Understanding Your Job Offer

As exciting as it may be to receive an internship or job offer, it can also be stressful.

Students often wonder whether it’s the right offer to take, and may be pressured (from themselves, family, peers, or employers) to make a quick decision. 

There are many factors to consider, such as the organization’s culture and values, the details of the offer and whether to negotiate salary or other aspects. In this guide, we coach you through the decision-making process to help you make informed decisions as you determine whether or not to accept the offer. 

Krystyn advising

If you would like help thinking through your offer, please schedule an appointment with a career adviser. If no appointments are available within the timeframe you need, contact [email protected] or call our office at 609-258-3325 during business hours.


How do you feel about the offer you received?

Conflicted? Optimistic? Excited?

What is prompting your gut-level response? 

As you take some time to think more about the offer, you may realize the offer letter doesn’t necessarily tell you everything you might want to know before making a decision. Below are a number of factors to consider.


Beyond your paycheck, consider what is important to you about your work environment and longer term career growth. For example, you might be interested in:

Some of this information you will have discovered through the interview process, and you can also ask the recruiter or HR representative for additional details. You can also ask alumni for their perspectives. See our Networking Guide for resources on making those connections.


There are costs in addition to housing that vary by location to consider as you weigh your offer.

Use resources like Salary.com, NerdWallet and PayScale to determine average salaries and cost-of-living expenses in different parts of the United States. Create an account on iGrad for resources on budgeting, banking and other financial topics.

Described in detail in the Job Offer Vocabulary section are other monies you may receive from an organization that you should consider as part of your compensation package.

Making Your Choice

It’s common to not have all the information you’d want about an offer before you need to make a decision. Remember, you can take multiple roles and paths in the next few years to gain the skills and experience you need to reach your longer-term goals. 

Allow yourself as much time as you can to evaluate and reflect. You may not like everything about an offer (e.g., you’re inspired by the work but not the location) and you may have to decide if a sacrifice in one aspect is worth it to have another. The time of year, unpredictable economic situations and other factors beyond your control may also influence your decision-making.  

It’s OK to change course if you don’t think you are headed in the right direction, although it’s much easier to do this before you accept an offer. Reneging on an acceptance can have longer-term consequences, as you may encounter former recruiters or hiring managers in a new work setting. 

If you opt to decline an offer, do so in a timely, gracious and professional manner as you may reconnect with this contact or employer in some capacity in the future. Finally, ensure that your decision-making aligns with our Community Standards for Recruiting if you initially found this role through our Center (e.g., Handshake posting, career fair, info session).

Job Offer Vocabulary

Offer letters can be filled with terms you may not understand in the context of employment. We have captured some of the more common terms in the sections below, but please do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with a career adviser to review an offer you have received.

Types of Employment

Organizations may have several different types of employees, and each type comes with its own set of benefits and obligations. The type of employment will be noted in your job description.

Non-Disclosure and Non-Compete Agreements

These two legal documents are primarily used by organizations seeking to protect novel designs, safeguard national security or prevent the loss of clientele. Read them carefully and don’t be afraid to ask questions. The practice is common, but you should understand what you are agreeing to by signing.

Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) 

  • An agreement in contract law that certain information will remain confidential.
  • Bars signer from discussing any information included in the contract with any non-authorized party.
  • May include references to “intellectual property,” meaning the work you create using the organization's time and resources, and salary belongs to the organization.
  • Commonly used to protect trade secrets, patent-pending inventions, proprietary software, client information, and other sensitive or valuable information.
  • Used primarily by companies/organizations that provide a product or technical service.

Non-Compete Agreement (NCA) 

  • Limits an employee's ability to use resources from their current employer to benefit a future employer. For example, not being allowed to entice your current clients to switch their business to your new organization.
  • May disallow having a side hustle in the same or similar job function, e.g., not permitted to simultaneously work in two research labs investigating the same subject.
  • May stipulate you not work for another organization in the same industry for a specified period of time (e.g., one to three years).
  • Are not enforceable across all U.S. businesses and some states do not allow them.

Paid Time Off

Time away from the office can come in various forms, though employers are not obligated to offer it. The details of paid time off (PTO) may not appear on your offer letter but in supplemental materials accompanying the offer letter or provided after you have accepted the offer. 

Don’t hesitate to ask a human resources representative at the organization for these details if they are not initially included in the offer. As you consider your offer, be mindful of industry standards for similar roles. For example, per this Forbes article, the average worker in the United States has 11 days of paid vacation per year.

Retirement Plans, Health Insurance, and other Benefits


It may seem soon, but the earlier you start saving the more financially secure you will be in the future. Your employer may offer one of these common programs to incentivize you into starting those savings:

Health Insurance

Health insurance is complicated business in the United States, and whether or not you need to secure your own coverage is based on a number of factors, including your age, the state in which you are living and the type of employment you have.

The organization’s human resources staff - and prospective insurance company’s representatives - are your best points-of-contact for specific information, but you may want to review this glossary of health insurance terms.

Other Benefits

Negotiating Salary and More

A crucial step in deciding on a job offer is determining if you are comfortable with the offer terms. If you are, then you should not feel compelled to ask for something to change. However, if there are elements of the offer you wish were different, you may want to try and negotiate.

Determine What to Negotiate

Salary is often the first aspect that comes to mind. At the entry level, you may find most organizations — especially those hiring a larger class of interns or recent graduates — are less likely to negotiate on salary in an effort to promote equity among similarly qualified hires. In smaller organizations and later in your career, salary may be a key point of negotiation.

Many other elements of your offer are frequently negotiable, even at the entry level, including:

  • Decision date
  • Start date
  • Office location and assigned team/project
  • Hybrid and remote work arrangements
  • Bonuses (sign-on, performance)
  • Relocation package
  • Benefits (e.g., tuition assistance; vacation days)
  • Time to performance review
  • Immigration support

Prepare for the conversation

There should be a clear and compelling reason why you wish one or more terms of the offer to be changed. Don’t just ask for the sake of asking.

You are likely to have more success when you present data (e.g., comparable salary averages) to support your request. Some resources you may find helpful are Salary.com and My Next Move.

If you are applying for federal government employment, salary information is available on sites like FederalPay. State and local governmental or educational agencies are generally required to post the salary range on a job posting.

For more information, feel free to schedule an appointment with a career adviser.

Make Your Request

First, stop to consider if you are comparing apples to apples. For example, big corporations are likely to offer higher salaries than startups; a role at an agency based out of the Midwest may pay less than the identical role in the Northeast; an independent contributor role may allow for more work-from-home days than a client-facing one.

Start by contacting the person who made you the offer — often a recruiter or other human resources staff person — and ask to set up a call to discuss the offer and ask questions. An HR representative may be a decision maker, intermediary or message relayer, so they will determine with whom you should have the conversation.

Start the conversation by expressing thanks for opportunity and genuine consideration of the offer. Be specific but flexible about what you want, incorporating data points that support your request:

“Based on average salaries for organizations of this size and my specific internship experience in this field, I was ideally looking for a salary in the mid- to upper-$X0s”

“I am happy with most elements of the offer, but noticed it included only five vacation days. I read recently in Forbes that the average is 11 days of paid vacation per year. Would you consider granting me an additional five or six days of PTO?”

“I understand the company offers to reimburse relocation expenses, but I have had limited opportunities in college to build up savings. To feel confident in accepting the offer and moving across the country, could you instead grant me a sign-on bonus with enough funds to cover the average first month’s rent plus a security deposit?”

When comparing one offer to another, avoid a generic statement like “Company A is offering me X.” 

Consider the response

Generally speaking, you will receive one of three responses to your request:

  1. You will be given what you asked for in entirety
  2. The offer will stand as-is with no changes
  3. The counteroffer will be a compromise 

When an offer stands, the employer may point out that it’s for equity reasons or may demonstrate what they offered you was already above average for their organization. 

Compromises are the most common result. The employer may give you a numerical increase but not as high as you had asked for or may offer to review your performance in six months instead of the standard end of one year.

Regardless of the answer:

  • Ask for a revised copy of offer letter if any of the terms of the offer have changed
  • Express thanks and let the organization know you’ll decide soon
  • Clarify the deadline by which to accept or decline the offer

Remember, you can schedule an appointment with a career adviser to review your offer and evaluate your options.

Managing Multiple Offers

It is common to receive an offer for one role while you are still in the interview process for others. Unlike college admissions, where students generally receive all their offers before having to commit to one school, employers may not accommodate holding your internship or job offer indefinitely while you hope to secure other options. 

When you receive an offer, schedule an appointment with a career adviser to talk through the opportunity so you can make an informed decision about that role. The Center for Career Development staff is aware that some University programs and some external employers have short decision-making timeframes, so if time is of the essence, contact [email protected] or call our office at 609-258-3325 during business hours.

Communication is key

As you balance different recruiting processes, avoid ghosting recruiters who invite you in for an interview. If you are not interested, politely decline. If you anticipate wanting to extend the decision deadline, notify the employer as soon as you can to make the request, ideally at least five business days in advance of the deadline. 

Be up front with employers about your search. They know you're likely looking at other roles, but they are not obligated to honor your request for more time to decide. Once you have accepted an offer, contact the recruiters for other roles in which you are a finalist to respectfully withdraw from consideration.