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Posted 3.13.07

The first thing that comes to the minds of many individuals when offered a position is "How much will I be making?" When faced with a job offer, it is important to remember that there are many other aspects to consider, in addition to salary, before you accept. Such considerations include career potential, benefits, the company’s culture, flexibility, and training among many others. It is key to prioritize such attributes of the position in order of their importance to you as an individual, not just as an employee. Figure out what is most important to you in life, as far as your short term and long term goals, and prioritize these attributes accordingly as to which will assist you in obtaining these goals. This also will help you if you are ever faced with multiple job offers.

If you are in a situation where you are torn between multiple job offers be sure to conduct your own research, as it will allow you to filter and organize information in such a way to help you view your alternatives clearly and weigh each appropriately. Steps to consider taking are as follows:

  1. Utilize your Career Development Center. The knowledgeable staff and the resources they can provide are priceless (literally)
  2. Read up -- read trade publications in the industry, business journals, industry literature, annual reports, etc.
  3. Use the internet -- check out the company's Web site(s)
  4. Make use of current employee contacts and alumni as references
  5. Utilize contacts in professional and student organizations
  6. Talk to professional recruiters who specialize in the specific industry/field
  7. Research salary information:
    1. Trade publications/magazines are a credible source
    2. Credible online resources, such as salary.com or the Bureau of Labor Statistics
    3. Network with people in the industry/field
    4. Be aware of location/geography

Job offers depend on several things such as the type of job, the industry, size of the organization, type of organization (profit vs. not for profit), location, the demand for the job, and whether or not it is part of a training and/or rotation program. It is very important to research each of these aspects in-depth before you accept a job offer or attempt negotiations. For example, depending on the location of the position, the cost of living may be higher than what you currently incur. It is important to distinguish between the cost of living, which is how much it will cost to live and reside in a specific area, and the cost of labor, which is the philosophy of what the organization will pay for its labor. It is acceptable to discuss the two aspects with the specific company that has made you the offer.

During the interview process, as a rule of thumb, do not mention salary until they do. However, when the conversation is initiated and the question of salary expectations comes up, a great response is "I’m flexible, did you have a salary range in mind?" They may not give you a range, and if not, be prepared to answer with your range. At this step it is important that you have done your research and your range is reasonable. Be sure that you know your minimum and stick to it.

When the initial offer is made:

  1. Say "Thank you. I look forward to reviewing this offer."
  2. Try to get the initial offer in your hands if possible (i.e., an offer letter).
  3. Think about the offer for at least 24 hours before responding.
  4. Ask yourself: "Is it what I expected/asked for?"
    • If so, accept it -- don’t feel like you need to negotiate for the sake of negotiating
    • If not, hone in on the exact aspect you are unhappy with and "would consider accepting the job if (fill in the blank)."
    • If you decide to initiate the possibility of negotiation, be sure you go back to the employer with solutions, not just the problems (i.e., do say: "I was hoping for $5000 more than your initial salary offer." Don’t say: "You’re not offering me enough salary.")
  5. Consider the total package, not just the salary base.
  6. At this point, if there is some information that you do not have access to, it is acceptable to ask for it, such as asking to see a copy of the 401(k) plan.
  7. It is important to remember that other aspects of the position can be negotiated other than salary, such as vacation time or signing bonuses.
  8. Remember that you are not in an adversarial negotiation. Try to create a win/win scenario.

There are some actions that may be considered a turnoff to employers. You want to avoid these behaviors when partaking in negotiations. The following is a list of such behaviors:

What NOT to do when negotiating:

  1. Do not bring personal needs into the discussion.
  2. Do not be unprepared (have your homework already done).
  3. Be assertive, but not aggressive. Ask for flexibility, do not demand.
  4. If it is their "final offer," do not push.
  5. Don't wait more than two to four days to give your final answer.
    • If you have other offers, it is acceptable at this stage to explain that you're considering other offers.

Lastly, there are some things that you should always remember as you go through your job search and acceptance process:

  1. Measurable details are important, but always consider the intangibles such as:
    • Will you feel comfortable working at this company?
    • Will you be excited to go to work?
    • Will you be continuously challenged?
    • Does the organization share your values?
  2. There may be no perfect fit -- your perfect job may exist in your mind, but not so much in the real world. This is why it is extremely important that you realize what is most important to you as an individual and align your career decision appropriately.

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