Photo by Christian Mairitsch.

After many rounds of interviewing, code tests, HR reviews and other painstaking job search activities, you’ve finally been made an official job offer. Congratulations! The question now is: Will you accept? Reject? Counter? From our experience at mirRoR, we’ve collected some advice on the appropriate ways of rejecting/accepting/countering an offer.

How to reject an offer

Courteously but quickly. Don’t delay by saying, “I’ll think it over” if what you really mean is “No.” By all means take the time you need to evaluate it, but as soon as you’ve come to a conclusion it is in your best interest to let the employer know. This is only fair, and moves the process along for everyone (either toward a counter offer or your employment elsewhere). Time is of the essence. (For more, see our previous post on how Time KILLS.)

Use your recruiter to your advantage. Discuss the offer with your recruiter to further evaluate the pros and cons. Oftentimes your recruiter can give you more insight into the company, your future potential for growth, and how this offer stacks up against offers for similar positions in the current market. Recruiters see dozens of offers a month, so it makes sense to leverage that knowledge and experience in your own evaluations.

Additionally, treat the employer like you would want to be treated: be honest about why you are rejecting their offer. Don’t you hate it when all you hear from HR is that you’re “just not the right fit,” or worse, nothing at all? How is that feedback helpful? It’s not.

If the job requirements just aren’t in line with your long-term career goals, let them know that. If you need more flexibility to work from home, share that. Honesty is always appropriate and appreciated from both sides of the table. Also, discuss your reasons for rejecting the offer with your recruiter. Oftentimes it is easier for candidates to be more candid with their recruiter than with the actual company they are turning down. It is part of your recruiter’s job to get this type of feedback to the company.

How to accept an offer

Promptly and enthusiaticly, of course. The longer it takes you to say, “I accept,” the more doubt will creep into your future employer’s head (“Why isn’t he taking it? Is he not that excited about us after all?”) Also, don’t risk a slam dunk over short money. If the offer is solid and you’re excited about it, jump on it. Holding out for a small bump in salary can sometimes lead to disaster (a.k.a. a rescinded offer). As we discussed a couple weeks ago, don’t let short money shortsightedness cause you to lose the deal.

Again, discuss your thoughts on the offer with your recruiter first. Remember, they are advocating for you so make sure to use them to your advantage. The employer will ask them to gauge your level of interest and enthusiasm, so be sure to communicate that honestly.

And finally, we’ve mentioned this tip before but it bears repeating: the best way to accept an offer is in person. Swing by your future office, hand your future boss two copies of the signed offer letter, shake her hand and ask if there’s anything you can do to get a head start immediately. This will be the first impression you create as an employee, and you’ll be nailing it.

How to make a counter offer

If the offer you’ve been made isn’t up to snuff, discuss your concerns with your recruiter. Make sure you understand the offer in its entirety. Remember that an offer is never about a single number, but rather the entire package. There are a variety of elements in a compensation package including:

  • Annual salary (or hourly rate for contract work)
  • Equity/Bonuses/Stock Options
  • Health Insurance (Medical, Dental, Vision, etc.)
  • Vacation Time/Paid Time Off/Sick Days
  • Retirement Plans (401k or other retirement accounts or matches)
  • Office equipment for working from home
  • Relocation fee or signing bonus
  • Parking/commuting expense reimbursement

When negotiating a counter offer, decide which factors are most important to you and be willing to negotiate on some of the others. For example, if you are looking for a higher annual salary, but can get health insurance through your spouse’s company instead of your future employer, suggest a higher salary if your forgo the health insurance package (which can cost employers a lot of money). If you have special needs that requires 6 weeks of vacation time in the fall, find another area where you may be willing to compromise. Would you be willing to give up some equity in lieu of extra vacation time?

Counter offers are all about recognizing the different elements that make up your compensation package and determining your priorities. It is important to understand that your future company will be willing to negotiate if you have a creative solution. Use your recruiter to get a sense for the company’s pain points and find a way to lessen those while increasing what’s important to you. Simply asking for a 10% bump in salary will not get you very far, nor is it very thoughtful or considerate of your future company. Take the time to determine what is important to you (and what is not) and be able to articulate that clearly in your counter offer.

Bottom line: most successful counter offers are give and takes, so be prepared to do some of both!

Final Tip: Consider giving your recruiter an “Accept on your behalf” overall compensation package. That is, a compensation figure that you would absolutely accept for employment. Recruiters are accustomed to sharing these numbers with employers in productive exchanges, while when delivered directly by a developer too often the conversation comes across as a sour-tasting ultimatum. If there’s a specific compensation package that makes the opportunity work, share it with your recruiter and let them do their job!