Managing job offers and negotiating salaries
How to confidently manage job offers and negotiate a salary
Being offered your first graduate job is likely to fill you with a great sense of achievement and offer you some certainty about your future, but how should you deal with accepting or declining an offer? It’s important to be aware of the formal process and etiquette in this situation; read on for our advice on confidently and professionally handling job offers.
Handling job offers
What to consider when you receive a job offer
Offers - whether they be conditional or unconditional - should be made in writing, so even if you are verbally told you have been offered a role, you should also expect to receive this offer in writing. Typically, an offer letter will include a copy of the terms and conditions of employment, i.e., a formal employment contract - though this may follow an initial letter. Before you sign your contract, ensure you thoroughly check the information and that everything is as you expect.
This can include the job title; salary and benefits; the notice period; hours of work; holiday and sick pay entitlements; and your start date. If there are any details that you are unhappy with or you feel need clarification then it will be best to contact the employer directly.
As tempting as it may be to jump in and accept an offer straight away, be aware you don’t have to give the employer or recruiter an immediate response. They are likely to be aware that you have other offers you are considering, as well as processing a lot of information and weighing up the potential pros and cons of accepting a role.
Feel confident in requesting some time to consider your options - ensure you thank them for the offer and reiterate your enthusiasm about the opportunity, but avoid discussing your uncertainty. You can ask for specific time to make your decision, especially if you are waiting on an offer from another employer. How long they will be willing to wait is likely to depend on the individual employer, but will typically be up to a few days. Do be aware, however, that the exception would be if you are waiting on a response regarding another interview or assessment centre.
Being clear about when you are likely to respond demonstrates a professional and thoughtful approach and is helpful for the employer or recruiter to know when they can anticipate your response. Once you have made a decision, the responsibility will fall with you to contact the employer or recruiter to let them know either way.
Once you have received an offer and if you have negotiated some time to consider it in greater detail, if you continue to have concerns here are some questions you may wish to explore to help you to reach your decision:
- Do you have all of the information available from each company to help the decision-making process (if you are weighing up two or more offers)?
- Are you in contact with/have you reached out to your prospective line manager to informally discuss any questions or concerns you may have?
- In relation to your role and responsibilities, is there anything you don’t understand about what your daily duties would involve?
- What longer-term progression opportunities are there with the company? Have they discussed training and/or personal development?
- Will you have a permanent contract with the company or is it a fixed term?
- Does the location work for you? Will you need to relocate and if so, does the salary offered cover the cost of living?
- What might be the potential duration of your commute? Would this suit your working day and lifestyle?
- Does the company offer flexible working arrangements, i.e. the opportunity to work from home so many days a week? Do they provide the necessary equipment for this?
Receiving more than one job offer is not a position all graduates will find themselves in, but as positive as this is, it is essential you only accept one offer. You will also need to remove yourself from the recruitment processes of other employers once you have formally accepted an offer.
Once you have received all offers, use the questions listed above to weigh up which opportunity will suit you best.
If you are questioning whether it is okay to share with a potential employer or recruiter that you have another offer, it can be a good idea to let a company know, which will allow you to negotiate further time to consider your options. Our graduates will normally apply for multiple roles at the same time, so this will not come as a surprise to them - they will understand and appreciate that deciding your next steps is about choosing the right company and opportunity.
It is essential that you do not ignore an initial offer until you hear back from other employers.
Recruiters will always prefer to know up front - for instance, if you have been invited to another assessment centre or interview the following week. They are likely to be as flexible as possible, but will also have their own timescale in mind before they wish to make an offer to another candidate they have on reserve. In this instance, weighing up whether you want to accept this offer or hold out for a further offer will be essential.
If you have received a job offer, but are waiting for responses from other applications or interviews, ensure you write to the employer to acknowledge the job offer and indicate when you will get back to them with your decision. Keep your correspondence professional and keep in touch with the recruiter, so that they know you are still interested in them.
If, after serious consideration you decide that the job is definitely not for you, contact the employer, and politely let them know your decision. It will always be worth remaining on good terms as you might find yourself working with or even applying to the organisation in the future. Try to inform them as soon as possible, so that they can offer the role to another candidate.
Recent research (2023) from Cibyl - offering insights into student thinking - shows that students’ salary expectations have surged amid the cost-of-living crisis. It is unsurprising that a key consideration for students and graduates as part of their job search is salary, and that benefits packages offered by employers have been identified as the number one reason why candidates pick one job offer over another.
The salary you can anticipate as you accept your first graduate role will be dependent on these key things:
- The industry or sector you are going into
- The qualification level you have achieved
- The previous experience you have
- Whether the role is in the public or private sector
But how can you negotiate a salary for a graduate job or entry-level job and should you negotiate at all?
Practical considerations when negotiating your salary
If you feel it is appropriate to negotiate your salary based on your experience, qualifications and given the opportunity to do so, negotiating your pay is one of the trickiest aspects of the recruitment process. Remember, you and the employer are approaching the issue from different perspectives. You will be wanting to be compensated as much as possible for your contributions, whilst the employer will be looking to secure the best candidate for the least amount of money. In order to help you understand of what salary you can expect based on the type and level of the role you are applying to, access the following resources:
- Prospects Job Profiles - have typical/average salaries for each role
- UK Salary and Benefit Guide - Totaljobs also provides an annual offering benchmarking information for recruiters, indicating what you can expect across different sectors
- The Pay Index - access through your MyCareer account, enables you to accurately assess compensation data against different job titles, functions and geographies
Further information on salaries
For more information and advice explore the following resources:
- TARGETjobs - Discover your earning potential - dedicated Pathway
- TARGETjobs - Negotiating salary for your graduate job
- TARGETjobs - ‘What is gross pay?’ and other questions about salary, benefits and incentives
- TARGETjobs - What are the best paying jobs for graduates?
- Milkround - How to negotiate salary (in the UK)