When you get the call and hear that you're being offered a job, you deserve to take a moment and mentally congratulate yourself. You made it through the hiring process and landed the job -- that's a very big win.
Once that happens it's tempting to exhale and celebrate feeling that your work has been completed. In reality, landing a job offer is not the last step in the process. You still have to make the best deal possible for yourself, and there are multiple traps you can easily fall into.
That means you need to get a formal job offer and examine every bit of it. Is it fair? Is the money what you expected? Are there any odious clauses you don't want to accept? Just because you want the job does not mean you have to accept a first offer. There is usually some room to make yourself a better deal.
1. What to do if the salary is too low
Salary is an important part of a job offer to many people. If the number offered is too low, it's important to address that. Your first step is to simply ask for more money. Sometimes a low-ball offer is simply an attempt by the employer to make the best deal possible and a counteroffer is expected.
It's important to state what you consider a fair number. If the employer won't meet that figure, see if the company will consider a path to get you there over time. If you don't set the expectation of where you want to be and you accept a low number, you may fall into a trap where percentage-based raises mean you never get to the salary you deserve.
2. The vacation policy is sub-par
If you're not new to the workforce you should not be treated as an entry-level employee. Many companies have a policy where vacation is awarded by seniority. You can ask to be treated based on your seniority in the industry. If you were at your last job for 10 years, it's reasonable to ask to be considered as a longer-term employee when it comes to vacation.
3. There are benefits issues
In addition to salary and vacation, the benefits package is an important piece of the job offer. Some parts -- like 401(k) matches -- probably aren't negotiable. Other benefits, however, might have more wiggle room.
One area that can sometimes be negotiated is the waiting period for when health insurance kicks in. If a company starts health insurance for all new employees on the first of the month, there might not be any wiggle room there. If, however, there's a 90-day waiting period, you may be able to shorten that.
No matter what the benefit is, it never hurts to ask. If you want to work from home one day a week or have flexibility during bad weather, ask and make a case for yourself.
Be willing to walk away
Turning down a job over money or poor benefits isn't fun, but it's something you have to be willing to do. Obviously, your willingness to negotiate or even walk away depends on how much you need the job.
If you have options, however, it's best to not accept a bad offer. You might be passing on a job you wanted, but you're also passing on a company that perhaps does not fully value you.
Consider not just your short-term happiness, but also whether you can accept the situation six months or a year down the line. If the answer is no and the company won't budge on its offer, you may have to move on.