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After all the challenges of the interview process, accepting the job offer may seem easy. But mishandling this crucial moment can cost you thousands in lost salary – or even the job.

The Big Moment at the End of the Interviews

The moment when you’re offered a job can be a mini-whirlwind of excitement joy, relief, nervousness, you name it. You may be tempted to just blurt “YES!” – quickly, before they can change their mind!

Many a job seeker has done exactly that, only to think later, “I wish I had thought about (negotiating the starting date, the salary, leaving early on Tuesdays? the potential offer from that other company?) before I said yes.”

Do yourself a favor. Have a plan for handling this turning point in your career.

Buy Time to Think

When you receive the offer, chances are that at least one of the following will be true for you:

Certain aspects of the offer – maybe salary, the start date or the work schedule – could be better, and you have no reason to think the employer won’t negotiate.
You have been interviewing elsewhere and may be close to an offer from another company.
You’re not entirely sure this job is the right one. You have questions in your mind, such as:

Is this company financially stable? Could they have layoffs coming in the next year or two?
Is this the right company culture for me?
Is there anything about the work schedule, the commute or the working conditions that’s going to get old fast?
What effect would this job have on my long-term career path?
Can I live on this salary?
Will I need to relocate? Will my family and I be happy in the new place?
Can I afford to wait for a better opportunity?

If any of numbers 1-3 above are true for you, I suggest you give an answer like this:

“This is a very exciting offer! I really appreciate it. Of course, it’s a very important decision, so I’d like to give it some careful thought. How soon do you need my answer?”

If you plan to negotiate, ask for a meeting:

“Is there a time tomorrow when we could meet to discuss the details of the offer?”

Whatever you agree upon – giving an answer by a certain date, or meeting to discuss details – immediately send an email confirming the details.

Confirm, Confirm, Confirm

We’ve all heard that it’s important to get a written offer letter (and to make sure all the details are as agreed). But that’s not the only point that needs to be confirmed in writing.

Rarely, offers are rescinded due to misunderstandings because both parties didn’t communicate clearly about the next steps. “We didn’t hear back from you (within the timeframe we assumed you understood), so we had to move on.” Whether you’re asking for time to think, for an answer to a question, or for an opportunity to discuss (negotiate) the specifics of the offer, make sure the next step is confirmed in writing.

Keep a pleasant tone about it. You’re simply being thorough and professional for the benefit of all concerned.

Next Up: Will You Negotiate?

Did you know that most employers expect some negotiation when they make an offer? If you’ve never negotiated your salary, benefits or other aspects of a job offer, here’s why & how you should probably negotiate.


This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.