If that job offer you just got signals a happy end to your search, you might immediately want to text all your friends, pop the bubbly, and cue the imaginary marching band to mark the sheer magnitude of this moment. Or if you know you’re not going to take the job, you may want to shrug and go about your day uninterrupted. Or maybe your reaction is somewhere in between. Regardless, let’s take a deep breath and just make sure you’re actually all set.
Before you start the celebration or walk away, you need to decide what you want to do about the offer and communicate it to the company. And even though you’re at the tail end of this company’s hiring process, it’s important to keep it professional and respond in a reasonable amount of time. It should go without saying that ghosting an employer is not professional—no matter how often you’ve been ghosted yourself.
What the job offer process looks like
Typically, you’ll get the initial offer over the phone—sometimes referred to as a “verbal.” But you’re not generally expected to give your answer at that point—so don’t feel pressured to. Give yourself time to think the decision through. You’re going to be spending five days a week doing this job and you want to be sure! So say something along the lines of, “Thank you so much! I’ll get back to you soon,” and give your “real” response via email.
If they need to know by a certain date, they’ll usually tell you. But if they don’t, you may want to ask the employer when they’d like your answer—especially if you’re waiting on other possible offers. A week is pretty standard.
Following the verbal, you’ll get an email with the official written offer—including more details about the job and compensation and benefit info. When you’re ready to give your response, you can reply directly to the written offer with an email of your own.
Whether you want to accept, decline, ask for more time or information, or negotiate, we’ve got a rundown of what to include in your email. Oh, and we also have samples—ones you could definitely copy. No need to reinvent the wheel here. (Just make sure you’re swapping in your own information!)
Here’s what to say...
...when you want to accept the offer
If you’ve gotten all your questions about the job answered and you’re ready to accept, the next step is writing to the recruiter or hiring manager—whoever sent you the offer. Don’t get too nervous—you’re sharing good news here and that’s always exciting!
Include a clear, explicit acceptance of the job offer and a confirmation of your agreed-upon job title and start date. Wrap up with a question about next steps. You can keep your message pretty short. After you send this note, you’ll usually need to more formally accept the offer by signing a contract—so keep an eye on your inbox.
Here’s what an acceptance email could look like:
Thanks again for sharing the details of the offer with me yesterday. After reviewing the terms, I’m thrilled to accept the position of associate product manager. I’m excited about this opportunity and can’t wait to join the team on September 3rd!
Please let me know what the next steps are and if there’s anything I need to do or sign prior to onboarding.
...when you want to decline the offer
If your gut reaction to that offer was to shrug and walk away, that’s OK. Sometimes you just don’t want to take the job. Maybe after interviewing you realized that this role isn’t the right fit. Or maybe the stars have aligned and you have more than one offer to choose from; it’s a wonderful problem to have, but it also means you have to turn one down.
Rejection is hard, no matter which side you’re on. But even if you feel like an employer invested a lot of time and effort pitching the job to you, “no” is part of the job search process on both sides. So keep your email short and sweet. You want to sound appreciative, but don’t draw it out too much. So:
- Express gratitude to the team, hiring manager, or recruiter for the offer and for meeting with you.
- Optional: Indicate your reason for declining, but keep it high level and short. You “decided to go in another direction” (a.k.a., the job search version of, “It’s not you, it’s me”).
- Wrap it up with an invitation to keep in touch.
You might write:
Thank you again for the opportunity to meet the team last week. It was great learning more about the communications manager position from everyone, and I was excited to receive the job offer. However, after careful consideration, I’ve decided this role isn’t the right fit for my career goals at this time.
It’s been a pleasure getting to know you, and I hope I’ll have the chance to work with you in the future. Please keep in touch!
...when you need more time or information to decide
Some organizations will send you every last detail you could possibly need to make a decision right off the bat. But many don’t—and you’ll need to ask for more information (e.g., about health insurance coverage) before making your final decision. Sometimes you just need a bit more time to digest it all or you want to pore over the details of the bonus structure, for example. Maybe an interview with another company went really well and you’re hoping to get an offer from them soon as well. Regardless, you’ll need to communicate what you need.
When you’re asking for more information, make sure your question is clear and framed in a way that indicates that not having this information is preventing you from making a decision about the offer. If you’re looking for more time, most recruiters will happily accommodate a week from the verbal offer. If you’re waiting on another offer, inform the other company immediately that you have an offer on the table to try and speed up the process. It’s up to them to rush a competing offer out to you. If it’s not a priority for them—then unfortunately, the offer may not have been in the cards to begin with.
Here’s an example:
I was very excited to get your call and receive the job offer for the sales trainer position. I’d like to make a well-informed and thoughtful decision about this and would appreciate the opportunity to chat with a couple more team members to get a better sense of the culture of the company. Would this be possible to arrange?
To give me time to learn more about the role, could I get back to you on the offer by the 15th? Thank you in advance for your help with this.
...when you want to negotiate
Most of the negotiating should happen over the phone with details confirmed via email, but to initiate this whole process you’ll need to send a note to set up the call. Start by saying thank you and expressing your excitement and fit for the role. Then ask for a phone call to go over some details and ask a few questions about the offer. Usually something like, “I have a question about the salary,” is enough to get across that you’re planning on negotiating.
You might write:
Thank you so much for offering me the people operations role. I had a great time meeting everyone and am excited about the prospect of joining the team!
After reviewing the offer, I had a few questions I wanted to run by you—particularly about the base salary and relocation process. Would you have time this week to discuss? I’m free most afternoons around 1pm.
Wrap up this whole process now and put a bow on it—or ask for whatever it is you need to make your choice. No more procrastinating. Go and send that email—it’s basically written for you already!