How to Decide to Accept a Job Offer

by Ellen Mehling, Career Development Consultant, METRO


We recently discussed how to decide to leave your current job. At some point in your career, you’ll find yourself facing the opposite decision, too, perhaps because you decided to leave a former position: whether or not to accept a job offer. Some of the same factors should be taken into consideration as when you’re deciding to resign, but there are additional components to consider, too.

20150505_How_to_Decide_to_Accept_a_Job_Offer.jpgFirst, be really honest with yourself throughout your decision-making, and make sure your choice comes from your own needs and preferences and not anyone else’s.

You can consult others and seek their advice (in fact, that is recommended), but remember that your advisors won’t be suffering the consequences if you make the wrong decision. While it is best to avoid making big decisions in a hurry, in most cases you will only have a couple of days or maybe a week from the initial offer, through negotiations, and to a “yes” or “no” from you to the employer.

Even if the offer sounds at first like it is just what you want, always ask for a few days to think it over, and then use that time to examine every aspect of the offer. Don’t say “yes” just because of a salary that makes you smile or because you have been unemployed or underemployed and at last you’ve been offered the full-time position you have wanted for a while.

Some things to consider:

  • Is the job description clear? Is it what you want to do, what you enjoy doing, and what you are good at? When you think of where you want to be in five years, or ten years, is this job keeping you on the road to that goal?

  • Is the employer stable? Do they have a high turnover and/or have they had layoffs in the recent past? Use your network and research skills to find out everything you can.

  • What is the employer’s reputation? Is it new and mostly unknown? Established and respected? Or something in between?
  • What will your hours be and what is the flexibility of the work schedule? Is working from home an option, occasionally or regularly?

  • Are there opportunities for advancement? (You’ll want real examples from the employer of promotions from within, not just a “Yes, there are opportunities” answer to that question.)

  • Why did the last person to hold that position leave?

  • Does the employer encourage and support professional development with time off and expenses reimbursed?

  • Do you feel there will be a good cultural fit for you at that workplace? Things to consider here include the degree of autonomy you’ll have, work/life balance, and how much socializing during and after the workday is expected.

  • What is the physical workspace like? What are your preferences in that regard? Will you have your own office or cubicle? Is it an open-plan setting? Is it very quiet, or very noisy? If it is generally noisy, are there quiet spaces you can go to if necessary?

  • How is success measured and rewarded? How often are formal evaluations done?

  • Do you feel you have rapport and compatibility with your potential boss?

  • What are the benefits and perks? Have they been given to you in writing? This includes things like medical insurance, annual leave, and other time off (and how they increase over time), discounted memberships at a gym, transit programs, etc. Consider, too, how important each of these things are to you right now or are likely to be in the future.

  • What will the commute be like, in terms of time, difficulty, and cost? If you’ll be driving to and from work, what are the parking options and cost?

  • What are the options for lunch or other meals? Is there a cafeteria on site, and/or places nearby to purchase food, or would you have to bring your own every day? Is the time you can take for lunch limited or flexible? Are people expected to eat lunch at their desks or during meetings, occasionally or regularly or every day?

Salary is, of course, a major part of this decision. When negotiating, it is best not to be the first one to give a number. But if you must, give a range rather than one figure. Take care, though, that the minimum you give is one that you are really comfortable with. When you give a range, you will naturally be hoping to get a salary closer to the higher end of the range, while the employer will be more focused on the lower edge. (If you come to realize that you talked yourself into a salary that is significantly lower than you really wanted, or you accept a job with good pay and then find that it is otherwise a bad fit, you’ll be unhappy, your boss may be unhappy too, and you may find yourself job hunting again in the near future.)

Another thing to consider regarding salary is the division of your salary by the actual hours are that you’ll be working. If you are functionally on call 24/7, checking and responding to messages all the time including late nights, weekends, and days off, or attending to your employer’s social media constantly, for example, that salary that looked so good on paper may break down to very little when divided into an hourly wage. A situation like that can leave you frazzled, exhausted, and resentful.

Finally, after you’ve considered every facet of the offer and talked it over with friends, family, and mentors, ask yourself what your gut is telling you. Are you excited at the offer and the prospect of working at this new place, or are you wary? Thrilled or hesitant? Do you feel fortunate or do you find yourself almost wishing the offer hadn’t been made? For a major decision like this, you want to use both your logic and your intuition to make the choice that is right for you.