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 responding.

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:

(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.

Ask yourself questions like the following:

(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: (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:
  (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:

Are any of these items part of the benefit package?

1. Insurance: health dental, life

2. Time off: vacation days, holidays, sick leave, family leave

3. Retirement plan. Do you have to pay a share?

4. Relocation allowance

5. Tuition reimbursement

6. Travel expenses

7. Commission

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 future.

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).