How to Negotiate, Accept, or Decline a Job Offer

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Have you recently been offered a job? Whether it’s the job of your dreams or something you’ll likely turn down, you may be wondering how to proceed. After all, most industries are small worlds. Regardless of whether you intend to accept the job, you’ll want to conduct yourself in a way that won’t come back to haunt you later.

What to Do When You Get a Job Offer

When you receive a job offer, you typically don't want to say "yes" and take the job on the spot. Even if you know you want the job, take the time to evaluate the job offer to be absolutely certain that the position is right for you. Then decide if the compensation package is reasonable.

Learn how to handle job offers in the best way possible to get the job you want, and the salary and benefits you deserve.

Evaluate the Offer

When you are offered a job, first ask for some time to consider the offer. Be sure to emphasize your gratitude and your interest in the job, and then ask if there is a deadline by which you have to make your decision. If you think you need more time than they give you, it is okay to ask for a bit more time. However, do not put off the decision for so long that they rescind your offer.

During this decision-making time, evaluate the job offer:

  • Be sure to take into account the entire compensation package, not just the salary.
  • Consider the benefits and perks, the time you would spend traveling, the hours, and the company culture.

If the job offer is conditional (for example, if you have to undergo certain screenings or background checks before the offer is official), be sure you know exactly what you have to do for the offer to go into effect.

Does it ever make sense to take a job you don't think you want? There isn't really a right or wrong answer, but there are times when it may be in your best interests to accept. This is especially true if you need a job in a hurry, or if the job is a necessary step toward something better.

Make sure you have considered all of the alternatives and weighed your options prior to making a decision to accept or reject a position.

Consider a Counter Offer

If the offer is not what you were hoping for, you may want to think about a counter offer, or you may decide that this isn't the best job for you. Once you have decided whether to negotiate, accept, or reject the job offer, it's time to notify the company of your decision.

How to Negotiate a Job Offer

If you have evaluated the job and are interested in the position but feel the offer could be stronger, consider negotiating.

There are a number of steps you can take to negotiate effectively. First, research salaries for the job to get a sense of what you’re worth. Think about what combination of salary and benefits would work for you – this will be your counter offer. Then, send a counter offer letter or email message to the employer to begin the conversation about the counter offer.

Keep in mind that, while you should negotiate for a fair salary and benefits package, you have to know when to stop negotiating and either accept the job offer or walk away. If you push too hard, the employer can withdraw a job offer.

Accept a Job Offer

You have found a job that you like, and are happy with the compensation package. Congratulations!

Even if you accept the job over the phone or in person, you should still officially accept the job with a polite, formal job offer acceptance letter. This letter provides you with a chance to confirm the details of the offer (including the salary, benefits, job title, and start date of employment). It’s also a chance to demonstrate your professionalism.

Decline a Job Offer

Even if you're desperately seeking employment, if you know a job isn't going to be a good fit, it might make sense to decline the offer. There are many times when this might be the best course of action. Of course, a salary and benefits package that doesn’t offer what you need is a good reason to say no to a job (especially if you’ve already tried negotiating). Similarly, if you think you would have a hostile relationship with your boss, if the company seems financially unstable, or if the organization has a high rate of employee turnover, you should think twice about taking the job.

If you have evaluated a job offer and decided it is not right for you, you have to decline the offer. A polite letter declining a job offer will help you maintain a positive relationship with the employer, which will be important if you ever apply for another position at the same company. In the letter, be sure to express your appreciation for the offer, and clearly state that you cannot accept the position. You should not go into detail about why you are not taking the job, especially if it is for reasons that might offend the employer (for example, if you disliked the supervisor or feel the company is unstable financially).

If you have already accepted a job offer, and then decide you do not want it, you need to let the employer know you’ve changed your mind as quickly (and politely) as possible.

Withdrawing From Consideration

You might want to withdraw from consideration from a job before you have received an offer. Typically, you would do this after receiving an invitation for an interview but before you receive a job offer. You might withdraw from consideration if you decide the job (or the company) is absolutely not right for you, or if you receive and accept another job offer. Be sure to send a letter or email stating your withdrawal.

What if the Job Offer is Rescinded?

Unfortunately, sometimes job offers get either rescinded or put on hold. If a company withdraws an offer, there is little you can do about it legally. However, there are steps you can take to handle the situation, such as asking for your old job back if you had a good relationship with the employer. If the job offer is put on hold, there are ways that you can politely follow up while continuing on with your job search.

The Bottom Line

EVALUATE THE JOB OFFER: Consider the compensation package, including benefits and perks. Think about aspects of the job like travel, hours, and company culture.

NEGOTIATE, IF NECESSARY: If you like the job, but feel the compensation could be more competitive, consider negotiating the offer.

ACCEPT OR DECLINE WITH GRACE: Be sure to send a letter formally accepting or declining the offer. Express your appreciation and thanks for the opportunity.