How to Evaluate a Job Offer

If you've been interviewing for a while, a job offer can be exciting. So exciting that you're tempted to accept it right on the phone.

Please resist. Buy a little time by telling the caller you're very flattered and you'll look forward to seeing the written offer. You'll have a lot to think about, particularly if you have a job now that you don't especially mind. Once you leave, you've lost the security and friendships and health plan and cafeteria and extra vacation time and respect that you have now. If you stay, you can always leave the next time something comes along.

Even if you're not working now, it's dangerous to accept the first thing that comes along. If it turns out to be the job from hell and you have to storm out, pouring grapefruit juice over the president's keyboard on the way out, you've not only wasted time but possibly acquired a hole in your resume.

Here are some red flags to watch for.

They want you right away
Pressure to start immediately is often inversely proportional to eventual job satisfaction. It makes sense if you think about why they're in such a hurry. Was someone fired? You'd probably have to be desperate to take a job where your predecessor was fired, but presumably you discussed that in your interview. Did someone suddenly leave? Is there an enormous backlog of work that you'll have to clean up? If they respect you, they'll respect your wish to take time to decide and to give your present employer adequate notice if you do.

Dislike for a Coworker
Maybe you interviewed with five people and loved four of them. Sure, Number Five could leave. But Number Five could also wind up being your boss after the next reorganization. Don't forget that there's a reason why Number Five was included in the interview process.

Oddball Pay Packages
Some industries regularly pay employees low base salaries and large bonuses. If yours isn't one of them, be wary of any offer where your base salary is less than what you want. If you've been promised a bonus for completing a project by a certain date, your boss may delay its completion. As for stock options, which were popular in the late, lamented dotcom days, think of them as lottery tickets. Try to get lots of them, but don't count them as income.

Inferior Benefits
Don't accept a job until you've read the health plan prospectus thoroughly. If you're uneasy with it, don't let "Everyone likes it" influence you. All plans are not created equal, even all plans from the same provider. If you think you can get better insurance through COBRA or on your own, ask to be reimbursed for the cost. If you're going from an organization that offered disability insurance or dental insurance to one that doesn't, make sure you can get these benefits on your own and see that their cost is added to your compensation. The same goes for 401(k) plans to which your present employer contributes. You can't expect a company to change its benefits plan for you, but unwillingness to negotiate alternatives should be a dealbreaker.

Vacation and Sick Pay
As a new employee, you may be offered less paid time off than you have now as a veteran. Don't you hate when that happens? Well, it's extremely negotiable-and if they won't move, maybe you shouldn't either. In particular, don't accept any rule that says you can't take vacation until you've been there six months or more. Tell them if you're planning a vacation in March or if you always ski or visit parents in February. If they can't accommodate that, maybe they don't have enough respect for you.

Restrictive Agreements
A company that makes you sign a noncompetition agreement, in which you promise not to work for a competitor for a year or two after you leave, is a worried company. Don't sign unless you're comfortable doing so. If you do, make sure the agreement doesn't hold if you're laid off. They always tell you they never enforce those agreements, prompting the question, "Then why do I have to sign one?"

Little Things
Do you like the new neighborhood? Is the commute as easy as your present one? Do you like the office you'll be in? You did ask to see it at the interview, didn't you? These issues may sound trivial now; but on days when you hate the job and wonder why you took it, they'll seem enormous. If you find you're concerned about little things, your better judgment is trying to tell you something: Just say no.

Follow your gut. Take your time. You're at an advantage after you have an offer, because the employer can't retract it easily but you can take it or leave it. It may be the best job on Earth on paper, and your friends may all be telling you it's perfect for you. But if you have a sinking feeling when you think about it, don't do it. There's no such thing as an offer you can't refuse.

Article provided by Homesteader

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