Congratulations! Your search has paid off. One company has made an offer and you expect another one any day. But now you’re faced with a difficult decision – whether to accept the position you’ve been offered, or hold out for a better one.
If you reject the job offer you’ve received and don’t get the one you are expecting, you’ll have to start your job search all over again. And if you take a job that turns out to be unsatisfactory, again you’re back at square one. Fortunately, most organizations won’t expect you to accept or reject an offer on the spot. You’ll probably have at least a week to make up your mind.
Although there’s no way to take all the risk out of this pivotal career decision, you’ll increase your chances of making the best choice by thoroughly evaluating the job offer – weighing all the advantages of taking the job against the disadvantages.
If you did your homework before the interview, you already know at least a little about the organization’s products, programs and plans. And if you prepared for the interview by making a list of important questions to ask, you probably have the information you need to analyze the job offer. The following considerations can help you develop a set of criteria to evaluate job offers and make the right decision.
Will You Fit In?
Background information on the organization can help you decide whether it’s a good place for you to work. Consider the organization’s business, financial condition, age and size. Information on industry growth prospects is also important.
Is the organization’s business in keeping with your own interests and beliefs? Look at a company’s products or services, customers, and reputation in the industry. Consider a government or nonprofit organization’s purpose and the sources of its funds. It will be easier to apply yourself to the work if you are enthusiastic about what the organization does.
The size of the company may also affect you. Large employers generally have a greater variety of career paths, more levels for advancement, and more advanced technological equipment, while small firms may offer broader authority and responsibility, a closer working relationship with top management, and a chance to see clearly your contribution to the success of the organization.
Should you work for a fledgling enterprise or a well-established firm? New businesses have a high failure rate, but for many people, the excitement of helping create a company and the potential for sharing in its success more than offset the risk of job loss.
Is the organization in an industry with favorable long-term prospects? No matter how hard you work, your job security and advancement will depend on the company’s success, and the most successful firms tend to be in industries that are growing rapidly.
Activity in some industries fluctuates with the business cycle. If the business is cyclical, ask how these swings might affect you. Would a slump mean reduced earnings or even job loss? Would a recovery mean pay raises, bonuses and promotions?
The location of the job is bound to be important. Estimate the commute time and expense. If the job is in another city, consider the cost of living, the availability of housing and transportation, and the quality of educational and recreational facilities in the new location.
Where are the firm’s headquarters and branches located, and where are they planning to expand? Although a move may not be required now, future opportunities could depend on your willingness to relocate. Ask about which organizational functions are centralized. Find out if cost-of-living differentials or higher salaries are paid in areas with higher housing or transportation costs.
Will You Like the Work?
Even if everything else about the job is good, you’ll be unhappy if you dislike the day-to-day work. The more you find out about it before accepting or rejecting the job offer, the more likely you are to make the right decision.
Does the work match your interests and make good use of your abilities? The duties and responsibilities of the job should be explained in sufficient detail. Written job descriptions can be helpful, but they may not stress what you will be expected to do most of the time.
How important is your job to the company? Where you fit in the organization and how you’re supposed to contribute to its overall objectives should be good indicators of the job’s importance.
Will the job change frequently? Find out if the employer would move you to a different position if the need arises.
Are you comfortable with the supervisor and other employees? Personality conflicts can undermine your efforts to succeed. Ask if you can meet the supervisor and your potential co-workers before accepting the job.
Does the work require travel? If so, you should know how frequently you will be on the road and where you’ll go.
How long do most people who enter this job stay with the company? High turnover can mean dissatisfaction with the nature of the work or something else about the job. You may not be like everyone else, but if people usually don’t stay at least a year in this job, you should know why.
Are There Opportunities for Advancement?
A good job offers you opportunities to grow and move up. It gives you chances to learn new skills, increase your earnings, and rise to positions of greater authority, responsibility and prestige. Lack of opportunities can dampen interest in the work and result in frustration and boredom.
The company should have a training plan for you. Informal on-the-job training can be a slow process because it usually takes a back seat to the demands of the work, while formal classroom instruction can speed up the training and complement practical experience. How will the company conduct your training and what new skills will they teach you? Will they pay all or part of the cost of job-related courses outside of work? Will the opportunities for training keep up with your expanding interests?
Will you have opportunities to grow in the job and prepare for advancement? Will you get a chance to develop teaching and supervisory skills by helping new employees learn?
Ask about promotional possibilities within the organization. Will you have to wait for a job to become vacant before you can be promoted, and how long does that usually take? Can you apply for jobs elsewhere within the organization? When opportunities for advancement arise, will you be competing with applicants from outside the company?
Because the number of supervisory and managerial jobs in any organization is limited, your advancement eventually will be slowed or stopped by the lack of vacant positions above you. When you have reached a plateau, will you have freedom to grow by changing the scope of the job or by learning different skills and taking on new tasks?
What you learn on the job may also prepare you for an outside move. Find out if experienced employees tend to stay with the organization or move on.
Is the Compensation Acceptable?
Most companies won’t talk about pay until they’ve decided to hire you. In order to know if their offer is reasonable, you need a rough estimate of what the job should pay. You may have to go to several sources for this information: acquaintances who were recently hired in similar jobs; a college placement office or employment agency; help-wanted ads in newspapers; or salary surveys such as Salary.com and the Bureau of Labor Statistics wage surveys (bls.gov/bls/blswage.htm).
Use the research to come up with a base salary range for yourself.
When negotiating, aim for the top of your estimated salary range, but be prepared to settle for less. Entry-level salaries are not always negotiable. If you’re not pleased with an offer, however, what harm could come from asking for more? If you’re considering the salary and benefits for a job in another geographic area, make allowances for differences in the cost of living.
If the pay includes commissions and bonuses, find out how the pay plan works. The employer should be able to tell you what most people in the job are earning.
What is the organization’s policy regarding overtime? Find out how many hours you’ll be expected to work each week and whether evening and weekend work is required or expected. Will you receive overtime pay or time off for working more than the specified number of hours in a week?
Your salary should be reviewed on a regular basis – many organizations do it every 12 months. If the employer is pleased with your performance, how much can you expect to make after one year? Two years? Three years?
Don’t think of your salary as the only compensation you’ll receive. Consider benefits too; they can add a lot to your base pay. Ideally, your benefit package will consist of health coverage, life insurance, a pension plan, and paid vacations, holidays and sick leave. It may also include items as diverse as profit sharing, moving expenses, a parking space, company car and on-site daycare. Find out exactly what the benefit package includes and how much of the cost must be borne by you. How much flexibility will the organization give you to tailor a package to suit your needs?
When you evaluate a job offer, there are a great many things to consider. Only you will be able to decide whether a smaller salary is offset by more promising advancement opportunities, or whether better health insurance will make a longer commute worthwhile. Asking the questions suggested here won’t guarantee you’ll make the best choice, but the more informed you are, the more comfortable you’ll feel with your decision.
Source: US Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Quarterly