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Evaluating Job Offers

Try to think back to the last time that you made a big decision or purchased anything of value that may have had a long-term consequence on your life.  You probably will want to make certain that you haven’t gotten yourself so excited you rush into something blindly. 

An example could be returning to graduate school, buying a car or purchasing a new home.  You hopefully will do a little research and not rush into the decision because something major like this will have an impact on your life (and probably the lives of your significant others). 

Job seekers need to do the same thing when they are evaluating a new job.  Do you realize that individuals spend more than 60-80% of their waking hours at a job?  Just imagine not enjoying that job--that’s a lot of time spent being very unhappy.  Job seekers should evaluate the job offer from every possible angle (i.e., prestige of institution, reputation, benefits, supervisor support, salary, challenge, upward mobility, etc.)  The time to gather all of this important data that you will use to evaluate the job offer is before, during and after the job interview. 

As a career management decision, evaluating a job offer involves careful consideration of many important factors.  Some of the factors that should be considered include: 

Benefit Packages                  Promotion Potential                Work Load 

Work Ethic                           Family Considerations             Work-related Responsibilities 

Relocation                            Professional Development        Managerial/Colleague Support 

Salary                                  Commute to Work                   Organizational Fiscal Stability 

Performance Appraisals         Team Work                             Minimum Standard for Job Performance

Evaluation Criteria                                                           

Be prepared to discuss the topic of salary intelligently.  Research the field and find out what the average salary is for your chosen major (The Career Development Center has salary surveys, which provides the average starting salary for each major).  Understand that salary may vary according to geographic region, size of organization, experience, and education. If you are asked what you are expecting to earn, give a salary range (e.g. “mid thirties” or “$35,000-$37,000”) rather than quoting a specific figure and always add that you are flexible.  Do not discuss salary if the employer does not raise the topic. 

Evaluating the benefit package of a job offer is the most important factor you should consider.  Most individuals that we have talked to think that all benefit packages are pretty much the same.  This is not true! You will want to read the benefit information material very carefully and meet with a professional in the benefits office from Human Resources to have your questions answered.  If there is any confusion with what they discussed with you, have the benefits professional put the information in writing for you.

  • If you are offered a benefits package that you will need to contribute to out of your pay check (this has become very common recently because of the escalating cost that employers incur covering their employees’ benefits),  remember to calculate the amount that you will need to pay when evaluating the salary.
  • Does the employer offer a “cafeteria” type insurance plan where you get to choose your health benefits provider (i.e. Blue Cross-Blue Shield)? Will you receive optical and dental coverage through the same provider?  Are you offered other coverage including life insurance, accidental death & dismemberment, short term disability or long term disability?  How long do you have to work before you are able to receive full coverage?
  • Consider the amount of sick leave, vacation time and personal time that you receive. Often new graduates will receive 2-4 weeks of vacation per year, 3-5 sick days per year and 4- 5 personal days. How long do you have to work before you are allowed to take a vacation?
  • Also inquire about “when” your benefits start; i.e., immediately; after 60 days; a year?  If it is after a certain waiting period, you must get coverage from some other source.
  • Will there be on-call responsibilities and how will you be compensated?
  • Consider other benefits that might be offered e.g., uniform allowance, free parking, travel reimbursement for meetings, professional association fees and journal reimbursement, elder care, on-site child care, tuition reimbursement, tuition allowance for children, commuter-travel compensation, etc.
  • Evaluate the type of pension program that the employer is offering.  Do they have a 401K, or other matching program?

An important aspect of evaluating a job offer is the advancement potential within an organization.  Some institutions have career ladders in place that allow individuals to accomplish certain goals that lead to advancement.  One example is the career ladder advancement program, for example, Clinical Ladder 1, Clinical Ladder 2, etc.  Other organizations have long-established traditions of promoting from within and promote that philosophy as a fringe benefit. 

Regardless of the organizational philosophy or approach, it is important for you to accurately research the employer’s promotional philosophy and ask questions during an interview about advancement potential and future opportunities.  Here are some guidelines you might want to consider:

  • Once an offer is on the table and you are not sure about it, do some informational interviewing with individuals in the organization to determine the promotion practices.
  • If you did not have an opportunity to meet with your immediate supervisor or their supervisor during the interview, you might want to consider setting up an interview with them to assess the opportunities.
  • Assess the age of your colleagues and superiors.  If the top level people are close to retirement, the advancement potential is very favorable.
  • Consider lateral as well as upward movements in the organization.  Perhaps another department or unit in the facility would have greater possibilities for challenge, professional development, skill building or advancement.

An often difficult condition to predict when evaluating a job offer is your ability to “fit” into a new physical environment.  It is critical to consider the physical environment of your potential work place and the individuals (i.e., peers and supervisors) that you will be working with as part of the job offer evaluation process. 

Analyzing the work environment refers to the environmental conditions of a place of employment.  It includes such conditions as:

  • Co-workers
  • Supervisors
  • Support staff
  • Other colleagues (i.e., physicians, therapists, nurses, nutritionists, etc.)
  • Communication lines
  • Authority privileges and rights
  • General feel of the new work place

Many people have told us that after they accepted their job offer they found out that their department reports to “other professionals” (i.e., physical therapists reporting to nurses); their department is in the basement next to the vending machines; the staff hadn’t received raises in three years so morale is low and the staff turn-over is high.

How you will relate to co-workers and your supervisor is just about as difficult as predicting how well you’ll relate to your in-laws.  However, thorough research, an ability to judge people, and a little time will assist you in having a comfortable or uncomfortable feel for the potential work place.  Often organizations will try and “paint a rosy picture” of the conditions of the work place because they are so desperate to hire someone.  They promise all kinds of situations in order to attract you to the work place, then, once you’ve accepted the offer, the work environment doesn’t seem anything like when you interviewed. 

In the past, relocation expenses for healthcare professionals to relocate to a job in another area of the country were traditionally paid for by the employer.  Travel expenses to and from facilities for interviews were also sometimes reimbursed.  With dramatic changes occurring in healthcare employment opportunities, relocation and reimbursement of travel expenses often does not occur.  Again, this can be brought up when you discuss the specifics of the job offer.  Before you accept the job offer, ask the possibility of a relocation package. It doesn’t hurt to ask!

It is important to evaluate every job offer with organizations that hold your interest very carefully.  Each offer is a negotiation tool that is useful in enriching the conditions of the position you seek and also acts as leverage for other job offers.

Remember it is important to accept the kind of position that will fulfill your career goals.  If an offer doesn’t quite fit you, then you have the right to negotiate the conditions of the job description and responsibilities before you accept the position that will best fit your career and career goals.

Use any researched information that you can find regarding the facility to uncover as many details and descriptions of the organization.  Read facility newsletters, job descriptions, brochures, organizational charts, mission statements, employee handbooks, or corporate and annual reports to assist you in your research. Also, you might want to consider looking at the way you were hired and the hiring process.  For example, was it open and honest or were there several delays, promises, unanswered questions or changes that confused you?

The art and skill of job offer acceptance goes beyond accepting the offer on the spot.  The reason behind not accepting the job offer on the spot is so that you can remove yourself from the situation in order to have a clear head and to evaluate every aspect of the work setting and offer. 

Accepting a job offer is done by the job seeker after careful consideration of all the factors.  We recommend that job seekers should ask for some time (at least a few days) to evaluate the offer and to discuss it with family members.  If you are waiting on another offer to come through, attempt to put the employer off professionally by asking if you can have more time.  Then you can call the other employer and be very professional and polite and ask when final job offers will be extended.  If you will be given an offer, this might hasten the offer up a little. 

Accepting the job offer in a professional manner requires certain rules, strategies, and common sense behaviors.  The following are some guidelines that we recommend:

  • Never accept the offer on the spot.  Professionally thank the employer for the offer and say you are really excited about the opportunity that this job offer affords you but you would really like several days to think things over.
  • Follow up the offer with an acceptance letter to the employer that expresses your appreciation for the offer, and spells out any specifics that were discussed (in the event that a contract is not provided).  The specifics could include:  an agreed upon start date, flexible schedule of hours, starting salary, evaluation at six months instead of twelve months, sign-on bonus, relocation expenses, etc.
  • Follow up via the phone in a few days with the employer to ensure that the acceptance letter was received and the specifics are agreeable to all parties.
  • Establish a start date with your supervisor and expectations during the first week.  Try to gain as much information as possible about what will be expected during the initial first days on the job.

If you have been evaluating more than one job offer, it is appropriate, professional and ethical to inform all other employers of your decision and to withdraw your employment application from consideration.  Your withdrawal letter should express appreciation for the employer’s consideration and courtesy.  It may be appropriate to state that your decision to go with another facility was based on having a better fit with your professional goals at this stage in your career. Do not say that you obtained a better job. Do not continue interviewing or reneg on an offer after you have accepted a position. This is extremely unethical, and will hurt you professionally later on – you never want to burn bridges.

When you want to professionally turn down an offer, we recommend that you put it in writing.  You may want to turn an offer down because it does not fit with your career objectives and interests.  Rejecting an employment offer should be done thoughtfully and carefully. Indicate in the letter that you have carefully considered the offer and have decided not to accept it.  Also, be sure to thank the employer for the offer and for consideration of you as a candidate. 

The rationale behind keeping the lines of communication open and positive with potential employers is in the event that your new position doesn’t pan out, you could always go back to them again as a possible employment contact.