Congratulations. After applying and interviewing -- sometimes more than once -- you got the job.
That's an important step, and you should congratulate yourself. Getting an offer, however, is not the end of the process.
You still need to evaluate the offer and decide whether you plan to accept it. In addition, you need to consider where you might negotiate, and whether you want to consider trying to get a counteroffer from your current employer.
There are cases when it makes sense to pass on a job offer, even when you had to fight hard to get it. That's never fun, but it's better to walk away than end up trapped in a miserable situation.
Once you receive an offer, follow these steps to evaluate it.
1. Examine the offer
If the company advertised your position's salary, benefits package, and other details of the job, make sure the offer fits within those ranges. You can't be shocked that the position pays $52,000 a year if that number was stated in the ad.
Look for specifics on things like health insurance, time off, holidays, and other benefits. Make sure that everything is spelled out. If it's not, ask.
2. Consider whether the offer is fair
Sometimes an employer asks you for a salary range and then hits the top end in an offer. That's a rarity, however, and many offers tend to be of the "good enough" or "not sure" variety. When that happens, check websites like Glassdoor.com for comparative salary information. Also, don't forget the value of benefits; some extra vacation or a higher 401(k) match might make up for a slightly lower salary.
3. Do you accept or negotiate?
If everything checks out, go ahead and accept the offer. If you have questions or see problems, push back. How hard you push back depends upon your willingness to walk away.
If you need three weeks of vacation and had it at your last job, but only two are offered, negotiate. The same is true for any other part of the offer.
Be professional. State your case and be reasonable. If the company makes reasonable changes, you should probably accept.
4. What about your current employer?
Do you like your job, but you're willing to leave because the new offer is equivalent to a promotion or a raise? In that case, tell your current employer you have another offer, but would be willing to stay under certain specified circumstances. Set a timetable on getting an answer, because you'll be on a deadline to accept or reject your offer.
5. It's OK to say no
Many years ago I interviewed with a local newspaper group for a dream job at the vice-president level. I lost out at the last minute to a candidate who had much more experience and had a family need to move to the area.
One of the people who interviewed me still wanted me to come on board, so he crafted a job for me that was a flattering offer. The money was good, the work was interesting, and at first, I said yes. The next day, however, I called him back and turned down the job -- because while the work would have been engaging, it was not what I wanted to do for a living.
If the offer doesn't check off all your boxes, it's OK to turn it down. Sometimes this happens when the interview process leaves you unsure about the company, and a low-ball offer cements those concerns.
Whatever the reason, an offer is simply that. You can accept only if your conditions are met, or you can turn it down entirely.
Be aware that saying no has consequences; that company likely won't offer you something else in the near future. But if it doesn't feel right, you can pass.