Congratulations on having received a full-time job offer! If you’re wondering if your offer is as good as it sounds, keep reading.

How Do I Evaluate an Offer?

Do your research! Consider the following factors when deciding if your offer is appropriate: 

Base Salary
  • How much is taken out for taxes or a contribution toward health insurance costs?
  • Where is the company located? What is the cost of living and average salary for that location?
  • Are there hidden costs for commuting, or buying lunch out, etc?
Your Perceived Value
  • What background, experience or skills do you bring to the organization? Do you possess skills above and beyond what most other candidates might bring to the table?
  • Does the salary you are being offered reflect the value of these skills?
Job Responsibilities
  • What does the average work day look like?
  • Is there a lot of overtime associated with the position? Travel?
  • Are there opportunities for professional development or training?
  • What is the structure of the department you will be joining? Will your work be heavily supervised, or more independent?
The Organization
  • How large is the company?
  • Is the company structured like a large corporation or does it have a more flexible management style?
The Industry
  • Is this industry in a growth or decline phase?
  • What is the average salary for someone in a similar position to yours within this industry?
Benefits
  • What are you receiving beyond your base salary? A signing bonus? Stock options?
  • Do benefits like health insurance kick in right away, or is there a waiting period? Do you pay anything out-of-pocket for these benefits?
  • Will you need to relocate for this job? Will you be reimbursed for moving expenses? What will your commuting costs be?
  • How many vacation days are you granted each year?

These considerations (and more) will give you a base understanding of what makes up a reasonable salary and benefits package for the type of position you are being offered. If it seems that some of these factors are not being considered by your employer, you may choose to negotiate your offer.

Doing Research

These resources will help you uncover current industry trends, negotiating tips, and company-specific information:

 

What Starting Salary Can I Expect?

Starting salary depends on your industry, experience, and location of your job search. Cost of living changes drastically depending on geographical location. If you are searching for jobs in multiple states or regions, it’s important to research prices of housing, food, and transportation. You can use this calculator to compare the cost of living in two different locations. For example, if you have a job offer in Manhattan for $45,000, a comparable salary in Cincinnati, Ohio is $18,195!

What will my take home pay be?

When considering salary and budgeting, you may wish to estimate your net income. A very rough rule of thumb to calculate how much your take home pay will be is to assume that about ⅓ of your gross salary from each paycheck will be withheld to pay for taxes, healthcare or other optional deductions for retirement, etc.

Mandatory Withholding

Optional Deductions

Federal Income Tax (varies by income level) FSA (Flexible Savings Account)
State Income Tax (varies by state and income level) HSA (Healthcare Savings Account)
Social Security & Medicare are taxed at a set rate Dental

If you are self-employed you will also have pay self-employment tax.

Vision
  Retirement Contributions
  Other withholding (life insurance, transit, etc.)

When you fill out paperwork to start your job you may choose how many allowances to claim. Depending on your income level you may owe money or receive a tax refund after filing income taxes with the IRS in April. Use an online calculator to determine how much to expect in your paycheck based on your state and withhholding choices.

Do the math. How much do you need?

Consider a few examples:

  • If you work 40 hours/week at a salary of $8,000 for 8 weeks, you are making $25 hour for a total of 320 hours.  
    • You may work 9am-5pm with evenings and weekends free for socializing, a side hustle, project, or down time.
  • If you work 90 hours/week at a salary of $20,000, over 8 weeks for total of 720 hours, your hourly salary works out to $27.77 an hour.
    • You will make more money and the rate per hour is slightly better, but consider work/life/social balance.  
    • You may work 7am – 11pm, plus 10 hours on the weekend and never see your friends (unless they work with you).
  • If you work 40 hours/week for a stipend of $1000 for 8 weeks the hourly rate is about $3.12. In this case, you’re probably not doing it for the salary.
    • Consider whether you will gain valuable connections, skills, and experience or contribute to a cause important to you.  

Why is it important to pay off debt?

As you consider your budget, remember that school loan payments are not deducted from your paycheck. Use the Student Loan repayment estimator to figure out your monthly loan payments. Getting a head start on paying off your student loans will decrease the amount of money you pay in interest. Even a few dollars extra a month can add up to paying off your loans one month faster in the long run. Check out this calculator to see the difference between paying the minimum each month and paying a little more.

Benefits

Do retirement packages really matter?

When considering a job offer, ask for specific information on retirement packages. Some employers may offer a 401(k) or 403(b). These allow you to opt in to contributing money directly from your paycheck. Beyond that, some employers may offer a company match of your contributions to those accounts. The company match is essentially “free money” that you can tap into when you retire. Because of the compound interest gained on these accounts it is important to save for retirement as early as possible.

What’s the deal with health benefits?

Companies vary widely in terms of health insurance coverage and payments. At many large companies, benefits (health insurance, retirement contributions, vacation, sick leave) cost about 33% of your salary. Some start-ups or small businesses will offer limited benefits. Many non-profits offer better benefits as an incentive because base salaries may be less competitive than at for-profit corporations.

It will serve you well to seriously analyze what you are getting in addition to your base salary. For example, you may pay $20/month or $400/month for health insurance, depending on company size and employer contributions. With no retirement plan, minimal insurance coverage, and long hours, that great job offer may turn out to be just average.

Also look at the costs and coverage insurance provides. What are co-pays for office visits, prescriptions, and specialists, in network and out of network? Is there a large deductible (the amount you have to pay before insurance starts to cover healthcare costs)?

Office Perks and other benefits

The possibility of stock options, commuting cost reimbursement, or in-office meals and snacks varies by employer and industry. Still, don’t forget to consider them when evaluating or negotiating your offer. Be careful not to weigh perks that you may not use too heavily. Even the best office environment cannot make up for a base salary that is not competitive in the long run.

Decision Matrix: Comparing Your Options

Still trying to decide whether to take an offer? Comparing multiple offers? The following tool may help. Use the table below or create your own list of factors to consider. You can set up your own ranking system using Excel with this pre-loaded ranking formula.

  1. List the offers of potential internships/jobs across the top.
    • Contemplate what would happen if you let go of the offer and do not receive another.
    • Include your backup plan as its own column. For example, keeping your current day job, taking summer classes, volunteering, or working for a family friend.
  2. Down the side, list the factors important to you in making this decision.
    • You can use those listed below or choose your own.
    • Complete a values assessment to help you think through what matters to you. Identify the three values most important to you.
  3. Rank each factor to assign weight from 1-10 in order of importance to where 10 has the most value to you. The higher the number the more weight it has.
  4. Evaluate how well each position or opportunity satisfies each work factor. Use a scale of 1-10 to quantify your response.
  5. Check that each cell has a number; do not leave any cells empty.  Hit Ctrl+R (in Excel) to Total the columns and get your results.
Choose Criteria (Factors) Rank to Assign Weight Evaluate Each Option
Factor Factor Weight Job 1 Offer Possible Job 2 Backup Plan
Skills Developed

 

     
Work Content        
Salary        
Hours        
Benefits        
Value 1        
Value 2        
Value 3        
Advance Toward Long Term Goal        
Other        
         
Total        
         
Ranking Score      
Job 1 Offer        
Possible Job 2        
Backup Plan        

Completed Example:

Factor Factor Weight Job Offer 1 Possible Job 2 Backup Plan
Skills Developed 10 9 5 5
Work Content 9 5 8 4
Salary 2 7 6 9
Hours 8 3 6 7
Benefits 4 3 7 8
Company Culture Fit 3 9 5 7
Prestige 5 6 9 3
Contribution to Society 1 8 7 8
Advance Toward Long Term Goal 6 7 8 5
Other 7 8 3 9
         
Total 55      
         
Ranking Score      
Job 1 Offer 348      
Possible Job 2 346      
Backup Plan 329      

When you compare positions you may find there is not a huge difference in the final score. For instance, Job 1 and Job 2 are almost equal, but the backup plan lags behind. The exact numbers are not important. Rather, the idea is for the decision matrix to allow you to compare apples and oranges.

Consider how well each job addresses your top values. These might include stability, challenging work, impact, money, prestige, work-life balance, making a contribution, bragging rights, and flexibility. Also consider how the culture of each company fits with your values. Culture fit is an important part of the whole picture.

It is often clear which job is best for you. It may be a matter of accepting the risk and potential consequences of your decision to let go of an offer.

  • How well can you tolerate the uncertainty of not having an offer?
  • What resources do you have to fall back on?
    • Financial: Do you have savings? Are you able to pay rent and other necessities?
    • Personal: How resilient are you? How tolerant of risk are you?
    • Professional: What’s your network? Do you have past employers or old jobs you can return to?

Sometimes you will have a sense of which job feels right, but it can be difficult to explain why. This may especially be the case if your reasons are rooted in your personal values rather than logic. You may also be dealing with external influences questioning your decision and the value or prestige of the work. Work with a career counselor to talk through your decision and how you might share it with those people.

I Have an Offer, but I Have Another Interview Next Week. How Can I Handle This?

Honesty and transparency with potential employers is key. You want to make sure you are being professional while assessing your offers and other interviews.

The first step to take is to determine whether your current offer has a deadline. If it does, and that deadline comes before your other interview, then you can call or e-mail the first employer and ask for an extension on the deadline. It is possible that you will not have a phone number for your recruiting contact, but if you do, we recommend following up by phone. It allows you to express your interest in the position more clearly through words and tone of voice.

Some examples of what you might say are

  • You appreciate their time.
  • You are interested the work/company.
  • You would like to clearly understand all of your options before committing, because you take this decision seriously.

Reneging, or reversing your decision after you’ve already accepted, is not professional or recommended. If an extension is not granted, then you have a difficult choice. We recommend coming to Quick Questions or scheduling an appointment to discuss this before deciding to accept a position.


These are just some of the questions that will help you think about the true value of your offer. It is also important to consider if a job is right for you personally. Be cautious about evaluating an offer solely on its salary or the prestige of the organization. Ask yourself how this position fits into your long-term goals.

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