Finding a new job can be hard work. Candidates live and breathe the deliberate grind of a job search. It can often take months of research, networking and self-marketing activities to find the right opportunity. Then comes the actual hiring cycle. This will take an average of nearly 43 days, according to an Accounting Principals-Google Consumer Survey of professionals across industries. That’s almost two full weeks longer than job-seekers think the process should take.
WHEN THE OFFER COMES IN
Let’s say you’ve successfully made it through the preliminaries. At that stage, a legitimate new job offer often brings a huge sense of relief — and sometimes a rush to acceptance.
But there’s good reason to take a measured approach before the final handshake. Consider a survey of over 1,000 U.S. employees that found 31 percent had quit a job within its first six months.
“Step back and think expansively about your objectives,” advises Jeff Weiss, author of the HBR Guide to Negotiating. “Think about the offer in terms of your development, your quality of life and the variety of the work you want to do.”
BEFORE SIGNING ON
Here are six areas you should examine closely when weighing a pending job offer:
1) Salary and benefits. On average, workers earn a 5.2 percent pay raise when making a job transition. To get a more refined salary estimate for your new job title, factor in your prospective employer’s location and company size by using this handy online calculator. Ask how often you’ll receive salary and performance reviews, and whether you’ll have opportunities to earn bonuses or incentives.
When it comes to benefits, you’ll find a lot of variation from company to company — with the tide steadily shifting toward employees paying a greater portion of health insurance costs than they did in the past. Ask about health, dental and vision coverage, if/when you’ll be eligible and how much you’ll be responsible for paying. While on the topic, inquire about qualifying for and conditions of 401K and stock purchase/award programs.
2) Work environment and schedule. Get a feel for what it’s like to work for the company on a day-to-day basis. Talk to current employees you already know and connect with others available through your LinkedIn network. Find out whether the company runs on a strict 9-to-5 schedule, or if flex-time and telecommuting privileges can be earned. It’s also helpful to know the expectations for being reachable by text, email or phone after hours and on weekends/holidays. Additional items of interest: whether the firm goes with casual or traditional attire and open vs. office-based floor plans.
If the potential new job requires a lengthy or traffic-packed commute, imagine what it will be like during the morning and evening rush and in inclement weather. Take a test drive in those conditions and compare to public transit options to gain perspective on whether it’s doable over the long haul.
3) Company direction. Learn as much as you can about the company’s reputation and standing in its industry, as well as future plans. Online searches should fill in some of this information, particularly financial reports. However, feel free to dig deeper when talking to your point of contact. Executive coach Karen Elizaga suggests asking about innovative projects or technologies that factor into the company’s strategy and how they may impact career roles.
4) Reporting structure. Don’t assume that the interviewing point person will be your boss. Sometimes team members share various steps in the hiring process and split jobs among groups or departments. Expect a formal offer to include a written statement of your job title and reporting relationship.
5) Travel requirements. Proactive career planning calls for full disclosure on the percentage of time you’ll be expected to travel for work. Get a complete understanding on reimbursement policies and potential comp days.
6) Company vibe. When it comes time to respond to an offer, pressure from the interviewing company is never a good sign. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for time to make your decision. “A general rule of thumb is that you can take two to three days for your final response,” says workplace expert Lynn Taylor. Express appreciation for the opportunity, she suggests, and then ask if you may reply on a specific date. Be sure to stay true to your deadline.
PARTNER UP FOR THE BIG DECISION
It’s good practice to step through all the aforementioned aspects of a job offer. Some of the above tips will ultimately matter more to you than others, depending on your circumstances. Let’s face it: Not many people work through their entire career via “perfect” positions at every stop.
Bear in mind that 81 percent of employees report being happier at work when the company makes effective use of their skills and abilities. At decision time, a trusted recruiter can help you drill down on a job offer to find the things you value most. A recruiter can also get you feedback from the hiring company that you might not be able to get on your own.