New Grads: When to Take The Job Offer and When to Keep Looking

If you are one of the 1.85 million students entering the workforce after graduation this year, you may have received your job offer in April. It might seem like you’ve got it made if you got an offer before graduation. There’s nothing left to do but graduate, travel and get to work. (If you didn’t, don’t despair. Simply Hired data shows job listings targeted toward new grads will peak again in July and October.)

Many new grads wonder if they should continue interviewing, hunting and networking after they receive an offer in hopes of getting a better one. Here’s a breakdown of the pros and cons that come with job hunting after you’ve landed a job offer.

Benefits of Going with the First Job Offer

There are several reasons that it might be in your best interest to settle for the first job offer. First, you can save yourself a lot of hassle. If you know that this is the best opportunity for you based on your needs for company culture, salary, benefits and location, then accepting your first offer will save you time, stress and money.

Next, you can avoid an uncomfortable philosophical trap. Pursuing the thought that “Perhaps there’s a better offer out there…” can lead to an endless drain on your plans and your emotions. You may even talk yourself out of a legitimately good offer or ignore opportunities that will more than meet your needs to chase the elusive “perfect opportunity.”

Finally, fully committing to the job offer you receive allows you to invest that time and energy into the workplace you’re soon to be part of. Instead of spending time learning the names of potential interviewers, you can start building connections and relationships with people you’ll actually be working with.

Disadvantages of Settling for the First Job Offer

The most obvious disadvantage of settling with your first job offer is that you might miss out on a better offer. What if your dream company is still out there, and you don’t know it? What if companies in other areas are hiring at significantly higher entry-level salaries? Or what if the perfect opportunity is waiting for you, but it doesn’t exist yet because the company is expanding and the company won’t list the position for another 30 days?

Settling for the first job offer could also put you at a uninformed disadvantage. Without interviewing and receiving other offers, you don’t have any firm numbers or benefits to compare. You’re stuck relying on outdated or anonymous industry data to determine whether or not your offer is competitive, and you certainly don’t have the pull to negotiate hard.

Finally, your network is just growing as a new grad. If you settle for the first offer that comes along, you’ll miss out on taking in more learning and networking opportunities by interviewing at more companies within your industry. I’ve often heard stories about people recognizing and assisting other people who sat in on their interview committees many years prior. You simply never know who could help you in your career 15 years down the line — or vice-versa.

Ethics and Manners for Continuing Your Job Hunt  

If you decide to continue looking for a job after accepting a job offer, you should abide by the same professional rules that govern your initial job search.

  • Always be honest. If someone asks if you’ve accepted an offer (or if your new company asks if you’re still looking) tell the truth in a straightforward and professional way. Work in the phrase, “I am always interested in understanding the market value of my skills,” to reassure your future employer that you’re not necessarily trying to get out of their offer but simply gathering information.

  • See beyond salaries. Companies are notoriously less flexible when it comes to negotiating entry-level, new grad salaries. Keep an eye out for the benefits you’re looking for: a competitive field or industry, autonomy and the interest level of the work itself. Look beyond the salary numbers of each offer to see how each offer will affect your quality of life and career trajectory.

  • Give notice if you change your mind. If you do discover an offer that is a better fit for you, give as much notice as possible. The employer will need to invest resources and time into securing a replacement, and the last thing you want to do as a new grad is burn bridges that you may need in the future.

  • Understand your positioning. If you decide to pursue other offers, try to identify exactly what you’re looking for. Is it all about the numbers? If you find a better offer, and your current employer provides a counter-offer, will that change your mind? Explore the circumstances under which you would stay with your second or first offers.

Are you on the job hunt with an offer in hand? Leave a comment below to see if we can help you sort out your decision!