When you receive a job offer, it's natural to be excited and even to assume that you'll take it, as long as the salary range is right. But before you sign on to spend 40 or more hours a week at this job, make sure you've fully vetted what you're getting into. Here are seven key questions to ask yourself before saying yes.
1. Am I clear on what I'll be doing day to day? Job descriptions don't always tell the full story, and they're often outdated or so vague as to be almost meaningless. Don't assume that you know what the job will be like on a daily basis simply from the job posting or, worse, the title. Make sure you've probed deeply into exactly how you'll spend your time and what your most important responsibilities will be.
2. Do I know how my success will be judged? Are you clear on what the most important things for you to accomplish in the role will be? When the company is evaluating your performance a year from now, do you know how they'll assess it and what you'll need to have achieved for your first year to be deemed a success? If you walk into a job without clarity on that point, you could end up realizing far too late that the company's definition of success is different from your own.
3. Will I be able to excel at this work? No matter how much you want or need a job, you should not bluff your way into a job for which you aren't actually qualified. If the work doesn't play to your strengths, you'll struggle and could even end up getting fired. It's great for a new job to push you to stretch yourself, but make sure it won't ask something of you that you're unlikely to succeed at.
4. Do I know what sort of culture I'll be working in? Aside from the details of the job itself, the culture of the place where you'll be doing that work will have a huge impact on your comfort and quality of life. No matter how excited you are about the work you're doing, if you're uncomfortable in the culture, you might not be happy there. For instance, if the office is formal and rigidly hierarchical and you bristle at that type of environment, or if it's an aggressive, competitive team and you're more low-key, this might not be a comfortable fit for you.
5. Do I know what type of manager I'll be working for? There's plenty of truth behind the old saying that "people leave bosses, not jobs." Your manager has an enormous influence on how happy you'll be at work, so make sure you're clear about the management style of the person you'll be working for.
6. Do I know all the details of the compensation package, including details of the health insurance and paid time off? Too often, people focus just on salary when evaluating a job offer. But you don't want to find out in your first week that the health insurance doesn't meet your family's needs or that you don't get any paid time off until after your first year. The time to nail down these details is before you accept the offer.
7. How does this job fit in with my overall career path? Will the job move you forward on the path you want to be on, or take you on a detour you might rather avoid? Sometimes you might deliberately take a job that isn't quite on your career path (because you need the money or need something flexible and short-term, for instance), and that's fine – but you want to make sure you're doing that deliberately and strategically, not without realizing it.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager'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.