Accepting/Rejecting a Job Offer
Central to the process are two considerations: Taking a job
for the right reasons and turning down the other job offers without
turning off the offerers.
- Setting up the decision tree for selecting among the
offers. Even if you have only one offer, you should still go
through this exercise. On a piece of paper, list the pluses
and minuses associated with each job; put down everything no matter
how trivial. Using this list, on a second list
organize your priorities. Pick those items that are most important to
you and put at the top of the new sheet; next to each item list how
each offer does. Then at the bottom list the unessential items.
Have I got my priorities straight? For starters, here
is list of possible important items: salary compared to cost of living;
geographical region (area, city/rural, close to family);
scientific/technical quality of the department (group, division,
whatever) and of the whole institution; possibility for positive
relations with other people in department, institution, or living area;
possibilities for advancement at that institution (is there a
recognizable path for advancement if you are successful); job
possibilities for significant other/spouse; quality of start up package
(am I being given a good chance for success?); time given for making a
decision. Not all of these (and others you can think of) can be of top
importance. If you maintain they are, you are lying to yourself, and
you will not decide sensibly.
Am I fooling myself? After you have picked the most
important items and how each offer does on those items, but
before you have made a
decision, discuss your reasoning with people you trust. This may
include your most immediate supervisor and, if possible, some more
senior, trusted person who has no vested interest in your decision. In
talking you may discover that you have some of your priorities wrong.
A common mistake is to place too much attentional on geographical
region or on a perceived, but not carefully researched, opinion of the
actual and potential quality of the
- Making the decision. If you have been honest
with yourself, the most important elements should be clear. You must
make sure you understand how each institution scores on
Getting more information. Often you will discover you
don't really know. Go back to the person who made the offer to get
additional information. That individual should not be surprised at
this step; if you detect surprise, ask yourself whether this is because
you have selected items that the offerer does not think are important
(then you have to decide who is correct) or because these are weak
points associated with offer/institution/area. Anyone really interested
in attracting you will provide frank information and direct you to
others that can supplement their information. This is a very important
Distinguishing between getting more information and
negotiating -- the uncertainty principle. In the process of asking for
more information, you may stimulate a negotiating process. There is
no way to avoid this; nor should it be avoided. If changes in the
offer would make a difference, then you should find out.
- Concentrate on essential points (the list!).
If you start a renegotiation on minor points and then discover
other elements are more important, you will both undermine your
negotiating position and make the people at the institution wonder
whether they have selected the correct person. This could negatively
affect how you are viewed even if you do accept and could really hurt
your reputation if you turn down the offer.
- Don't just negotiate for the fun of negotiating. Keep
whole process professional. You are not buying a used car from someone
you will never see again. You are in the process of making a decision
that will determine the course of your professional and personal life.
- Do not accept any offer you don't have in writing.
This seems a simple point, but many forget it. Only written offers
constitute real offers.
The moment of truth. Within a reasonably short time --
a few days to a few weeks -- all the questions will be answered as well
as they can be answered. Make the list of really important items one
more time and how each offer stacks up. Then make the
decision. Sleep on it over a night or a couple of days. If it is
the right decision, it will come to seem the only decision. If it
is not, you will have second doubts. If this occurs, either you have
been lying to yourself or two of the jobs are essentially
indistinguishable. Try going through the analysis stage at the start
of this paragraph again watching for place you are fooling yourself.
This is particular a good time to go back to some senior person you
trust who may be able to point where you have mixed up priorities.
Normally the first decision will stick, and you will experience
increasing confidence in it.
Announcing the decision. Accept the offer by
calling the person who made it. You will need to follow this up
immediately with a letter of acceptance. In the letter you should
acknowledge the explicit offer you are accepting including any changes
that occurred. Keep this simple. Further say when you
will/can start. Do not forget to convey how enthusiastic you are at the
possibilities this new job offers. Make the person who made the offer
happy with the process.
Graciously turning down the other offers. Call
immediately after you have accepted the offer with a rehearsed, short
speech. Typically start out, saying how great the offer was, how much
you appreciated the effort that went in constructing it, and how sad
you are that you have decided not to accept it. The offerer has
probably worked hard to get the resources for the offer and will
want to be able to put as positive a spin as possible on your
rejection. Someday in the future this person or the department may be
able to do you a favor. In your rejection, you should strive to
maintain the high regard the individual and the department has of you.
Don't tell what offer you have accepted. No
rejected suitor wants to be compared to the successful one; they can't
do that if they don't know. A skillful rejection will deflect that
question. One possible procedure is to suggest you took another offer
for personal reasons the offer could not have affected, e.g., a (much
better) job for a spouse, family responsibilities. If that possibility
doesn't exist, gently but firmly refuse to provide the information.
Finally decline the offer with a letter designed to the good
opinion of any institution that made you an offer.
Your comments and
suggestions are appreciated.
To cite this page:
Accepting/Rejecting a Job Offer
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