16 MIN READ
8 Criteria for Evaluating a Job Offer
Look Before You Leap
Congratulations – you got the job! You feel excited, relieved and proud of yourself. And so you should. You've been offered a job that you really wanted.
But before you call to accept, take a minute to re-read the offer letter. This time you notice that, although the salary is satisfactory, the company's pension contributions are lower than you first thought. You'll also be expected to travel overseas for "eight or more days per month" – more than you had anticipated. And you find out that your line manager will be the one person who you didn't "connect" with during your interview. Later that day, you see on the news that the company's share prices have dropped. Suddenly, you feel doubt creeping in. Maybe it's not the job for you after all.
The good news is that you stopped to think about your job offer before you accepted it. Not everyone does!
According to recent data compiled by the U.S. government, the average baby boomer changes jobs 11.7 times during his or her career – that's a lot of job offers. Despite this, author John Lees found that many people spend longer researching their vacations than they do evaluating their job offers.
For many of us, a job isn't just a job – it's our career. It's where we spend most of our time and, if we're lucky, it's our passion. So, it makes sense to objectively evaluate any job offers that we receive, even if our initial reaction is to reach for the phone and gleefully accept.
This article will explore the eight key criteria that you should consider when evaluating a job offer.
Why You Should Look Before You Leap
Whatever your circumstances, and however desperate or excited you may feel, it pays to resist the urge to accept the first job offer that comes your way. You should consider any propositions that you receive carefully.
So many important factors depend on your ability to secure the right job – your happiness, relationships, career prospects and progression, self confidence, wellbeing and health, to name just a few. But what if you make the wrong choice? You might get stuck in a job that you didn't really want after all, regretting that you never took the time to consider it properly.
Give yourself time to evaluate a job offer objectively and thoroughly, and politely request a minimum of two days to decide whether it's really the job for you. At the same time, remember to be realistic – the offer may not be perfect, and you may have to compromise on certain elements of the job – but your ultimate goal is to progress and improve on your current position.
A good starting point is to evaluate your job offer against these eight criteria:
1. Research Your Prospective Employer
Your prospective employer has worked hard to assess your suitability for the job. But have you thought about whether it is suitable for you?
Take some time to "play detective" before you accept the offer, and investigate whether the company is the right fit for you. Social media is an excellent source of information, particularly if you want to assess public opinion of the company. Read comments about the company on social networking sites or check out any current news stories about it. Better still, talk to someone who already works there.
Try to gather as much information as you can about the organization's people, its reputation, values, working environment, and culture, and about your potential boss's management style. Could you you fit in seamlessly or would it be a culture shock? Would you be proud to say that you work there?
Another good place to look is the company's most recent annual report or its quarterly SEC filing. Here you can find a wealth of information about its activities – from current projects and profiles of its directors, to corporate values and financial accounts. Browse through the company's financial reports from the last few years, paying particular attention to its revenue and profitability, to gauge whether it's under any financial pressure or if layoffs may be imminent.
Try to find out how stable the company is, what its market position is, and what its future prospects are. You may not have a crystal ball, but you'll want to feel confident that the organization you're joining isn't about to go bust.
Many people see salary as the key factor when they're deciding whether to accept a job offer.
But you need to evaluate how much your skills and experience are really worth before you accept the salary that you've been offered. Websites such as vault.com and glassdoor.com can give you a good idea of the average salary bands within your industry, position, location, and company.
It's also important to consider your future prospects. The salary on offer might be suitable for now but, without guaranteed annual cost-of-living increases, your income could diminish in real terms over time. If you've been offered a commission-based salary, are the bonus structures realistic? It might be worth asking your prospective employer how often people reach their targets, or whether there are any clauses relating to the bonus structure.
3. Benefits and Perks
Benefits can make up a substantial chunk of your compensation package so it's worth assessing this part of your contract carefully, as their value is often less obvious than the value of the salary. The salary that you've been offered might be higher than your current one but, if your employer's retirement plan contributions are lower, you could be worse off in the long term. On the flip-side, a generous benefits package and retirement plan can make up for a lower salary.
Benefits and perks differ from company to company so, if details of your package aren't included in your offer letter, ask to see a full list of the contract terms. Find out what benefits you'll be eligible for (and when), and assess their value for you.
You might want to consider the following questions when assessing the value of your benefits package:
- Leave – What's the vacation and sickness allowance?
- Health Saving Account contributions – What are the premiums? Is dental and ophthalmic cover included? When will you be eligible?
- Stock – What stock options are available? Are stock units given as part of a bonus or do you have to be working at the organization for a certain length of time before you are eligible?
- Tuition reimbursement – Will the employer cover your tuition fees if you decide to enroll on relevant paid educational courses?
- Incentives – Is the incentive scheme based on personal achievements or the company's wider performance?
- Insurance – What insurance plans are offered? How much will they cost?
- Pension – What contributions will the company make?
- Profit sharing – Is there a plan to give employees a share of the company's profits?
- Use of a company car, cellphone or computer – Are these provided? If so, will these expenses be tax refundable?
- Other perks – Are any additional benefits offered, for example gym membership, telecommuting, daycare, travel costs, sabbaticals, etc?
4. Savings and Expenses
One of the biggest expenses to consider when evaluating a job offer is your commute. Will your travel costs increase or decrease?
Your new job might require you to move house. If this is the case, you'll need to take relocation costs, changes to your property and state taxes, and changes to your insurance rates into account.
Sometimes we forget about the hidden costs of a new job offer – a new wardrobe, for example, or insurance cover (if you aren't yet eligible for the company insurance plan). If working from home is offered as part of your new contract, you might save money avoiding the commute but you could need to invest in a home office.
The amount of time that your new job will take up (beyond core hours) can be difficult to judge. It might be worth talking to someone who has a similar role in the company to try to understand what workload you may be expected to take on or how much overtime you may have to work.
If you're paid by the hour, you might welcome the opportunity to work extra time. But if you receive a salary, you may end up resenting working for a company that expects you to put in 12 hours a day but only pays you for eight. If overtime is a regular expectation, it could even mean that you end up getting paid less per hour than you do in your current job.
The time it takes to travel to your new job is also an important consideration, particularly if it's a long or difficult commute. How much of the day will your new journey take up? How reliable is the transport that you'll use? Remember that a lengthy commute might be bearable when you're 25, but it can become a burden when you're 60.
6. Career Path
Getting a new job might be your priority right now, but you still need to think carefully about how it will impact your long-term career prospects. If you accept a job offer on impulse and it doesn't work out, you might end up desperate to leave. Repeat the same mistake again, and you could find that your résumé becomes littered with several short-lived jobs. This could make you look unreliable to potential employers, leading you even further away from your chosen career path.
If it's the work itself or the potential career progression on offer that appeals to you – rather than the salary or the benefits – then it's especially important to consider how the job will serve you and bring you closer to achieving your career goals. Ask yourself whether it will challenge you, expose you to new experiences, and enable you to grow.
7. Research the Role
Read the job description and person specification again. You need to feel confident that the work itself is something that you want to do, and that it will give you satisfaction.
It's also important to be certain of exactly what will be expected of you, and that those expectations are realistic. If the job specification seems too long or too short, or if it doesn't match up to the job title, you might need to go back to the HR department for further clarification.
If you're concerned that your skills might not match those listed on the job specification, it might be worth carrying out a Personal SWOT Analysis to assess how well your knowledge and experience align with the role requirements. If you feel that you oversold your abilities in the interview, you could wind up disappointing your boss, missing targets and feeling stressed. Conversely, if you've undersold them, you could become bored and frustrated.
8. Your Values
Take some time to think about your personal values and those of the organization. What qualities are important to you in a prospective employer? Do your values align with the company's? Perhaps you believe passionately in working for a company that has a good environmental record or that works closely with certain charities. Is your prospective employer active in supporting the causes that matter most to you?
Most companies provide information about their vision, values and principles on their website. It might also be a good idea to check out the organization's corporate social responsibility (CSR) report, which outlines what it's doing to maintain its values. You can usually download these from companies' websites.
If you still have any questions concerning the company's values after receiving a job offer, now's the time to raise them with HR.
Making Your Decision
Once you've finished evaluating your job offer, it's time to make your decision.
Some offers are just too good to refuse. The pros outweigh the cons, and the new role will provide career progression in the areas that matter to you. If this is the case for you, accepting the job might just be the right way to go.
Sometimes, however, the role might feel like the right fit, but the offer isn't what you'd hoped for, or a few of the contract terms concern you. In this case, some negotiation might be in order. People can often be put off negotiating because they fear that their job offer will be retracted but, if your request is reasonable and the company has room for maneuver, you could find yourself in a better position than you were originally.
If, after weighing everything up, the offer still doesn't match your expectations, the best decision is probably to turn it down. Remember to do so politely. It's always a good idea to stay on good terms – another job might come up with the organization in the future that is right for you.
Sometimes, however, you might not have the luxury of being able to say no. If this is the case, consider seeking out alternative options, such as temporary work, or accepting the job while you continue to look for a role that better suits your long-term career goals.
Beware of "playing hard ball" with a potential employer. Although negotiation can often be productive, asking for too much can backfire if you aren't careful. Make sure that your requests are reasonable, particularly when it comes to your salary expectations.
Keep the eight evaluation criteria covered in this article in mind as you go through the interview process. Be observant when you're on the company's premises, so that you can gauge the "mood" of the people who you meet, and whether you'd work well with them. Ask intelligent questions about the eight criteria listed above at appropriate times during the interview process (although questions about the package might be best kept until later on – you don't want to seem as if you are only interested in the money).
The excitement and relief that we feel when we receive a job offer can mean that we are often too quick to accept. But the risks of saying "yes" to a job that you're not suited to, or that could end up serving you badly, might result in you straying from your chosen career path.
It's wise to take the time to objectively assess a job offer, and whether it really suits you and your long-term career goals. Remember to look beyond the salary, check through the terms of the offer thoroughly, and assess how the job will impact your life beyond work. Also consider the company's culture and its values.
Once you've evaluated your job offer thoroughly, you will be in a much better position to judge whether you should take the job, try to negotiate a better deal, or reject the offer completely.
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