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How to evaluate a job offer

Your potential employer isn't psychic. Accept this checklist to make sure you ask for (and get) exactly what you want.

How to evaluate a job offer

Getting a job offer can be overwhelming. Sure, it’s exciting being the “chosen one,” and you may worry that if you don’t say yes right away it’ll all vanish. But don’t let that heady excitement drive you toward a rash decision.

You don’t want to end up taking a job that sounded awesome only to find yourself working in a tiny cubicle for 10 hours a day, with a terrible 401(k) match and a commute that takes twice as long as before.

Take a breath. Consider the whole picture. Make a list of what you really need and want from your next job. The things we must have and the things that would be nice to have are very personal and change as our needs change, says Robin Sendrow, founder of JobSparker, a career-goal-setting platform, based in Bergen County, New Jersey.

Envision your life (and your bank account balance) six months from now. If it’s measurably improved, this job could be a great fit. If not, you might need to keep looking. Use this three-part checklist to evaluate a job offer.

Start with the money…

Salary is probably your No. 1 consideration when it comes to determining whether a job is a great fit. Once you’re offered a salary, double check your budget to make sure it’s really enough, says Nicole Smartt, author of From Receptionist to Boss: Real-Life Advice for Getting Ahead at Work.

This is especially important if the job requires a move or major change in your commute. Will your commute be longer? Will this require more gas or taking a train or bus? How much will that cost?

“Once those expenses are calculated, make sure you have enough left over to contribute to savings and retirement,” Smartt says. “That’s important—even if it’s only a negligible amount.”

Other financial aspects to consider:

  • Bonuses. Is there a sign-on bonus? Is there an opportunity to earn performance-based bonuses?
  • Health insurance and wellness benefitsAnalyze the premium you’ll pay and compare that with the co-pays and deductibles. Pay especially close attention if you are comparing traditional plans with high-deductible options, says Charles Rodriguez, Atlanta-based director of human capital management at Adams Keegan, an HR and employer services company.
  • Retirement. Factor in your contributions, employer matches, elimination periods, vesting schedules and pre-tax savings, Rodriguez says.
  • Profit sharing or stock options. Request details and timelines, if this is part of your compensation plan.
  • Relocation assistance. If you have to move for this job, will the company pay for all or part of your expenses?
  • Day-care or child-care reimbursement. Is there on-site day care or a child-care subsidy?
  • Ancillary benefits. Ancillary or voluntary benefits are things like cancer insurance, life insurance, identity-theft protection or legal services. Some companies also throw in other enticements like free bus passes or complimentary dry cleaning.

These offerings may sweeten the pot, or they may not matter to you, Rodriguez says. “If you live in a traditional metro city like D.C. or Philadelphia you will want to think about parking and transit commuter benefits as actually money saved or spent from your check. Conversely, there’s no reason to place value in things you might not want like pre-paid legal or pet insurance benefits,” he says.

…then think about about the company culture…

You’re going to be spending an awful lot of time at this new job. Yes, it’s important that it pay your bills, but you also want to feel like you fit in. Here are some things to consider.

  • Work environment. Ask to take a tour, Smartt says, including where you would be seated. Can you see yourself working in that space? If it's a large room with cubicles, is there a place to go to make private calls on your break or lunch? Do the other employees seem happy or overwhelmed? Is there natural light? What's the dress code? "Even a cursory tour will reveal a lot about the corporate culture,” Smartt says.
  • Professional development. “Ask about opportunities the company offers for advancement, obtaining certifications and additional development training,” Smartt says.

…finally, take your needs into account

Just as the in-office culture is important, so is the balance your job strikes with the rest of your life. Will you be able to spend as much time with your family as you want? Will you get to travel for fun, or be so tired of traveling for work that you don’t even want to? Here’s what to consider:

  • Travel requirements. How much travel will be required of you? What travel-related expenses will be reimbursed? Will you have to arrange child care or a pet sitter when you’re out of town?
  • Paid time off, vacations, personal or sick days, family leave. Find out upfront about time-off policies. “Are there any vacation blackout dates? What happens if you need to take extended personal leave?” Sendrow says.
  • Remote work. Will the company let you work from home sometimes? All the time?
  • Schedule flexibility. It can be difficult to negotiate more flexibility once you've started, so go for it now, Smartt says. “If you’re hesitant to ask straight out, check the company’s careers page to see if they mention flexible work arrangements there,” she says.

Whatever your final package ends up being, get everything in writing. The handshake deal you made for remote work and an annual performance bonus with this boss may not be honored if he or she leaves the organization.


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