After a long and arduous job search, you’ve finally received an offer. Congratulations! While your first impulse may be to immediately accept the job (we all know the feeling of never wanting to write another cover letter again!), wait for a second. Is this job really the perfect fit for you?
“The number one misstep I see clients take is the failure to step back, take a breath, and meaningfully assess a job offer,” says Karen Elizaga, executive coach and author of Find Your Sweet Spot to Glassdoor. “They are almost inclined to jump immediately at an offer.”
This guide was designed to walk you through meaningfully assessing the job offer you’ve received. We’ll take you through what questions should you be asking yourself about the job, how to do in-depth research on the job offer, and finally, how to negotiate your way to an offer you feel satisfied with.
What is a job offer?
After submitting your resume, cover letter, and coming in for interviews, you’ve finally been offered a job. You’ll probably have a chat with the hiring manager or recruiter, have an offer letter sent to you, and be able to take a look at the contract. But this doesn’t mean the terms of the offer are final yet. It’s now up to you to carefully evaluate the information you’ve been given, decide if it’s right for you, and negotiate your way to an optimal offer.
How to ask the right questions
During the job search process, you only have so much time to thoroughly research every company. Now that the real possibility of working somewhere is on the table, it’s time to take a thorough dive into assessing if it’s a good fit. This starts with asking yourself the big questions about whether the job is truly right for you.
“I have seen clients take a job where the fit—in the context of their skills and talents with the job—was excellent. But in the end, these jobs didn’t work out because the company’s culture did not jive with their own moral compass,” Elizaga says.
Questions you might consider include: Are the day-to-day responsibilities of the job waking up excited every morning to do? Does the company itself have a strong future, or has it been performing poorly in recent years? During my interview and visit to the company, did I feel like the company’s atmosphere and culture were conducive to my style? What will my opportunities for growth in this role be? Am I okay with the length of commute and expected working hours each week?
You might also find that during the course of asking yourself these questions, you don’t have enough information to answer some of them. These are the questions that you should reach out to the company, or do your own independent research on, to clarify.
Beyond these detailed questions, it’s important to just check in with yourself and feel what your gut is telling you about the job. “While data is important, you also want to trust your gut,” said Mikaela Kiner, an executive career coach and CEO of uniquelyHR, to Glassdoor.
“During your interviews, were you hopeful things would work out? Or, would you have been relieved if they chose someone else? Don’t dismiss concerns, even if they were just fleeting thoughts,” she added.
How to do your research
Now that you have a clearer picture of what’s important to you in the job hunt – and where you still need information – it’s time to do some digging. Here are some avenues of research that will help you get the information you need to make an informed decision:
- Scour the contract and offer letter
The first place you want to get information from is the contract and/or the offer letter. These can give you highly important details like whether there’s a minimum amount of time you must stay at the job, how far in advance you need to notify the company before quitting, and how many days of vacation and sick leave you’ll get each year.
- Speak to people at the company
If there are any points you can’t determine from your independent research, the company itself is the next place to start. Often, the company will be more than happy (and even encourage you) to arrange for you to speak with current employees. This call is an opportunity for you to get a sense of the company’s culture, and if what you saw in the job description actually matches reality. When the job description said 40-hour workweek, is that really true, or will you often be expected to stay late? How are meetings run at the company? Are there annual performance reviews? Does the company’s upper management regularly interact with employees? Ask the right questions, and you’ll receive a wealth of important information about culture and fit.
- Read online reviews
After your conversation with one person at the company, they might have you either convinced it’s a sparkling utopia, or that you should be running away from the company at top speed. Every person has their own unique experience in a workplace. That’s why it can be so helpful to gain a broader perspective by reading online reviews of employees’ experiences, like through Glassdoor’s company reviews.
- Check the benefits
While the salary might not be exactly your target, it’s important to evaluate it in the context of the benefits offered. “It may be that the salary is $5,000 lower than you had hoped for, but the full package being offered counterbalances it,” said Carisa Miklusak, CEO of tilr, an automated recruiting platform, to Glassdoor. “What does the total package contribute to your personal and financial needs? Sometimes, a job that at first glance looks like it’s paying less can actually provide more financial security than a job with a higher salary.” Also keep in mind the benefits and perks that aren’t written in the offer letter or contract, but are available to every employee. Take Uline for example, whose corporate headquarters has a salon, a 24-hour fitness center, walking trails, ponds, a mother’s room for women nursing – just to name a few of the benefits. Or consider Power Home Remodeling, which spends millions of dollars to bring its entire staff to Mexico each year. Check the company’s website and Glassdoor benefits – the extra perks might just make the job worth it.
- Calculate whether the salary matches what you should be paid for your level of experience and education.
As a starting point for your salary negotiations, it’s important to frame what your target is. A helpful tool for this is Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth™ tool, which calculates the salary you should reasonably expect in today’s active U.S. job market based on your experience and other personal details. For many companies, you can also find on Glassdoor the salary range of people in the same position at that company.
How to determine your non-negotiables
Now that you’ve done your research (and your research hasn’t deterred you yet from taking the job!) you have a solid foundation to go into negotiations with. What’s left? Prioritizing what you can compromise on, and what’s a deal-breaker.
For all the criteria you’ve identified as valuable to you during your questioning and research process – such as salary, commute length, ability to work from home, or opportunities for international travel – make a list of them in varying order of importance. Are there any you simply can’t do without? Are there some you’re willing to compromise on? If so, how much are you willing to compromise? This exercise will help you set the bottom line for your negotiations, and delve deeper into whether this position is really a good fit for your career goals.
Even better, you can proactively start this list before you even start the job search. “I recommend my clients make a list of what they are looking for even before they begin searching for a job,” said Amy M. Gardner, Certified Professional Coach with Apochromatik, to Glassdoor. “If you’ve done that, go back to the list you created and evaluate the offer against the factors you initially listed.”
How to negotiate the final terms of the offer
You’ve done your research and determined your priorities. It’s time to step into the negotiation process. It’s possible that you’ll conduct the negotiation in person or over the phone, or that you’ll simply write out negotiation points via an email. So how to negotiate? Here are four easy steps to negotiate your final offer based on Glassdoor’s How to Get a Job toolkit.
- Do your research. Back up whatever you’re asking for – usually it’s a higher salary, but it could also be a better benefits package – with solid facts and statistics. Glassdoor’s Know Your Worth tool can also help you ground your salary ask in an appropriate range.
- Know what’s on the table. Keep in mind the entire benefits package in your negotiation (as well as enticing perks the company offers to everyone) and remember that you can negotiate benefits, too.
- Ask, don’t demand. Remember that the company does want you – they offered you the job, after all – so you have the cards stacked in your favor. Use language that shows you’re on the same team as the hiring manager to start off negotiations, like “can we talk about which benefits are negotiable?” and “what are the prospects for salary raises and promotions in this position?”
- Know your breaking point. Think back to the list of priorities you made. Be aware that it’s unlikely you get everything you ask for in a negotiation. At the same time, if the highest salary and benefits package that they can give you is still below your target, it might be time to walk away.
Once you’ve gotten your final offer from the company, you make a final assessment of whether it meets your criteria and priorities. If it doesn’t, at least you’ll now have a clearer sense of what you’re really looking for in your job hunt. If it does, congratulations! You got the job and the salary that you wanted.
Now that we’ve distilled the basic steps you need to take to assess any offer, and how to begin a negotiation with a potential employer, you should be set to go. If you'd like to learn more about how to negotiate like a pro, check out these additional resources: