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Figuring Out Whether Your Glittering Job Offer is a Golden Opportunity

Marcelle Yeager

So you've been searching for months for a new job and you're itching to get out of your current job. You get an offer and feel instant relief; now you can quit the job you dread going to in the morning and you don't have to continue your never-ending search. It's tempting to just say, "yes, I'll take it!"

However, it's always better to do your homework first. Switching your job is life-altering; just like getting married, having a baby or adopting a child, changing jobs has a similar impact on your life financially, emotionally and physically. It could involve moving to a new city and even if it doesn't, it's a huge adjustment. You'll spend most of your time with your new employer going forward, so you will want to make sure you're making the right decision.

Contact your would-be future colleagues. Once you thank human resources for the offer and express how excited you are about it, ask how much time you have to decide. It's easy to forget to do when you're thrilled to finally get an offer. Ideally, you want about a week to do your own background check. If it's Friday and they want an answer by Monday, it is more than OK to ask for a week to consider.

Tell them that you want to ensure that it's the right move for you (and for the company), so you'd like to talk to more people. Ask if it's possible to get a few names and contact information for people with whom you'll work. If you didn't meet your boss during the interview process, try to get her name and information too.

When you contact each person by email or phone, emphasize that you're enthusiastic about the offer and want to make sure the move is the right one. You might consider asking them some or all of the following questions:

-- What is your favorite thing about working there?

-- If you could change something about the company/organization, what would it be?

-- Do you enjoy working with your teammates and manager?

-- How would you describe the organizational culture?

-- What are your typical hours?

While some may not be willing to expose the full truth, you can get a sense of that by the tone of voice and type of response (hasty or hesitant). Also, if you don't get replies or call backs, you should question why that is the case. Are they extremely busy with no time to spare, or do they have nothing good to say about their organization? This will also help you figure out if it's somewhere you'd like to work. Sometimes what is not said or done is just as strong as what is said. Regardless of the answers, these conversations are important to give you a sense about the work environment.

Dig into your personal and professional networks. It's possible that you have friends or friends of friends who work at this company. Check your LinkedIn connections and online alumni databases to find people who work there now, or worked there in the past. If it's someone you don't know at all, ask your friend or connection to introduce you. Then you'll want to follow-up with a quick email to introduce yourself and ask for a few minutes of his or her time to discuss the company. Explain that changing your job is a big decision and you want to be as well-informed as possible. Who could argue with that?

Do some Internet research. Check a site like Glassdoor.com. It's a great resource, as reviewers are required to list both pros and cons of working at a company. As you read through the comments, try not to focus on individual observations but look for patterns in the reviews that might indicate a theme. If you have not done a thorough Google search by this point in the hiring process, now is a good time to do so.

The information you collect from these steps will help you determine if the organization is a good fit. After you've gathered this data, take a step back and think about what you want in a new job.

-- What are you missing in your current job that you're looking to fill?

-- What does your ideal work environment look like?

-- Do you like the people you met at the interview and talked to on the phone? Do you think you'd like working with them every day?

-- Do you have any reservations about working there based on the interview or conversations with others?

-- Does the company encourage collaboration or autonomy? What do you want?

When the economy is in a downturn or you've been unhappy in your job for some time, it seems easier to just take what you can get. However, overlooking undesirable qualities to secure a job can leave you feeling unsatisfied and quickly searching for yet another job. Do you want to go through all that hassle again?

Remember: Just because you're a good fit for a job doesn't mean the job is a good fit for you.

Marcelle Yeager is the president of Career Valet (@careervalet), which delivers personalized career navigation services. Her goal is to enable people to recognize skills and job possibilities they didn't know they had in order to make a career change or progress in their current career. She worked for more than 10 years as a strategic communications consultant, including four years overseas. Marcelle holds an MBA from the University of Maryland.

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