You have a job offer — now what?

So you finally got what you were after – the offer of a new job. Suddenly it’s zero hour and you have to make a decision. Of course, you made your decision weeks ago when you first applied for the job, didn’t you? Ah, but things have changed. Now it’s for real. It’s time to make a commitment. It’s the difference between dating and marriage and you may have learned a few disquieting facts since you started courting.

Since starting your application process with this company, you’ve probably learned a lot. You learned first-hand what expectations are going to be made of you. You learned how the company treats its guests while you were waiting to be interviewed. You learned whether the people you’ve met during the course of your application are people you could honestly enjoy working with.

Now you have to ask some questions. Do you really like this company? What have you learned during the course of the application process with this company that might make you less than ecstatic about the company’s job offer? Honesty with yourself is important here because once you jump into the job, you can’t jump out again without doing yourself some harm. Remember, a bad career move will require you to explain it during every application after this one.

“Thanks, now I’m not nervous at all,” I hear you mutter. Don’t worry, these are facts you’d best think about now. So how do you minimize the chances of accepting a bad job offer?

Ask for 24 hours to make your decision: Don’t accept an offer immediately. The prospective employer should be willing to grant you a little time to reinforce your decision to go to work for them. If they aren’t, then seriously question their reasons. Do they have trouble keeping people or hiring new ones? Why? Are they a bad company? Is their pay terrible? Why are they so anxious for you to accept immediately?

Once they give you the time you need, list the pros and cons of working for them. Remember to keep asking how this job will look in the context of your resume and career history. Is it a natural step up? Or a step down? Does it use skills you’ve previously acquired? Or is it a total departure from everything you’ve previously done? Can you justify the decision to family and friends as well as a future prospective employer?

Evaluate the compensation package: Ask yourself whether the salary combined with any medical, financial, insurance benefits are commensurate with your needs and your desires. Compare it with your current position. Is it a significant, or at least, incremental increase in compensation? If not, does the job itself interest you more? Remember why you are leaving your current position and weigh the facts for and against leaving.

Contact employees at the firm: This takes a bit of effort but is certainly a good way of getting insider information. Sometimes you can ask your interviewer for the names of current employees (or the person you are replacing) you could call to ask about their experiences with the company. However, this has always seemed a little pushy to unconfident me. The Internet may give us all a better way to contact current employees. Most corporate web sites list at least a few staff members. Many list practically everyone, like ours at ABA. It would be very easy to e-mail a person working at the firm to ask them about their experiences. Most of the time, owing to the nature of e-mail, the communication will be very one-to-one and has the additional benefit of going on without management knowing.

Don’t burn your bridges: If you do decide against taking the job, explain your decision diplomatically. Remember, you might decide a year from now that you really would like to work for the company in question.