Podcast: Evaluating the Offer
Salary Negotiation
Workshop: Evaluating the Offer
Receiving Offers

When an employer extends an offer to you, it is appropriate to request time to think it over. Because accepting a new job is a major decision, you must first consider all the aspects involved. 

Consider the type of work you will be doing, geographic location, base salary as well as benefits. 

A verbal offer is not sufficient to make a determination surrounding your job offer. The Offer Letter is a formal agreement that will verify your official offer. It may:

  • Describe the actual position
  • Decision date, start date
  • Pay and benefits
Taking Time to Decide

When you receive a job offer, take the time you need to consider it before making a decision. If you need more time to make a decision, it is fine to request an extension. The employer may or may not be able to give you more time, but it is something you can request if you are debating several different options. Most employers will view your request for additional time to decide about an offer in a positive light and respect your wish to make a careful choice.

Some questions to consider:

  • How does this position help me meet my career goals?
  • Does this position fulfill most of my personal and job-related criteria? If it only meets some, are those the most important ones? Can I give up the ones it does not fulfill?
  • How will I develop and grow within the position and the organization?
  • Are the organization’s values compatible with mine?
  • Are there opportunities for advancement?
  • Can I live on the salary and benefits? If not, can I negotiate?
  • Have I considered my future co-workers, the work environment, management style, and other factors that are important to me?
  • Does this job sound like something I would really enjoy doing? Would I look forward to getting up in the morning to go to work every day?
  • Is this really my decision? Am I making a decision based on my family, friends, or faculty’s opinions?
  • Do I know enough about the position and organization to make an informed decision? Do I need to ask the employer for additional information?
  • What other incentives are offered with the position? (e.g. moving expenses, expense accounts, etc.)

Answering these questions will help you get started on your decision.

You may want to get help from faculty, family, friends, or career counselors when weighing the pros and cons of the job offer. Avoid taking advice from anyone without thinking critically about the advice you are given. You are ultimately the person who must live with your decision.

You should never accept an offer if you are still job searching and/or applying to graduate school and plan to back out of the offer if you find something better later. Backing out of a previously accepted job offer is called "reneging." Reneging an offer is unethical and has larger implications than you may realize. Before reneging on an offer, please review the section below on Declining After Accepting (Reneging) to consider how this could impact you and the organization.

Please contact us if you have questions about evaluating offers. Do not make hurried decisions without thinking through the potential consequences for you and the organization. We are happy to talk with you about your decision. 


Some organizations offer performance-based incentives and commissions, or calcuate salaries based on other factors. Before accepting an "expected salary," be sure to ask questions about the ways that salaries are earned. You may want to ask about:

  • Salary
  • Base Salary
  • Performance-based pay
  • Bonus for exceptional performance
  • Commission
  • How target/quotas are structured
  • How many employees reach the quota
  • Salary caps or ceilings
  • How and when increases/raises/bonuses happen
  • If you cannot negotiate right now, when would be your next chance

The following websites can help you evaluate a salary offer:

If you receive a salary offerthat is acceptable, your next step is to ask about the rest of the compensation package.

It is important to have complete information to make an informed decision. You should receive information about the salary and benefits package, including health insurance; pension plan options; and holiday, vacation, and sick day policies before you make your final decision.

Evaluating Offers

How do you evaluate job offers and choose the best one for you? Before you sign a contract for your first job out of college, it’s best to consider other factors in addition to the salary offer. Other considerations often contribute to a better choice for your first job. The following considerations will help you evaluate multiple job offers.

When evaluating the initial offer, try not to evaluate the position against the perfect job offer. Instead, evaluate it against the next best alternative. While salary is certainly an important element of a job offer, it is not the only thing to consider. The value of an offer includes all of the benefits and other perks provided to you as an employee. Therefore, try not to look exclusively at salary as the measure of acceptability.

Benefits Packages

Benefits include basic insurance coverage as well as many additional perks offering true tangible gains in relation to the competition. Here are some basic elements of benefit plans to consider:

  • Insurance (medical, dental, vision, life, disability, etc.)
  • Leave (vacation, holidays, sick days, personal days)
  • Retirement or pension plans
  • Employer contributions to supplemental retirement or other accounts
  • Profit sharing or stock options
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Maternity or paternity leave
  • Overtime or flex time
  • Commuting or parking reimbursement
  • Moving expenses
  • Sales commissions or bonuses
  • Training programs

Need assistance weighing your options? You can schedule an appointment with a University Career Center career counselor online, or schedule an appointment by calling us at 540-568-6555.

Negotiating Offers

Negotiating a job offer can be intimidating. What do you say? How do you say it? How do you express your enthusiasm for a position, yet set firm boundaries regarding the salary and the benefits you desire?

The only time to negotiate is after you have been offered the job. You are not in a position to negotiate salary or any other conditions until you have a firm offer. That said, once the offer has been made, you should be sure to ask whether the salary is negotiable, since it may be more flexible than advertised, and it’s much easier to increase your salary during the hiring process than to request a raise.

Offers are often made by phone, so it’s good to be prepared to negotiate your salary before you receive the call. An easy way to open the conversation is to ask, “Is the salary negotiable?” when the salary is mentioned. 

It can take courage to ask about negotiating your salary, but most employers will look on this favorably, as long as you are tactful, you’ve already demonstrated enthusiasm, you’ve already accepted the position, and you are knowledgeable about the average salary range for the position in your geographical area.

Once you know if the salary is negotiable, you can request time to make your decision. You need to decide whether or not the offer is acceptable to you in its present form. If this is the best you can negotiate, would you still accept the offer?

If you feel the offer is unacceptable to you, you must determine what will make it acceptable. If the salary is not negotiable, you may be able to negotiate for additional vacation time, flexible schedule, moving expenses, or other benefits.

Most companies have a fairly tight salary range for entry level positions. To establish the acceptable range for the position, review salary surveys to determine the average salary offered to graduates with your major and degree level in the industry.

When discussing the salary with a potential employer, bring up the average salary range for professionals in your field based on your research. A range is often more comfortable to discuss, because it allows you and the employer more flexibility.

You can consult salary websites for ranges by employer type, industry, and geographic location. University Career Center advisors can also help you research and determine appropriate salary ranges for various occupations.

For more assistance with wording your negotiation, explore some of these additional resources:

Accept or Decline Offers

After you've heard from an employer with an offer, it's important to think about your decision and respond professionally.

As soon as you make a decision to accept an offer, write an acceptance letter restating the terms of condition and your starting date. If the organization requests additional information from you, include it in your acceptance letter.

If you choose to decline an offer, you should call to decline. Do not decline an offer over voicemail or email. Thank the organization for the offer, and give them an idea of your reasons for declining. They keep track of this information, and will benefit from your honesty. As long as you did not accept the position before declining, there is no reason to feel bad. 

Don't delay in declining an offer, if you are sure you do not want the position. Other candidates may be waiting for a response, and the company may lose their other candidates by waiting too long. Be sure that your conversation is professional so you do not burn bridges with the organization. You never know what the future may bring, and your professionalism will reflect well on other candidates from JMU.


Saying Thank You 

One of the most effective ways to stand out from other job candidates is to thank people who do the following:

  • Help you with your job search
  • Interview you
  • Review your application material, although you are withdrawing your application from consideration
  • Extend you an offer, whether you turn it down or accept it
  • Do not extend an offer, but have worked with you through the selection process

Thoughtful people make lasting impressions. Letters help you to be remembered in a positive manner and keep doors open for future opportunities.

A thank you letter should be written within two days of your interview and should highlight your discussion with the interviewer and restate your qualifications and interest. Letters should be short and concise. A mailed thank you note is the most professional. However, since many recruiters and employers travel extensively, an emailed thank you note is acceptable.


Sample Thank You

Declining After Accepting (Reneging)

Once you accept an offer
Once you have accepted an offer of employment for an internship, full time job, etc., you should stop your job search and inform the other potential employers that you are no longer seeking a position. Thank them for their consideration, but let them know you need to withdraw your application(s) at this point, as you have accepted something else. 

Continuing to interview once you have already accepted a position is unethical and unprofessional, and has larger implications than you may realize. Companies spend a lot of time and money recruiting their new hires. Once you accept an offer, they stop recruiting for that position because they think it is filled. When you renege, the company has to go back and fill the slot you vacated. Reneging on an offer makes employers question the trustworthiness of JMU students and damages the reputation of future hires from JMU for that company.

Think about the larger impact of your decision
As a JMU student, you are representing the university as well as your major, and your actions impact an employer’s view of other JMU students. Most importantly, you are representing yourself in every job search interaction you have. Your credibility, professionalism, and trustworthiness are damaged when you renege. Please do not make this mistake, as there are long-term implications that can be avoided if you take the time to think offers through fully before making decisions. 

Actions taken by the University Career Center
We take the relationship with our employer partners very seriously. If we are notified by an employer that a student has reneged, we will be in communication with that student. Our policy is to discuss the situation with the student in a face-to-face meeting and notify your department head to discuss the seriousness of the impact.

Back to Top