Negotiating the Job Offer (page 3)

Updated on Nov 30, 2010

Starting When You Want to Start

Here's another scenario: Suppose you graduated in May, spent a tough summer doing nothing but interviewing, and haven't had any time off. Not only are you exhausted, but you haven't had time to furnish your new apartment, buy a computer, and so forth. You secured a job in the fall and the company wants you to start right away. You want to start right away, too, but you would also like some time off in the next few months. However, the company's vacation policy states that you can't take any time off until you've been with the company for at least one year. What can you do?

Before you give up on taking a break, consider these options:

  • Tell the truth. You've worked hard during your job search and you plan to give 100% to your new job. You'd like some time off before you start, to get re-energized and take care of some personal business. Give your employer a specific start date.
  • Tell the company you're willing to start work when they want you to, but ask if you could take a week off without pay sometime in the first few months. Give the company a specific time when you want to be away so that everyone can plan for your absence.
  • If you are moving from another city, say that you need some time to move and take care of other relocation matters. State the date that you'd like to start.
  • If you have planned a vacation for some time in the future, be sure to mention it during the salary negotiation stage. It's a mistake to accept the position and then tell your boss three months later that you need some time off. Be prepared to take the time off without pay, if necessary.

Be flexible. If you are and if you conduct yourself professionally and discuss what you want honestly, chances are good you can come to a mutually satisfactory agreement with your new employer. For example, a recent graduate who accepted a position as a marketing specialist asked to delay her start date by a week. As it turned out, her new company was having its annual marketing meeting during that week. She knew it would send the wrong signal if she missed the meeting, so she asked if she could attend the meeting but make her official start date a week later. The company appreciated her willingness to adjust her plans to meet a business need and granted her the time off.

It is common practice to take a few days before starting a new job. If an employer asks why you need the time, here are a few perfectly legitimate reasons:

  • You need to finish a temporary job
  • You want to get doctors' appointments out of the way, so that you won't need to take time off once you start
  • You have to attend to various personal needs/errands addressed (i.e. business clothes shopping, getting a phone line for your new apartment, working out details of your commute, etc.)

Announcing Your New Job

Now that you've started a new job, you need to let everyone in your network know for what company you're working, what your position is, and how you can be contacted. Thank them again for their help during your job search. Send the good news on company letterhead the first week on the job. Or, it is equally appropriate to do this via e-mail from your new company.

Be sure to include everyone you talked to about finding a job— whether it was a recruiter, a networking contact, or a college chum. Also, it's appropriate to write a couple lines about the projects you hope to be working on, for example, "refining the mission of the global marketing team." If you don't use company stationery, use plain, good-quality writing paper, and be sure to include your work address and phone number. Exhibit 8–2 shows a sample announcement letter.

Announcing Your New Job

Staying in Touch with Your Network

The importance of staying in touch with the people in your network cannot be emphasized enough. Your contacts are the lifeblood of the business world and will help provide you with information, support, and jobs throughout your career. The mistake that even the most senior executives make is to be so focused on their new job that they forget to stay in touch with their networks.

You will also want to spend time expanding your network as you look for role models and mentors. If your boss gives you an assignment and you really don't know where to start, you will always have the option of going to your network for help.

Saying " No" to an Offer

Be diplomatic about turning down an offer. You certainly don't want to burn any bridges or alienate anyone, particularly because you never know when you might be meeting or working with the same people.

Be Gracious—and Consider All Your Options

Declining an offer graciously is standard professional behavior. Respond to the offer quickly. You have to draw a clear line about when you have enough data to accept a job or decline it. Once you've made that decision, follow through.

If it turns out that you don't want the job, the first thing to do is to say something positive. For example, "I enjoyed meeting you and I appreciate the time you spent with me." Next, it's important to give a real reason for not taking the job. You might say something along these lines (if applicable), "However, I am declining your offer because at this point in my career, I think I would be better off with a company that offers me a structured training program." This is not the time to give the company negative feedback. You want to preserve your network.

If the real reason for not accepting an offer has to do with salary, go ahead and say so. You might be surprised by the results. Sometimes an employer will offer you more money if you have to turn down a job because of salary concerns. And it's not unheard of for an employer to increase your salary if the company and the hiring manager really want you.

When considering the salary offer, remember to factor in the cost of benefits provided. Health insurance (and dental, vision, and mental health coverage) is expensive. It's common for companies to have a policy on a "probationary period," such as three months, before you receive benefits. Some companies' benefits begin on day one, whereas others make you wait a whole year before coverage begins. Know your options. Can you secure coverage under your parents' plan until you have benefits? Can you afford to buy your own healthcare coverage until your company's policy starts?

Also don't forget, benefits may also include 401(k) plans, stock options, and a vacation/holiday package. These are big issues. If a company offers little to no coverage, it can be a bad sign—and possibly a signal to keep looking. Deduct your out-of-pocket expenses from the offered salary before making a decision.

Even if you do not have another offer, you should decline an offer that doesn't meet your needs as courteously as possible. You might say you're turning down the job because you've decided to investigate another aspect of the field, or perhaps you want to get another kind of experience altogether, such as graduate school. But the most important thing is to make the call. It will be one of the first tests of your mettle as a business person, so do it on time, do it pleasantly, and thank the person for their offer and their time. Before you hang up, say something reinforcing about the company such as: "I enjoyed meeting you and your management team. Speaking with you taught me a great deal about Internet commerce."

Don't Take a Job You Don't Want

You may be tempted to accept an offer for a job that you're not interested in because you don't have any other offers. Don't do it. Your new employer has every reason to expect that you will give 100% to your new job. After all, you did everything possible in the interview process to prove that you were a committed and enthusiastic candidate. If you're not willing to make good on your promises, it's not ethical to take the job.

In addition, it will be much more difficult to look for another job once you're employed. Finding a job is a full-time job in itself, and you will have much less time and flexibility. If you've gotten disappointing results from your search, analyze what you've been doing and decide what you could do differently. Brainstorm, and you may find that you have not tapped all your resources.

No matter what you decide to do about negotiating the terms of a new job, you now know the steps to take as well as the protocol. You know that you should really weigh your options before you make a final decision or take any action. All of your research concerning the job market and the details of your particular industry has prepared you for this final step in the interview process. Hopefully, you have made a realistic decision about what you want and what you can attain, given your experience and background. Remember that part of negotiating is making sure that you have all the facts you need to make a decision; and once the offer has been made, you have to decide whether or not to accept it.

Take Some Time to Think About the Field in Which You Want to Work and the Kind of Job You Really Want.

"I interviewed a young woman who had applied for a sales position. As soon as we started talking, I could tell she wasn't right for the job. She was shy and soft spoken, she hated talking to strangers on the phone, and she liked working independently, rather than on teams. I was very curious why she was interviewing for a sales job, and I pushed her for more information: It turned out that her parents had encouraged her to go into sales, although she was more interested in a job in research. It was obvious she wasn't that interested in, or well suited for, the job, so I told her she was wasting her time interviewing for sales positions.

I think it's extremely important that all job hunters put a lot of time and thought into deciding what types of jobs interest them and where their skills and qualifications will take them. If you look for jobs in a field you don't like or know nothing about, you will only be wasting your time and the interviewer's time."


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