Evaluating and negotiating job offers

You’ve been offered a job, congratulations!

All your hard work in the application/interview process has paid off and all you need to do now is check the terms and conditions and accept the job in writing.

But, what happens if you still have an interview pending a job you prefer, perhaps you have more than one offer to consider or you want to negotiate the salary or the start date? This page provides some help on issues to consider with job offers and negotiating with employers. We are unable to offer legal advice on contracts or job offers.

I’ve been offered a job but still have other applications/interviews pending, what do I do?

This is one of the most common issues faced by students. If an employer has offered you a job and you still have applications outstanding or are waiting for the results of another interview, you’ll need to try and negotiate some time to decide.

  • Make sure you acknowledge the offer, ignoring a job offer could be taken as a rejection.
  • Try to handle this tactfully and show the employer that you’re still interested in the job and the company and are seriously considering the offer but that you need some more time to decide to make the right decision for yourself and the company.
  • The employer may give you a deadline in which to respond. If you do not respond within this deadline, they will probably offer the job to someone else!
  • You could check progress of your application with the other employers, sometimes the fact that you’re in demand by another employer can play in your favour. But most graduate recruiters will have set recruitment timescales and can’t change this. Eventually you will have to weigh up your options and make a decision - is it worth risking this offer for applications that you can’t predict will be successful? When you accept a job offer, it is good practice to withdraw all your other pending applications.

I’ve accepted a job offer but now I want to withdraw it, what shall I do?

It is very important that you only accept a job offer when you are certain you are going to take it. If you are thinking about accepting an offer whilst you wait for the result of another interview, you should always negotiate more time from the employer who has made an offer. When you accept a job in writing you enter into a contract between yourself and the employer. This means you could be sued for breach of contract if you withdrew from it. It is not common for companies to take this action but it does underline the need to think about this seriously.

Some considerations:

  • It may affect your chances if you decide to apply for this company again. Some companies use recruitment databases that track candidates.
  • The employer is not going to be happy about your decision. A small company may have probably invested a lot of time and money in this process.
  • A company could ask you to work out your notice period, though this is unlikely due to the costs involved.

Whatever you do, do it politely and professionally. It is important that you let the employer know as soon as possible so that they can find someone else to fill the position.

How do I evaluate multiple job offers?

Go back to your original job search strategy and the personal criteria you set for choosing a particular role or organisation (eg Company culture, development/training opportunities, travel, working environment, salary, location). How many boxes does each offer tick? You may have a gut feeling about which one to take. The ideal outcome is being happy in your decision and letting one down gently in case you need to apply to them at some stage in the future. Telling them “I got a better offer” is then based on a positive and informed decision. If you feel you need further information from an employer before making a decision, you could contact the employer to ask any questions or arrange a visit. If one job opens a different career path to the other, you may need to consider longer term career plans. Contact us to book a careers appointment.

I have a conditional offer - what do I do?

Job offers can be conditional on achieving a particular grade for your degree. If you don’t get the results you require, contact the company – this may be open to negotiation if you just missed out on the required grade.

How do I negotiate a salary?

If there is an opportunity to negotiate salary, this is usually after an offer is made. (Although you may be asked at interview what your salary expectations are) An employer may be in a position to negotiate the figure may or it be fixed by the HR department who will have evaluated the market rate and the skills and experience required.

If there is room for negotiation it will probably be based on the market rate and how much they want you. On large graduate schemes they have a lot of choice of candidates with very similar skill levels, so why should they pay you more? A small company may just be recruiting one staff member; they may not recruit often and may be open to negotiating.

When you have considerable experience or have specialised in a particular area, you may become a valuable commodity, you may even be headhunted to work for a competitor. Use the steps below to help you come to a figure. (Be realistic though, another candidate might be prepared to do it for less so you could price yourself out of the market!)

  1. What is the market value of that role, in that industry, in that location?
  2. What are the terms and conditions?
  3. Is salary all you get – or are there other perks?
  4. How much do you want the job?

Signing your contract of employment

A contract of employment is an official legal agreement between an employer and employee. Employers may send a written contract to a successful candidate/new employee; it is the employee’s responsibility to read the document and check the information within it is correct before signing it.

The contract should state the employer’s name, employee’s name, job title or a description of the job, start date, period of employment, and how much you will be paid. The contract will also contain information about your holiday entitlement/pay, sick leave/pay and notice period (which is important to know when you want to leave the organisation, or they are asking you to leave).

It is important to understand your contract and keep a copy of it as you may need to refer to it once you have started your role. We are not able to provide graduates/students with support reviewing their contracts, however the sources of information and advice below should be used.

Can I defer my start date?

Many organisations are flexible about a deferred start date but you should not assume this is possible. For some jobs with smaller employers you may be able to negotiate with the employer when you start if it is within a reasonable amount of time. For graduate schemes this may be less flexible when there many new employees starting at the same time and set times for training etc.

Check with the employer if it will be possible to defer your start date. If you are planning on taking a gap year and have been applying for jobs in the hope of deferring for a year, you need to check if this is possible before you apply. Some employers may allow you to defer your offer for a year and start at the next intake.