How to Negotiate, Accept, or Decline a Job Offer

Two businesspeople shaking hands
••• Thomas Barwick / Stone / Getty Images

When you're offered a job, 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.

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.

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

Evaluating a Job 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. When considering a 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. Really take the time to weigh all the pros and cons.

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 become permanent.

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 make sense to accept. This is especially true if you need a job in a hurry, or if the job is a necessary step towards something better.

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

Negotiating 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. After all, if you push too hard, the employer can withdraw a job offer.

Accepting 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. If you're saying "yes" to a job, an acceptance 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 is also a chance to demonstrate your professionalism.

Declining 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 it makes sense to turn down a job offer. 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.

Other times, you might want to withdraw from consideration from a job. 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.

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.

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.