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Education Center » More than salary: Tips for evaluating a job offer

More than salary: Tips for evaluating a job offer


Whether you’re trying to land your first job or your tenth, a job search is never easy. So when you’re finally offered a position, you may be tempted to give yourself a high-five and relax. But before you accept, be sure to weigh all of the variables. After all, you, your boss and your co-workers will be spending a lot of your waking hours together.

The hard data: Wealth and health

Compensation. You already know the base salary, but don’t forget to factor in any bonus, profit sharing or other variable pay. If the company offers one, make sure you understand the criteria for collecting a bonus, and whether it’s based on your performance, the company’s or both.

Retirement plan. You can’t leave saving for one of life’s biggest expenses to chance. An employer-sponsored retirement plan is a convenient and tax-advantaged way to invest for what could be many years of expenses. Find out how soon you can begin contributing. If there’s a company match, try to contribute at least enough to take full advantage of this perk.

Health benefits. Health insurance coverage—which can include medical, dental and vision care—is among the most important and valuable benefits that some employers offer. Be sure to ask what portion of premiums the company picks up and what portion you’ll need to pay—as well as whether eligible dependents are covered, and how soon you can enroll. Some employers also offer wellness programs and even subsidized gym memberships.

Paid time off. How many vacation days will you get? What about company holidays and sick time? If you’re looking to sweeten your deal, remember—vacation time is typically one of the more negotiable benefits, because there’s no out-of-pocket cost to the company for additional days off.

An employer-sponsored retirement plan is a convenient and tax-advantaged way to invest for what could be many years of expenses.

Family-friendly benefits. Managing work when you have family obligations can be a monumental task. Balancing the needs of your children and other loved ones can be less stressful if an employer offers flextime or work-from-home policies. Also, be sure to review the family leave policies. Job protection is an important benefit if you need time off to care for an aging or sick family member, or after the birth or adoption of a child.

Financial wellness programs. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a wellness plan for your money as well as for your health? This benefit may include tools and education to help you budget, manage debt, set aside money for a big purchase or save for retirement or college.

The “soft” stuff: Culture and values

Culture. During your interview, hopefully you picked up on the work vibe, whether buzzy and social, or heads down and earbuds in. Do they have a company softball team or get together for celebrations at the drop of a hat? Or is the atmosphere more buttoned up and corporate? Either is fine; you just want to make sure the culture suits you. Employee demographics might also influence your decision to accept a job offer. If you’re starting out in a new city, your co-workers may be your primary link to enjoying life outside of work. Websites like or can provide firsthand insights into what it’s like to work for a specific employer. That way you can determine if you’ll “be in good company.”

Workspace. Even if your job doesn’t provide free lunch and nap pods, it should provide a pleasant work environment. Whether you’re in an office, a cubicle or an open area, the most important consideration is having a workspace that is conducive to getting your work done.

Location, location, location. One factor that’s sure to influence your decision is the job’s location. You’ll want to evaluate your new commute (if there is one) and see whether the company offers any commuting benefits like subsidized public transportation. Also, check out the immediate surroundings. Nearby stores, parks and coffee shops can be real life-enhancers if you like to take breaks or need to run errands during the day.

Flexible schedules. Ask about the typical workday. Do most employees maintain a 9-to-5 or an 8-to-whenever-the-cleaning-crew-goes-home schedule? Is there flexibility? Is there an option to work from home as long as you get your work done?

Values. You’ll most likely be more committed to your job if your values align with those of the organization. Search out the company’s mission statement, and investigate its core values, the leadership team and any community and charitable activities it supports, including whether the company gives employees time off for volunteering.

Learning opportunities. Is this a place where you can build a career? Find out if the company offers professional development programs or tuition reimbursement, helping you build skills to prepare you for future advancement. And ask if the organization encourages cross-team collaboration, has a mentoring program and promotes from within.

Making it work. If the job title and job description look to be your logical next step, you still need to know if you’ll be able to succeed in the role. Do you know when you’ll be evaluated and against what criteria? And do you feel confident that you will have the resources, technology, staff and budget you’ll need to succeed?

Closing the deal

Based on this checklist and a little research, you should be able to get a fairly complete picture of your job offer, including compensation and benefits, company values and culture. If it all checks out, tell the employer you accept, and then enjoy the satisfaction that comes from a well-considered decision.

Learn more and take action

  • Read this to learn about how much you should be contributing to your 401(k).
  • Get tips for making smart benefits choices at work.