5 Things to Always Tell an Employer Before Accepting a Job Offer

Ben Wyatt, Parks and Recreation

Ben Wyatt of Parks and Recreation should have thought about not wanting to be an accountant before taking a job as one. | NBC

You’ve perfected your resume to make it to the job interview, and now you’ve aced that, too. In fact, a company with a new position just made you a job offer. This is great news, but now it’s time to have another conversation with human resources before signing on the dotted line. There might be a few things you have questions about, or you might need to disclose some additional information to make sure you start the job on the right foot. Either way, you can’t ignore these items. Make sure you alert a future employer about these things before accepting their offer.

1. You think the pay is too low

First things first: You should always ask for some time to review the offer, even if you feel the urge to accept right away. That will give you time to make sure you’re satisfied with the offer — including the pay. It used to be commonplace to expect a raise after working at a company for a year or so. But some companies are taking nontraditional approaches to future raises, and others don’t have the capacity to provide them at all. Plus, the typical 3% raise won’t lead to any life-changing rewards in the coming years. In other words: Make sure you’re content with the starting salary, and if you’re not, negotiate to try to make it higher.

Most employers will expect some negotiation with the first salary they offer, U.S. News & World Report states. Try replying to the HR contact, stating your enthusiasm for the job, but saying you believe your skills warrant a higher salary. Make sure to include the figure you have in mind, and see what happens from there. (If this is all new to you, U.S. News offers a way to begin that conversation.)

According to Monster, the key is to make the request a positive one. Emphasize your desire to join the team, but perhaps write that you need a little extra compensation to justify the switch from your current role to a new one at their company. If this is the first time you’ve negotiated anything in a job offer, Payscale offers another comprehensive tutorial about what to evaluate, and how to ask for items you feel are lacking.

2. You have a pre-planned vacation on the calendar

man and woman enjoying retirement at a beach

Be up front about your vacation. | iStock

You might be getting married, and have a honeymoon that’s already booked two months from now. Or, there’s a family vacation that you’ve never missed, or an anniversary trip that’s going to take you away from the office for a week or so. You didn’t bring it up during the interview process, because you wanted to avoid looking flaky. But now it’s time to have that conversation with HR, before you’re officially on the payroll.

According to a forum on Stack Exchange, you likely have a number of ways to approach this. Mention that this trip has been planned in advance of your search, and remain flexible about how that can be accommodated if at all possible. If the trip is coming up within the next few weeks, it might be best to wait until starting afterward. If it’s a few months from now, ask whether it’s possible to go negative in your paid time off (if you won’t accrue enough vacation days by that point), or ask if it’s possible to take the time without pay.

“… Try the language of deal-making rather than the language of worry,” advises career strategist John Lees in an article for Harvard Business Review. “Instead of identifying your vacation as a problem issue, mention it in passing as one of the minor things that need to be tidied up before you join, alongside finessing your contract and role description.”

If you can stay positive and emphasize what you bring to the table rather than an attitude of detracting from the company’s goals, you most likely won’t have a problem with keeping to your vacation schedule.

3. You don’t understand the compensation or benefits

Sthethoscope on medical documents

Have a clear view of the benefits package. | iStock

If you’re switching to a new industry or career role, the compensation model might be different from what you’re used to. Perhaps this is the first salaried position you’ve received, or a significant portion of your annual income is from bonuses or commissions. If that’s the case, be sure to ask any questions you have, so you’re not taken by surprise later. As Payscale points out, some benefits packages are actually worth quite a bit of money, but you’ll want to have a clear view of that before accepting the offer.

As Katie Douthwaite Wolf writes on The Muse, there can be a million other factors that go into your compensation package. Some might offer profit sharing, others might have stock options or other perks that are technically part of your compensation. If you don’t understand these fully, you’ll be slightly in the dark about how much you’re actually getting paid for your skills.

In addition, make sure you have a clear picture of the benefits package, and what it will mean for your bottom line. You might be willing to have a higher deductible or pay out of pocket for dental services if the rest of the new gig is stellar. However, you should be aware of those impacts to your own personal budget ahead of time. If the language is unclear about these in your job offer, you should take the time to get clarity from HR. If you need a quick refresher, here’s a comprehensive list of the most common components of a benefits offer.

4. You need an extension to review the offer

man checking time on wrist watch

Don’t just go radio silent if you need more time. | iStock

It’s typical to take a day or even up to two or three to evaluate a job offer. Once you’ve asked for (and received) that time, you’ll need to let HR know if you need additional time. Perhaps the paperwork is complicated, or you simply need another few days to consider the change. This is likely acceptable, but your future employer doesn’t want radio silence while you weigh your options. They want to know that you’re interested in the job, and invested in making a smart choice that will ultimately pay off for them, too.

“Make sure you have a concrete and appropriate reason for asking for an extension. Expecting to hear soon from another employer with whom you’ve interviewed is a legitimate reason. If you’re just hoping to get more interviews, that’s not a concrete reason,” advises the career services department at Virginia Tech.

Most experts advise calling your HR contact to discuss the extension, rather than handling it all over email. (You should, however, confirm the arrangement in writing via email afterward.) Remain professional, but you should expect to provide a reason for the extension, along with an estimated time frame. Tell your contact that you need additional time to look over the offer, or whatever your reason is. Keep in mind that the company might have other candidates they risk losing if the process drags on for too long, so approach the conversation with an attitude of compromise. If you’re asking for an extra day, it will likely be much better than if you’re asking for another week.

No matter what, it’s important to ask for the extension in a timely manner. If you were supposed to respond to the offer within 24 hours and you’re going on hour 23, that’s off to a bad start.

5. You’re considering another job offer

job offer, woman offering a contract and a pen

This opens up room for negotiation. | iStock

One of the most legitimate reasons for asking for an extension is that you’re considering another job offer. This is a great place for you to be in, as it gives you a leg up in the negotiations.

“It’s acceptable to let an employer know if you are considering another offer, particularly if that is the reason you are unable to make a quick decision. Knowing that there is competition may encourage an employer to make a more attractive offer,” suggests the career services office at Michigan State University. You’ll want to remain professional and avoid appearing boastful, but doing so will give you the time to evaluate the offers, while also giving the companies a chance to sweeten the deal for you.

“If you are in a high-demand field or you’re a highly sought-after candidate, the hiring manager will presume that you have more than one offer,” Chron suggests. However, just as lying on your resume is a recipe for disaster, so is lying during this process. If you don’t have competing offers, don’t make one up. “Whatever you do, don’t announce that you have competing offers just to delay the process while you shop around — don’t mislead the hiring manager with untruthful statements,” the publication advises.