5 Steps to Navigating Offer Discussions

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Meredith McCook, Assistant Director, Duke Career Center
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We're HIRING with office environment in the background

The Career Center wants you to be prepared and empowered for an offer discussion. Whether you’re in an internship now and seeking a return offer or gearing up for fall recruiting, the steps below will help you advocate for yourself in the process when it’s time for an offer conversation. 

1. Know what’s important to you

It is important that you consider which of your offers is the best. Oftentimes people will equate that to the highest monetary offer only. That definition leaves out some crucial components that can influence your overall enjoyment of the position. Reflect on the other factors that are important to you in a position and company. What do you want the growth potential to be? Company culture? Variety of work? Travel ratio? All of these factors will help you build a trait checklist to know when an offer is the best one. Reflect on whether the offer aligns with the characteristics you’ve pre-determined to be important to you. Your skills, interests, personality, and values will all play a role.
Develop your checklist.

If you’re already working with a company in an internship and it meets your checklist criteria, plus you’d like to return for another internship or full-time offer, be certain to express this to your current supervisor before the end of your internship. Taking that initiative will allow you to stand out and give you the opportunity to advocate for how you can continue to contribute to the work of the organization. 

2. Do company research

Now that you’ve determined what’s important to you in an opportunity and company, let’s put that trait checklist to work. If you’re considering pursuing an offer with your current internship employer, do you know how the company and future position matches with each trait? If not, determine who you could talk to at the company to find out. Your supervisor/mentor, HR representative, or a Duke alum are great people to start with. If you’re looking at other companies, the same principle applies. If you don’t know if the position will meet the criteria you’ve determined to be most important to you, engage in informational interviews with current employees and conduct online research. 

Empower yourself by researching companies and roles so that you’re applying only to positions of interest.

3. Understand timelines

Making a timeline for application deadlines, interviews, and offer decision deadlines, if known, will help you stay organized and confident with your search. This may also help you know upfront if you’ll need to ask for more time to decide on an offer. 

Example: 
Company A interviews and extends offers early/mid-September with a two week offer deadline. Company B interviews and extends offers in late September with a two week offer deadline.
You may need to ask Company A for more time to consider the offer in order to interview with Company B and know if you receive an offer from them as well.  

This is a common scenario students encounter.
If you know upfront that you need to ask for a set amount of extra time for an offer decision, be certain to ask for this soon after an offer is extended (not the day before you need to respond to the offer). Asking for another week or two to consider an offer is reasonable; asking for two more months isn’t. If you need help determining this time extension, talk to a career adviser.

Also, if you’ve been working with an employer who has been utilizing and benefiting from Career Center resources, be aware of Duke’s offer policies for Employers–especially policies related to offer timelines. The employer you’re working with may need a reminder of these policies. Asking them to uphold the offer timeline policies is a great way to advocate for yourself. Be aware of policies you’re responsible to adhere to as well by reviewing the Duke Career Center Student Policies. Keep an eye on our blog for more posts about how Duke’s policies might affect you! 

[See policies for students and employers]

4. Know what’s negotiable

When considering an internship offer vs. a full-time offer, there will be different components that are negotiable, and knowing what they are is important. 

For internships, it’s uncommon for many areas to be negotiable. Sometimes stipends, salaries, or travel expenses can be negotiated with proof of financial need. Professional development opportunities, such as shadowing in other departments, is also an area that could be discussed. This is not a comprehensive list, but a few of the most common areas for negotiation.

For full-time offers, it’s important to do your due diligence of understanding how the offer you’ve been given compares with industry standards. You can then determine what factors of the offer are of greatest importance to you. Check out the Career Center’s Negotiating Guide for information about components of an offer and how to research industry information. 

5. Ask for help

This is not a final step, but instead one that should be utilized throughout this process. You’re engaging in a great amount of self-reflection and research in order to advocate for yourself in the offer process. Utilize the resources available to you such as the Career Center website, Drop-in Advising (when classes are in session), appointments with a career adviser (in CareerConnections), talking with mentors, other support offices at Duke, and more!  

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