How to Evaluate a Job Offer

Don't make a hasty decision you'll regret

Young professional accepting business card at job fair.
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Steve Debenport / Getty Images 

When you receive a job offer, it's important to take the time to evaluate it carefully, so you are making an educated decision to accept or reject the offer. The last thing you want to do is to make a hasty decision that you will regret later on.

What's the best way to decide whether to take a job offer? It's important to consider more than your paycheck. When reviewing a job offer, consider the entire package, including job content, salary, benefits, hours, flexibility, management and company culture, pension plans, and the work environment. If you're reviewing multiple offers and trying to decide which one to take, evaluate them both and compare to see which comes out ahead.

Be sure that the company meets the criteria for what you would consider an ideal employer, or at least comes close. Take into account what job would be perfect for the next phase of your career.

There may be warning signs that indicate the job could be a nightmare. Weigh the pros and cons and take some time to mull over the offer. There may be very good reasons to turn the job down. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the employer for some time to think it over, if you're not sure.

Here are five things to think about before you say "yes" to a job offer:

Money Matters

Money isn't the only consideration, but it is an important one. Is the offer what you expected? If not, is it a salary you can accept without feeling insulted? Will you be able to pay your bills? If your answer is no, then don't accept the offer, at least right away.

Make sure that you are getting paid what you're worth and you are happy with the compensation. Nobody wants to be in a position where they realize that the salary isn't enough after they have accepted the job offer. If the compensation package isn't what you expected, consider negotiating your salary with your future employer.

Benefits and Perks

In addition to salary, review the benefits and perks offered. Sometimes the benefits package can be as important as what you get in your paycheck. If you're not sure about the benefits that are offered, ask for additional information or clarification.

Find out details on health and life insurance coverage, vacation, sick time, disability, and other benefit programs, such as retirement plans. Inquire about how much of the benefit costs are provided by the company, in full, and how much you are expected to contribute. If there are a variety of options available, request copies of the plan descriptions so you can compare benefits packages.

Hours and Travel

Before accepting a job, be sure that you are clear on the hours and schedule you need to work. Also, confirm what, if any, travel is involved.

If the position requires 45 or 50 hours of work a week and you're used to working 35 hours, consider whether you will have difficulty committing to the schedule. If the nature of the job requires that you will need to be on the road three days a week, be sure that you can commit to that, as well.

Also, consider travel time to and from work. Is the commute going to take an extra hour or will there be parking fees you're not paying now?

Flexibility and Company Culture

Many of us with small children or elderly parents, or other personal considerations, need flexibility in our schedules. To some of us, the ability to work a schedule that isn't a typical 40-hours-in-the-office work week is important.

It is also important to feel comfortable in the environment that you are going to be working in. One candidate for a customer service job realized that there was no way she could accept it, despite the decent salary, when she was told she had to ask permission to use the restroom. Ask if you can spend some time in the office, talking to potential co-workers and supervisors, if you're not sure that the work environment and culture are a good fit.

Your Personal Circumstances

Everyone has a different set of personal circumstances. What might be the perfect job for you could be an awful job for someone else. On the other hand, if you need a paycheck right away it could make sense to accept a position that isn't your first choice.

Take the time to review the pros and cons. Making a list is always helpful. Also, listen to your gut; if it's telling you not to take the job, there just might be something there. Keep in mind that if this isn't the right job for you, it's not the end of the world. The next offer might just be that perfect match.

It's much easier to turn down an offer than it is to leave a job that you have already started. The employer would prefer that you decline, rather than having to start over the hiring process a couple of weeks down the road if you don't work out.

So, do take the time to thoroughly evaluate the offer. Take the time you need to make an educated, informed decision so you feel as sure as possible that you, and the company, have made an excellent match.

Job Offer Evaluation Checklist

Review this checklist to ensure that you weigh all the options prior to making a decision to accept a position.

  • Salary (base salary, commission, bonuses, projected salary increases): You may be thrilled to get a job offer, but seriously consider the compensation before accepting. You'll need to be satisfied with the salary for at least a year, as you won't get a raise before then. Come armed to negotiate the offer, based on your research of market rates rather than a pie-in-the-sky number you'd like to get.
  • Benefits and perks (vacation, sick time, health insurance, life insurance, 401k, pension plans, stock options): Evaluate the company's benefits and perks in addition to salary, because a good package can make up for a lesser salary if you're saving substantial money on health care and have a large amount of vacation time, a company-provided car or a flexible schedule. On the flip side, consider how much a poor benefits package can cost you; paying a lot out-of-pocket for high premiums, deductibles and co-pays can take a big chunk out of your salary.
  • Hidden costs: Is there company-provided daycare on site or will you need to pay childcare for your own? What will your commute be like? Do you need to buy more professional or expensive clothes? Do you get a corporate account for meeting clients or will you need to network with them on your own dime? What initially seems like a salary increase may cause your take-home pay to take a tumble if you have other expenses you didn't count on.
  • Work environment: Do you know exactly how you'll spend your time on a day-to-day basis? Don't get distracted looking at the trappings of salary and benefits only to lose touch with the fact that the job may not match what you actually want to be doing. Ask yourself if this job excites you, if you think you'll excel at it, and whether it will advance you on your career path. Is the organization the diverse and inclusive workplace you're seeking? While you might not be in a position to turn down a job, thinking clearly about these questions will let you know what to expect. 
  • Pros and cons: Make a list of the pros and cons of your current position (if you have one) and the job offer you are considering. Which one comes out ahead? If one outweighs the other, your decision making will be easier. If you're adding another offer to the mix, list its pros and cons as well. 
  • Your inner voice: What does your gut tell you? Do you feel ready to show up bright and early on Monday or do you have a queasy sense that this may not be the right job for you? Listen to your inner voice. Our instincts are usually right, even if we can't come up with a concrete, rational explanation for them.

    Job Offer Acceptance and Rejection Letters

    Whether you are accepting or rejecting, a job offer, it's a good idea to let the company know your decision in writing. In both cases, be polite, brief and to the point. Here are sample letters to review: