Categorized | Salary

Evaluating a Job Offer

Posted on 18 May 2009

Nab it and grab it.

That statement sums up the flawed philosophy of many jobseekers. Looking for a job can become a job, complete with its own fears and frustrations, but that doesn’t mean you have to jump at any opportunity that comes your way. Even in an uncertain economy, logic–not emotion–should be your guide in deciding whether to accept or decline a job offer.

“Your decision will have big implications for your future,” warns Dan King, a principal at Career Planning & Management International in Boston. “When you don’t have a job, it’s easy to lose sight of your value, but you can’t let that cloud your decision.” All jobs are not created equal. You must evaluate each offer individually and thoroughly in order to find the right fit.

When you’re looking for a job, you don’t feel like you’re operating from a position of power, but you are.

Alan McNabb, director of the Placement Office & Career Development Center at the University of Indiana in Bloomington, puts it very simply: “Be up front and ask the questions you need answered to make a good decision.”

Think Before You Speak

When weighing a job offer, there are a few things to examine. Before agreeing to anything, you should feel comfortable asking questions in these three key areas.

  • Position: What does the job really entail? Will you receive training? Are there promotional opportunities? Where are the people who used to do this job? How long did they stay? Where will you be working?
  • People: Which people will you be working with? Can you meet them? Do you share their values? Where are they headed professionally? How long have they been there?
  • Company: What is its place in the industry? What about its reputation, history, and future? What are revenue projections? What does the company’s hiring future look like?

“If interviewers can’t or won’t answer these questions, that tells you something,” notes King. But if they do answer, don’t stop there. Do your own research. Although you probably already did some basic reading before you applied for the job, do some more. Go to the company Web site. Search for articles that have been written about the organization. Check books for further information; your local library should have copies of industry bibles, such as Dun & Bradstreet’s Directory, Standard & Poor’s Register of Corporations, and Ward’s Business Directory.

Show Me the Money

Even if the offer sounds great, don’t accept it without comparison-shopping. Check the figure against industry averages. Trade associations in the field can be a good source of earnings information. Be sure the company offers a regular salary review, at least once a year, and find out about other benefits.

“Know what the actual value of the offer is,” says McNabb. This means examining the full package. Consider things like relocation assistance, commuting stipends, expense accounts, cell phone and car bills, housing allowances, health insurance, etc. Factor all of these elements into the equation. Do a cost of living comparison based on job location. Some areas of the country will require higher salaries than others to maintain the same standard of living. If you like the job, but feel the offer is lacking in one or more of these categories, negotiate.

“When you’re looking for a job,” says King, “you don’t feel like you’re operating from a position of power, but you are. Once the company has made you an offer, they don’t want to lose you and spend more money on recruiting.”

McNabb agrees: “They expect you to negotiate. They’ll appreciate if you’re straightforward and tell them what you need. Ask for what you want and see what can be done.”

Cooler Heads Prevail

Once you’ve gathered all the information, take a day or two to gain perspective before finalizing your decision. “Don’t think safety and survival. Think about what it will take to make you happy. Take an analytical approach; don’t operate with the fear factor,” King says. “Otherwise, it won’t be long before you wind up back where you started, looking for another job again.”

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