You are thinking about finding a new job or you recently landed a new job offer.
How do you review the job offer?
Are you only looking at the differences in salary? Have you considered the other benefits? Are you making as close to an apples-to-apples comparison as possible?
When I talk with people, I often find they are focused on one or two areas of the job offer, but there are many components of a job offer you should consider.
Let’s dive into how you can review a job offer.
The Actual Work
Before getting to the salary or other benefits, let’s talk about the actual work.
I know it seems like an odd question to ask, but will you enjoy the work?
Sometimes, people leave a job because they are focused only on earning more, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing; however, if it’s not sustainable, where will you be in a year or two from now?
You don’t have to love a job, but it is important to like it, find it interesting, and be challenged by it if you want any hope of being there a few years later.
In addition to finding it interesting, how much time will it take you?
If you are used to a 40-hour workweek, but this job demands 50 hours, how does that sit with you?
Conversely, if you enjoy working 50 hours, but the new job only requires 40 hours, will you find yourself bored?
It can be challenging to determine how much time you may need to put into a job, which is why it’s important to speak with people across the company, read company reviews, and research the company on social media.
Not only do you need to consider how much time you need to devote, but will travel be required?
Is traveling for work something you will like or hate?
I remember when my prior job started asking me to travel more, I found it exciting at first. It was something new, gave me an opportunity to see new places, and was a good change of pace, but over time, I found it draining.
None of my other responsibilities were removed, so I ended up waking up earlier for travel, having less time to do work, and getting home later.
I also have a friend who used to travel a ton for work. He didn’t seem to mind for some time, but it sounded miserable to me. He was away from home more than he was at home. It was tough for him to eat regular, healthy meals and exercise.
Lastly, how does the work contribute to your career path?
Is this the type of role where you are managing people for the first time or managing more people? Does it introduce new responsibilities that could lead to better opportunities later? Is it a title bump?
Not everything has to be strategic, but it’s worth considering how this job will look to future employers and more importantly, how it will help where you want to be in the future.
Evaluating the actual work of a job offer is important, particularly looking through what is listed in the job posting and getting a feel for what the day-to-day might look like.
Salary and Other Compensation
Obviously, the salary is important.
But, what about bonuses, raises, stock options, restricted stock units (RSUs), and profit-sharing?
You could have a company with a lower salary, but perhaps it also rewards you more in the forms of stock compensation or bonuses.
For example, if a company offers $100,000, but a quarterly bonus potential of $10,000 and 100 shares of the company vesting each quarter, that may be worth more than a company paying you $130,000.
It’s a different risk because the bonus and stock vesting might be worth less than the salary, but it might be a worthwhile risk for you.
While salary is important, the highest paid people I’ve seen received most of their compensation in the form of stock or profit-sharing.
That doesn’t mean you should always lean towards stock compensation because if it’s a quickly growing startup, you never know whether the stock compensation could turn into millions or nothing.
For every success story, there are many more failure stories where people wish they would have taken more salary and less stock compensation.
Know what is important at this point and which types of risk you want to take.
401(k) and Retirement Plans
The type of retirement plan you have access to is also very important.
If the company offers a 401(k) plan, do they offer a match?
I’ve seen 401(k) matches equate to more than $13,000. That’s a meaningful amount to consider in the total job offer package.
Also, when do you vest into the match? In other words, if you leave the company, how much of the match do you get to take with you?
Is it immediately, after 3 years, or is there graded vesting where maybe 20% vests each year?
What are the fees like in the 401(k) plan?
Not only may you have participant fees, but you may also have a limited menu of investment options with high expenses.
For example, if one employer has no participant fees and the average expense ratio of the investment options is 0.25% while another employer has participant fees of $100 and the average expense ratio of the investment options is 1%, that can be a meaningful amount over time.
If you have $100,000 in the 401(k) plan, that’s about $1,100 in investment expenses ($100 participant fee + $1,000 investment expenses) in one employer, while it’s only $250 in the other in a year.
While it doesn’t sound like much in year one, if you compound that over a decade and with a higher dollar amount, it can be a big difference.
The cost and type of health insurance you have access to is an important consideration in reviewing a job offer.
Some employers pay your entire premium. Others pay 75% of it. Some pay a portion of your family’s premium to be on your plan. Others require you to shoulder the full cost.
When health insurance can easily be $500 a month, an employer-paid plan could be worth $6,000 annually compared to another company where you have to pay the full premium.
You should also determine what type of coverage you get.
If you only have access to a high-deductible health plan, you may be paying $3,000 out of pocket before your health insurance provides any benefits. Another employer might have a $500 deductible, at which point your insurance starts to provide some benefits.
One company might make contributions to an HSA plan if you choose a high-deductible health plan while another may not.
When evaluating health insurance, consider:
- How much am I paying?
- What’s my deductible?
- What is my maximum out-of-pocket cost?
- Will I have access to the doctors I want?
- Is it a PPO or HMO plan?
The type of health insurance you have could lead to a difference of more than $10,000 between employers.
Don’t forget to see how often you can relax!
How much paid time off do you receive? Can you actually take it? Do you receive it at once or do you earn it over time?
Do they offer unlimited paid time off? Are you aware that people who have unlimited paid time off actually end up taking less time off than people who have a certain number of days?
Let’s be honest – no company is going to actually allow you to take unlimited paid time off. I’d much rather companies have a flexible paid-time-off policy that values employees being responsible about when they feel the need to take time off instead of calling it “unlimited.”
If they don’t offer unlimited paid time off, how is your paid time off measured? Do you get sick days and vacation days or is it one pot of days? Are there certain dates you can’t take off during a busy time of year? How does that fit with your family’s schedule?
How much advance notice do you need to provide to take time off?
For example, if you like to travel last minute or have a partner who doesn’t know their schedule until a week before, perhaps it is important that you can take off time at a moment’s notice.
Does your paid time off rollover year-to-year? If not, are you okay losing vacation days if you don’t take them?
Lastly, if you leave the company, does the company pay out your unused vacation days?
I’ve seen this equate to more than $20,000 for some individuals.
Paid time off policies are very different at companies, so it’s important to see what is offered and how it aligns with your values.
Flexibility: Remote vs. In-Person
Although this was not a major factor in the past, it’s huge today.
Does your job offer say anything about flexibility around remote work? Is it a permanent or temporary policy?
If it’s not a remote position or if it allows you to work from home on certain days, does it allow you to work from home occasionally if needed?
I’m amazed at the number of jobs that could allow an employee to work from home when they need to wait for the cable person to appear between that “four-hour window” or to pick up their kids early on a certain day, but don’t.
Also, it’s important to look at more than what is in the fine print of the job offer. Ideally, you should be asking employees what is actually practiced.
If the company allows people to work from home occasionally, but nobody does, you may be hesitant to work from home when needed.
Having lived in Seattle for the first part of my career, I heard about phenomenal other benefits.
I heard about catered lunches, access to gyms, stipends for wellness, tuition reimbursement, sabbaticals, and more.
What are the other benefits your job may offer?
These normally don’t amount to very much, but for certain employers, they can be huge.
For example, if you have access to free lunch every day and tuition reimbursement, that could amount to thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
For others, it might be $1,000 a year.
Other benefits might include a sabbatical after five years with the company. I remember the first time I heard about a sabbatical. It sounded too good to be true. A month off of work separate from vacation days? Amazing.
Although less common today, pensions are still available in some jobs, particularly state or federal employment. It’s good to learn about how long you have to work to qualify and how your benefit amount is calculated. I’ve seen some federal workers have pensions larger than $100,000 annually.
It’s worth asking what other benefits are available.
Employer Reputation and Stability
Although not directly related to your job offer, you should think about the employer’s reputation and stability.
If you are purposefully joining a startup, maybe you don’t care about the stability and recognize the risk. If you aren’t doing it on purpose though, how stable is the company?
Companies can look great on social media, but beneath the surface, they may be struggling. One company that comes to mind is Fast. Fast made quite the buzz until it quickly shut down.
Although you can check employer reviews, I’d also check social media to see what is being talked about. You can’t believe everything you read online, but it might give you an idea of what is happening on less official channels.
You could also do a search of former employers and see if you can chat with them. They may be more willing to share the good and the bad since they are no longer employed by the company.
It’s challenging to know what it’s like inside a company, but sometimes the inside doesn’t match the outside. For example, if a company claims to have diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, but most of the people in leadership positions are white males, that is probably a red flag.
When you say you work for Company XYZ, you want to be proud of it. If they are known for certain issues, but you are unaware of it during hiring, that may pose problems later.
If you are moving across state lines, research what taxes you will pay.
For example, I used to live in Washington state, where there is no income tax and property taxes are low. Washington state has a very regressive tax structure, which means it’s great for people who earn a higher income, but it’s not great for people with lower levels of income.
For example, if you moved from Seattle, WA to Madison, WI, your tax bill is likely to go up.
Although Washington state has a high sales tax (over 10% in Seattle), not having an income tax and low property taxes is valuable for high-income earners.
If you are earning $150,000 in Seattle, you’ll pay zero income tax. In Madison, assuming a single filer, your marginal state tax rate is 5.30% and your effective tax rate is about 5.08%. That works out to about $7,621 in taxes.
Let’s assume you own a $750,000 home in each location. I know this assumption is a stretch because it’s hard to find a $750,000 home in Seattle, but let’s assume you can for a moment.
Dane County, where Madison is located, has an average effective property tax rate of 1.98%. King County, where Seattle is located, has an average effective property tax rate of 0.93%.
That means you are paying about $14,850 in property taxes in Madison and only $6,975 in Seattle. That’s a difference of $7,875!
Even if you had a $500,000 home in Madison and a $1,000,000 home in Seattle, that is $9,900 and $9,300 in property taxes, respectively.
Sales tax in Madison is 5.5%, which is about half of Seattle’s, but unless you are buying a lot each year, this won’t make much of a difference.
As you can see, taxes aren’t included in your job offer, but they should be a consideration. You may have to earn considerably more to live in a state with higher taxes.
Cost of Living
Somewhat related to taxes is the cost of living. In my example above, Seattle is obviously a more expensive place to live than Madison.
Housing is usually where the cost of living shows up the most, but it also shows up with health insurance, auto insurance, property insurance, food, entertainment, and more.
I was shocked when I moved from Seattle to Madison. My auto insurance was about half the cost. Although this isn’t a huge line item in my budget, it’s the combination of everything that can add up quickly.
If you are considering moving from a job, don’t forget to account for the cost of living.
Summary – Final Thoughts
Although salary and other compensation are the most important part of a job offer, don’t forget to consider other factors.
The type of work you are doing may help you decide how long you can actually stick with a job to earn a higher income.
The 401(k) plan and investment options, as well as the types of health insurance offered, may be a big factor, particularly for families.
How you can take time off, the flexibility of your hours, and the other ancillary benefits can also impact your choice.
Don’t forget about the employer’s reputation and stability, as well as the taxes and cost of living if you move.
Good luck in reviewing your job offer!