The Job Offer Mistake EVERYONE Makes

Illustrated by Natalia Spotts.
There are few sweeter words than, “We’d love to bring you onboard.” Even if you haven’t been actively looking for a new gig, knowing another company wants you is a huge ego boost. Plus, even if you don’t plan to accept the job, a new offer can serve as a valuable tool to leverage a raise or promotion at your current job. But in order to maximize the opportunity, you’ve got to be just as strategic as you were while acing your interview.

Step one, says career coach Heather Monahan, is to get the offer in writing so you know exactly what you’ve got. Second, know that this is just the beginning of a series of conversations with the potential new job, your old boss, and yourself.

Terrified? You shouldn’t be. You’re in the best possible place. You have a company that wants to hire you and one that would love to keep you. So take your time. Remember: You have the written job offer, and they won’t take that away just because you need a few days to think it through. And if you’re not sure it’s the right move, know that you can absolutely tell your boss you got a new job offer without offering your resignation. Consider this: Companies spend an average of $1,000 and 30 hours to train someone in a job. If you’re a good worker, your current boss would love to keep you on board. You have the upper hand. So use it for getting what you want and what you need.

Ahead, we went to the career experts for the questions you have to ask yourself before you accept an offer.

1 of 8
Illustrated by Natalia Spotts.
When you’re stuck at a job you don’t love, the urge to get out can be so strong, you may overlook that you might be landing in pretty much an identical situation, warns Catherine Fisher, a career expert for LinkedIn. First, make a list of the things you hate about your current job. Bogged down by admin tasks? Feel like you’re on call 24/7? Feel eh about the values and ethics of the corporation? The more specific you are about what you hate, the more you’ll get a sense of how great the new offer really is.

For example, if you realize the reason you can’t stand your job is the fact that you feel invisible, then maybe the gig at the huge corporation where the interviewer tells you you’ll be on a team of 20 may not be the right fit. After all, sometimes, the devil you do know (your boss who has a penchant for texting you on weekends) is better than the devil you don’t (the new boss who will potentially ask you to come into the office on weekends).
2 of 8
Illustrated by Natalia Spotts.
Never take the first offer, says Monahan. Consider the initial offer the one from which you can negotiate for a counter-offer. This is where it pays to compare the on-paper job offer with the one you got from your previous job. Yes, look at salary, but also compare bonus structure, vacation benefits, 401(k) matching, and insurance benefits. All of these will give you a holistic view of how much more you’ll really be making.

Let’s say you make $45,000 at company A, which also offers a 5% 401(k) match. That’s the equivalent of $2,300 of free money per year, which should be taken into consideration when comparing the offer from Company B, which may be offering more cash, but no match.
3 of 8
Illustrated by Natalia Spotts.
New research from job search site Sokanu found that six-figure careers may not be the ones that offer workers the most satisfaction. That said, an eyebrow-raising offer can be tempting…but think about what the company is asking for, in exchange for that high paycheck. You’ll likely have an initial sense of how the office functions from your interview, but ask your would-be boss if she can put you in touch with a few people who currently work in the office, or track down a few former employees via LinkedIn. A few candid conversations can help fill in the blanks on any questions of work-life balance. (We recommend you have these conversations over the phone, so there’s no paper trail that might be misinterpreted.)
4 of 8
Illustrated by Natalia Spotts.
To really suss out the answer, look beyond the offer letter, says Fisher. Ask to speak to an HR rep at the new company, since they’re often better versed in the ins and outs of insurance, family leave, and other benefits (such as education reimbursement) than a hiring manager may be. And if anything confuses you, make sure to ask. If the company guarantees 12 weeks of paid family leave, is there an option to take additional, unpaid leave, should it become a necessity?

At the same time, now’s a good time to brush up on what benefits your own company offers. Crack open the employee handbook you got from orientation and, again, if you’re confused about anything, make an appointment to talk the Q out with the HR rep. And this sounds obvious, but we speak from experience: It’s easy to get dazzled by “soft” benefits, like free lunch. Yes, those perks absolutely contribute to a happier office life and can absolutely tip the balance in favor of one office over the other, but knowing the full picture of all the non-compensation benefits will lead to a much better-informed decision.
5 of 8
Illustrated by Natalia Spotts.
The more your boss knows, the better it is for you when weighing a new offer, says Monahan. This is especially true if you like the industry and like the company you’re with, but want a salary bump or title change. It’s smart to always make it a habit to touch base with your manager beyond your annual review to talk wins, long-term projects, and the future even if you’re not actively looking for a new gig. The more she knows before you get an offer, the more she can help you tweak your current job description (and hopefully pay grade) to more closely align with what you really want. If your current manager doesn’t seem to care? Then it’s even more important to get a read on how a new potential boss will invest in you.
6 of 8
Illustrated by Natalia Spotts.
It’s essential to have some rock-solid numbers and requests written down before you talk to your manager. Are you looking for a title change? A salary bump of a certain percentage? More flexibility? Whatever it is, know that if you have a good working relationship with your boss, your boss wants you to stay, Monahan explains. But don’t ambush your manager or set an ultimatum, since she likely has her own boss, with whom she will have to talk before any new offers can be made. State your requests; then, set up a time to speak in a few days.
7 of 8
Illustrated by Natalia Spotts.
Time to do a little mental vision-boarding. Experts agree that even at a new company, it pays to talk about the future. Do your potential employers see the new role as a growth position? How will they invest in your career? Would there be a possibility for them to pay for your graduate degree down the line?

Also, it’s smart to think about what’s going on in your own life. If you’re planning on starting a family, choosing a gig that has flexible work options, amazing family leave, or a really great work-life balance can be key. Make sure you have answers to questions about these kinds of non-monetary benefits before you accept the offer.
8 of 8
Illustrated by Natalia Spotts.
Either way, they want you. But when they want you so much that they recruited you, it may give you a tiny bit more leverage especially if you want to stay in your current gig. “No boss wants to know their employee was interviewing, so letting your manager know that they came to you and that you want to stay (if it’s true) can be the magic words to ensuring you receive a bigger comp package,” says Monahan.

Another reason to ask yourself this question is psychological. Since it can be hard to say “no,” when you’re being courted, it’s even more important to make sure the new job is one you want.