In this economy, it’s easy to feel like you should jump at any job offer that comes along. But that could land you in a job that makes you miserable or even harms you professionally, so be sure to think it through before accepting.
Here are eight things to do and think about before accepting a job offer:
1. Always get every detail of a job offer in writing. Especially if the offer includes extras like relocation assistance or your new employer’s agreement to give you an additional week of vacation. That covers you in case there’s a misunderstanding later. It also guarantees the agreement will stick even if the person you’re dealing with leaves the company and her replacement doesn’t know anything about the special deal you negotiated.
2. Ask any outstanding questions. Do you have a good grasp on the manager’s style, the culture, and exactly what you’ll be expected to achieve? If not, now is the time to ask.
3. Evaluate the salary. You likely have a salary range in mind, one that’s reasonable and that you’re willing to accept. If the offer is below this range, now is the time to negotiate a higher salary. Make sure you base any negotiation on your research about market rates for this type of job, for someone with your skill set and background in your geographic area—and not on an arbitrary number that you’d just “like to get.”
4. Evaluate the benefits, too. A great benefits package can make up for a lower salary, especially if you’re saving money on health care, allowed to work a flexible schedule, or getting more vacation time than you’d anticipated.
5. Consider the workplace culture. If the office is formal and you go crazy in an uptight environment, or if it’s an aggressive, competitive environment and you’re more low-key, this might not be a comfortable fit for you. You’ll spend a large portion of your waking life at this job, so be honest with yourself about how happy you’ll be there.
6. Look at the big picture. How will this job fit in with your overall career path? Will it move you forward on the path of your choosing, or take you on a detour you might rather avoid? Even if it’s not the path you expected to take, might this job become a stepping stone to a position that excites you? What will be your next logical step when it’s time to leave this job?
7. Listen to your gut. Unless your gut has a history of overreacting, you should listen if it sets off alarm bells. If something doesn’t feel right, whether it’s your interactions with your would-be boss or details about your daily responsibilities, pay attention.
8. Ask for time to think it over. This is especially important if you're not 100 percent sure you want to take the job. A reasonable employer should give you at least a few days to reflect before you make a decision. Tell the boss the time will go toward making certain this job is the right choice for you, not that you're waiting to see whether another offer might come through; the latter could signal you’re not that enthusiastic about the role.
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.