You’ve made it past the job-search equivalent of going to the dentist’s office: You survived the job interview. Now, you just received a call that the company would like to make you a job offer. The company is putting their cards on the table, and the ball’s in your court. You might be tempted to accept immediately — perhaps you’ve been out of a job for a month or so, and you’re walking a budget tightrope without much of a safety net. Or maybe this seems like it’s going to be your dream job. Either way, hold off on popping the champagne, at least for a little while.
A 2015 Gallup poll found that just 44% of American workers were “completely satisfied” with their jobs. Many factors can contribute to whether you’re satisfied at work, but evaluating an offer before you even begin is a good way to ensure you start on the right foot. You’ll have more negotiating power when you’re discussing the offer than you will two months into the job, so make sure it’s an offer you’ll be happy with for the foreseeable future.
Questions to Consider Before Accepting a Job Offer
The job might seem like a good fit, but it’s worth it to evaluate the opportunity thoroughly before signing on the dotted line. As long as you respond in the time frame that HR has given you, that offer’s not going anywhere. Take the day or so they give you, and make sure that the job (and the compensation package) is what you were expecting. While you’re at it, ask yourself these questions to fully vet the offer.
1. Does this meet my minimum requirements?
Of course, the number at the top of the offer is what you’re going to be looking at first. Is the salary a fair one, based on your position, location, and the amount of work you’ll be expected to accomplish? Many young workers choose to start a job search in order to boost their salaries. If your goal was to see a jump in your paycheck, did you accomplish that?
If you don’t think you could make ends meet with the number you’ve been offered, or you’re thinking that you should have been offered more, now is the time to negotiate. “You’re going to have to be happy with it for at least a year (since it’s very rare to get a raise before 12 months), and possibly longer,” Alison Green, founder of the Ask a Manager blog, writes in a guest column for U.S. News & World Report.
Though your salary is a crucial piece to the job offer, your current situation will determine how comfortable you are negotiating. “If you’re employed and shopping for a better opportunity, you can be more selective,” Monster acknowledges. “If you haven’t been working for six months or more, you may discover there isn’t much to evaluate. Being able to generate an income may be the only important issue.”
2. Are the benefits acceptable?
Each company sets up their benefits packages differently, so this section of the job offer might require close scrutiny. Salary.com suggests pulling out the benefits package from your current job and comparing that to the new offer. If you’ll be required to pay more for health care, it could make a significant dent in any raise you’re otherwise getting by switching jobs. If you have dependents, it’s vital to make sure they’re also eligible for any benefits coverage.
Retirement funds are another area for examination. Do you have to work at the company for a certain number of years before the account is vested? When can you start contributing to the plan, and does your employer match any of those contributions? These items aren’t as easy to parse at the flat salary you’ll receive, but if you’re getting significantly less in terms of benefits, you might have room to negotiate. At the very least, you’ll be more aware of how these changes will affect your budget and savings goals, should you decide to accept the offer anyway.
This is also the time to evaluate any bonuses or other perks you might be eligible for along the way. Those bonuses generally won’t help your bottom line consistently every month, but they could lead to significant windfalls. Knowing exactly how they work — and asking questions if you don’t know — is important.
3. Does the job role match what you discussed?
This might seem like a formality, and less important than your salary or benefits included. But when the offer comes in writing, make sure your prospective title and job duties matches what you discussed with HR during the interview process. It’s a potential red flag if there are certain elements missing, or if your job function isn’t clear in the offer, Forbes contributor Liz Ryan writes.
“If the offer letter is missing anything that should be in it (like long-term incentives, negotiated deals like the ability to work from home, your vacation allowance or anything else that could potentially be a deal-breaker) you must speak up and get those elements in writing right away,” Ryan explained. Otherwise, those verbal perks discussed during the interview might not actually be an official part of your work experience.
If you’re not absolutely sure about what you’re signing up for, it can eventually lead to dissatisfaction with your job, and a lack of engagement with your work. “It sounds obvious, but too often people accept jobs without truly knowing exactly how they’ll spend their time, what their most important responsibilities will be and how their success will be judged. As a result, you can find yourself in a role that doesn’t match the hopes you’d had,” Green writes.
4. Are there hidden costs?
“You have to spend money to make money,” is a popular phrase, and it can be relevant to job switching, not just entrepreneurial efforts. In many cases, a shiny new desk and a bigger paycheck can make us put blinders on the new costs we’ll also incur by taking a new job. If the hidden costs of a new employer are large, they can take a significant chunk of any salary increase you’re otherwise getting.
Will your commute double? That’s extra gas, and additional wear and tear on your car. Do you need a fancier wardrobe? That’s extra money spent at the mall. Sometimes, the “costs” are more abstract. Will you be working longer hours, with less of a work-life balance? Will frequent travel take you away from your family more often? You might be comfortable with these changes, but it’s important to be clear-eyed about what you’re walking in to.
In some cases, additional costs could be covered by your new employer, if you negotiate or understand the employment contract correctly. Monster suggests asking how travel expenses are reimbursed, if you’ll be expected to travel on a regular basis. If you need to relocate for your job, some companies will cover some or all of those expenses, as Fidelity points out. However, it’s vital to get that information in writing before you accept an offer. Otherwise, you could be left holding the tab because you didn’t fully understand the agreement.
5. Have you researched the company?
Sure, you probably did a quick Google search of the HR rep who you had an interview with, and you likely checked out your potential new supervisor on LinkedIn. But when you receive a job offer, it’s time to go a little deeper if you haven’t already. What are current and former employees saying about the company on sites like Glassdoor? Has the company received bad press in the past, and how did they handle it? If you come across a number of negative reports, it could serve as a red flag.
In the case of a changing or sluggish economy, you also have to realistically evaluate whether the company — or your position — will be around in a few years. Otherwise, you might be in the same job searching position before you know it. “Nowadays with industries changing and very successful companies failing, if you don’t scrutinize the company, you’re making a big mistake,” Boris Groysberg, a professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, told Harvard Business Review.
6. Do you have other offers on the table?
If you’re lucky enough to have multiple job offers come in at the same time, you have the luxury of choosing which one is the better fit. Life is rarely so generous, so take advantage of it.
If you haven’t received other official offers, but you’re in the middle of other interviews, take a hard and honest look at your prospects. You might like the other option better, but if you’re only sending in your resume now, it’s much more difficult to tell if a bona fide offer will come from it.
“You can’t compare to fantastical, theoretical possibilities. You need to be realistic about what is likely to come down the line,” John Lees, a U.K.-based career strategist, told Harvard Business Review. This is the time to evaluate your wish list and long-term goals as well. The position in front of you might not check off all the boxes you’d like it to, but it could be a step in the right direction. Ultimately, you’ll have to decide if it’s a right fit.