Congratulations, you’ve finally got your ticket out! So what’s next? Accepting an offer right away seems to be the easiest thing. But what if you want to negotiate the offer? How do you choose between multiple offers? How do you gracefully decline an offer? This week, our consultants will provide you with some useful tips on how to handle job offers professionally.

First Thing to Do…

“Upon receiving an offer, always thank your potential employer first,” says Myriam Lapierre, a Consultant at ZSA. “Also, unless you are 100% sure that you will take the new job, tell your future employer that you will confirm your acceptance within 24 hours,” adds Lapierre. She has seen too many candidates accepting an offer right way and later realizing that they actually wanted to negotiate the offer. “Negotiating an offer after you’ve accepted is often quite difficult.”

Need More Time to Consider?

Lana Driscoll, ZSA’s Client Partner, suggests that if candidates need more time to think through an offer, just ask for it. “Be honest in the reasons you are asking for more time and be realistic about the time extension,” suggests Driscoll. “Having 48-72 hours to consider an offer is normal, but asking for two weeks is a bit excessive and may make an employer concerned that it is not your first choice and that you are waiting for something better to materialize.”

Mike Race, a Client Partner at ZSA, feels that working with and being open with a recruiter from early on may help avoid this problem. “Your recruiter can help you gather all the relevant information needed to make a decision before indicating that you are ready to receive an offer,” says Race. He believes that there is rarely a good reason to extend decision making time once an offer has been issued. “The worst thing you can do is try to extend time in order to wait for another offer, so that you can shop salaries against each other.”

How to Negotiate an Offer?

“Before you begin negotiations on an offer, make sure you want the job and go into the negotiations with a positive approach by letting the employer know that you are very keen on the role, opportunity, and company and are hoping they could move on a couple of things,” suggests Driscoll. “Decide on the key points that you wish to negotiate – you don’t want to be entering into a negotiation with unrealistic (or too many) terms as you risk offending the employer or seeming unreasonable. Moreover, be aware that you may not get everything you ask for in a negotiation. If you are looking for a higher base salary, be prepared that the employer may not be able to offer that due to internal equity or their corporate structure.”

Driscoll also emphasizes that “candidates should only negotiate an offer that they really want – do not try to play one offer off against another or try to use an offer as leverage to negotiate for a pay raise within your current role.”

Race points out that there is usually not huge room for negotiation as both law firms and in-house legal departments have salary ranges for certain levels. For instance, Partners’ remuneration will largely be a function of the size of his/her book. “In general terms, the firms will extend an offer which they think is fair as a genuine reflection of your value in the market and within their parameters. If you do feel that the offer is below your expectations, it’s important to respond with clear reasons why. It’s also important to consider the opportunity as a whole – in some cases, you need to take a lateral (or even slight backwards) step in money on a move, in order to take a far greater step ahead both in remuneration and career advancement going forward,” says Race.

How Do You Handle Multiple Offers?

In choosing between two or more offers, Lapierre often reminds her candidates to reflect on the past and focus on which job they preferred at first and why. “Never put money first, as a big salary is NEVER something that makes you stay at a job for long,” says Lapierre. Also, think long-term. “Think about 5 years ahead and assess which job you totally see yourself in and why.”

Race agrees on taking a long term view. He admits that sometimes he is astonished by the number of lawyers who use salary as a determinative factor in weighing offers. “Unless there is a massive disparity in dollars (which there rarely is), the realistic effect on your life of a few thousand dollars per year is negligible, especially when considered against picking the right firm to build your future career,” suggests Race. “In basic terms, you need to consider the content of the role, what support the firm will provide (cultural fit / personalities of your boss and peers are key), and growth prospects. If these three elements are there, the money will always follow.”

How Do You Say “No” to an Offer?

If candidates really have to turn down an offer, Lapierre suggests to candidates that they should express their gratitude and provide ONLY positive explanations. “For example, don’t say I don’t like the vibe of the team. Instead, you could say you have a very big connection with a team elsewhere and that’s something you can’t ignore!”

Race adds that a recruiter can truly help you avoid these roadblocks.  “With a good recruiter, you will have been clear what you would accept from the beginning, and the recruiter would continue to check this, including the salary range of the prospective employer, with you along the way. The recruiter should also share with you the basic details of the prospective offer before any documentation is issued. If there are any red flags, this is the time to raise them and negotiate. As such, there should be no surprises by the time you get to the offer stage,” says Race.

Best of Luck!

Handling a job offer professionally is vital. It can help develop a solid foundation with your prospective employer and build up your own reputation in the industry. We hope that we can help you with your exciting career journey!