How to Decide Between Two Job Offers

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Are you weighing two job offers? If so, you probably feel pretty lucky. The Great Recession may be far in the rear-view mirror, but it’s still uncommon to have two really solid job offers on the table at the same time.

But just because you’re happy to have those offers, doesn’t mean that the situation is without its stressful aspects. If you’re reading this article, chances are that the two potential jobs have enough plusses to appear fairly equal in value. That makes it hard to choose between them—after all, once you take one, you’re probably going to miss out on the other.

How to Decide Which Job to Take

If you’re weighing two job offers, what you need is a good, old-fashioned list. On a piece of paper (or a spreadsheet, or a word-processing document), make two columns, one for each employer. Under each column, make an entry for each of these factors:  


The best things in life may be free, but it’s hard to concentrate on them when you’re worried about keeping the lights on. By the time you have a job offer in hand, you should know exactly how much each organization will be paying you. Add each salary offer to your list.

Of course, before you even get to this stage, ideally you’ll have done your financial homework. That means making a personal budget, to make sure that any salary offer will allow you to meet your expenses. You’ll never mention this to the hiring manager, of course: salary negotiations are about what the market will bear for your services, not about how much money you need to live your life.

Which brings us to the next part of your financial homework: determining a fair market value for your labor. PayScale’s Salary Survey generates a free report with an appropriate range based on your education, experience, and skills.

Bonuses, Incentives, Stock Options

Some employers offer other cash compensation, in addition to salary. Bonuses and incentives are intended to motivate workers to hit their goals. Stock options allow employees to buy a certain number of shares of company stock, generally after a period of vesting.

Bonuses and the like are not guaranteed, so unless market conditions are very favorable and you have a great deal of faith in your abilities, you might opt for a bigger salary instead of a bigger bonus. Stock options are arguably less certain; if your company is a startup, for example, there’s no guarantee that it will survive, much less go public.

Standard Benefits

Benefits like health insurance, dental and vision, and retirement plans make up a not-insignificant portion of an employee’s compensation. Many companies issue total compensation statements to make this fact transparent to employees (or prospective employees).

Even if this employer doesn’t offer a breakdown of benefits, you can estimate their real-world value to you by looking at your employee contribution each month, and at the benefits offered. Would you be able to keep your doctor on the health insurance plan offered, for example? Does one employer offer dental and vision, while the other doesn’t?

Additional Perks

Many companies offer extra perks, in addition to the standard benefits package. These might include museum passes, tickets to games for the local sports franchise, occasional or full-time telecommuting privileges, and educational benefits like tuition reimbursement or online classes. Sometimes, these perks can even be negotiable. You never know until you ask.

Corporate Culture

We spend most of our waking hours at work, so it makes sense that we’d like to spend those hours someplace where we’re comfortable. A “good” corporate culture looks different for every worker. Some might love an open office and a lot of camaraderie, while others prefer cubicle walls and a more sedate atmosphere. The only wrong answer is to choose a place that’s a bad fit for you.

What Does Your Gut Say?

Now you have your list, but you’re not done yet. The final consideration is one that you can’t put on a spreadsheet: your gut feeling about each job and employer.

That’s not to say that you should make your decision solely with your heart, and forget factors like compensation and work-life balance. But neither should you ignore your gut. It might be telling you something.

Finally, once you’ve made your decision, remember that jobs change and careers grow. If you do choose one job and discover that it’s not the best fit, you still have options. The other job opening might still be open, or you could ask about going back to your old job—or you could stick it out at this opportunity, gain some skills, and move on to a better position than you’ve ever had before.

The bottom line is to keep thinking about the future, building your CV and connections, and thinking about the next turn on the path.