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How to Choose the Best Job Offer, Part I

Wahoo! You got an offer! Your job search and interviewing strategies paid off. But wait ... what's that? You have two offers? Three? Holy cow!

If this is the boat you're in, consider yourself lucky. While getting even one offer is great news, having more than one gives you a safety net, increases your negotiating power, and raises your sense of control over your future. You get to choose which deal is the sweetest, and ask for more of what you want if one offer isn't good enough to win you over.

To give you an idea of how you can sort out the details, I've created a handy chart to compare the terms of two hypothetical job offers.

  Offer #1 Offer #2 Personal Notes
Wage / Salary $42,000/year $46,000/year  
Bonuses / Raises Merit increase probable after annual performance review Merit increase probable after annual performance review  
Paid Time Off 2 weeks' vacation, 5 sick days,
11 paid holidays
2 weeks' vacation, no set number of sick days, 7 paid holidays  
Insurance Health, life, dental, vision, prescription, reimbursement account Health, dental, vision, prescription, long- and short-term disability Need life insurance to protect family
401(k) Contributions Enroll after 6 months, company match up to 6% Enroll after 90 days, company match up to 3%  
Tuition Reimbursement N/A N/A  
Stock Options Available after one year N/A (Non-public company)  
Relocation N/A N/A  
Commute 25 minutes to downtown 35 minutes to small town Potential for heavy morning traffic downtown - could take subway
Opportunity for Advancement Title change flexibility only, unless higher position opens Non-hierarchical structure but ability to move within departments  
Level of Independence Mainly independent, report directly to manager Report to senior level, who reports to manager Closer supervision with #2, not sure I'd like that
Cost of Living Manageable Manageable Would be more comfortable with higher salary for higher 401(k) contributions

But don't stop there. Other important factors to consider include: Hours, work environment, boss and coworkers, job security, training and career development, and work-related travel, if any.

So now that you've mapped out the differences, how do you determine what the best fit is for you?

  1. Identify Level of Importance – Is a higher salary more important than life insurance? Is a longer commute to a small town that big of a deal? Is moving up the corporate ladder more important than lateral transitions?
  2. Identify Most Attractive Offer Overall – Which offer, before any negotiating, meets most of your needs?
  3. Identify Areas of Negotiation – Let's say you consider Offer #2 more attractive overall, but you could really use employer-paid life insurance and would prefer more paid time off. With another offer to fall back on, you have the upper hand in negotiations and if the company really wants you, they just might step up to meet your needs.

In the end, your decision may come down to something as simple as which offer "feels" right. Think it through, weigh the pros and cons, and trust your gut.

When you've made your choice, follow up with How to Choose the Best Offer: Part II, in which I address how to reject an offer without burning bridges.

Related Links

How to Choose the Best Job Offer, Part II
How to Choose the Best Job Offer, Part III

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