How to Get a Great Job: Making the Decision

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No matter how perfect the job seems, or how generous the package offered, always ask for some time to consider the offer before making a decision.

This is an important step that will affect your career, your life, and your bank account, so sleep on it. Use the time you’ve requested to review everything you learned about the position, the organization, the salary and benefits. Be honest in assessing whether the job and the employer are good fits for you.

Once you’ve made your decision, it’s time to act.


Accepting the Offer

When you accept a job offer, even verbally, it’s like signing a contract. So don’t say “yes” if you are not 100 percent certain you want that job and are willing and able to take it. If you accept a job in the excitement of the offer—say, you’re swayed by a sizeable salary but have second thoughts later—it will be embarrassing to back out, and can damage your personal and professional reputation.

Here’s how you should formally accept the job:

1. Telephone the hiring manager or HR professional to let them know the decision—before the deadline you promised. (You should have asked whom to contact at the end of your negotiation meeting.)

2. Follow up with an e-mail message stating that you’ve accepted the offer, and requesting a letter of agreement or contract stating the terms agreed to.

3. Play it safe—wait until you get that letter, review it, and finalize the offer before you give notice at your current job, bow out of any other positions you may be interviewing for, or move across the country to start your new position.

Most employers have a hiring process they’ll follow, which includes drafting a letter of agreement for new employees. This letter—or formal contract, in some cases—should include at least the salary and benefits you agreed to in negotiations, and perhaps as other details including your start date and whom you will report to.

You should carefully review the letter, compare the terms to those in your notes, and—if all details look accurate—sign it and send it back promptly. If you find a discrepancy between what you agreed to in negotiations and what the letter states, follow these steps:

1. Make a photocopy of the letter (or print out a second copy).

2. Use a pen to note the discrepancy. You can draw a single line through any text that you want deleted, and make notes in the margins for what you’d like added.

3. Don’t sign the letter. In fact, you may want to write Xs or draw a line through the signature line.

4. Draft a brief cover note explaining the changes.

5. Send the marked-up copy and the cover back to the original sender, by fax or mail, and ask about next steps.

6. If the employer does not agree with you on the final terms, it’s time to either reconsider the “new” offer or request another meeting for further negotiations.

If your new employer does not provide a letter of agreement—perhaps it is a very small company, or a start-up business—you should take it upon yourself to draft one and ask your new manager to review it and sign it. It’s important for both parties to understand and agree to clear terms and conditions of employment upfront.


Giving Notice

Once you’ve officially accepted the job offer and have a signed letter of agreement from your new employer, you can safely give notice at your current job. For decades, the rule of thumb is to give two weeks’ notice before leaving. This is not a law; it is an ethical practice to give your employer time to cover your responsibilities.

Give your notice in person to your immediate supervisor, and let her know your last day. You don’t have to go into specifics, just that you’ve accepted a position with another company. And DON’T accept a counter-offer from your employer if you’ve already accepted a new job!

TIP: be prepared for the possibility that the day you give your notice may be your last day of work there. Some companies and departments are concerned about security or confidentiality, and may decide not to let a departing employee stick around. This is legal, but know your rights:

  • You’re entitled to be paid for all the days you’ve worked, and, depending on your employer’s policies, any vacation or personal time you’ve accrued.
  • You don’t have to sign anything or do anything in order to collect the pay that is owed you.


Declining the Offer

If, after you take some time to consider the final offer, you opt not to take the position, do the right thing: “Call them back. Be polite and thank them for considering you,” says Palmer. Let the employer know as soon as possible. After all, that organization has a position to fill, and other candidates are eager to get the call.

To decline a job offer,

1. Call the hiring manager or HR professional to let them know your decision.

2. Follow up right away with an e-mail to that person, thanking everyone involved for their time and consideration, and re-stating that you are declining the offer.

3. If appropriate, give your reasons for declining—you are taking another position, or you could not reach agreement on salary or benefits. Keep this message positive, and if you can’t state the real reason (you hated the hiring manager), then simply state you are declining and leave it at that.

Keep your tone professional and courteous. “Even if you decide not to take the job, leave on good terms,” says Palmer. “Don’t burn any bridges.”


The Last Word

Once you’ve learned how to prepare and practice for negotiating, keep those skills fresh! They will come in handy throughout your career—whether you are negotiating your first raise at your new job a year after you’re hired, or angling for more responsibilities. You’ll find that the more you practice negotiating, and the more you actually engage in negotiations, the better you are!




book cover: How to Get a Great Job: A Library How-To HandbookThis article is adapted from the book How to Get a Great Job: A Library How-To Handbook by Editors of the American Library Association published by ALA Editions.


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