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You polished your résumé, dazzled them in interviews, and landed the job you’ve been chasing. You’ve finally received that coveted offer letter. But don’t get too excited yet.
“It’s sad to say that there are so many things you need to be aware of and careful of in something that should be very exciting for you,” says Kylie Cimmino, a consultant with HR consulting firm Red Clover HR. “But it’s about making sure that you’re covering yourself and you’re prepared for all of the minutiae that is included in that offer.”
So, before you answer your would-be employer with a resounding “Yes!” ask these five questions first:
Is this really the right position for you?
Paraphrasing actor Sally Fields’s iconic Oscar speech, it’s not uncommon to get caught up in the feeling of “They like me! They really like me!” and not think through whether this is truly the best job or offer for you. “Sometimes a job offer doesn’t fit, even though you applied for the role hoping it would. Take a moment and determine if this is really the job you are looking for,” says Paul Wolfe, senior vice president of human resources for Indeed.com.
Think about the role and how it fits into your career plans. And, if you haven’t already, look into the company and its culture to see if this is a place where you really want to work. Sites like Glassdoor, Indeed, and others have reviews by employees that give a glimpse into the strengths and weaknesses of the company. Use your personal and professional networks to get a sense of what it’s really like to work for the company. If you don’t know anyone personally, it’s likely you’re just a contact or two away from someone who can give you more insight, Wolfe says.
Are there contingencies or conditions?
Some offers are contingent on a variety of factors, including background or drug tests, reference checks, or willingness to sign a noncompete or other agreement. Review these contingencies carefully and consider whether any of them may surface issues from your past or may not be something to which you’re willing to agree, says Colleen Drennen Pfaller, founder of HR consulting firm A Slice of HR.
Sometimes, the contingencies are assumed and may not be in the offer letter, she says. “[If] it’s spelled out, great. But if it’s not, you want to follow up and ask,” she says. Certainly, have that conversation before you give notice at your current employer. For example, if there is a signing bonus, do you need to remain at the job a certain period of time to keep it or do you need to pay it back? These are all factors that you should understand before accepting the job offer.
If you suspect that something like a background check will reveal a potential issue, it may be a good idea to broach the topic first, or at least have an explanation ready if it comes up, Cimmino adds. For example, if you take a prescription medication that may show up in a drug test, be prepared to address the issue, she says.
Is everything you want in the offer?
Read the offer carefully to ensure that anything you negotiated is in it, Wolfe says. Or, if there are additional concessions or add-ons—for example, additional paid time off, moving allowance, subsidized parking, etc.—that you’re seeking, set up a time to talk with your prospective employer. “Negotiating terms of the offer is a standard practice. You want to ensure that everything you were promised or expected is in that letter before signing on the dotted line,” he adds. Once you’ve accepted the offer, it can be difficult to go back and claim that you’re due something that was previously discussed, but not formalized in the offer.
What is the timing?
In addition, be sure you understand details that will affect your transition from job to job, including timing, Cimmino says. If you’re not starting your new job for a few weeks or if there will be a gap between when you leave your old job and start the new one, think about how you will bridge any health insurance or payroll gap. Be sure you understand when you are eligible for benefits such as health insurance, 401(k), and time off at the new company.
What impact will this job have on my family?
If your new role will require changes in your lifestyle, salary, hours, or other factors that may affect your family members, include them in the discussion too. For example, if you’re taking a pay cut or if the job requires more travel or a move, such changes will affect your spouse and children. It’s a good idea to be sure everyone’s on board, Wolfe says.
“While ultimately, the decision whether to take a job is the candidate’s, in many cases, their decision impacts others around them,” he adds. “Take time to consider and talk with your family about how this new position impacts everyone.”
Gwen Moran is a writer, editor, and creator of Bloom Anywhere, a website for people who want to move up or move on. She writes about business, leadership, money, and assorted other topics for leading publications and websites. She's been honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration, Small Business Influencer Awards, and a few others. Find her on Twitter @gwenmoran and on Instagram @bloom.anywhere.