Share this article:
Bookmark and Share

To Accept or Not To Accept

Properly evaluating a job offer

The news just arrived: the job you applied for is yours. You are so excited that you can hardly contain your joy, especially now that your career is about to fall into place. The many hours you spent job searching and interviewing have finally paid off. To your added surprise, this job means working not only in the position you want, but also with a company you ranked as your first choice. You are tempted to say "yes" immediately, but you know that you need to take your head out of the clouds and keep your feet on the ground.

Accepting a job offer is a major decision. Before you telephone the recruiter, examine the offer. Make certain that you dot all of the i's and cross all the t's before you accept the offer. And exactly what is important in evaluating a job offer, you ask? The salary? The benefits? The job itself? These are all good aspects to examine. This article will give you some guidelines to help you evaluate your job offer.

First of all, resist accepting an offer on the spot, no matter how good it seems. Always ask for time to think it over. Most employers will not withdraw an offer because you request time to think it over. In addition to reviewing the offer over with your family or "significant other," a "give me some time to think it over" strategy might provide you with an opportunity to negotiate a better financial package. However, when negotiating, remember to show enthusiasm about everything: the job, your future employer and the career opportunity.

Second, many job seekers view job negotiations simply as a matter of coming to terms on the salary and employer offers. This is not always the case however. A number of other important factors can be negotiated as well, depending on the company and the job. In addition to salary there are some "non-cash" compensation issues that you should consider when evaluating your job offer. If you can secure benefit brochures and other company materials, review them carefully. This will help you prepare for negotiating vacation/sick time, expense accounts, automobile expenses, professional association membership or dues, educational assistance programs, health and life insurance, stock options or 401K plans. Though it is highly unlikely that you will be able to negotiate successfully on all of these items, the extent to which you can is generally determined by the nature and level of the job and by the hiring policies of the company.

As you may know, it's a great time to change jobs - maybe too great. Talented people are in such demand that companies treat them like stars - and promise them the moon. Big signing bonuses? Not a problem. Generous stock-option packages? Certainly. Gourmet meals in the cafeteria? But of course. And that's just for starters.

Believe it. Not so long ago, the toughest part of job hunting was getting a decent offer. Today people with talent get a flood of offers. The new challenge is to sort through all of the choices and find the one that's best for you. Call it "job-offer overload." It's a nice problem to have, but it is a problem. There are so many questions to ask when considering which offer to accept. What are each company's prospects in the marketplace? What are my prospects for growth? How much power will I have? How much support will I get? These are questions that, unlike surface issues such as salary and stock options, don't lend themselves to answers that are easy to quantify and compare. Which is why so many people choose - wrongly - not to ask the questions in the first place. There's a big difference between choosing the best job and selling yourself to the highest bidder. Try the following tactics to help finalized your decision.

You can't take literally what recruiters say. They're competing for talent. They know the buzzwords that people want to hear.

Interview the Company

The job selection process is not as easy as it use to be. Generally, a candidate would assess companies based on how much they paid and whether they were nice places to work. Today people want to associate with great companies and have great assignments. Don't ask, which company would I like to work for? Ask, which company would I like to buy? Is this company going to grow? Is the budget in my area going to expand? Where will I be closest to the center of decision making? Great questions. Finding answers takes clear thinking, hard work, and lots of time. After all, most companies aren't out to educate you about what life inside their walls is really like. They're out to sell you on why you should turn your life over to them. If you want to get to the truth, you have to dig for it yourself.

Companies that are serious about assessing talent devise creative and rigorous ways to interview job candidates and check their references. Likewise, people who are serious about evaluating job offers should design their own techniques for interviewing companies and checking their references. If you want your job choice to turn out right, you have to turn the tables.

Evaluate from the Inside

Most people exploring a job with a company make a visit, if only to conduct a round of interviews and meet some of the people they'll be working with. That's fine, as far as it goes. But it doesn't go nearly far enough. You should treat visits to a company the way detectives treat a crime scene - as a rich source of clues, both obvious and concealed.

Companies design their headquarters to convey an image to the world. The moment you enter a building, you begin to learn how the company conceives of itself. Is the space open? Who gets the private offices? Try to catch companies with their guard down. Visiting a company is a lot like dating. You want to see what it looks like on Monday morning, not just Saturday night.

Finalizing your Decision

Now that you are closed to having made your job campaign successful, you must not do anything that might compromise your offer. Here are some final tips to help you seal the deal.

Confirming a date. Agree on a decision date and be sure to give your answer by that date.

If you cannot agree with the terms or accept the job after extensive negotiations, be sure to sign off pleasantly. If the lack of agreement was over some condition of employment, like salary, the company is likely to keep your resume for review later or possible referrals within the industry.

Ultimately, the challenge of choosing the right job is a lot like any other business challenge - the harder you work at it, the better the results. An added benefit of educating yourself about companies you might join is that you learn a lot about yourself in the process. All the information you gather doesn't mean a thing until you filter it through the lens of your values. You first have to know what's important to you, and then map your personal priorities onto the data you gather.

Indeed, the real goal is to find a job that doesn't feel like a job. Ask yourself is this a job that you enjoy doing so much that you would continue to do it even if you were filthy rich? The secret is to find your passion - and then to find a company that's willing to pay you to pursue it.

-Tammie Chestnut
As seen on