Negotiate | Career & Life Design Center | Fort Lewis College


Evaluating and negotiating job offers

Congratulations! After all your work, you’ve received a job offer. Now it’s time to decide what you want to do next.

First figure out if this job is right for you. If you think it is, get ready to negotiate. Now would be a good time to meet with a Career Coach or drop into Career & Life Design for advice about evaluating and negotiating job offers.

Quick tips

Ask about "wiggle room".

Find out if there is space to negotiate in the first place.

Always be enthusiastic about the offer.

If the employer doesn’t think you want the job, they may be less likely to want you.

Be confident (but not arrogant).

The company has invested in interviewing candidates and does not want to start over. It's up to you to remind them of your value to the team.

Silence is ok.

While silence can make people uncomfortable, a pause in the conversation is ok. After you’ve made your request or posed a question, stop talking and wait for a response.

Be realistic.

Don’t be greedy or naïve; base your negotiation on your skills and the level of job for which you are applying.

Leave your emotions outside.

This is a business transaction. Do not let your pride, fear, uncertainty or any other emotion impact what you say or do.

Be prepared to walk away.

No matter how well you negotiate, the deal might not meet your expectations in one of the areas you know is important to you. Decide ahead of time when to say thank you and walk away.

Get the offer in writing.

Be sure you get the negotiated terms in writing before you accept the offer.


Negotiation advice

Evaluate the offer

Consider what is important to you in your first professional job. No matter how pleased you are with the offer, it’s still wise to delay your acceptance for a short time so that you can objectively evaluate the offer in relation to your personal and career goals. If you have not already done so, research salary and cost of living information before you make a decision. Politely ask the employer for the latest reasonable date by which they would like your reply.

There are many aspects to think about in a job offer—not only salary. Some important considerations in evaluating a job offer are:

  • Your start date (sometimes there is flexibility surrounding your starting date)
  • Responsibilities and tasks of the job
  • Working conditions (colleagues, supervisor, size of organization, organizational culture)
  • Training and development opportunities
  • Salary, salary review, and increases
  • Frequency of performance reviews (potential for salary increase)
  • Benefits other than salary (relocation allowance, vacation, leave, insurance, retirement savings plan, profit sharing, tuition reimbursement, professional membership, and association activities)
  • Geographic location (review salary and cost of living)
  • Number of hours expected in a typical workday/week
  • Parking/transportation costs
  • Travel on the job
  • Lifestyle that the job will involve

If you have other offers

Explain this to the employer. Reaffirm your interest in the offered position, but also express that you wish to carefully evaluate the other offer(s) as well. Keep in mind the importance of preserving your positive relationship with the employer throughout the negotiation process, no matter what you decide.

Time frame

What is a reasonable time frame for responding to (accepting/declining) a job offer? And what is considered unreasonable pressure from an employer for an instant response (“exploding” job offer)? NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) offers complete guidelines for reasonable job offer deadlines.

Delaying your response

If you are not ready to accept an offer, it is appropriate to ask for more time. You may have other offers to consider, or you may simply be unsure whether the offer is a good fit for you. The employer may be working with a certain hiring timeline and may decide not to allow you an extension. Ultimately, the match between you and the employer will be best if you can take the time up front to properly evaluate the offer. As an entry-level employee you might not be able to negotiate your salary right away. But a 60-day, 90-day, or 120-day performance review and pay raise possibility might be an option. If salary negotiations are not an immediate option, you might ask about the frequency of future salary/performance reviews. You might also inquire about annual bonuses and benefits such as association memberships, tuition reimbursement for future education, or travel. In some cases, it may be appropriate to ask whether the employer offers a signing bonus. This depends on the industry and competitiveness of the position. When evaluating or comparing offers, keep in mind that for most entry-level employees, the responsibilities of the first job and the career growth potential it provides can be more important than the actual starting salary. Consider negotiating for benefits other than salary, such as extra vacation time or a relocation allowance.

Accepting the offer

Verbally confirm your acceptance of the offer and follow up with a written confirmation reiterating salary, start date, and position title. Express your appreciation for the offer and convey your enthusiasm for joining the organization. If applicable, specify when you will meet additional conditions of employment, such as completing a medical exam or sending required documents. As soon as you officially accept an offer, you should withdraw your candidacy from all other employers. If you are participating in Fort Lewis College’s on-campus recruiting, this is a requirement. Once you have accepted an offer, please also notify Career & Life Design of your good news.

Declining the offer

Verbally decline the offer, then also send a well-written letter thanking the employer for their efforts in recruiting you and for the offer. Explain (generally, not in great detail) why the other offer you are taking better matches your needs or desires at this point in time, but express your sincere appreciation for the opportunity to interview. Contact a career coach if you would like assistance in drafting this letter. Even though you are declining their offer now, it’s always a good idea to keep the door open for a possible future connection with the organization!

Ethical negotiations

Accepting a job offer and then continuing to seek a better offer may seem like a good idea; after all, you’ve often been advised to keep your options open. In fact, it is considered unethical to keep yourself on the market once you have made a commitment to an employer. For students who participate in our campus recruiting program, accepting and then declining an offer is unacceptable. It damages the relationship between the employer and Fort Lewis College. If you are having difficulty making a decision about an offer, we encourage you to discuss your situation with a career coach prior to making a decision. Your acceptance is a commitment that implies you have ended your job search and will soon be a part of that organization. Remember, how you handle such decisions is a reflection of your values, priorities, and ethical/professional conduct.

Advice for experienced alumni

If you have an established career, these resources can help you move ahead. PayScale Salary Negotiation Guide and Salary Negotiation 101.  

Two books that you may find helpful:

  • Negotiating Your Salary: How to Make 1,000 Dollars A Minute by Jack Chapman
  • Ask For It by Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever

Salary and cost of living resources

Maybe you’re thinking about a summer internship in California, or you’re graduating and moving to New York. As you contemplate where you want to live, what kind of job you would like, or even what industry, you will want to research average salaries and cost of living.

The cost of living index is based on the composite price of groceries, housing, utilities, transportation, health care, clothing, and entertainment in each city listed. Use these calcula­tions to compare salaries in different cities. Some of these sites list comparative salaries, others offer a variety of advice ranging from company and interview reviews, to industry and job descriptions, to employment projections (outlook for your chosen/potential career).

In addition to the helpful links below, you may want to review money basics (401k, renter’s insurance, and other basics) from this Forbes article 10 Things Every College Grad Needs to Know About Money.

  • PayScale is a salary comparison site that offers helpful articles about evaluating companies/jobs and the corresponding salaries, as well as a salary negotiation guide with helpful tips for job seekers at all levels.
  • Glassdoor provides an inside look at salaries, reviews, and interview questions posted by employees and interview candidates at over 100,000 organizations.
  • Salary.com offers compensation information for individuals, business managers, and human resource professionals.
  • Sperling’s Best Places compares cities and costs.
  • CareerBliss offers a variety of great tools and resources (salary, company reviews, career advice) to help you make better-informed career decisions.
  • National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) Job Seekers Salary Calculator will ask you for information relating to your education, employment history, and other factors, to create compensation and employment guidance for you.
  • LifeHacker provides a simplified comparison of salary from city to city based on information from Money magazine.
  • Nerdwallet allows you to compare housing, transportation, food, and other costs between major cities in all states, and to research demographic info, employment data, and more.
  • SalaryExpert is a leading provider of online compensation data, including comparison costs between locations.
  • Occupational Outlook Handbook shows industry information, growth projections, and average salary information.
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics shows regional costs, employment trends, and other important career information.