It's impossible to compare one job offer to another as apples to apples. Even if they pay the same salary, there are other considerations, like health insurance, vacation time and other benefits. Here's your guide to making sure you accept the right offer for your needs.
First, what's this position worth? While online tools like Salary.com can give you some indication of what a given role pays in your city, keep in mind there are certain factors that sites like this don't take into consideration. You should keep your ear to the ground to find out what companies in your industry are paying.
Also consider your level of experience. Just because the company has a salary range with a $20,000 spread doesn't mean your experience demands the highest salary within the range. If you are at a lower level and stepping into a higher-level role, you can expect you'd probably be offered at the lower end of the range.
What are the benefits and perks? Companies range in what they offer employees in terms of benefits. Some might offer great health insurance that has a low copay or a generous match on a 401(k), while others might invest more in perks like telecommuting, flexible schedules, health/wellness memberships and programs, transportation benefits or student loan reimbursements. Evaluate which perks you might care about more than others (if you don't have a child, that on-site child care isn't a draw).
What bonuses can you earn? Does the position you're considering qualify for end-of-year or performance bonuses? If so, get a sense of how much they might be and what they're usually based on. They could be based strictly on your performance. More often they're based on a mix between the company and your individual performance. While many companies don't guarantee a bonus, you can ask how the bonus program has paid out historically.
What's expected of you? Another big question is: How much of you does this company want? You need to know upfront if you'll be expected to go beyond the normal 40 hours regularly, work on weekends or be available on demand. If so, you might look at the compensation package in a different light. What will it cost to make you willing to give up a large portion of your life to your job?
Consider the company. Some companies could offer you a million dollars, and you still wouldn't want to work there. Go with your gut. What sense do you get from the people you've met? Would you be happy working with them every day? Or do they seem desperate to get someone for a role they can't keep an employee in, due to poor management or other issues?
Choose wisely. Ultimately, you want to select the company you will enjoy working at, one that pays a competitive salary. Remember that there is usually wiggle room in the initial offer, so don't be afraid to reasonably negotiate salary or perks. If the employer wants you bad enough, certain items are typically up for discussion.
Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs.com, a niche job board for public relations, communications, and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.