Should You Always Reject the First Offer For a Job?

Should You Always Reject the First Offer For a Job?

Your resume was enjoyed, the interview process went well, the hiring company offers you the job. What comes next?

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This article is part of our ongoing conversation with Isabella Mori of Change Therapy.

Although it's become a cliche to always reject the first offer, many people do take it. Isabella calls that the “get – accept – phew” reaction, as in- get the job, accept the offer and give a thankful sigh of relief that your job search is over.

You can do better! Get – Accept – Phew is rarely the best way for you to react.

Time for an attitude change?

Your resume is a sales document promoting your abilities to any potential takers who see it. As you navigate probing interviews and tests, everything you say and do should be geared towards pushing your candidacy. That only begins to change once the company makes you an offer.

What does a job offer mean?

It means your sales pitch worked!

Before the offer, you were the seller and the company was the buyer.

After the offer, the company is the seller and you are the buyer.

Put another way-

Before the offer, you were trying to convince the hiring company to act by giving you a contract.
After the offer, the hiring company is trying to convince you to act and put your signature on that contract.

The job offer is tangible proof that the company wants you.

Negotiating is about leveraging

Unless the first offer has everything you want in a job contract, make the company work to attract you now that they've shown they want to do so.

While continuing to sell yourself all throughout the negotiating process and beyond, clarify that the price of your signature is the salary and other work conditions you desire.

Scared of the offer being retracted?

When I was younger and received my first job offer, I remember being afraid to negotiate. I thought that if I asked for more money, the hiring company would get insulted and take back their offer. Although it's a natural reaction for a person so inexperienced yet euphoric that someone would actually pay them to do work, there are only really 2 cases where retraction fear makes sense:

  1. The hiring manager is a jerk and just wants an excuse to not hire you anyway
  2. You applied for a job that requires no special skills. A job where the main difference between you and other candidates is miniscule and may just be timing or the fact that the hiring manager likes the look of you. Usually it's a job paying minimum wage. If you did ask for more money, you would probably get laughed at and told to get real or get lost, take it or leave it.

Outside these 2 examples, your first offer gives you every reason to negotiate and push for the best work conditions you can get.

Isabella also has some solid tips for what you can do after the job offer.

READ NEXT: Free Tool: Compare Job Offers With The Job Payoff Index (Israeli Version)

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About the Author Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

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13 comments
Jacob Share
Ellen Perlis says

The advice I got when I “negotiated” my current job was to accept what they offered (as the supervisor who hired me told me they were inflexible), and negotiate changes for a new contract in a year when I was secure in the job.

Well a year has come and gone, and again they were inflexible when I opened a discussion of a few points. Any advice on how to ask for raises and improved conditions? I don’t want to look for a new job, because I like what I’m doing and I like the people I work with.

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Jacob Share
Ilan says

Ellen, I think that if they really are that unflexible, it sounds like it’s not the most worker-friendly environment, and that might tell you something. That being said, the best way to “force” your employer to give you a raise or better conditions is to get a better offer somewhere else and ask your company to match it or else.

Anyway, about this article, having gone through three lengthy job searches myself, I don’t agree that rejecting the first offer is usually the smartest idea. Sometimes you really SHOULD be thankful for any reasonable offer you receive and you should take it.

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Jacob Share
jacob says

Good question Ellen. I’m going to do a longer article about it but here’s a quick reply.

When someone says “inflexible” like that in a job negotiation, that’s never a good sign. Your company may be bad people, or else good people in a tight situation. Neither is very desirable. (Of course there are exceptions eg startup)

If you want a raise badly enough, Ilan’s advice is spot-on: start looking for another job. At the least, you can use it as leverage for a raise at your current company. At the most, you can quit and get ahead elsewhere and better off from the get-go.

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Jacob Share
jacob says

Ilan, can you give an example of when you should be thankful to just get any reasonable offer/response at all? I’m trying to take a medium-to-long term view.

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Jacob Share
Ilan says

I could think of several theoretical situations. Here are three:

You could be well-suited for a non-burger flipping job but have some major negative on your resume (lack of a specific certification, need to be sponsored, lack of certain highly preferred work experience, etc.), yet the company gives you an offer and you know (based on job research you’ve done) that this is really the best you can expect at this point, even though down the road, you will be in a better position to be picky, especially because of the work experience that you will gain from this job opportunity.

Or, the job market in your field could be really tight, but after months of searching, you finally get your first offer, and a reasonable one at that, though not your dream job. I think the risk of rejecting it could be worse than being unemployed for several months more (or even longer) until another opportunity comes along, which may not be any better than this one.

Or, you’ve done a lot of research on jobs in your field and you really know what you are looking for and what you should expect. You have a horseshoe where the sun don’t shine, and within a week or so, you receive an amazing offer in every sense imaginable. You know that this is a fantastic offer. Why throw it back and try to catch an even bigger fish? You already have the one you want!

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Jacob Share
Recruitnik says

Great advice. Salary negotiation is not an easy thing to do. Just be gracious when asking, it can’t hurt if you are professional. Some candidates at this stage want to play hard ball. Unless you are experienced by profession, be careful. If you are dealing with someone who is in HR and comfortable with negotiation you should be OK, if you are dealing with a less experienced hiring manager they may not react well.

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Jacob Share
Ellen Perlis says

The only problem here is that there is only one problem. My job is perfect for me. I love it, the company, the people, what I’m doing what the company does… the only problem is that it doesn’t pay me what I’m worth. Ilan’s suggestion that I keep looking for a better offer and use it as leverage for asking for a well-deserved raise, is probably the best in this situation. The possibility that I find something even better in all respects is still there, and I still get to keep a job I love in the worst case.

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Jacob Share
Moshe says

This advice may be good for the U.S. market or where someone has a huge advantage over all other candidates, either because of their expertise or credentials or because there are no other real candidates.
In Israel, the employer acts like the lord and the potential employee is the peasant – only to accept any job the lord will throw his way and on any conditions.
The employers run potential employees through rigorous and bureaucratic procedures that borderline on harassement: psychological tests, bringing an official police statement that one has no prior criminal record, just to name a few.
Most places will not even tell an applicant up front what they are offering, but rather try to get unrelated info out of the potential employee in order to lower the salary or conditions they are offering, this by asking what his previous pay was or what are your salary expectations.
when one turns down a position, there are usually plenty of others who will take it in his place.
not good advice at all – unless you have several options at once on the table.

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Jacob Share
david slade says

Reject the first offer? Maybe. Use your best judgment and do research on the market rate for your profession, but balance that against the feeling you get about your new prospective coworkers, the working environment, and experience you can walk away with (some day, because you will). Drill down into the other non-monetary parts of the offer as well. I’d say a majority of people I’ve hired over the years, barely look at this. sadly.

Also, if you’ve done your homework, and the job looks good, accepting the first offer can be a sign of motivation and faith, which sometimes an employer will like to see. ie, this person wants the job, and won’t always be focused on money. now there’s a discussion point. 🙂

Reject the second offer? warning. be prepared to close the talks quickly (immediately or within 24hrs). Know what you want, and be prepared to draw the line.

third offer? Don’t like it, walk away. It’s not worth it. You’re either greedy, or the employer can’t give what you need. And you should have figured that out by the second offer. I think it’s more acceptable to be talking about benefits than salary at this point.

bottom line on negotiating the offer, know what you’re going to say at each step, and where your limits are. Decide as much as you can in advance, so you don’t have to think much, and be ready to walk away from the table.

Bottom bottom line: Money isn’t everything.

There, an attention getter. So far, all comments have more or less been “offer” = “money”. wow, missing the big picture imho. Not to generalize, but it sounds like fairly inexperienced talk. If that’s your sole focus, you’re either a banker or a lawyer, or your mid-life crisis is really gonna be a bitch when you look back on life.

What about other benefits? perks? days off? medical? car? mobile? gym? retirement? charity perks? working from home? etc etc etc etc

time = money

Often benefits can save you a lot of time, or time spent worrying about other things, and can eliminate other costs that cut into your pay.

Sure when you are young, your options are limited, but it’s the *best* time to shop around. Find a growth potential job, work hard, have fun and the money will come. And,the more experienced you get, the less “money” becomes your sole focus, and you start thinking about, “gee, this job pays a ton, but the people are cold and ruthless” vs “great people, I have freedom to be creative and I’m zen at the end of the day”.

Think about it this way, how much of a Sr manager’s (on up) package is money alone? The non-check-in-hand benefits are often very significant. I know in my last job, my benefit’s had such an impact, I spent a lot less of my pay than previous jobs.

ok, sorry if I sounded preachy, but hope that helps.

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Jacob Share
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Kate says

If I hadn’t taken the first offer on the last job I got, there would have been no job.

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