Job offer basics
January 14, 2007 4:49 PM   Subscribe

What are things I need to know to ask and say when I receive a job offer? And, conversely, when I don't?

I had a second interview for my first professional, post-college, "Welcome to the Real World" job on Friday. They're calling tomorrow with their decision. I feel good about the interviews, and want to be prepared if when they call to offer me the position. What do I need to know to ask?

The job would involve me moving across the state, to a much bigger (and thus, more expensive) city. This is a lower paying job (the range they gave was $20K-$30K), so I imagine some salary negotiation might need to happen. Is it out of line to ask, and HOW do I ask for them to pay to move me? What are all the things to consider?

Obviously a rather open-ended question, but any career advice sites only give very specific advice, as well as other AskMeFi questions.

Oh, and, if it matters, this is for a project coordinator position in the alternative energy industry.
posted by messylissa to Work & Money (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Forgot to add, what can I ask, and what should I ask, if they do not extend an offer?
posted by messylissa at 4:53 PM on January 14, 2007

Response by poster: Actually, they did confirm that they would call either way.
posted by messylissa at 5:00 PM on January 14, 2007

You should definitely ask for a relocation package. Also find out how much tand how long hey will pay for interim housing until you find a permament place to live. And make sure to get the offer in writing.
posted by mamaquita at 5:13 PM on January 14, 2007

I don't think they'd pay for your move, especially since it's entry level and the move is within the same state. If they were going to pay for the move, they probably would have mentioned it either in the original job listing or when they gave you the salary range.

What I'd suggest doing is to not negotiate the salary they offer you, but instead ask for a signing bonus (or a "loan" which amortizes over your first year of working there). Mention post-college debts, the need to move, buy work clothes, etc. "Paying for the move" sounds open-ended. An actual dollar amount--toss out $5k--is limited liability for them. Also, since it's a one-off, it's more likely that they'll pony up the cash--giving a salary hike builds in expectations for next year, puts them in difficulties with other folks at the same level, etc.

You can always negotiate a salary increase the following year, after you've got a track record behind you.

Good luck. I hope you get the job.
posted by limagringo at 5:20 PM on January 14, 2007

I feel like its best to just be upfront and honest about what you need or what you want for the work you'll be doing. If its going to mean a burden of 5K for you to move to start the new job, say "I would really like to start working for you but the move will cost 5K. Is there any way we can work something out?"

Or, if you really need 32K a year instead of 30K, then when they make an offer of 25K say "I'd really like to work for you, but I can't accept the position for any less than 32K."
posted by farmersckn at 5:35 PM on January 14, 2007

First of all, good luck! I hope you do get the offer.

No offense, but I would be VERY surprised if they offered you a bonus or any relocation costs. This is your first job out of college, and they don't care how much debt you are in. You aren't coming to them with incredibly rare skills (are you?) and they are offering you an entry level job. Frankly, I think with this situation, even if they only offer you $20K (and if they've said $20-30K and you have no work experience, that might be a real possibility) you say "thanks for taking me on, I'm really excited to prove myself and learn from all of you." Then, prove yourself and learn from them. Make yourself indespensible, and after a year, they'll beg you to stay in the form of a nice increase. Asking someone to pony up cash when you haven't worked there (or anywhere) yet is going to make a bad impression. You are not in a good negotiating position, I don't think.

Negotiation works when you are already employed with a not-bad job or you have crazy skills that they really need.

If they say they've gone with another candidate, here's what you say, "Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me and tell me about your organization and this position. Of course I'm dissapointed to not get it, but I appreciate the chance to go through the process. If there's another opportunity with you down the road, please keep my resume on file. I'm really interested in your company."

Sorry to harsh on your idea, I'm sure you do need the money and deserve it, but from where I'm sitting (8 years in the workforce, hiring entry level people for 5 of those years), it's a tough market. You should be really happy to find something in your chosen field and get a chance to work on your skills.
posted by tk at 5:48 PM on January 14, 2007

p.s. Tell us what happens! I'm not saying I have the answer (best would probably be from someone in that field), but in any case, I hope everything works out for you.

p.p.s. If you think you can get a better offer elsewhere, negotiate away. You know how long you have been looking for a job and whether or not you want to bluff them.
posted by tk at 5:52 PM on January 14, 2007

Best answer: If it's a medium-to-large sized company and/or corporate environment, you will most likely be presented with an offer and given time to consider it (i.e. you shouldn't need to answer them on the spot). The next day or two, they'll probably follow-up the call with a nice, formal letter detailing the offer to you, and you'll probably need to respond to them (informing them of your start date) in writing by either composing your own letter of acceptance, or signing their offer.

As for negotiating more, I don't have any suggestions save for not sounding overly excited when they make the offer. I remember some resource I read ages ago that mentioned starting your response with the word "Well..." As in "Well... I appreciate the offer." Which might introduce some doubt in the mind of the recruiter and encourage s/he to sweeten the deal if s/he's holding out to see your reaction. But the chances of that happening are pretty low, especially for positions that are lower on the totem pole. And companies these days generally have a fixed budget for positions they can't exceed anyway.

Keep in mind that salary isn't the only thing you can negotiate. I've known people who were able to set up working preference (9-hour workdays for Mon-Thurs and half-days on Fridays), signing bonuses, more vacation time, company car, etc. But when it comes down to it, you're vying for a somewhat entry level position that they probably know they can fill relatively easily (which unfortunately places you at a disadvantage). But don't fret, you'll be exceeding their expectations in no time, and when your annual performance review pops up, you'll be able to take over the company! (Or, at least, "a real straight shooter with upper management written all over you!")

There are HR/recruiter folk on MeFi -- hopefully one of them can pop on and give you some advice from the other side. Good luck! (On preview: tk read my mind!)
posted by Hankins at 5:55 PM on January 14, 2007 [2 favorites]

FWIW, as an entry-level engineer last year, I was offered a nice signing bonus on one job (small company) and a relocation package on another (large government agency) (though that one was a cross-country move). Another friend of mine is in an entry-level rotational program (large international corporation), and they relocate her on every rotation. If you're doing energy stuff, sounds like you might have an engineering background? That's one industry where I've heard negotiation work out well for entry-level kids.

What changes if you take that job? Will you need to buy a car? Purchase public transportation passes? Buy a whole new wardrobe? Move, obviously? Throw that stuff out there -- if they are honestly impediments to your accepting the job, then they are valid concerns to bring up with the HR person. Just be careful and gracious no matter what.
posted by olinerd at 6:31 PM on January 14, 2007

Best answer: If they do not offer you the job, tell them thank you for considering you, and request that they retain your resume in case another opening avails itself. You never know, the person they hire instead of you might leave in 6 weeks. Or another person may turn in their resignation tomorrow.

If they do offer you the job, you are certainly within your rights and reasonable behavior to ask and think about the following:

1. Do not just immediately accept or decline the job, right there in the moment.

2. Ask for a clear definition of your total compensation. This includes not only your salary, but what benefits, if any, you will be receiving. For instance, is health insurance offered, and if it is, what portion, if any, is paid for by the employer? Vacation time? Sick time? 401k?

3. The way to tactfully ask about moving is to simply ask "is relocation assistance available?". This is rather broad, and could mean an outright gift/bonus of relocation expenses, or a loan, but should answer your question.

4. Prepare ahead of time what you consider to be acceptable and non-acceptable offers. This generally happens when it is in the middle of the range. What about 24k? That's in the range, but will you be able to pay your bills on that salary?

If they offer you less than you can accept, then you can absolutely ask for more. All they can do is say "no". But if it is too low for you to survive, then what have you really lost? Be gracious, and be honest. "Well, I thank you very much for your offer, and your firm is my first choice to work for, but I simply require more than X dollars. If the firm were able to offer Y dollars instead, I believe I could accept immediately." They may ask to call you back to get approval. They may say "sorry, we have no discretion on the salary, goodbye". Be prepared, but more than anything BE HONEST. No one wins when you get there and are miserable and looking for a new job 2 months into it because you can't pay your light bill.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:44 PM on January 14, 2007 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone so far. Just to clarify, to tk in particular, I do have quite a bit of job experience (been working since I was 14, I'm almost 23 now), some of which is professional, but never full-time, permanent positions, with a real title to speak of. Everything up to this point has been entry-level, high school degree only. This is the first job on a more professional level. I didn't mean to imply that I have no experience, only education. I actually have 4 years of very substantial experience from a position at a highly regarded university, a degree in Psychology and Entrepreneurial Leadership, and have never worked less than 2 jobs during my college career, all of which have skills that are applicable to this position. That might change the picture a little bit...
The company offers great benefits, including a $600 metro bus pass, but the issue that I am running into is that a decent 1 bdrm apt. runs about $1000/mo in this particular city (one of the most expensive in the nation to live). On $20K, this is really a stretch, esp. since I have student loan debt to consider.
posted by messylissa at 7:03 PM on January 14, 2007

If you don't get the offer, consider asking "Do you have any feedback for me as to why I didn't get the job?" You might get some useful information.

If they don't know or won't say, don't hound them; if you don't like what you hear, don't argue with them -- just accept whatever you hear gracefully.
posted by ottereroticist at 10:03 PM on January 14, 2007 [1 favorite]

On 20K, $1000/month is not a stretch. It's impossible. Assuming 30% out of your salary for fed, state, and local, that'll leave you 14K/year, or basically $539 per paycheck (26 paychecks in a year).

If they're only offering you 20-30K for a private sector job out of a "highly regarded university", there's clearly something wrong here. Either they're severely underpaying you, they can't afford to give you more, or this base salary is a test to see what you're worth to them.

In any case, keep your options open. Sure, they're a great deal of competition for jobs in today's marketplace, but there is also great demand for fresh graduates with an eagerness to succeed. I think that you're really undervaluing yourself by taking this position (unless your a hippy who's into alternative energy and believe that this is your life's calling right now, in which case, hug that tree.)
posted by SeizeTheDay at 10:27 PM on January 14, 2007

I agree that $20K sounds very low, even for an entry-level job, assuming that this is a 40-hour, 50-week a year job - especially since it sounds like you have some experience, even if not full-time. I also think that a lot of answers to your questions depend on the size of the company - is it a small (fewer than 20-30 people) firm, or is it a mid or large-sized company? Are they hiring only one new grad, or are there multiple people coming in?
posted by btkuhn at 3:39 AM on January 15, 2007

Response by poster: SeizeTheDay and btkuhn, THANK YOU for the wake-up call. I'd been feeling that maybe this was the case, esp. considering I interviewed for a position as a mailroom assistant back home (where I could get a 2 bdrm HOUSE for $500/mo) that paid roughly $28K. I will definitely shoot for the top of the pay range.
And, btkuhn, the company is an LLC with approx. 50 employees and growing rapidly.
posted by messylissa at 7:12 AM on January 15, 2007

I hope the best for you, messylissa. Looking back on the first real job I got out of college (that I'm still working and looking to get out of), there probably won't be much room for negotiation if they extend you an offer. Keep in mind that there are plenty of college kids that will jump at the offer, no questions asked. Comes with the territory of entry-level.

As an aside, the career books I've read that describe the offer negotiation process (be it salary, benefits, disclosure agreements, etc) all seem like a farce. The applicant and the company are not on equal ground for negotiation. The company has thousands of other applicants to choose from and will choose from if the appliant doesn't sign on the dotted line. Unless you have a rockstar skillset or otherwise have the company by the balls, I can't see how David can negotiate with Goliath in any meaningful way.
posted by dr_dank at 7:23 AM on January 15, 2007

Do ask for feedback if you don't get the job, but don't plan to rely on it.

There are at least four factors tempting hiring managers (and, even moreso, HR staff) not to be candid:

(1) Legal liability concerns (unless you're an able-bodied straight white male under 40).

(2) Embarrasment about how the final decision was made; when you come down to the 2 or 3 best candidates, what pushes someone over the top often might seem (or be) arbitrary or trivial.

(3) Desire to keep things warm -- saying something kinder and more encouraging than the real evaluation warrants, in order to keep you alive as a potential recruit in the future, or just out of a desire to be nice.

(4) Desire not to keep the relationship warm -- you want to chill out the candidate and not have them reapplying for every vacancy and trying to lever the personal relationship, coming back to you for advice, listing you on LinkedIn or MySpace, etc.
posted by MattD at 9:35 AM on January 15, 2007

Please, please read Women Don't Ask. The cost of not negotiating an offer early in your career is substantial for your comfortable retrement.

Ask respectfully and clearly for what you believe appropriate compensation is for the job. Your personal debts are not of interest to them; paying a competitive salary to a strong candidate is.

I echo the advice never to accept on the spot. Thank them for the offer, and let them know you will reply within x working days.
posted by mozhet at 12:24 PM on January 15, 2007 [2 favorites]

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