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Offers of Employment: Things to Consider

May 9, 2011

When considering an offer of employment, it’s important to ensure the compensation and job description are satisfactory. Here are some issues to consider before signing on the dotted line.

Salary or Base Salary plus Bonuses

You may be offered a salary, or you may get a base salary with bonuses offered for reaching specified targets either individually, as a team or as a corporation. Determine if the salary offered represents the total compensation or the base compensation, and if it is negotiable. If not, you may wish to negotiate vacation time or other benefits. If it is a base salary, remember that bonuses are often paid as a percentage of your base salary, so it really pays (later) to get the highest possible base salary at the outset.

Signing Bonuses

In competitive industries, signing bonuses are fairly common. They are less common in the healthcare sector unless there is a severe shortage of qualified professionals, as sometimes happens. If there is no signing bonus, you may have the chance to negotiate other things such as on-site childcare and vacation time.

Get a Copy of the Job Description

Ask the new employer for a copy of your job description along with the offer of employment. You and the employer must be in agreement about the role and duties you will have. Read it carefully before accepting. There may be matters that weren’t addressed in the interview(s) that need to be addressed right away, or matters that have been omitted. For example, if overnight travel was not mentioned in the interview but it appears on the job description, you must address this issue before resigning from your present job, if you have one. Some employers have been known to significantly alter a role after a person has accepted the job. This is something you have to deal with if it arises. However, if you have heard that an employer has behaved in unethical or unfair ways to other employees, or if the employer bullies you during the interview process or declines to put important details in the offer despite your requests, you should heed the loud warning bells going off.

Start Date

If you are presently employed, no matter how eager you are to start the new job, you must give your present employer the required notice (e.g., two weeks). It shows respect for your employer. Your new employer will be wary of you if you fail to do so, because it suggests you might do the same thing to the new employer later on. If you can afford to take some time off, consider delaying your start date by adding a week or two onto the required notice period to give yourself some time to regroup and prepare for the new job. You may not be eligible for a vacation for a year, so this may be the time to take one.

Timing your Decision

Wait for the written offer to arrive before accepting a job. If you are waiting for decisions from other potential employers, you may need to ask the employer offering the job for some time to consider it. Don’t put in your notice in your present job until you are satisfied with the written offer and the new employer has confirmed a start date.

Compensation Reviews and Performance Reviews

In most jobs, there are regularly scheduled performance evaluations. These may occur every 6 months, every year, or every two years. These evaluations may not necessarily be opportunities to negotiate an increase in salary or other forms of compensation. Ask prospective employers about this prior to accepting an offer. Many public-sector employers provide automatic salary increases/increased vacation time based on years of service and cost-of-living increases, so you may not need to ask for a raise or a longer vacation. In some cases, salaries are based on a salary ‘grid’ (education level and years of experience) and there is no opportunity to negotiate your starting salary or vacation.

Signing on the Dotted Line

Negotiating your compensation (when possible) and ensuring that the job description is accurate are essential steps in the job acceptance process. Attending to these matters ensures that you and your new employer share a clear understanding of your role and how you will be compensated.