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Evaluating an Offer of Employment

Three critical questions to answer

By Virginia Lacy

There are three critical questions you should address during your evaluation:

  • How closely does the offer match your career goal?
    Think back to when you started your job search. What was important to you? What factors regarding a job, organization and work environment were on your "wish list?" Have they changed? How well does this position fit these factors? Below are some factors you may want to consider in evaluating your offer. Some of these may not be important to you, and there may be other factors not listed which are extremely important to your decision.
  • Do you need additional information about the offer (or anything) in order to make a decision?
    It is not unusual to discover, as you're weighing different factors about the offer, that you have additional questions, lack some factual data, or simply need a better sense of what the job and organization are like. If this is the case, STOP! Don't go any further in your deliberations until you address these issues. You may need to call one of your interviewers and ask additional questions, or contact an alum who works for the organization. If you need a better understanding of what it would be like during a day on the job, call the employer (if they are local) and ask to spend an afternoon observing an entry-level employee in the job you're considering. Most employers will be willing to accommodate you. If you have other questions or concerns which impact your decision, you should discuss them with a representative from our office.
  • Are there issues you may want to negotiate, which would bring the offer closer to your goal?
    Perhaps the issues which concern you about the offer can be changed. If the job seems ideal except for location, then you might want to raise the issue with the employer. Some start dates are non-negotiable because training classes must begin together. In some instances, however, the start date can be adjusted.

Things to Remember:

  • Don't feel pressured to accept an offer immediately.
  • Evaluate the non-financial aspects of a package. It's important to consider things like "the size of the company, work environment, dress code, and the experience you stand to gain," especially when you're looking at cash-poor startups or industries where entry-level salaries are traditionally low. Would you give up a little money if you could wear jeans to work and start your days at 10 a.m.?
  • When dealing with startup companies, sometimes employee stock options are the ultimate compensation. Would you be willing to work hard hours for lower pay if it meant that in 2 or three years you could literally be a millionaire?
  • If you feel you absolutely can't live on the salary an employer is offering, offer to temp for the company—once you prove yourself, you could get a more acceptable offer.

Major Factors for Consideration:

  • Nature of the work
  • Organizational culture
  • Level of autonomy
  • Travel
  • Salary
  • Mentoring
  • Lifestyles of employees
  • Stability of organization
  • Quality of higher management
  • Opportunities to learn and grow in job/company
  • Support for continuing education
  • Transferability of skills/experience from job
  • Location
  • Prestige of job or organization
  • Level of responsibility
  • Work hours
  • Benefits
  • Variety of work
  • Stability of industry
  • Advancement opportunities
  • Training and development opportunities

After You Make Your Decision:

  • Once you have reached a conclusion with which you are both relatively comfortable, present in writing your interpretation of the agreement.
  • If the employer chooses not to grant any of your requests—and realistically, they can do that—you will still have the option of accepting the original offer provided you have maintained a positive, productive and friendly atmosphere during your exchanges.
  • You can always re-enter negotiations after you have demonstrated your worth to the organization.
  • Companies that are firm on salary often also have schedules for pay increases.j

"Three questions" and "Factors to Consider" were written by Virginia Lacy. Adapted with permission from Northwestern University's Career Services Guide; 1998 Virginia Lacy.

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