Before Accepting a Job Offer, Take Time to Negotiate

We can all agree that the interview process can be stressful and exhausting. You spend weeks, sometimes months, going through many rounds of interviews, tests, and background checks. If you're concurrently employed, you do all this in secret, slipping out of work and trying not to spill the beans to coworkers and friends. You cannot wait for the process to be over so that you can stop all the sneaking around.

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Often, when a job offer comes your way, it's delivered by a human resources representative or the hiring manager. They call you on the phone, note a few quick stats like starting salary and vacation days, and ask if you'll accept and what date you can start.

Your first instinct may be to accept right away. You want to keep the hiring manager happy and ensure your future at the company. You definitely don't want to rock the boat.

However, this approach has its pitfalls. For example, the hiring manager may not end up being your actual manager. This sounds unlikely, but I once had my own hiring manager announce his departure on my second day on the job. If we had not agreed to our terms in writing, there's a chance I might have had to renegotiate with the new manager.

When you receive a job offer, the best approach is to thank the company and express your gratitude and excitement. Then, you should thoughtfully ask if they are able to send you the details of the offer in an email or official letter. Tell the recruiter or other company representative you have a personal policy that you must sleep on the decision overnight.

When you receive the offer email, review it closely. Ensure that all the details match up with the ones explained on the phone. If something is left out or different from your understanding, ask clarifying questions.

Sleeping on an offer also gives you a chance to discuss it with your family, and it gives you an opportunity to think about whether you should negotiate the offer up. Most candidates are concerned with two key things: salary and vacation. If you want to ask for more of either, you need to follow up with the company. Express your gratitude and excitement again. Then, ask if they would be willing to adjust their offer.

Select your requests carefully. A good negotiation is one where both parties walk away feeling as if they won. Neither party should feel like they were taken advantage of. That being said, you shouldn't avoid asking for what you need. As long as you communicate in a professional manner, the company should respect your request. The worst-case scenario is that the company will not increase the offer. The company most likely won't rescind it.

Also, if a company cannot increase your salary, it may have flexibility around vacation time that you could negotiate instead.

Again, make sure you get everything in writing – no matter what you agree to. It will ensure there are no misunderstandings and help solidify your future success within the organization.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.

Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.