Evaluating a Job Offer Letter: What to Consider Before You Accept Your Next Job

You’ve received a job offer letter. How do you evaluate whether or not it is a good offer? Learn what to look for and how to handle the issues that may come up as you consider your options.

outstretched hand making an offerThe payoff is here! You’ve spent hours, days, weeks and probably even month’s pounding the pavement and seeking out your ideal job. You’ve probably been on multiple interviews and even visited the same companies two or even three times. You’ve sent out dozens of resumes and networked with contacts you didn’t even know you had. And after all that, your diligence, planning and strategy have finally paid off. It’s time to evaluate job offer letter and to do so very carefully.

The next five or even ten years of your life could hinge on this decision. So, take your time. Evaluate it on a number of different levels and make as educated of a decision as possible to ultimately accept or reject the offer. You’ll want to be as sure as possible you don’t make a decision too quickly and end up regretting it later.

When evaluating an offer, there are plenty of clear, concrete and somewhat obvious things to look for in your job offer letter: compensation, benefits, start date, title, who the job reports to, location, etc. All of these should be spelled out clearly. However, before we get into each of those job offer details, don’t forget to think about some more subtle aspects of a job offer and the job offer letter that could potentially be roadblocks to success in the job:

  • Time to Decide:

    If a company isn’t willing to give you ample time to make your decision regarding the job offer letter, consider this a potential red flag. If you’re required to give your answer on the spot or before close of the business day, this is generally a sign of a company unaccustomed to seeing things from the employee’s perspective. This will could potentially translate into how your requests for vacation days, promotion opportunities or other specific things you’re bound to ask for in the future will be considered. If asked to respond immediately, by all means don’t feel intimidated into accepting without giving it careful consideration. You’ve come this far in the process, asking for another 24 hours or so is a completely reasonable request. If they won’t grant it, ask why, and carefully consider their answer.

  • Start Date of Less Than Two Weeks:

    Two weeks’ notice is a professional courtesy widely accepted in business as the appropriate time to give your old employer. The time is critical to ensuring a smooth transition of your responsibilities to someone else. When you give less than two week’s notice after you find a job, be prepared to burn a bridge. Should your new employer ask you to give anything less than two weeks notice, ask yourself if this is the kind of organization you want to work for. It’s quite possible a request like this could translate into a culture where respect for others isn’t exactly at the top of the priority list.

  • At-Will Employment:

    According to Wikipedia, the definition of At Will Employment is “an employment relationship in which either party can break the relationship with no liability, provided there was no express contract for a definite term governing the employment relationship….” In layman’s terms, it means the company can terminate you when they want to and you can quit when you want to. While it may seem a bit scary to quit a job and work for a different company where they can terminate you anytime, it’s actually in your best interest at the end of the day. The last thing you’d want is to find yourself disliking your new job and have no recourse to quit in the short run. Be sure your employment is considered At Will and you’ll be able to call your own shots.

  • Non-Competes:

    If signing a non-compete agreement is a condition of in the job offer letter, you should give it extremely careful consideration. Non-compete agreements essentially dictate that you promise not to work for another company which competes in the same space as the company requesting you sign the agreement. The bottom line is that if you have reservations about signing a non-compete, don’t do it. They are often enforceable for a year or more after you terminate employment and could substantially restrict your ability to find work should the new employer not work out. This could be catastrophic on a number of levels and they should only be signed when the ramifications are clear to you. If uncertain, seek legal advice first!

  • Gut Feeling:

    At the end of the day as you review your job offer letter, consider the overall process you went through, how you were treated and how the company made you feel. If you feel great about the process and you have a sense of respect and appreciation for all you’ve gone through in getting to the job offer letter stage, you’re probably in good shape. But as you look back on the process and find your feelings are unsettled regarding the process and how you were treated throughout, give your gut feeling about these kinds of things extra attention. I can’t tell you how important it is to feel good about the little things and not just the money or title. If you feel good about it, the chances of things working out are high. If you feel unsettled or uncomfortable about the job offer letter and related process you went through to get it, it’s often a sign you’ll be looking for a job again in year. Of course, this isn’t always the case but be sure to at least pay special attention to the often overlooked little things.

Good Luck!

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