gig. To seal the deal, use your research and communication skills to negotiate for the best possible package, not just salary. 

Do Your Research

Calculate your “survivability” salary (minimum salary you need to survive, including cost of living) as well as a competitive salary (your market “worth” based on type of work/profession and geographic location). 

Rank order the factors for each employment opportunity with 1 being most important: Salary, benefits (insurance, retirement, vacation), starting date, location, training, travel, advancement potential, learning potential, significant responsibility, creativity, variety of responsibility, independence, teamwork, company image, quality of management, industry growth, and relocation costs.

The Job Offer

You are not ready to start negotiations until you have received a formal job offer. Keep in mind that negotiation is okay and expected. Usually there is less room to negotiate a salary or benefits if the job is low-level, the organization is bureaucratic, the organization possesses a detailed compensation plan, and/or there are more candidates for a position than there are available jobs

Responding to an Offer

Listen carefully to any offer that is made and make sure you get the details in writing. Make certain they know how excited you feel about the new job. Respond that this is a very important decision and you would like time to consider it. Determine the time frame you have in which to decide (several days to a week is a normal range).

Weighing the Offer 

Weigh carefully the offer you receive against your researched criteria and other offers. Consider all factors, including salary (with or without overtime), bonuses, retirement plans (and plan portability), health care benefits (and how much you pay out of pocket), vacation (and when you can start to use it), training, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits (e.g. company car, gas allowance, laptop, fitness center pass, etc.).

Ask yourself about:

The Position (e.g. Why is it available? What is your growth potential in this position? Do the daily work activities appeal to you?)

The Company (e.g. Is the company growing or downsizing?)

Your Potential Supervisor (e.g. How long has he/she been in this position? Do you think you can work well with this person? Realize this person has the power to make or break your experience.)

Multiple Offers, Accelerating Other Interviews and Continuing to Interview

Call your contacts immediately to let them know you have another offer, that you are facing deadline pressure, but that you are very interested in their company, and is there any way they can accelerate their interview process? Be up front with all companies involved. 

Rules of Negotiating 

You do not have to negotiate. There are always risks in negotiation, and trying to do so could backfire on you and result in the withdrawal of an offer. Negotiate with the hiring decision-maker and focus on mutual gain. Consider the very minimum you would be willing to accept (but don’t tell the employer). Decide what you want, then prioritize.

Steps to Negotiating

Introduce all negotiating points: “I am very excited about the possibility of working together and that there are [number] points I would like to talk about, including….” Keep the number of requests reasonable. Always start with salary first. Rationally support your position by citing research and examples. Negotiate! Assume that the person will “split the difference.” Watch your negotiating partner closely for signs that you may be pushing too hard. Be willing to give little things and unwilling to give up big ones.

Keys to Salary Negotiations

Have a minimum salary figure in mind but don’t tell the employer. Never be the first one to mention a salary figure. On an application, write “open.” Answer the interview question, “What is the minimum you’ll accept?” with:”What is the salary range for this position?” or “I will consider any reasonable offer.” When you hear the figure or range, repeat the figure or the top of the range, and then be quiet. You may encourage the employer to offer a higher salary. If you are satisfied with the salary offer (e.g. it is above your minimum) accept it. If it’s too low, you can tell them it’s too low. Counter their offer with your researched response.

Decision Time

Once you decide to accept or reject an offer, it’s best to send a written letter confirming your decision. If you accept the offer, get all the agreed upon terms in writing. Draft your own letter outlining the terms that have been agreed upon if necessary. Don’t use the word “contract.” If you reject the offer, keep your correspondence prompt and professional. Leave the organization with a positive impression of you, since you may want to work for them in the future. Send a warm thank-you note to every person involved in your search.

Once you accept an offer you cannot accept another. Call and decline any other standing offers, and notify other organizations that you are no longer on the market. 

Transition to The World of Work

Since you’ve proven yourself at Southwestern as a strong leader, communicator, researcher, and writer, life on the job should be a piece of cake, right? Not so fast! The world of work is a different environment with different rules for success than college (read below or download College vs. The World of Work . For 12 steps to first-year on-the-job success, download My First Job Survival Guide. Also get helpful advice from The Protocol School of Texas’Executive Etiquette Tips for Succeeding in the Workplace.