How to evaluate a job offer

There’s more to it than salary

When it comes to the job search, accounting majors are in luck. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the profession’s employment will jump 10% between 2016 and 2026. Unemployment for accountants is only 1.8%. That means you have a good chance of finding a job before graduation, and you may even find yourself choosing between multiple offers.

While it may be tempting to select the opportunity with the highest salary, that may not be the best choice. “I see a lot of young people saying, ‘That’s great. I’ll take it,’” without asking the right questions first, said Jennifer Floyd, president of HR Experts On Demand, based in Greenville, S.C.

When weighing job offers, get the information you need and then evaluate the total package, said Casey Alseika, a partner and executive recruiter with the WatsonBarron Group based in Wall Township, N.J. He suggests using this formula to help make your decision: Compensation = salary + bonus + equity + benefits + quality of life + opportunity. Only you can determine the importance of each piece. Once you do, “it may make sense to accept the offer with the lowest salary if the opportunity is the greatest,” he said.

Here are some things to consider when weighing a job offer:

  • Culture. You’ll likely be spending at least eight hours a day with this employer, so think about whether you’ll fit in, said Floyd. Examine the atmosphere. If you’re used to a relaxed environment, can you thrive in a place filled with cubicles? Do the organization’s values match yours? “There are a lot of different cultures out there, and you want to be matched to the one that fits you best,” Floyd said.
  • Growth. Think about whether you can learn and advance in the job, and whether it will bring you closer to where you want to be in five or 10 years, Alseika said. Ask yourself whether taking the job will improve your résumé and make you a stronger candidate for positions in the future.
  • Health care. Don’t overlook the benefits. Examine the health insurance offered: Does the plan have large out-of-pocket fees? “Even if you’re a healthy young person insurance is still worth a lot,” said Floyd. “If you’re in a situation where you’re in an accident, you need good care.”
  • Retirement. Though it may seem too early to be thinking about retirement, you should still consider the retirement plans an employer offers. Look at whether the employer will match any of your contributions.
  • Quality of life. Give some thought to quality-of-life factors such as working hours, commute, and the employer’s location. (A great location may actually save you money in commuting cost and lost time, Alseika pointed out.) Also, ask about vacation, holidays, and telecommuting options.
  • Employee investment. Explore whether a potential employer invests time and money to improve its employees through on-the-job training, organizational memberships, or education reimbursement. “If you can’t quantify anything about the investment in you as an employee, then you might want to be cautious about the job,” Floyd said.

After receiving an offer, though, make your decision quickly. “If you think about it, the very first assignment your new boss gives you, is to decide on the offer,” Alseika said. “Show them you are decisive and capable of making decisions.” Once you do, hang onto those skills — you’ll use them time and time again in your new job.

By Dawn Wotapka

Dawn Wotapka is a Georgia-based freelance writer. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien, senior editor of newsletters and magazines at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants.

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