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How to accept a job offer

manageRegardless of whether you received only one or multiple job offers, it matters how you accept the offer you prefer, and how you turn down job offers you dislike.

Who you need to deal with

In both cases you will need to deal with both hiring managers and HR. Hiring managers are the people who are looking for new employees and who typically will be the boss of whoever they hire. Hiring managers often make the hiring decision and their own reputation rides on making a good choice. HR – Human Resources – are administrators who help the hiring manger complete all the formalities and deal with the corporate bureaucracy – they typically are less emotionally vested in the hiring process and more focused on completing a clean, professional transaction, regardless of the outcome.

Negotiating vs. accepting offers

Don’t confuse negotiating with accepting an offer. While you are negotiating you need to imply that you are willing to walk away – which isn’t believable when you already acceptable. Likewise, when you accept an offer, you want to ensure that you start your job with as much goodwill as possible – trying to negotiate after accepting an offer will not build up goodwill, in most cases the employers will be annoyed with you.

How to accept an offer

Make that happy phone call: If you know you want to accept an offer, have concluded all negotiations and are ready to sign on the dotted line, call the hiring manager. Tell him or her that you accept their offer. Then call your contact at HR and let them know also. For both, you should remember to:

  • Be courteous, humble, polite and friendly
  • Say “thank you” for the opportunity
  • Say that you look forward to working with them
  • Let your enthusiasm shine through
  • Agree on what the next step is – do you need to sign something, come to the office, ..?

Formally accept the offer: Often you will need to accept the offer more formally than through a phone call (sign a letter, contract, etc.). The HR folks will tell you what to do – make sure to do so quickly and listen to their instructions.

Figure out the nitty gritty: Depending on your job specifics, you may need to sign a contract, get a work visa, fill out specific applications for government licenses, etc. Get on it and quickly. Talk to your contact at HR to figure out what the specific next steps are, what you can do to make their life easier and then deliver on whatever you promise in a timely manner.

Be ready for day 1: Ask your new boss and HR contact when and where you should show up for your 1st day, what to bring (passport, tax info, etc. are always favorites) and how to prepare (maybe read up on some new product line, get familiar with a new software, …?) Figure out the dress code, how to commute, what typical work hours are so that you are prepared for day 1.

Don’t let the hiring manager down: In whatever you do, remember that the hiring manager is your future boss and likely has his reputation riding on his offer to you. If you misbehave it will reflect on the hiring manager and you – so don’t call HR with some outrageous demands, or be rude to the front desk.

How to turn down an offer:

This is often harder than accepting an offer. You will feel guilty or sheepish turning folks down. At the same time hiring managers who made you an offer will feel vulnerable and exposed, and a rejecting an offer in the wrong way can result in hurt feelings. The goal here is to reject the offer without burning bridges, creating enemies or building a bad reputation.

Take the time to make it personal: It is awfully tempting to avoid the confrontation of rejecting an offer by simply not responding, or sending an impersonal email. This however is almost certain to generate ill will with the hiring manager. Instead, you should call the hiring manager up. Thank them for the offer, tell them that after much soul-searching you unfortunately decided to decline their generous offer and seek employment elsewhere. Again, be polite and courteous. Most hiring managers take it hard when they are rejected and will be disappointed - rarely will they be angry.

Stick to your guns: The hiring manager may try to pull out the stops and renegotiate with you or try to change your mind. You should avoid giving in to them; even if they are able to sweeten the offer to the point where it is attractive to you, such a last ditch negotiation is usually a bad way to start a career at a new company. Be firm but polite.

Be discreet and humble: The hiring manager may try to ask you questions that go to far, like what salary you were offered elsewhere or some other details. I would suggest politely declining such questions – “I would rather not discuss that”.  On the same token, you should not gloat or boast with some better terms you achieved – be humble and matter of fact.

Try to salvage a relationship: Try to leave on friendly terms and integrate the hiring manager into your network. Chances are you will want to talk to him or her later in life at some point, so try to keep the relationship alive.

Good luck!

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