Once you’ve made it to the point of receiving a job offer, you probably already know quite a bit about the opportunity. After spending time researching the organization, preparing for interviews and talking to leadership, you should have a good idea of what it means to accept the job. As tempting as it might be to speed-read your way through the offer paperwork because of this, it’s better to take your time. There are a lot of details hidden within the corporate jargon of a job offer, and when you put them all together to look at the offer as a whole, they paint a picture of what it looks like to be an employee at the company.
Once you sign your name on the “accept” line of an offer, you’ve not only agreed to everything it entails but also to the ripple effect it will have on your career path and personal life. Accepting the job may end up being a fantastic move for yourself, your career and your family—or you may end up kicking yourself for it later. There isn’t a surefire way to know with total certainty that a job is right for you, but you have a better chance of making the right decision if you take the time to evaluate all aspects of the job offer before you accept.
Where to start
To make evaluating the offer a little easier, deconstruct it into digestible parts and take note of any important information you discover in each section. What stands out? What about each section makes you excited? What makes you feel skeptical? Is there anything you want clarity on before moving forward?
Once you feel like you really understand each separate part, bring the pieces back together so you can assess it all collectively.
Deconstructing a job offer
There are a lot of pieces to a job offer that go well beyond the offer letter, so you may have to go back to the hiring manager or recruiter to ask for more information to help you get an accurate picture of what taking the job means. Here are some things to review.
These are the things that will likely be right in your offer letter. In fact, they may even be written in bold print. Look them over to make sure they are correct and reflect what you discussed and/or agreed to during the interview process.
Did they change your job title in any way from the verbal offer? Does the letter accurately lay out your work location, whether it’s on-site, work from home or a combination? Is your base pay hourly or salary? Are you guaranteed full-time hours (this is very important from a benefits standpoint)? Is there any language about termination or contract end date that makes you wary? Make sure your offer letter checks out in these areas because they’re the foundation of the role.
Total monetary compensation
When you discussed salary, you likely talked about any compensation you could expect beyond your base pay. This extra compensation will make up your total take-home pay for the year. However, when evaluating this take into account whether these extras are guaranteed, performance-based or company performance-based because that will impact your bottom line.
Typically, details on bonuses and commission are written into your offer letter, so do a quick review to make sure they’re in there and spelled out correctly (if they aren’t, ask for them to be added in). Stock options and 401k details are often company-wide or based on employment tier, so confirm whether there are formal HR policies surrounding these benefits. If there aren’t, ask to have these details outlined in your offer letter.
Health and wellness benefits
As we all know, healthcare is not cheap so any break you can get in that cost is a win and should be taken into consideration as you evaluate your job offer. Likewise, if these benefits aren’t great, that should be taken into account, too, because these aren’t things you can typically negotiate.
Short Term and/or Long Term Disability
Health Savings Account (HSA) and/or Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
How much does your company pay toward your premiums? What about your family members? What are the deductibles and maximum out of pocket costs? Are orthodontics included in dental insurance? Does the company provide you with basic life insurance, short term disability and/or long term disability, or, if not, do they help you pay for your own coverage? There is a lot to unpack in this area and it can be overwhelming, but the savings of a good health benefits package might be worth a lower base salary.
There are also wellness benefits to evaluate and take into consideration before accepting a job.
Flex Schedule Options
Find out if PTO is all rolled into one bucket or if there are separate sick and vacation time banks, and see if you can negotiate more time off if you need it. Take a look at their leave policies, too, and remember if there are less than 50 employees, you aren’t covered by FMLA (though you may still have state protections, depending on where you live). Also, some organizations shut down for a week or two around the holidays, but that time is not always paid without using PTO, so look into that if applicable.
These are things not every organization offers, and are meant to make employees’ lives a little easier. Perks like these can go a long way depending on your situation. Here are some examples:
Company covered cell phone and/or home office costs
Career growth and employee investment
Some organizations offer clear career paths and growth options, and try to fill roles internally first before opening them up to outside candidates. If this is something you’ll get with your new job and you are hoping to continue to move forward in your career, this is a big deal. Other things to consider or get more information on are the company’s performance and salary review processes, cost-of-living wage increases (and frequency) and mentorship programs.
The nitty gritty
In addition to your offer letter, you’ll want to carefully review other important documents that are required for onboarding like any non-compete agreements, cell phone and/or computer use guidelines, resignation and termination policies, and anything else that seems contractual. If you’re able to get access to the company’s employee handbook, you’ll find a lot of policy information that could make a big difference in your experience at the organization.
Evaluating the whole job offer
There are a lot of things to consider before accepting a job, but if any of the little pieces don’t apply or matter to you, then there’s no need to spend a ton of time evaluating them. Once you feel like you’ve looked into everything that is important to you, you can start the decision-making process.
Negotiate what you can
If small changes to your offer would sway you to take the job, try negotiating for them. Not everything is negotiable, of course, but companies often have the ability to change your salary, offer bonuses, give you more PTO, make changes to your work location or schedule, or even bump up your title. Don’t be afraid to ask for these things, they want you on board so they’ll likely work with you on whatever they’re able to.
Does the job meet your personal and professional needs?
Will this opportunity bring you closer to your career goals?
Is the offer fair based on your experience, the market and industry standards?
Does the company represent what you’re looking for in an employer?
Is the position worth the stress and effort of a job change?
Make your decision
After you have all the information and the negotiation is complete, it’s time to decide whether you’re going to accept or decline the job offer. By this point, the answer is probably pretty clear, and you can feel confident in whether or not you put your signature on the acceptance line.
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