We receive a lot of job-hunting advice. Everything from dressing right to Googling your interviewer. But what happens when you’ve made an impression and landed the gig? Maybe you’ve been through a series of interviews and are now at the final shortlisting stage.
Or maybe you’re so talented that you’ve been accepted at multiple positions simultaneously. Whether you’re dealing with one ‘professional suitor’ or seven of them, the right response matters. It sets the tone for your new job, and might even get the offer withdrawn!
How to Accept a Job Offer
Tip 1: Keep Calm
When you see your interviewer’s name in your Caller ID or inbox, you’re likely to get anxious. You might be super excited, or you may dread the news. Before you pick the call or open the email, count to ten and take a deep breath. This reduces your chances of squealing in excitement or stuttering in panic. You want to seem poised and in control, even if you’re not.
If your job is solitary, you probably don’t talk much during your daily duties. So your voice will sound strange to your employer. To sound more natural, use a trick recommended by radio professionals. Grab a ballpoint pen, put it between your lips, and hum for five to ten seconds. It warms your voice so you sound less strained during a potentially tense conversation.
Tip 2: Assess their Seriousness
Figure out whether this is a solid job proposal or an exploratory ‘supposal’. The latter is when a boss asks how soon you can start, or what it would take to get you on board. As a job seeker, this may seem like a shoo-in. But your interviewer may simply be gauging the market.
Maybe they want a ball-park salary estimate so they can weigh your pay demands against other candidates. Or they might be assessing something entirely different. An interviewee who says they can start immediately might be seen as desperate. This could lead to a lower salary offer.
Or that same candidate may be seen as disloyal since they’re willing to leave their current job without notice. This subconsciously puts your potential boss on edge. It tells them you could leave them in the lurch when you get a better offer. And that’s likely to affect their decision.
Tip 3: Be Prepared
Many hiring managers will call you to informally offer you the position. It’s their way of feeling you out, seeing how serious you are about the job. This can get awkward because you don’t want your next boss calling while you’re meeting with the current boss. If you don’t take the call, you may worry the job will go to someone else. But if you do take the call, you’ll be compromised.
After all, you can’t delicately discuss your expected salary while your line manager or colleagues are in the room. And if you make obvious excuses to get off the phone (or if you abruptly leave the room), it only makes your work-mates more suspicious. So if you’re expecting a call, keep your phone on silent and pre-arrange a subtle way to leave the room and have some privacy.
Tip 4: Consider the Offer Medium
Generally speaking, you should respond using the same platform where you received your offer. If they call you, accept via phone. If they text you, email you, send a courier, or use snail mail, reply using the same medium. But whichever option you pick, follow up with written proof. This paper trail is crucial in case anything goes wrong later. And ask them to confirm receipt.
That may seem pushy and finicky, but in this age of phishing and technology, you don’t want someone claiming they didn’t get your email. Or worse, switching your hiring terms in a way that puts you down. Call if you must, reply to their texts, but get it down on official record.
Tip 5: Answer Immediately
This doesn’t necessarily mean you say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We advise against instant acceptance. As we’ve mentioned, it can cost you leverage. Especially if they interpret your urgency and enthusiasm as desperation. Respond to acknowledge the offer, then ask for a day or two to think it over. Don’t take more than three days or they may think you don’t want the job.
Some employers may hear your request for time and say, ‘Give us an answer now or we’ll hire somebody else.’ That may bully you into an answer. Don’t fall for it, because you may get cornered into a bad deal. Besides, that kind of boss is a red flag. If they’re not willing to give you breathing space, they’re likely to be a dismissive, domineering boss. It bodes badly.
Keep your immediate answer short and simple. Let them know you’ve received their message and you’d like some time to think it over. Ask them when they expect your response. Fair bosses will give you 24 to 48 hours. So if they ask how much time YOU need, request a day or two.
Tip 5: Request your Terms in Writing
This is a good way to buy time. It also ensures you don’t sign something you’re unclear about. Word your request respectfully, to avoid offending them or sounding combatant. If the job offer came via phone call, thank them for the call, and tell them you’d like to review the terms.
Could they please send you an email summarizing the details of the offer? If they prefer to send snail mail, that’s fine, but consider how long it will take. You don’t want them claiming you dilly-dallied when you haven’t even gotten the message yet. And ask that they send an email rather than a text or instant message. Email and Snail Mail have more legal validity.
If your potential employer seems uneasy, re-assure them you’re not asking for a contract. Rather, you want to be sure about the specifics. Remind them you had a half-hour interview – probably more than one – and you want to be sure you didn’t forget anything important.
Tip 6: Get a Magnifying Glass
You want to be sure of exactly what you’re getting into. Read the written offer carefully. Look out for any vague wording that may bite you later. Things to keep an eye on are gross vs net pay, tax requirements, commissions, bonuses, medical plans, the chain of command, benefits, and sneaky clauses. Non-compete clauses can be particularly tricky. Notice periods can also be contentious.
Ask someone you trust to help. They can look at the offer through objective eyes, so they might spot things you don’t. You’re probably relieved and dazzled they offered you the position. So you may be too biased to spot unfavorable terms and conditions. Ideally, you want to put your official contract through just as much scrutiny, but they probably won’t send that by mail.
Tip 7: Get a Call-back
Once you receive their written proposal, you’re not bound. If there’s anything in there you’re uneasy about, call them back. Don’t list your foibles in writing or ‘reply to all’. Instead, give them a call, or send a quick written reply. Explain there are areas you’re unclear about, and you’d like to discuss it further. Are they available for a sit-down and when can you schedule one?
Not all employers will agree to this. And it tells you the exact type of person or company you’ll be working for. If they’re unwilling to hear your two cents before they hire you, you’re unlikely they’re unlikely to be open to feedback once they hire you. It’s probably an authoritarian top-down company where questions aren’t encouraged. Be sure you can live with that.
Tip 8: Prepare for the Follow-up
Assuming they agree to that sit-down, decide what you’d like to adjust and discuss. Do you want more pay? Can you negotiate the extra money in the form of stock options, performance bonuses, or cash benefits? Would you like flexible work hours? Is there a crèche or elder-assistance program? Do you get medical insurance immediately or after your trial period?
What are the metrics of your trial period – you don’t want to work there for 3 months and be let go because you ‘didn’t measure up’. Remember, all these questions could put your potential employer on the defensive, so rehearse the conversation with your partner or mentor. This helps you work out your tone and wording. It reduces your chances of irritating your next boss.
Tip 9: Officially Accept their Offer
Do this is the same way they made the offer. If they called or texted you, reply the same way. But always follow up with a formal letter. It could be an email or a registered letter. In your letter, confirm your starting date, your salary, your benefits, and your notice period. For example:
Thank you for your call. As per our discussion, I’m happy to accept your job offer. I’ll begin my position as Client Comfort Executive on 3rd February 2020. It’s an exciting new direction for my career, and I’m quite looking forward to it. I’ll report to work at 9.00 a.m.
As discussed, my starting salary is $50,000 a year, to be reviewed every August. I will receive full medical cover (plus dental) for myself, my spouse, and up to 4 children. I will also receive 14 paid vacation days per calendar year and comprehensive maternity cover.
Please confirm that you’ve received my letter, and kindly let me know if you require any additional documents or details before my first day. I’d also like to know if there are any steps I should take to prepare for my new position. Thanks again, and I’m glad to be working with you.
Tip 10: Follow-up on Phone
You’ve already asked them to verify receipt of your message. So if you don’t hear back from them in 3 or 4 days, you can make a quick phone call to be sure you haven’t slipped their mind. It’s tempting to text or email, but phone calls are better. After all, if they ‘didn’t see your email’ they might not see this follow-up message either. You might think you’re nagging, but it’s important.
If you’re worried about how they’ll take it, think of it as being proactive and taking initiative. Bosses like that, right? By framing it positively in your mind, you’ll be more at ease, which is more likely to draw a positive response. Especially if they genuinely forgot to reply to your mail.
Just like your previous phone call, rehearse with a friend. You don’t want to seem impatient or entitled. It might put them off you and your offer could be withdrawn. But you also don’t want to be overly-meek and get roped into a bad contract. Keep your tone open and positive.
Tip 11: Wind Up At Work
Many job hunters worry about timing. Should you wait to sign the contract before resigning? What if you sign and the expect you to start in a week … yet you haven’t given notice at your current job? It’s always a good idea to secure new income before cutting off your old one.
An employer who won’t let you serve out your notice is likely to be a slave driver. Explain that you value your reputation and work contacts, so you don’t want to leave them hanging. Your new boss may suggest an alternative, like paying out the remainder of your current contract.
If they go that route, make sure you fully understand the terms and caveats. For example, will they deduct it from your first salary? Is that something you can afford? Will your current boss consider it disrespectful that you were ‘bought and paid for?’ However things end up going, once your new job is guaranteed, sit with your boss for a resignation chat before writing it down.
Accepting a job offer in the right way reassures your new boss they’ve made the right hiring decision. Let’s quickly review the smartest way to accept a job offer.
- Match your potential employer’s tone and medium.
- Decide whether they’re serious or if they’re just testing the waters.
- Get your offer in writing and keep copies for your records.
- Respond immediately … by asking for time to consider their offer.
- Verify your salary, benefits, and starting date.
- Type your formal acceptance letter.
What was the last job you were offered and how did you accept it? Tell us in the comments …