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How to Evaluate a Job Offer

Part 1: Salary, Office Environment, and Corporate Culture

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You've spent the last few months answering help wanted ads, visiting recruiters, and networking. You've sent out your resumes and gone on a bunch of interviews. And now the moment you've been waiting for is here. It's your turn now. You have some job offers to consider. During those long days pounding the pavement, you didn't think making a decision would be this difficult. But this is serious business. The job you take now may be yours for a long time to come.

What's the most important thing to consider? Is it salary, health benefits, or vacation time? Or could it be the corporate culture or the length or your commute? What about your boss and co-workers -- will working with them be pleasant? As you can see there are a number of factors to take into account and only some are negotiable. You can try to get a higher salary or more vacation time. However, health benefits are often standard packages. The corporate culture isn't going to change for you, and your boss and co-workers aren't going anywhere.

Each of us, of course, is different. And what carries a lot of weight for some of us is insignificant to the rest of us. A great example of this is a survey I conducted on the Career Planning site. I asked the question: "What gives you the most job satisfaction?" Given three answers to choose from, 20% chose "Respect from my boss," 17% said "The amount of money I make," and 62% said "I love what I do." As you can see, while the majority responding to the survey felt that loving what they do is the most important thing, there are those whose opinions differed.

Evaluating the Offer

Salary
Even if money isn't what gives you the most job satisfaction, no one can argue its importance. You need a certain amount of money to pay the bills, for example. Most of us also want to make sure we are being paid what we're worth and what is the going rate for jobs similar to ours. It's important to find out what others are making for related work in the same industry, and in the same geographic region. You can start gathering this information by looking at salary surveys and other occupational information. And don't forget, if other aspects of the job appeal to you, you can try to negotiate the offer.

Office Environment
Every office has a different feel to it. Some feel kind of "dark pin-striped suit" while others feel a little more relaxed. Years ago I interviewed for an internship in a public relations firm. From the second I set foot in the office I knew I wanted to work there. There was a big bubble gum machine in the corner and colorful pictures hung on the walls. A few years later I interviewed for a job at a large investment bank. The office was the complete opposite of the one I just described. I was interviewed in a formally decorated conference room and given a tour of the department I'd be working in. It was brightly lit, yet furnished in dull colors. I was offered and accepted both positions and loved both jobs. As you can see, you can be happy in two totally different environments. You just need to know which environment you'd be unhappy in.

Corporate Culture
Defined by Merriam-Webster as "the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes a company or corporation," corporate culture should be an important factor in your decision whether to accept a job offer. If you value your time away from the office, a company with a corporate culture that encourages late hours may not be for you. Is the potential employer's philosophy "win at all costs?" Is your philosophy "always play clean?" This company isn't for you. Are you an ardent proponent for animal rights? Through your research you learn that one of the company's subsidiaries does animal testing. Although this won't affect the day-to-day activities of your job, it may not be a situation in which you'll feel comfortable.

Next: Part 2: Other Things to Consider and How to Accept or Decline an Offer

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