It happens more often than you think: You’ve been looking for a new job for ages without success, and then suddenly you receive two job offers more or less simultaneously.
Why does this happen? Well, it’s probably because as you’ve gone through the job-seeking process, you’ve gotten better at targeting the right opportunities for you, you’ve gotten better at handling interviews – and of course sometimes it’s simply a numbers game.
Either way, you’re now faced with both a decision and a challenge: How do you choose the right offer to accept?
The first step: Ask both companies for 24 hours to make your decision. Then sit down and think it through.
Money isn’t everything
If you did your homework before starting the interviewing process, both opportunities will be within realistic salary parameters for your level of skills and experience, so it’s unlikely that you’re looking at a huge salary differential. And remember, while $10,000/year sounds like a lot, it can actually amount to less than $500/month once taxes and deductions are factored in – and $500/month isn’t enough to compensate, on a daily basis, for a job that you hate going to every morning.
On the other hand, if one of the job offers you’ve just received is 3 times the salary of the other, you may want to take a closer look at the organization. Yes, it’s possible that you have a special skill or qualification that happens to be super-scarce at the moment, and they’re willing to pay any price to get you. But generally speaking, companies which pay salaries far above market rates either have unrealistic expectations (i.e. you’ll find yourself working 15-hour days, 7 days a week, without respite), poor financial management (“We just got some venture capital! We’re spending it as fast as we can, on whatever we want, before we got out of business!”), or are a terrible place to work (“The only way we can get people to stay here is to pay them huge amounts of money”).
So while it’s tempting to simply accept the offer which pays the most, it’s best to look at the overall picture.
What you need to think about
1. The overall compensation package
‘Compensation’ doesn’t just mean ‘salary’. It also includes things like:
- Bonuses (and what you have to do to earn them)
- Vacation time
- Sick leave and personal days
- Education allowances
- Car allowances
- Benefits and pension plans
- Parental leave
- Flextime and telecommuting
- …and even little things like airline points (can you use business-acquired airline points for personal travel?); food (some companies have subsidized cafeterias or free food in the lunch room); employee discounts (these could be big if you’re working for a car manufacturer or even a clothing retailer); and even perqs like the company’s annual Christmas party is always a 3-day weekend in Vegas
If you know that you want to further your education or that you’ll have to get braces for your kids in the next couple of years, things like education allowances or great benefit plans could turn out to be far more valuable to you than the salary differential between the two offers you’ve just received. So it’s important to make a list!
2. The people you’ll have to work with
In our experience, co-workers are the biggest factor in whether you love or hate your job. It really doesn’t matter how much you’re getting paid, or even what you have to do every day, if you can’t stand the people you have to interact with on a daily basis.
You probably met a variety of your potential co-workers and managers when you were going through the interview process. Did you like them? Did they seem helpful, knowledgeable and friendly? Were they welcoming to a potential newcomer?
3. The cultural ‘fit’
Some people work best in a structured, low-key environment; other people prefer a high-energy, entrepreneurial environment. It’s important to know which one is best for you.
During the interview process, you probably visited the office at least once. Was everyone working quietly at their cubicles, or were people running around looking like they were on a deadline? It’s okay to acknowledge that you picked up a particular ‘vibe’ – and it’s okay to consider this as a factor when making your decision, because it’s going to be the same feeling you’re going to have every morning from now on if you decide to work there.
4. Your career prospects
Which of the jobs you’ve been offered will do the most for your long-term career goals, either with that company or in your next job? A job that sounds great but will leave you stranded in the same position for years without advancement opportunities will eventually have you climbing the walls, and may damage your long-term career progression. A position with a less-than-accurate title (such as ‘Manager’, when you’re really functioning as a ‘Director’) can also be problematic. So make sure you’re factoring this into your decision.
5. The future of the company
There’s nothing worse than taking a new job only to find that the company is on its last legs and you’ll be back in the job market within a year or two. An entrepreneurial small business may offer better short-term career advancement than a big multinational, but small businesses can be precarious, while multinationals are unlikely to go under before you’ve had your first annual review.
BONUS CONSIDERATION: What kind of company might look best on your resume right now? If you’ve already got a couple of big, name-brand companies on there, a lesser-known startup might provide crucial entrepreneurial experience along with some interesting opportunities. But if your resume is full of smaller companies that no one’s ever heard of, your best bet might be a recognized brand name – they count for more than you think sometimes.
Making the final decision
So you’ve made your lists and thought through all the details. Now it’s time to assess what your gut is telling you. It’s okay to ‘go with your gut’ once you’ve done your homework – because that gut feeling you’re getting may be your brain sending you a more complex message than you think.
Think about your first day at either of these potential new jobs. Which one makes you feel more excited? Nine times out of ten, that’s the one you should go with.