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Updated: 02/15/2017 10:30:10AM

Ask Brianna: How do I evaluate a job offer?

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Brianna McGurran

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Q: I got an offer for a full-time job. How do I decide if it’s right for me, or if the salary is fair?

A: The job hunt can feel like a decathlon. But keep your energy up. Closely evaluating an offer can be the difference between taking a job you run to and realizing you made a huge mistake, forcing you to start the job-search process from the beginning. Of course, you may not have the luxury of weighing multiple options. But even if you have a single offer, you can still think critically about how to make the best of the opportunity.

Boost your salary smarts

The proposed salary will have a big effect on your day-to-day lifestyle and your future earning power, so make sure you know what you’re worth. Use PayScale or Salary.com to find the average amount your role commands where you live. Rick Sass, a career coach at Lee Hecht Harrison near Seattle, recommends having two numbers ready, ideally before the official offer comes in: the salary you want to make and a lower amount you’re willing to accept, which is about the mean wage, or average salary, for 25- to 34-year-olds across all education backgrounds, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Think beyond base pay

Turn your attention next to employee benefits, such as health insurance and matching retirement contributions. These add up: As of September 2016, 31.4 percent of what employers paid for the average civilian worker’s total compensation was for non-salary benefits, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says. Ask the hiring manager for a summary of your total package. It should include paid time off, out- of-pocket costs for health insurance and whether your company offers a retirement plan or matching contributions. If the offer checks most of your boxes for salary, benefits and values, it’s time to negotiate.

Be flexible and confident

The employer will expect you to negotiate, so don’t let nerves or a fear of seeming overbearing get in the way.

If the proposed salary is lower than what you deserve, say thank you for the offer and then counter with what you believe is appropriate for your skills and experience.

If salary negotiations stall, ask instead for a non-salary benefit you value.

That could be the option to work remotely one day a week or a signing bonus, Sass says.

“Ask Brianna” is a Q&A column from NerdWallet for 20-somethings or anyone else starting out. I’m here to help you manage your money, find a job and pay off student loans — all the real-world stuff no one taught us how to do in college. Send your questions about postgrad life to askbrianna@nerdwallet.com.


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