If the answer is 'yes'

When you finally get a job offer, it may seem like your only possible response should be "Thank you, when do I start?" But before you say yes, be sure you know exactly what the job offers, and you negotiate your best possible pay and benefits. Start this conversation with sincere excitement about getting an offer, then ask to meet to discuss the details.

There is usually a salary range offered with a job, and you don't necessarily need to start at the bottom of the range. Review any and all information about the pay range for your position. Mark up your resume with the skills you have that could justify starting on the higher end. Remember, you are not negotiating whether they are still offering you the job, you have an offer. You are helping them define that offer.

Vacation and sick time can rarely be negotiated, but be sure you know what it is. Ask about benefits, including health and 401K plans. A good health plan and/or 401K is very important, so pay attention.

Some companies have relatively low pay, but their excellent benefits still make them a good choice. After you have gathered all the information you need and negotiated on any aspects that you can, reiterate your enthusiasm for the job (even if your enthusiasm has waned), then say that you need some time to review all the information and will let them know by a set day and time. If they can't give you more time, they will tell you. But if you don't ask for time to think this over, they probably aren't going to offer it.

Once you have decided to accept the position, you still have one more negotiation: your start date.

In many cases, they would like you to start as soon as possible, but that doesn't mean that is a requirement. Make sure you have time to exit gracefully from your current job, move, arrange childcare, or even have some time to recover from the exhaustion of hunting for a job. You do not need to explain why you are asking for a later start date. In fact, it is better to keep that to yourself. Just ask for the date you want, and if they say no, then see if there is any room to negotiate. If not, then gracefully agree that you will be there ready to go on the required date.

Just a reminder, none of this conversation should be taking place during the interview for the job. Don't start asking about pay, start dates, and vacation until they have offered you the job, otherwise the actual offer may never happen.

Karen Bolda, M.A., is a meeting facilitator and professional development trainer. She's lived in Ashland for 13 years where she operates her own consulting business. Contact her at 890-1883 or karen@karenbolda.com. Bolda's workbook "Ace the Interview" is now available for purchase at www.karenbolda.com.

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