You may be tempted to leap at the first job you’re offered, especially if you’ve been looking for work for a while. But before you commit to a job, it's important to:
- understand the offer and the terms of employment such as hours, salary and benefits
- assess the pros and cons of the offer
These guidelines can help you handle your next job offer.
Understand the offer
To understand the offer, you need to see it in writing. If that’s not possible, take detailed notes of the verbal offer, and then email or fax a description of the offer back to the employer for confirmation.
When you have the offer in writing, make sure you understand the terms of employment, including:
- the employer’s expectations, such as hours of work, shift work, overtime, travel and using your own vehicle
- the salary and benefits, such as vacation, health and dental coverage and pension
- any other conditions or terms, such as employee wellness programs, vehicle allowance and parking
Ask the employer to explain any terms of employment you don’t understand.
Assess the offer
Most employers expect you to think about the offer before you accept it or turn it down. Let the employer know that you are very interested in the job, and that you will make a definite decision within a specific period of time, such as 3 days.
Follow these 3 steps to assess an offer:
- Look at the offer in context.
Research standard salaries, benefits and working conditions for your occupation and region:
- Visit OCCinfo for detailed occupational profile information on more than 550 occupations.
- View wages and salaries on OCCinfo for salary information by occupation, geographic area and industry group.
- Talk with people in your network, especially those who work in the same or a similar occupation.
- Check out related job postings for salaries and other terms offered for comparable positions.
- Ask your professional association or union, if applicable.
- Check out general labour market conditions for your occupation and region.
- Decide how you feel about the offer.
Talk over the offer with family, friends and a mentor or professional advisor. Think about the following questions:
- Will the job bring you closer to your career goals?
- Will you like the work?
- Will you feel comfortable in this work environment?
- How do you feel about your potential supervisor (if you’ve met)?
- How do you feel about the salary, benefits and other terms of employment?
- How will this job be better than your current one?
- If you haven’t been working, how long have you been looking for a job?
- What other opportunities are you considering and how strong are your prospects?
- See the offer from the employer’s point of view.
Several factors have influenced the employer’s decision to make this particular offer. Understanding them will help you decide how to respond:
- Who is competing with you for this job?
- How strong are your qualifications?
- How quickly does the employer want to fill this position?
- What is the unemployment rate and the overall labour market like in your region and industry?
Decide how to respond
There are 3 ways to respond to a job offer:
- Accept it.
If you’re happy with what the employer offers or if the terms of employment are set by a union agreement, you may decide to accept the offer as it’s presented. Be aware that once you have accepted the job, you will not be able to negotiate for changes to the offer. If you decide to accept the offer, let the employer know that you‘re looking forward to getting started.
- Negotiate to improve some terms of the offer.
Follow these suggestions:
- Decide what you want and what you’ll accept. Think about how you will compromise.
- If there is no collective agreement, you may be able to negotiate terms such as:
- health and dental insurance coverage
- more frequent salary increases
- cost-of-living raises or merit raises
- a different job title
- more interesting responsibilities
- Be prepared to demonstrate what makes you worth the additional salary or benefits you’re asking for.
- Write out the terms of your counter offer. Practise what you will say to the employer. For example, I’m very excited about the prospect of working for you. I believe I have the skills and experience that can bring about the kinds of results you’re looking for. However, the overtime expectations are a problem for me. What if we look at the possibility of my doing some of that work from home?
- Tell the employer you’re very interested in the job but you would like to discuss some terms before reaching a decision.
- Ask if there’s any flexibility in the offer and if there is, arrange to meet the employer to present your counter offer.
- Be polite, positive, professional and prepared to compromise.
If you reach a verbal agreement, ask for confirmation in writing. Then put the negotiations behind you and turn up for work on your first day ready to commit to the position and the employer.
- Turn the offer down
If you decide to turn the offer down, tell the employer tactfully and express your appreciation for the offer. Follow up with a letter thanking the employer. You never know when your career paths will cross again and gestures like this keep your future options open.
Be confident because you know how to handle your next job offer
A solid understanding of the terms of a job offer allows you to assess whether to accept the offer as it’s presented, negotiate for better terms or turn down the offer. Your research and analysis will enable you to discuss and negotiate the terms professionally and confidently. Then, no matter what you decide, you will be able to move forward without regret and maintain a positive relationship with the employer.