Accepting or rejecting an offer

If the negotiator says the offer is as it is and cannot be improved, and you know you want the job, you can then relieve the tension and restore the conversation quickly to more relaxed terms by saying that you really like the organisation and you are excited by the prospect of this job, so you will make it work on that salary, and on that basis you would be delighted to accept.

It can be a difficult thing not to accept a job, but if the salary is manifestly too small, and you have a realistic prospect of another job, this may be what you are prepared to do. In this case, you may find the employer makes a last ditch improved offer in a bid not to lose the opportunity to hire you. Alternatively, they may offer an early salary review, which you should immediately ask to be put in writing as part of your job offer letter.

If you feel that you really must accept the job, even though the salary isn’t what you want it to be, ask if you can agree on an early review, for instance, at the six month point, so that salary can be adjusted on results.

If the negotiator doesn’t do so, summarise the job title, the salary, any package you’ve negotiated and the start date, so that it’s all clear and there is no room for misunderstanding.

Choosing between job offers

If you’ve been out of work for a while, it can be difficult to keep a level head when two offers come in at once, and you need to choose between them. If there is a possibility that this might happen, you need to have sorted out a way of choosing ahead of time. Check back to the set of ideal job criteria you developed when you first consulted a recruiter and see how both jobs and employers measure up. If they are evenly matched, consider them from the following perspectives:

  • Can you visualise yourself working there six months from now?
  • Based on what you have seen up to now, what kind of an environment is it? Do they seem happy? Overly busy? Stressed? How do you think it would it feel to work there?
  • Is this role a challenge you would relish or dread? Does it play to enough of your strengths?
  • Will this job grow you toward your next career step, and if so how fast? Are you happy with that rate of growth?
  • What is the potential to increase earnings, and how fast will that happen? How much control over this will you have?
  • How will this organisation develop you? Will they invest in you? How will this happen? Have they already spotted potential in you and expressed an interest in growing this?

How to negotiate between offers

Jobs tend to be a bit like buses. None will come along for ages, and then several may arrive at once. If you receive a job offer but are still waiting to hear the outcome of an interview for a much better job, you may have to indulge in a little sleight of hand in managing the situation. While this may feel uncomfortable, especially if you are the kind of person who usually deals very straightforwardly, you could end up losing both jobs by being too open. Employers generally don’t like to be second choice. The bottom line is that your first loyalty is to yourself and your family – and you must do what will achieve the best outcome for yourself and for them.

Using delaying tactics

Using the telephone tactically

Even if you applied at first through an agent, the employer may well contact you directly after an interview. Put employers’ and agents’ numbers into your mobile and land line phones, so that you can see when they are calling you. If you were given a secretary’s number during the process of organising the interview, add that, too. An answering machine can be very useful for screening calls.

Keep a pad and pen with you or by the phone, along with any notes from this section that you think you may need.

Playing for time

If you suspect it’s your second choice employer calling, let the call go to voicemail, but make sure you have a really good, upbeat outgoing message, and check it immediately after they’ve left a message.

If it the second-choice employer leaves a message telling you you have a job offer, or if it simply sounds positive and asks you to call back, you have very little time to act. However, it does put you in a strong position to negotiate with your first choice employer.

Call your first choice immediately, and explain that you have received a job offer from another firm (or that you believe you are about to be offered a job), but you would much prefer to work for them – are they in a position to let you know the outcome of your interview? Here is some sample script:

“I have received an offer from another company that I’ve interviewed with, and I’m honour-bound to return their call reasonably promptly. However, yours is the company I really want to work for, so, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m calling to see if you are in a position to let me know how things stand with you.”

If you are unable to delay the conversation with the second choice employer, and you receive a job offer from them, try to avoid making a firm commitment on the telephone, and instead play for a little time, while keeping things upbeat.

Achieve this by responding to the job offer with: ‘that’s very exciting, thank you’. Then say: ‘I just need to ask you about a couple of things before we tie this up.’ Good examples of things to ask include:

  • Whether they will agree to accommodate the same specific holiday dates each year
  • Whether they would have any objection to you holding another role in the industry – this might be carrying out some consultancy, writing papers or a book or a web site, lecturing or giving presentations etc.
  • Ask the employer to clarify how much additional work, and for which organisations, they would be happy with
  • If their bonus scheme is relatively complicated, ask if they can send the terms to you by email for consideration.