Congrats! You've got a job offer. Whether it's with your dream employer or not, your work doesn't stop upon being given an offer. You need to make sure you clearly understand the offer before signing on the dotted line.
If you're lucky, you may have garnered information on some of the employment conditions during the interview, such as what kind of salary to expect and benefits. However, there are discussions that happen before and after an interview between hiring managers and HR, so you need to verify everything. If there is anything that you are unsure of, make a note and ask an HR employee when you talk with them about the offer.
Some of the points below may be on your list of items to clarify. If not, these are key things you should get answers to so you feel confident you have all the information you need to make an informed choice or negotiate the offer.
Salary. If you've already talked salary in the interview, it may be difficult to change your tune -- but it's worth a shot if you feel you undervalued your worth. Whether you discussed it then or you are talking about it for the first time with HR, make sure you are backing up what you expect to make or negotiate with solid numbers. Use a salary tool to figure out what other experts in your field with a similar background and years of experience make in your geographic area.
Signing bonus. A signing bonus is not common, but it is sometimes offered to senior executives and technical professionals when there's a low supply and high demand. The reason for this is it makes the company's offer more attractive. If you haven't been offered one, you would only want to use this as a negotiation point if you feel that the company's salary offer is too low for someone with your skills and experience.
Appraisal. Since performance appraisal systems and schedules vary greatly among employers, you should find out how often they're held and if there is a formal process. You want to walk in the door knowing how it works and how to position yourself for advancement if that's what you want. You may want to ask HR how long it generally takes in your role to be promoted to the next level, and if there is generally a salary increase at appraisal time, assuming high performance.
Annual bonus. A bonus is certainly not a given in every organization. It is usually tied to company earnings and your performance assessment. Ask HR if annual bonuses are given and what they are tied to. You may even want to ask what the typical range for bonuses given at your level has been over the past few years.
Paid leave. It's important to know a few things regarding paid leave. How soon do you start accumulating it? When can you begin taking paid leave? How many days of paid leave do you have per year? When in your company tenure do you begin to accrue more? If you have any upcoming plans that cannot be changed (e.g., your brother's wedding), you should inform HR now and ask when to bring that to your future manager's attention.
Benefits. Ask about company-sponsored benefits, which could be a 401(k) plan and matching contributions (if any), health insurance options and life insurance. Some organizations have other benefits like time off for exercise, and there may be unexpected benefits like happy hours on Fridays. Not that these are game changers, but it may give you a sense of the corporate culture. If you're considering having children in the future, you may also want to ask for information on any maternity and paternity leave policies.
Professional development. Some companies offer stipends for classes and conferences to maintain or develop your professional competencies. Sometimes this money can go toward relevant professional memberships in trade organizations or associations. If they do offer this, ask what funds can be applied toward professional development and how much they pay. You should also find out if there is a payback clause stipulating that if you leave before a certain amount of time, you must pay the funds back to the company.
It's important to know what you're walking into when you accept a job offer because you do not want bad surprises when you start a new job. The way to do this is to ask HR as much as you can about benefits and salary now so you can make the right choice and avoid disappointment later.
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