Looking For A New Job? Read This Before Saying "Yes"

So, you've graduated from college, updated your LinkedIn, and have been hitting up your network like crazy. You had an amazing first interview, you genuinely liked your potential boss, and that missed call on your cell? A little Google research reveals it's a hiring manager.

But wait! Before you say yes, you have to ask them — and yourself — a few questions. Because, ideally, while netting a paycheck (very important!) your first job should also be an opportunity for good mentorship, advancing your skills, and putting you in a great position for when it's time to look for your second job.

To get a better sense of what everyone should know before accepting their first job, we enlisted the help of Lauren Newton, talent recruiter here at Refinery29. Newton shared plenty of tips about what to do during an interview — and what you need to know after receiving a job offer.

Click through for her advice and get ready to update your résumé!
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Illustrated by Paola Delucca.
Yes, you want a job. But in order to seem like the most competitive candidate to a hiring manager, you need to make it clear in your cover letter, résumé, and interview that you want a job with that specific company.

"Google is free — read up on the company before you interview," Newton says, adding that you should know the company's history, brand mission, and any recent innovations or projects (hello, 29Rooms!).

During the interview, feel free to ask questions or bring up some of the things you've learned, but do it in a way that seems authentic. Saying, "Since 2005, when you were founded..." makes you sound like you're only trying to drop the fact you've done your homework. Saying something like, "I've noticed in the past year, your company has been more committed to video content. I was interested in that because [something about how your personal experience fits that observation]" to show that you've actually taken the time to look beyond the "about us" page.
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Does your résumé seem bare? Instead of worrying about what's not on it, focus on the skills you've developed in your life that could be an asset in the office. For example, if you were a camp counselor during the summers, that means you're good at juggling multiple priorities (on very little sleep!). If you trained for a marathon, it means you're good at following through on commitments.

Newton says that during interviews, she'll ask for details that aren't listed on a candidate's application. "There are plenty of ways to show your personality while remaining totally professional," Newton says. "Keep your anecdotes and interests short and relevant, and interject them in a natural way."
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Yes, you can negotiate your starting salary — more on that in a minute! — but don't start the interview by asking about compensation. The same is true of benefits — maybe you saw on the company's website that they have, say, summer Fridays, but it's not the best idea to ask about perks before you have a job offer.

"Money is important — don't short-change yourself! — but as a junior professional, there's a ton more to learn during your first job that money can't buy," Newton says. "As a more senior candidate, it's more appropriate to ask about salary — it's more likely that you've got a specific salary range or bonus structure that you need to stick to, and knowing that information up front saves everyone's time and energy."

Once you've been through several rounds of interviews, though, it's okay to ask about money, if the hiring manager hasn't asked for your salary requirements. "If you're nearing the final round of interviews, it's certainly appropriate to bring up the big money question to make sure your desired range is in line with the employer's," Newton says.
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Understanding the dynamic of the company is essential before accepting a job offer. Observation is key — at the interview, does it seem coworkers are chatting or gathering in the kitchen, or does it seem like everyone is glued to their desks?

If you're only having a phone or Skype interview, reading reviews on Glassdoor can be a good way to get a broad sense of how the company operates — but be aware that if there are only a few reviews, they may not be representative of the company culture as a whole.

While the first interview should be focused more on whether your skill set is a good fit for the position, don't be afraid to ask about the office culture, too; Newton says it's appropriate to bring up the topic at your first interview. She suggests asking your interviewer something like, "From the outside, Refinery29 is obviously a very creative company — is the internal company culture reflective of that?" or "I have a good idea of what Refinery29 is like from a consumer's point of view, but what's the work environment like?"
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It's fine to want to work at a place that's also fun. It's also fine to want to work at whatever job offers you the best salary, or the one that may help you pay for grad school. But the key, says Newton, is to make sure you know exactly what you want throughout the interview process.

"Know what your 'non-negotiables' are — is the title too junior? Is the base salary way lower than expected? Is the opportunity for professional growth basically non-existent with your potential new employer?" Newton suggests. "And know what you can be flexible on — perhaps the opportunity to learn a new skill trumps the small decrease in salary."
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"There's nothing wrong with negotiating compensation at any level," Newton says — and that goes for your first job, too.

Newton encourages candidates of all job levels to develop "the habit of asking for what you want." Of course, you should negotiate within reason, especially if it's your first job, but there's no harm in making the case for a higher salary offer.

But make sure it's a negotiation. Think about what you're bringing to the table. Have you had internships in the industry where you learned certain skills? Do you have a proven track record in client relationships from your volunteer experience? Whatever it is, show the hiring manager that giving you extra money is a smart move that will benefit them in the long run.

"The best way to negotiate is by first doing your research," Newton says. "What's the overall market value for the salary/position in your city? Why do you deserve more — skills, experience, past salary history?"
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While a hiring manager respects a prospect who asks for more (don't worry, they will NOT take the offer off the table!) it's important to realize that there just may not be a lot of salary wiggle room with entry-level positions, and that the offer may be on par with your current skill set.

"It's important to go into negotiations with a realistic perspective," Newton explains. "For example, did the recruiter give you a salary range the role could fall into, or were they explicit in telling you what the top of the money line would be? There's no harm in asking for a little bit more, but be mindful of how hard and how much you push."

At the end of the day, though, you don't want to give your potential employer the impression that you're "only in it for the money and not the experience," Newton says. Don't be afraid to negotiate — but be respectful and realistic.
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"If something doesn't feel right about an offer or the position, take a day or two to think about it and weigh your options," says Newton. If you're already dreading the first day at the office, researching the vacation policy, or plotting how to use this role to catapult to another company, it might not be the right fit — and it's way better to realize that before you begin the onboarding process.

You might feel pressured to give an employer your answer right away, but it's okay to ask for a couple of days to think the offer over. You don't want to commit to something this important without thinking it through.
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If you've considered your options and still don't think a job is the right fit, it's okay to say "no."

"If the opportunity doesn't feel right or logical for your career path, turn it down," Newton advises. "The employer might be disappointed, but you'll likely feel a whole lot better once the decision is made."

As for how you should go about turning a job down, Newton recommends giving the hiring manager a specific reason why you decided not to take the job. For example, maybe an assistant position you thought you wanted turned out to be primarily administrative. It's okay to tell the hiring managers that.

"Be clear and honest about why you're turning the position down. It's actually a good learning experience for the hiring team to understand where they went wrong, or why the role wasn't a fit for someone like you," she says. You can say something as simple as, "After careful consideration, I've decided that this position just isn't the right next step for me," before explaining why it's not a good match.