After sending out carefully-crafted cover letters and resumes and acing multiple rounds of job interviews, the payoff is here: a job offer. Time to celebrate? Not so fast.
Even in a tight job market, it’s not always in your best interest to accept the first job offer you receive. And what if you’re faced with more than one appealing option? Perhaps you’ve been lucky enough to score multiple job offers or maybe you’ve got one offer in hand and another opportunity (or more) that looks promising but is still in the interview stage.
This is a good problem to have, but a dilemma all the same. It’s important to prioritize what is most important to you and evaluate how the offer at hand aligns with your top priorities and your other current options.
Here are some guidelines for evaluating that job offer and making a smart decision.
1. The Money Question
If money isn’t a key issue for you, you are very fortunate. However, most people find that their financial situation strongly influences their job decision making.
When evaluating whether to accept a job offer, finances must be considered in two significant ways:
1) Can you afford to pass up an uninspiring offer and wait for something better?
If you have been between gigs for a while, it may be necessary to compromise on waiting for your dream job and accept something that will help you pay the bills right now. If finances are tight, you may also be more likely to consider a less attractive compensation package because some cash flow is better than none.
That’s not to say it’s fair or right. Only you can decide if earning money right away must be prioritized over the other factors listed below.
2) How does the compensation offered compare to your other options?
For every job offer, you must also consider whether the compensation offered is fair and appealing. It’s not just about the numbers on your pay check, it’s about your quality of life and feeling valued as an employee.
Remember that salary is just one part of the compensation equation. You must also consider health benefits, paid time off, 401(k), and other factors. There may also be room to negotiate from the first offer — either for more money or for additional perks.
Look at salary research on Payscale.com to make sure that the offer is fair based on market averages and your level of experience. This research will also give you some ammunition if you want to try to negotiate a better deal.
Next, do the math and make sure you understand how well you’ll be able to live if you accept the job. Think long and hard before accepting an offer that seems unfair (nobody wants to be a bargain hire and it could cause resentment later) or could lead to financial hardship down the road.
At the same time, don’t allow yourself to be swayed by a big paycheck if the job is a bad fit in other important ways. Research by The Journal of Happiness Studies (yes, this is a real publication) shows that money increases happiness only when it allows people to move from poverty to about $50,000 per year (I have to wonder if the figure should be a little higher in New York City and other high-cost-of-living cities). Beyond that, more money doesn’t have a significant impact on happiness.
2. The Job
Naturally, you will also want to evaluate the position itself and the work you will be doing for 8+ hours per day for the foreseeable future.
- Do you get excited thinking about the work?
- Does the position allow you to use the skills you most enjoy? How often?
- Do you believe in the company and its products/services? Are you passionate about making a contribution?
- What role will you play in the organization? How will you interact with coworkers?
- Are there any quality of life considerations to consider? Think about commute time, expected overtime, flexibility options, and related factors.
- Is it important for you to have visibility, leadership, an impressive title? And, to what extent does the position offer these things?
3. The Management
Some jobs look great on paper — until you meet the manager. A great manager can make a tough job rewarding, but a bad manager can make even a dream job stressful.
Your direct manager will have the most influence on your day-to-day work life.
- Is he someone you can work with?
- Does he show respect to his team members?
- Does he have a good reputation in the industry?
- What is his management style and how does it fit with your preferences?
- Do his expectations seem reasonable?
4. The Culture/Atmosphere
It can be difficult to get a true sense of a company’s culture until you work there. However, if you look for hints and ask good questions during the final rounds of interviews, you can get a pretty good idea of how they operate. You can also learn a lot from seeking out former employees of the company in your network.
Some culture questions to consider:
- Are the company’s values in keeping with yours?
- Do company leaders prioritize issues you deem important?
- Does the company emphasize training, mobility, and promotion from within?
- What kind of personalities seem to thrive?
- After visiting the office, can you see yourself working in that environment?
5. Future Prospects
In today’s job market, no position is forever. With each step you take, you must evaluate how it will position you for the future.
- Will this job keep you sharp?
- Will the day-to-day responsibilities let you hone skills that will make you even more marketable in the future?
- Does this position come with increased responsibility?
- Will working at this company give your resume added credibility?
- Does the job give you a “foot in the door” to make a desired career change?
- Will you have access to useful training and networking opportunities?
When evaluating whether to accept a job offer, all five of the categories above should be considered. However, you must also prioritize according to personal importance. The compensation may be your biggest concern right now — or perhaps after years at a staid company, you need a more innovative culture.
Think about which questions are critical for you and where you would be willing to make sacrifices. While the choice can be difficult, having a clear list of priorities and concrete answers can help guide you to the job that was meant for you.