Job Search Strategies: Should you accept the offer?

Aurora Donnelly is a solo practitioner always looking forward to the next exciting transition.

Last week I shared a dire story about a colleague who unknowingly accepted the wrong job offer. So this week I wanted to give you some ideas I have picked up along the way about what to consider when deciding whether to accept a job offer.

When I worked for a high-end boutique leadership and outplacement firm years ago, they put a lot of emphasis on not taking the wrong job. Of course those were flush times, when it wasn’t unusual for candidates to receive multiple offers and the clients we were working with had enough back up capital to sit out a couple of job offers and not suffer much financially.

But, the ideas still work. Consider the entire compensation package, not just the salary,  including any perks and benefits that come with the job. Try to place a dollar value on those. Typically, for example, health insurance paid for you entirely or in part by the employer adds a significant amount to your compensation. Is there profit sharing? A 401k? Health club membership paid or membership discount? How many weeks of paid vacation do they offer, and after how long? Any of those and many other perks can significantly increase your compensation above just the salary amount.

What are the terms of your employment? Government attorney jobs right now seem to be limited to 2- or 4-year terms, so if you are concerned about taking a temporary position, if you have to move, for example, consider the risk that the position might not be extended past the announced time. And then you are back to square one, and maybe in the wrong city. Of course, by that time, the job market might have improved.

Find out how you will be classified when you take the job. Unlikely as it seems, some employers are getting away with hiring “independent contractors” for what should be employee jobs, which means you have to pay both sides of the social security contribution. But you may be able to deduct some of your expenses. In any case, your hiring status can make a big difference to your final financial package.

Next consider geography. How much time will you spend commuting? How much will it cost you to commute, say you have to take the Metra, you could be adding $100 or more to your expenses. If you need to travel between courts or between office locations, will you need a car? Do you have a car? And how reliable is it?

The feeling you get from the interviewer, the way the workplace looks and feels, how you perceive employees are treated there, even how the receptionist greeted you when you arrived are some important indicators of whether you should take a job. The one thing I seem to always forget to ask is why the position is vacant. What happened to the previous incumbent? The answer can be helpful in making your own decision.

I wish I could stop here, but I have to be truthful: I have accepted, with misgivings, jobs that in the end were very good for my career, but usually something turned out to be not what it initially seemed and eventually I left.

During my interview with that boutique firm, the CEO emphasized that quality was one of the firm’s primary goals. While he was talking I noticed behind him the firm’s mission etched on a series of plaques on the wall. The word quality was spelled “quailty.”  Later, when I was working there, I asked how they could leave that grievous error uncorrected. The answer was that it would have been too expensive to have the plaque re-done. I guess the price of quality can be too high. That plaque should have tipped me off.





One response to “Job Search Strategies: Should you accept the offer?

  1. I think you make a great point with your warning about being hired at a firm as a so-called “independent contractor.” I have colleagues that are working essentially as employees for firms, but because of the tough job market have had to agree to be hired as “1099” employees. It may sound appealing at first- you get seemingly larger paychecks up front, and it feels like you have greater autonomy as an independent contractor- but young attorneys must consider the practical implications. For example, are you prepared to foot a lump-sum tax bill? Did you know that if your firm lays you off you probably won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits? These and many more factors are great reasons to fight the old, “we’ll hire you, provide office space and business cards, but you’re an ‘independent contractor'” agreement.

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