Comparison: How to Evaluate a Job Offer
©1998 Innovative Consulting, Inc.
Career Development Reports
Lets assume your employment interview went well,
and theres sincere and mutual interest on both sides.
Now you need to decide two things: first, whether
the new position is right for you; and if so, what sort of offer
youd be willing to accept.
To evaluate the pros and cons, ask yourself the following:
Does the new job meet the criteria you spelled out when you first
began your search? Will the new job improve your level of personal
and professional satisfaction? Or will it simply offer you a rehash
of what you already have? Hopefully, the unique qualities youre
seeking will be within your grasp.
If youre not sure about the new job, or need
help in being more objective, take the following test as a way to
compare the two positions. You should be able to get a feel for
how the job you interviewed for stacks up against your current position
by selecting which considerations best suit your needs.
The position comparison test can be "scored"
two different ways. You can either tally the totals (the best job
has the highest score); or you can use the test as a way to examine
Lets suppose your score was 15 to seven, in
favor of the new company. Does that mean you should change jobs?
Well, not necessarily. It depends on which considerations
are most important to you. If an increase in travel will ruin your
marriage, then it wont matter how many positive considerations
point to the new job. (This is assuming you want to stay married.)
However, a simple tallying of the score can be very
helpful when the decision is a tough one, and no single consideration
acts as a "knockout" factor. Besides, mathematical "logic"
can always be used to justify what you already feel to be the right
The Economic Factor
Compensation, of course, will be a key factor in your
decision whether to accept a new position.
Oddly, few people take the time to really understand
their economic choices, mostly because there are so many hidden
factors, such as cost of living, benefits, relocation expenses,
and so forth.
Regardless of where compensation ranks on your list
of priorities, its a good idea to know what you may be getting
into when faced with a career decision.
To help you put your economic choices into perspective,
use this compensation comparison to evaluate both your prospective
compensation package and what youre currently earning.
The best time to make your calculations is before
an offer is made. That way, you can form a clear idea of what youll
need, without having to dicker (or experience shock) later on.
If youre looking at an opportunity thats
in a different geographic location, you might want to do some investigating
before you even interview. For example, if you live in a nice suburban
community in Lawrence, Kansas, what would it cost you to maintain
your current lifestyle in an area like San Francisco? Your answer
(and your willingness to make the necessary trade-offs) will help
determine your level of interest when considering the new position.
Figuring the Bottom Line
The best approach to putting the deal together is
to decide whether you want the job before an offer is extended.
This allows you to clarify whether the job suits your needs. Unless
youre motivated solely by money, its doubtful a few
extra dollars will turn a bad job into a good one.
If the job interests you, then determine the conditions
under which youll accept. These fall into two categories:
Bottom Lines and Porcupines.
The term "bottom line" refers to the amount
of compensation you feel is absolutely necessary to accept the job
offer. If, for example, you really want $46,000 but would think
about $45,000 or settle for $44,000, then you havent established
your bottom line. The bottom line is one dollar more than the figure
you would positively walk away from. Setting a bottom line clarifies
your sense of worth, and helps avoid an unpredictable bargaining
I recommend against "negotiating" an offer
in the classic sense, where the company makes a proposal, you counter
it, they counter your counter, and so on. While this type of tit
for tat format may be customary for negotiating a residential real
estate deal, job offers should be handled in a more straightforward
Heres how: Determine your bottom line in advance,
and wait for the offer. If the company offers you more than your
bottom line, great. If they offer you less, then you have the option
of turning the offer down or revealing to them your bottom line
as a condition of acceptance. At that point, they can raise the
ante or walk away.
Lay Your Cards on the Table
Once the bottom line is known, you can avoid the haggling
that so often causes aggravation, disappointment, or hurt feelings.
My experience has shown that its much better
to lay your cards on the table in the beginning than to barter to
get what you want. An employer can get very irritable when a candidate
says, "Ill think it over," or keeps coming back
with new demands again and again. Even if you get what you want,
youve created a negative impression with the company which
will carry over after youve been hired. In effect, you may
win the battle, but lose the war.
By determining your own acceptance conditions in advance,
youll never be accused of negotiating in bad faith or of being
indecisive. Whether youre representing yourself or working
with a recruiter, learning to differentiate between financial fact
and fantasy will facilitate the job changing process.
You may want to itemize your bottom line, and, if
its appropriate, show it to the company (or your recruiter)
as a means to justify your salary request. Carefully figure your
total package, and document any loss of income that may result from
a differential in benefits, geographic location, car expenses, and
If a recruiter asks for your bottom line, he or she
isnt trying to manipulate you or conspire with an employer
that plans to "lowball " its candidates. The recruiter
is simply making a good faith effort to discover what makes you
happy, and put together two interested parties.
The Porcupine Category
Of course, there are considerations aside from money
that usually need to be satisfied before an offer can be accepted.
Factors such as your new position title, review periods, work schedule,
vacation allotment, and promotion opportunities are important, and
should be looked at carefully.
To understand the candidates needs, I use the
porcupine approach to quantify each consideration or "point"
made by the candidate as a condition for acceptance. Once I understand
each point, I can work with the company to put the deal together,
without having to go back later to get "one more thing."
Once you know your bottom line and each condition,
or point on the porcupine, youre in a better position to get
what you want, since youve established quantifiable goals
to shoot for.
How an Offer Is Staged
Every company makes hiring decisions differently.
Some will encourage shoot-from-the-hip managers to make job offers
on the spot. Other companies will limit the decision makers
ability to act quickly and unilaterally, and require a drawn-out
series of staff meetings, subsequent interviews, corporate signatures,
and so on.
These days, its not uncommon for the hiring
cycle to last weeks or even months, regardless of how "critical"
the position might be. The best approach is to maintain contact
with the company, allowing for the fact that therell probably
be some delay. Presumably, you asked what the hiring procedure was
when you first interviewed. Their answer should give you some indication
as to when a decision will be made.
Offers can be extended by either a letter, or verbally
from a hiring manager. They can also be made through a third party,
such as a recruiter. In either case, be careful. An offer needs
to include these three components before it can be considered official:
 Your position title;
 Your starting salary; and
 Your start date.
Before you resign from your present job, make sure
you nail down each of these components from a company official,
either verbally or in writing (in the form of an offer letter).
Even if the offer comes through a recruiter, you should always contact
the employer directly, and if possible, get a letter of offer or
acceptance to verify the deal (although a verbal offer and acceptance
will act as a legal contract).
Not long ago, I was working with a candidate who interviewed
for a position with one of my client companies. The interview went
extremely well; so well that the VP of the company called the candidate
at his home that evening to discuss the offer.
"Well, Paul, we really like you," the employer
told the candidate. "The job is yours if you want it."
"I want it," said Paul. "When do I
"Well, Ill call Bill tomorrow and work
out the details," replied the employer.
Understandably, Paul got excited. Filled with pride,
he drove his ailing grandmother by the new company the next day,
so he could show off his new place of work.
But guess what? The employer never called me, and
never called Paul, either. For some reason he changed his mind,
and didnt have the decency to let anyone know.
The reason I tell this story is to warn you that even
when the cat seems to be in the bag, it aint over til
the fat lady sings. An offer has to include a position title, a
starting salary, and a date of start to be official; just telling
you the job is yours isnt enough.
Heres another word of caution: Offers sometimes
have strings, or contingencies attached. Dont be surprised
if the fine print requires you to:
Pass a physical examination;
Document your citizenship or immigration status;
Obtain a security clearance;
Undergo a thorough background investigation,
in which your credit history, police records, and travel history
might be examined;
Verify your academic credentials; or
Provide proof of your past employment, salary,
or military service.
Very often, these contingencies must be satisfied
before you can to report to work or receive a paycheck.
Accepting the Offer
If everything about the new position is satisfactory,
go ahead and accept the offer. If youre expecting an offer
from a second company, you should let the second company know about
your offer right away, so they can speed up their decision. That
way, youll avoid jeopardizing one deal for the sake of another.
Once an offers on the table, it makes common
sense to accept or reject it within a day or so. Otherwise, your
inability to commit will reflect poorly on the way you make decisions;
or it will telegraph your lack of enthusiasm to the new employer.
In either case, youre likely to be bruised by waiting too
If you have legitimate concerns, or you still have
questions that need to be answered, now is the time to bring them
up. Rather than tell the employer, "Ill have to think
it over," use the following script:
"Mr. Employer, this job looks very good to me,
and Im enthusiastic about coming to work for your company.
Ill be in a position to accept your offer and start in two
weeks if I can just clarify a couple of things..."
The answers you get will make your decision for you,
and youll either accept or reject the companys offer.
If you decide to reject an offer, remember that its
almost impossible to resurrect the deal at a later date, since the
position will be offered to someone else, or the employer will feel
insulted, and close the door on your candidacy. Whatever you do,
make certain your decision is final.
New Angles and Unusual Deals
Most deals come together quite cleanly, with little
need for haggling or creative financing. Sometimes, though, it takes
a little imagination to satisfy both parties.
Money can present a problem for employers when your
salary requirements exceed the published range for the position,
or create an inequity within the department. In fact, internal equity
issues (in which your expected salary might be greater than someone
on the staff who has more professional or company seniority) are
the cause of most deals that fail to close for financial reasons.
To satisfy money matters, look for ways to increase
your overall yearly compensation, rather than your annual salary.
Here are a few added goodies you can shoot for to boost your earnings
without ruffling too many feathers:
A sign-on bonus to be paid in cash on your
date of start;
A performance bonus to be paid after thirty,
sixty, or ninety days, assuming your clearly defined goals are met;
A discretionary bonus to be paid in a lump
sum, or over a specified period;
A generous relocation bonus to be paid on your
date of start to cover expenses (but which can be spent at your
An accelerated review which would occur after
three or six months, rather than on your first anniversary of employment,
in which your salary would be increased; or
An early participation in the companys
bonus, stock purchase, or pension plan; or other employee benefit
When required, companies will sometimes serve up these
tasty morsels to hungry candidates who recognize that overall compensation
consists of more than salary alone.
The craziest deal I ever put together involved a candidate
whod just purchased a home and was beyond commuting distance
to the interested company. Since the candidate wouldnt sell
his home and relocate, the company president agreed to buy the candidate
(who had a pilots license) a single engine airplane so he
could fly to work each day. It just goes to show, where theres
a will, theres a way.
Careful evaluation mixed with a little bit of creativity
will help you get the deal you want.
Position Comparison Guide
Compare the position you have now with the one you are considering,
according to the following elements:
job New job Element under consideration
[ ] Position title
[ ] Supervisory responsibility
[ ] Project authority
[ ] Decision-making autonomy
[ ] Freedom to implement ideas
[ ] Freedom to affect change
[ ] Promotion potential
[ ] Challenge of tasks
[ ] Ability to meet expectations
[ ] Access to skill training
[ ] Professional growth potential
[ ] Company/industry growth
[ ] Company/industry stability
[ ] Starting salary
[ ] Future compensation
[ ] Company benefits, perks
[ ] Commuting distance
[ ] Travel requirements
[ ] Working environment
[ ] Rapport with co-workers
[ ] Rapport with management
[ ] Comfort with corporate culture
[ ] Other considerations (specify)
Current job ____________ New job New job differential
the position you have now with the one you are considering,
according to the following elements:
Current job New job
Element under consideration
$________________ Base salary
$________________ Bonus, perks
$________________ Profit sharing potential
$________________ Value of stock or equity
$________________ 401(k) contribution, tax savings
$________________ Reimbursed expenses
$________________ Cost of living differential (+/-)
$________________ Non-reimbursed moving expenses
$________________ Job-related travel expenses
$________________ Insurance premiums
$________________ Property taxes
$________________ State taxes
$________________ Sales taxes
$________________ Other expenses (specify)
Current job $________________
New job $________________ New job differential (+/-) $___________