Receiving a job offer is exciting! You may be tempted to accept right away, but give yourself time to evaluate the full offer before making a decision. Consider factors related to the offer such as job satisfaction, location, benefits, and the appropriateness of the salary based on salary surveys. Review the Professional Correspondence handout and Negotiating Offers PowerPoint for guidance on how to talk with employers about accepting/declining offers, and negotiating offer deadlines.
No matter how pleased you are with an offer, it is wise to delay your response in order to evaluate the offer in relation to your personal and career goals. When the initial offer is made, ask for the latest date by which you can reply. Review Cornell Career Services' Student Policies to see the recommended timeline for responding to offers. Use the Career Related Decision Making Workbook to walk you through the process of evaluating your offer and determining if it is the best fit for you.
For most entry-level employees, the responsibilities of the first position and career growth potential are more important than the salary in comparing offers. Advancement opportunities can make an initial salary differential of a few thousand dollars negligible within a few years.
The quality of your work and personal life will greatly influence your job satisfaction. Take a realistic look at the culture and work environment of the organization, and visit the local community. Ask yourself:
- Do I feel comfortable with my supervisor and the people I have met?
- Can I envision myself working well as part of this team?
- Does the work excite me? What impact will I have? Will I find the work motivating?
- Will this position provide good work-life balance?
- Is there a formal training program or is most of the training on-the-job? Which is a better fit for me?
- Are there opportunities for professional development or continued education?
- What is the career trajectory of someone in this position? What can I expect after the first or second year on the job?
- Are my job responsibilities too narrow, or will they increase in the future?
- Where are other branches of the organization, and when can I relocate if desired?
- What cultural, social, and entertainment activities are available in the local community?
- How close am I to family and friends?
When evaluating a salary offer or choosing between offers, consider the net value of all monetary benefits and expenses. Fringe benefits, such as health insurance, retirement contribution, and tuition reimbursement for graduate studies, can equal 25%-40% of the total salary package. Job-related expenses, such as formal business attire, safe and convenient housing, and transportation, can significantly decrease your net income. Review the list of resources under the "Negotiating" section to find up-to-date salary information.
Below are factors to consider when evaluating the total compensation package. Note: not all employers will offer these benefits.
- Base pay (starting salary)
- Sign-on bonus
- Relocation assistance
- Performance-based bonuses
- Insurances (health, dental, vision)
- Vacation time/Sick leave
- Retirement Savings Plan
- Stock Options
- Continuing Education
- Student Loan Forgiveness
- Company Vehicle/Cell Phone
- Spousal/Partner assistance in locating a new position
Questions to ask the employer:
- What is my expected start date?
- When will my first performance review and possible salary increase occur?
Some other factors to consider are:
- Company reputation and financial stability
- Job security
- Facilities and working conditions
- Size of company
- Type of industry
- Sector of the economy—public, private, or nonprofit
- Amount of travel required
- Advancement opportunities
- Geographic location, cost of living, and relocation expense
When you are offered a position, you are given a date by which to respond. Respond to the employer verbally by the date given and follow up quickly with a written response.
If you have more interviews scheduled or need more time to consider the decision or explore other possibilities, call or email the employer at least two weeks ahead of time and ask for an extension. Suggest a specific date by which you will call, and then call on that date—do not delay by even one day. You can adapt the following example of a request for an extension to your own style:
"Thank you for the opportunity to work for [insert company name]. I am most appreciative and excited about this position and the potential of joining your team. At the same time, this is a major decision and I want to make sure I have all the information I need to make the right choice. I am asking you to consider extending my offer deadline by two weeks, until [insert date]. I would be grateful if you could grant me such an extension, and assure you that I will be able to make a firm decision by that date."
If you are made an offer during the fall semester and the acceptance deadline is in December, the employer may grant you an extension of a few weeks or more. However, during the spring semester, employers are much more conservative in granting extensions.
Accepting a job offer and then continuing your hunt for a better offer may seem like a "safe" option, but it is strongly discouraged by the University. Once you have accepted a position you have made a commitment to the employer and that commitment implies that you have concluded your job search and will soon join their organization. How you handle such decisions is a reflection of your values, priorities, and ethical/professional conduct. Moreover, there are repercussions for reneging on a job offer. See Cornell Career Services' Student Policies for more details. Schedule an appointment with an advisor in our office BEFORE accepting an offer if you have questions/concerns.
You should not feel that you are expected to negotiate a higher salary; however, it is not impolite to negotiate as long as you act professionally and have prepared appropriately. If the salary is fair, you may prefer to negotiate other factors such as signing-bonus or relocation assistance. You must negotiate with facts, not feelings. "I feel that I am more qualified than the average student" is not an effective strategy. A more convincing statement is: "I have had three internships in the field and will have a shorter learning curve."
You should only negotiate salary and other benefits AFTER the employer has officially offered you the position. Do not negotiate over email; schedule a phone call with the employer to discuss the offer. Keep in mind that some employers do not negotiate (e.g. government, military positions); but it doesn't mean you can't ask if you have a compelling argument.
To negotiate, you will need to offer a salary range based on your industry rates in the national salary surveys. Be prepared to accept the low end of the range you suggest. Use the following resources to help you determine what is an appropriate salary for your field and the position.
- Cornell Engineering Post Graduate Reports: provides mean and medium salaries by degree and academic major.
- National Association of Colleges and Employers Salary Survey and American Almanac of Jobs and Salaries are available in the Cornell Career Services office in Barnes Hall.
- ETC Salary Calculator: allows you to factor in degree, university, years of experience, and location.
- Kiplinger's: provide salary information by job category and location. Also has "Cost of Living Wizard" and "Job Assessor."
- Career Insider (powered by Vault): Click on the "Guides" tab and then "IT & Engineering" and "Vault Guide to Engineering Jobs;" select "View Guide" and click on your discipline
- Professional Associations (e.g. AISES, ASME, IEEE, NSBE, SHPE, SWE, etc.)
- Glassdoor.com; Payscale.com; Indeed.com
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: provides salary statistics by occupation (e.g. chemical engineers, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, etc.).
- CareerCornerstone: provides earnings information by discipline.
- Peers/Alumni in the industry with whom you have a close relationship (e.g. "What is a reasonable salary for a position with these areas of responsibility?").
Cost of Living Resources
Verbally accept the offer and then follow up with a written confirmation letter that reiterates salary, start date, and position title. Express your appreciation for the offer and state that you are looking forward to joining the organization. If applicable, specify when you will meet additional conditions of employment, such as a completing a medical exam or sending required documents. Note: many employers conduct background checks and drug screens; your offer may be contingent on you passing both.
Verbally decline the offer and then send a well-written letter thanking the employer for the offer and for having recruited you. Explain why the offer you are taking better matches your needs or desires right now. Keep the door open for future associations with the firm by expressing your appreciation of the opportunity to interview.