How to Evaluate a Job Offer
It’s always exciting to make it past an interview process and get a job offer. So exciting, in fact, that you might be tempted to accept the offer without reading the fine print. However, given that your offer will contain important details about expectations, working conditions, and compensation, it’s extremely important that you carefully review your offer before signing it.
What is an Offer Letter?
An offer letter is a formal outline of the position. You can expect to find the following in an offer letter:
- Start dates. The letter should clearly state when your position and certain elements of your compensation package will start, like when your medical insurance will kick in and when you will begin to accrue vacation time.
- Job title and duties. These should be clearly described and match how the job was described to you.
- Base salary. Usually, by the time you receive a formal offer letter, you’ve already negotiated your pay. Make sure this figure matches what you agreed to. If you haven't discussed the salary and find it lower than you expected, you can try to negotiate.
- Bonuses and other benefits. Look for annual bonuses, medical coverage, vacation days, and other perks such as gym allowances or a company laptop.
- Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure agreements. These standard clauses require you to keep any sensitive or private company information to yourself, often by the threat of a lawsuit.
- Non-compete clause. These clauses keep you from working at other companies within the same industry. While they are standard, it’s very important that you read for how long they are in effect - many will specify lengths of time even after you stop working for the company, keeping you from working in your industry.
- Non-solicit clause. Just as a non-compete clause keeps you from leaving your company for another, a non-solicit clause keeps you from starting your own company and poaching clients. These clauses will tell you how long you must wait before you are allowed to solicit its clients.
- At-will Employment clause. Every state in the US except Montana allows “at-will” employment, meaning the company can fire you without reason or notice at any time, and you, too can quit at any time. However, you will still be protected by federal anti-discrimination laws, which state that you cannot be fired for reasons such as your race, religion, gender, or needing medical leave.
- Arbitration clause. These clauses require that any disputes you may have with your employer be handled by a neutral third-party arbitration process rather than a lawsuit. They will make it difficult to take your employer to court, which could be problematic if you experience discrimination, underpayment, or other labor law violations.
If you do find any errors or surprises in your offer letter, make sure to reach out to your hiring manager or HR department immediately. Most of the time, any errors are simple mistakes resulting from a miscommunication between departments and should be easy to fix.
When do I Sign a Job Offer?
Once you confirm all the details are correct, be sure to respond to the letter quickly - most offer letters come with a deadline ranging from 24 hours to one week from the date it was sent. If you do not respond within this window, the company can rescind the offer.