Major Errors Can Be Made


Handling a Job Offer

When you finally receive a job offer, you may be inclined to jump at it without asking some basic questions. If you do, the person offering the job may question your professional savvy.

1. First, of course, is the matter of salary. This is often a rather delicate topic — delicate in part because you don't want to make it appear that money is your primarily concern. (From their perspective making a contribution, getting good experience, and proving your abilities should be high on your list.)

Before you come to the interview you want to have a good idea of the cost of living for the area  — something that varies greatly in different parts of the country. 

A salary that will give you a comfortable living in some Southern states, for example, may effectively put you below the poverty line in parts of New York or California.

If it looks like you might get a job offer, invest in at least one local newspaper beforehand and check on such things as the cost of apartments  — ones that are in a decent neighborhood that aren't too far from your work.

The costs of such things as medical care and car insurance also vary greatly. By looking at grocery store ads you can compare local food costs with what you are used to paying.

There is nothing worse than accepting a job only to later find that you have to work nights at another job to make ends meet. This will divide your attention and may even interfere with you "day job."

It's also not too pleasant to find out that you accepted a salary that was significantly below what other employees at the same level are paid. If you have the opportunity, do a bit of research on this  — even talking to past and present employees.

And if you can do that, try to get candid impressions of working conditions. If you find that the company has a high employee turn-over rate, there may be something wrong.

If you are a woman or a member of a minority group, you might subtly try to find out what the related experiences and attitudes are in the particular department you are interested in. 

If you don't get any salary information beforehand and you are asked what salary you expect  --  a common question  -- you might simply inquire about the normal starting salary at the company.  See if that fits in with what you have determined your cost-of-living will be.

If what they offer is significantly below what you know you need  — and remember starting salaries in this field can be rather low  — gently impress on them that in order not to be worried about finances you would need a somewhat higher figure. Unless these salaries are set by the company, you may have some negotiating room.

Keep in mind that once you accept the job you'll want to try to stay with it for at least a year  — preferably longer. Otherwise, potential  future employers may become wary. Why did you leave so soon? 

Even if the problem was solely with the employer, it shows that you didn't really take the job with your "eyes open." (By the way, never bad-mouth a previous employer; it not only shows a lack of professionalism, it suggests that you may be a kind of person that bad-mouthing them in the future.)

2. You will want to get an idea of how many hours a week the job normally entails  — especially if your home life is important. This, of course, will depend on the specific position.

Will there be overtime pay? If you will need to travel as part of the job will they supply a car or will you have to use your own?  In the latter case ask if your mileage will be reimbursed.

If the job is some distance away from where you are now living, ask about moving expenses.  If you live over a certain distance away, some companies will pay this; but don't be disappointed if they don't. Just figure it into your initial expenses.

Medical insurance and prescriptions are major expenses. Do they do offer medical benefits? If so, what would your share of the monthly costs be?  If they don't have a medical plan, you should have some idea about what these expenses would be in the new  area.

3. Assuming all this is settled and you accept the job, get things down in writing  —  starting salary, position, and starting date.

You may need this for such things as renting an apartment or taking out a loan to cover moving expenses. There have even been cases where the person doing the hiring moves on without keeping a record of the agreement  -- or their replacement has a different personnel agenda.

Normally, when the job is offered, you don't have to give them an immediate answer. You may want to ask for a few days to further research things and think it over  — promising to get back to them by an agreed date.

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