How to evaluate a job offer.
You open your mail and there it is - that job offer that you have been waiting for.
Your telephone rings, and the company representative
extends a job offer to you.
What a relief! You were beginning to wonder if
anyone would ever invite you to work for their organization.
But wait - before you say, "Yes, I accept" - ask
yourself, "Is this the right job for me?"
You may be so ecstatic to have gotten an offer
- any offer - that you commit yourself before finding out what this job
offer means. Maybe you should hold out for something else. Don't leap blindly
at the first thing that comes along out of fear that you'll never get another
offer; conversely, don't miss that great opportunity because you think
it pays peanuts or sounds less than glamorous.
Whether you get a handful of job offers or just
one, don't rush right back with an answer. Wait. You don't have to worry
about the employer rescinding the offer if you don't say "yes" immediately.
Most employers prefer deliberation to hastiness - it's a sign that you
have carefully considered the organization. If you receive a verbal offer,
you should wait until you get a formal letter outlining the details before
Instead of saying "yes" or "no" on the spot to
a job offer, express your gratitude in a warm and friendly manner and then
ask for time to consider the opportunity.
Accepting a job is a major decision that deserves
your best thinking.
Although there is no way to remove all risks from
this career decision, you will increase your chances of making the right
choice by thoroughly evaluating each offer - weighing all the advantages
against all the disadvantages of taking the job.
There are many issues to consider when assessing
a job offer. Will the organization be a good place to work? Is the job
interesting and in the field you'd like to pursue? How are the opportunities
for advancement? Is the salary fair? Does the employer offer good benefits?
The following discussion may help you develop a set of criteria for judging
a job offer.
(1) The organization. Background information on
the organization - be it a company, government agency or nonprofit concern
- can help you decide whether it is a good place for you to work. Factors
to consider include the organization's business, financial condition, age,
size, and location. Here are some questions to ask:
Is the organization's business in keeping with
your own interests and beliefs?
Is the company growing or downsizing?
Is the company growing faster than its competitors?
Is its financial position healthy?
How will the size of the organization affect
you? Is it too large and rigidly structured for your personality or too
small to offer room for advancement?
Is the atmosphere comfortable, challenging
and exciting? Is the physical setting acceptable?
Where is the job located? If you relocate,
will you like the lifestyle the company's location offers?
(2) Nature of the work. Even if everything else about
the job is good, you will be unhappy if you dislike the day-to-day work.
The more you find out about the work you will be doing, the more likely
you are to make the right choice.
What is the firm's reputation for fair treatment
of employees? Is there a high retention rate of employees, or do they have
a problem with attrition?
Ask yourself questions like the following:
Does the work match your interests and make good
use of your skills? Does it fit into your long- and short-term career goals?
Will it provide the training and experience necessary
for promotion to positions compatible with your goals?
How important is the job in this company?
Are you comfortable with the supervisor? Do
you think you can work well for and with this person?
Do the other employees seem friendly and cooperative?
Is teamwork encouraged or individual accomplishment
Does the work require travel? Must you work
(3) Opportunities. Whether or not a job will help
your career progress is ultimately a much more important question than
what your starting salary will be. A good job offers you opportunities
to grow and move up. It gives you chances to learn new skills, increase
your earnings and rise to positions of greater authority, responsibility,
and prestige. In some organizations you may be given a lot of responsibility
right away, but then find your upward progress blocked. Make sure you know
if there are opportunities for advancement. Factors to consider:
How long do most people who enter this job
stay with the company?
(4) Salary. To know if an offer is reasonable, you
need a rough estimate of what the job should pay. Most jobs have a salary
range. Employers prefer to hire people at or below the midpoint
of the range to allow room for raises in the future and to protect the
company's internal salary structure. It is important to be aware of current
salary ranges for positions you are seeking. You will have
to do some research to come up with this information. A variety of resources
are available to help you. Start with your career office. It receives numerous
published salary reports, and can provide you with information
on offers made to their students. The National Association of Colleges
and Employers (formerly the College Placement Council) publishes a starting
salary survey report. It is available from most college career offices.
It classifies starting salaries by major, degree level, industry, job function,
and several other categories. Other sources include alumni, company employees,
trade and professional associations, state employment office, people who
hold similar jobs in other organizations, the U. S. Department of Labor,
and the company. Use these data to come up with a base salary for
yourself, the top being the best you can hope to get and the bottom being
the least you will accept. Some questions to consider:
What valuable new skills does the company plan
to teach you?
What is the next step on the career ladder?
Does this job give you exposure to other opportunities
in your field?
How long must you work before you are given
How often will you receive a performance review?
What are the policies regarding promotions?
How are individual salary increases
(5) Benefits. Don't think of your salary as
the only compensation you will receive - consider benefits. Benefits can
add a lot to your base pay. Make sure you consider all benefits the company
has to offer, not just salary. Health insurance and pension
plans are among the most important benefits. Other common benefits include
life insurance, paid vacations and holidays, and sick leave. Find out before
you accept the job offer what the benefit package includes and how much
of the costs you must bear. Some questions to consider:
Is the salary competitive? (Does it pay the
market rate or more?)
Will it cover the cost of living in that area?
Do you clearly understand the method of payment
- salary, hourly wage; commission, wage and tips, by the piece, fee?
How often are salaries reviewed?
Are raises based on merit, length of
service, formal exams?
How much can you expect to earn after one,
two or three years?
Are any of these items part of the benefit package?
1. Insurance: health dental, life
2. Time off: vacation days, holidays, sick leave,
3. Retirement plan. Do you have to pay a share?
4. Relocation allowance
5. Tuition reimbursement
6. Travel expenses
8. Profit sharing or stock purchase program
As you can see from the above discussion, when
you evaluate a job offer, you have many things to consider. Now you will
be able to weigh the advantages of a job that is more compatible with your
interests and skills against a job that offers a higher salary and more
promising advancement opportunities. You will also be able to weigh the
advantages of a job that offers better benefits against a job that is much
closer to your home.
After you have carefully evaluated your offer(s)
and made your decision, you should immediately notify the employer.
If accepting the offer, write the employer of
this decision, reaffirming specific details about salary, starting date
and other arrangements. You have not officially accepted the position until
the employer receives your letter.
Likewise, if you are rejecting an offer, write
the employer and briefly state the reason for your decision. Be courteous
in expressing your appreciation for their interest. You want to maintain
positive relationships with all employers, leaving the door open for the
Remember, in making your decision, the most important
factors in evaluating a job offer are the company, your new boss, the nature
of the work, the opportunities, the salary, and benefits.
View the position you accept as a first step towards
attaining your long-range career goals. By making a good decision now,
you can make your first position a springboard to achieving your goals.
Henrietta Duncan is associate director of the
Career Services Office at Howard University.
Duncan, Henrietta, How to evaluate a job offer..,
Vol. 26, The Black Collegian, 02-01-1996, pp 124(4).