You wrote a great cover letter, you wowed them in the interview, and now you have a job offer—congratulations! But, in your excitement about getting an offer, take care you don't say yes until you've done the following five things:
1. Ask for the offer in writing. Always, always, always get every detail of a job offer in writing, if you want those details to be respected. Otherwise, you have little recourse if you start the job and notice that the insurance premium that they told you would be covered actually isn't, or that the relocation stipend they mentioned suddenly shrinks. (Even just an E-mail outlining what's been agreed to is fine. Or you can send your own summary, asking them to write back with confirmation. Just get it in writing on both sides.)
2. Ask any outstanding questions you have in your head. If you don't feel like you have a good understanding of the manager, the culture, or the expectations of the job, now is the time to ask. You don't want to learn two weeks into the job that the manager believes fear is the way to motivate people, or that the office culture is very formal, when you like cultures that are more casual.
3. Negotiate. Unless you've already talked about salary earlier on and indicated you'd be happy with what what's now being offered, it's always worth it to try to negotiate for a bit more money at this stage. I've hired many people who never even tried to negotiate salary, when I had it in my budget to give to them if only they'd asked for it.
4. Ask for time to think it over if you're not 100 percent sure. Any reasonable company will give you a few days or a week to think it over. And if they balk at even a few days, that's a huge red flag.
5. Listen to your gut. Unless your gut often steers you wrong, you should listen if it's setting off alarm bells. If something doesn't feel right, or you experience inexplicable dread when you imagine yourself in the job, pay attention. Your subconscious is probably picking up on danger signs.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.