How to Evaluate a Job Offer

A few years ago, I read about a person who was made a verbal job offer in the morning, only to have it rescinded that same evening. Unfortunately, in the interim, he resigned from his current job. When he asked for his old job back, his employer refused.

The article went on to explain that while he may have cause for action against the first employer who made the verbal offer, it would have been much easier had he requested the offer in writing.

We start with the most fundamental piece of advice: always get your job offer in writing. Verbal offers can be fleeting, leaving you vulnerable if things go south. Having a written offer not only provides clarity but also legal protection.

But what else should you think about when considering a job offer? Let’s take a look at the components of a typical job offer.

1. Reporting Relationship and Responsibilities

Your job offer should clearly define your reporting structure. It’s advisable to refer to positions or titles rather than specific individuals, as personnel may change over time. Additionally, the offer should include a detailed list of your duties and responsibilities, either within the offer letter or as an attachment.

2. Salary

Your offer should outline your starting salary and provide details on how this may increase over time, including the timing of performance reviews. If your position includes incentive pay, such as a bonus, the offer should explain how it’s calculated and when it’s paid out.

3. Benefits

Most organizations offer benefits, including life insurance, health, dental, disability, and more. Request a copy of the benefits plan, review it carefully, and understand the details. Be aware that there may be a waiting period to join the plan, often around three months, but this can sometimes be waived. The cost of coverage is usually shared between the employer and the employee.

4. Pension

If your prospective employer has a pension plan, it can be either a defined contribution or a defined benefit. Understand the type of plan and whether the employer matches your contributions. Be aware that there may be a waiting period to join the plan.

5. Vacation and Sick Days

Clarify how your vacation time is calculated to avoid misunderstandings. Vacation days are typically earned at a specified rate per month worked (for example, 1.25 days per month)  Sick days are often calculated and accumulated in a similar manner. Ask about any criteria for increasing your vacation entitlement over time.

6. Confidentiality

Many job offers include confidentiality clauses. These clauses prohibit the disclosure of company information, such as client lists, pricing details, and trade secrets, during and after your employment.

7. Exclusivity

For senior positions, you might encounter exclusivity clauses. These clauses state that you will devote your time and attention to the organization and may restrict your involvement in outside interests, such as ownership in other companies, without prior consent.

8. Termination

While discussing termination during the hiring process may seem unusual, understanding the terms surrounding termination is essential. Employers can terminate employment for “just cause” or “without cause.” Make sure you know your rights and severance entitlements in case of termination.

9. Conditions

Some job offers include conditions that must be met before the offer becomes legally binding. These conditions might include providing academic transcripts or satisfactory references. Do not resign from your current job until you receive confirmation that all conditions have been met.

10. Acceptance

Lastly, pay close attention to the acceptance clause at the end of the offer letter. This section confirms your understanding of the terms and conditions and signifies your acceptance. It’s crucial to comprehend the document fully because your signature transforms it into the official employment contract.