Emotions run high when a job offer is on the table, particularly if you're desperate to leave a hostile work environment or if you've been unemployed for some time. Even level-headed job seekers may get to this stage of the process and stop thinking rationally. So that you make a careful decision about your next place of employment, run down this checklist of what you need to weigh before giving an employer your final answer.
Salary potential. Think beyond the starting figure the company has put in writing – even if it's a handsome one – and consider how long it will be before the employer reviews your pay once more. In the later stages of interviewing it's appropriate to ask more direct questions about compensation – just be careful with your wording. "If you're being considered for a position with the private sector, it's reasonable to ask about the company's growth and how that growth trickles down to the employees," says Janine Truitt, chief innovations officer for Talent Think Innovations, LLC, a talent management and consulting firm. The employee review website Glassdoor.com may also provide insight on how the staff feels about compensation.
The turnover rate. During your first interview, ask about the tenure of the last person who had the position you're applying for. For extra credit, consider asking the hiring manager what circumstances caused the previous employee to leave. The manager might not be able to share that information with you, but if he or she does, you'll need to listen closely to what isn't said. If someone just decided to "move on to other opportunities" after less than a year, that could signal limited opportunity, but if your predecessor still works for the company but in a different role, it could signal that there's room to grow.
The atmosphere. Be observant during your visits to the workplace. Take stock of whether there's a lot of cheerful chatter or tentative whispering. Do conversations seem to happen behind closed doors? How much natural light seeps through and how nice is the decor? Your workplace's atmosphere may considerably impact your mood, so think carefully if this office has an environment where you think you'll thrive. "It's reasonable to ask to spend time with the employees," says Eric Kramer, principal at Innovative Career Services and author of "Active Interviewing: Branding, Selling, and Presenting Yourself to Win Your Next Job." "It's good to ask them, not just the hiring manager, about what the working style is." Not being permitted to speak with current staff could be all the sign you need that this isn't a friendly environment, but just in case, you should also scour websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn to better understand the culture.
Who's really in charge? You've developed a rapport with the hiring manager – which is good – but do you know for sure that he or she will be your real-life manager should you accept the position? What does the manager's job entail and who is his or her boss? Your boss's role and reputation will have a ripple effect on you, so don't just make inquiries about him or her in the interview, but also Google his or her name, visit his or her LinkedIn page, work the system to find out what people in your network may know and, if you can, observe him or her in the workplace.
The grand scheme. Is this job a one-off or a stepping stone along your desired career path? If you think it's more of the former, what are the benefits of taking this detour? What outcome are you hoping to see? "I suggest people develop a career vision," Kramer says. "I encourage them to write down at great length what a perfect day at work looks like to them, and to then use that as a guide to determine whether a particular job will move them in the right direction of that career vision."
The commute. You received a taste of what commuting might be like during interviews, but now that you've received the offer, take to the streets once more. This time, travel to and from the office during the hours you'd report to and from work, and imagine how you'll fare doing that day after day, throughout various seasons and travel conditions. Weigh your test run against how much you actually want the job you're offered. Having some perspective on the long-term, tiresome effects might change your opinion.
The location. Taking into account the job's location isn't quite the same as commute, and unfortunately, it's one that plenty of job seekers overlook, particularly those conducting a long-distance job search. "A lot of the time when I'm working with people who are planning to relocate, they haven't really dug deep enough to know whether it's worth it to move for a job," Truitt says. It's also a useful exercise for locals to consider whether their new potential workplace is central and convenient. Take a drive or walk around the surrounding area where your job is located, and answer the following: Is it safe and well lit? What food/lunch options exist? How far are you from your doctor's offices, your gym and your auto mechanic? Will you have to pay for daily parking, or is the workplace accessible by public transit? These issues might seem small, but they add up once you're on the job.