They Made an Offer. Should You Take It?

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They Made an Offer. Should You Take It?

You apply. You wait. You ace the phone interview. You wait. You get called in to meet the team, then go back home and wait. And wait. And wait.

And then you get The Phone Call: “We’d like to offer you a position; when can you start?”

Rein it in there, buckaroo: the deal is not sealed by someone making an offer. Before you accept any position, you need to evaluate the situation carefully and make sure you know what you’re getting into.

The Pressure’s On

Getting a job offer feels good…and that can be dangerous. You can get so caught up in playing Sally Field that you accept a position based on nothing more than euphoria. Especially in a bad economy—or in situations where you’re dying to get out of your current job—any offer can seem like a godsend. As Washington Irving once said, “There is a certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse.”

But determining whether you really should take that job offer can be a difficult decision—and in fact, it should be. This is important stuff. At the same time, the hiring manager is on the other end of the line hearing nothing but static…so there’s pressure to make a call right then and there. So what should you do?

Start at the Beginning

There’s an old Hollywood adage: If there’s trouble with the third act of a movie, it probably started in the first act. The same sort of thing applies here: to avoid getting to the point of the offer with a metaphorical “deer in the headlights” feeling, you have to start much earlier in the process…like, before you even apply.

How does that work? Well, before you even start looking, it helps to sit down and take a good hard look at where you are, what you want, and where you want to be. Think about the questions you might hear in an interview—such as “What role do you see yourself playing in the company?” and ask them of yourself. What’s your ideal situation? What do you need? Flexible start times? Little to no travel? A salary based on commission?

It’s a bit Pollyanna to believe that your perfect position is waiting for you out there, but if you haven’t even thought about it, you’ll never know. Don’t just assume, however, that it will fall in your lap: you may have to work to uncover it. Companies are notorious about not communicating with potential future employees (which ironically, is what many CEOs say about the people who work for them).

Learn as You Go

This same principle applies to every contact you have with the company before the offer is made. Pay attention in interviews. Ask questions. Take subtle notes about the atmosphere and people you come in contact with. Every touchpoint can offer a small tidbit of information; put those together and you can start to get an overall picture of what this future job might be like on a day-to-day basis.

And, too, you can find out a lot about a company by doing more extensive research. Sure, you should have vetted the company before you submitted a resume, but that usually only gets you the “official” version. During your interviews, be on the lookout for things you can check on later: for example, if an interviewer complains about federal regulations, check to see if the company has had recent run-ins with the government. Dig around for as much data as you can about the company and its culture. Look for your future co-workers on social media and see what they say about their job. Check business journals to get an idea about the organization’s future prospects: at the rate things change in our digital world, it makes sense to consider whether an organization will still be around in a few years.

Weigh Your Options Realistically

Assuming you’ve sent out more than one resume, odds are that you could be interviewing (or hoping to interview) with other organizations when your first offer comes in. It’s fine to hold out for a position you’re more excited about, but keep yourself grounded: that other offer might not come, and even if it does, it may not be as amazing as you’ve built it up to be.

That’s another reason for thinking hard about what you want before you start your search: it helps you look at an offer realistically, based on what you’re looking for. And it also helps you evaluate the possibility of that “perfect” offer coming in: the offer you have might not include everything you want, but a bird in the hand, as they say, is worth a lot of potential offers that never materialize.

If You Have to Say No, Say No

Turning down a job offer sucks. You feel like you’ve wasted everyone’s time, including your own. If possible, it’s best to avoid appearing to string them along; if at any point during the interview process you realize that you probably wouldn’t accept an offer, say so. That allows them to focus on more viable candidates, and lets you get on with your search.

One other thing: if you do say no, do it graciously. A lot of time and energy goes into generating an offer. Don’t act like the job or the salary are not good enough for you. Simply focus on what’s not a good fit. Not only will people appreciate your candor, it will also keep the door open for the future.