It’s hard for me to recommend exactly how to evaluate an offer because a large part of one’s decision to take a job is emotional. No matter how objective we are, the primary difference between an individual taking a job and not taking a job comes down to how they feel about it. Emotions rule most decisions.
Over the years, I developed a 10-question formula to help people decide if an opportunity was good for them. These are simple questions with basic “yes” or “no” answers.
I have edited the questions to apply to a college graduate seeking their first professional job.
1. Do I like the nature of the work that I will have to perform?
2. Can I do the job? Is there a good balance of risk/challenge to the job?
3. Am I going to be in a learning environment with good mentors?
4. Is there a reasonable progression from the position that I’m excepting within the firm?
5. Is the chemistry with my prospective peers/managers appropriate?
6. Is the opportunity for growth in line with my personal goals?
7. Is the location or territory appropriate?
8. Is their philosophy of doing business compatible with my personal philosophy?
9. Will all of my abilities be pushed and challenged?
10. Is it likely that this experience will advance my future goals?
My rule of thumb is:
If you can answer “yes” to eight of the 10 questions, that’s about as good as you’re going to get. If you can answer “yes” to five to seven of these questions, the opportunity may very well be a reasonable one, but you need to think about what kind of compromises you might have to make. If you answered “yes” to less than five of the questions, the opportunity is probably a questionable one.
The purpose of this approach is to make you think. It is mostly a quantitative exercise and does not take into account the qualitative aspects of how you feel about the entire situation. There’s no way I can speculate about that for anyone. I will tell you that if you have, say, six ‘yes’ answers in this exercise, and you don’t feel emotionally attracted to the opportunity, you should not take the job because you probably will not be very successful. If you have a total of 5 ‘yes’ answers to the survey and you feel tremendously passionate and enthusiastic about the opportunity, plus you have a “failure is not an option” attitude about the situation, you may very well be able to be successful.
Another way to evaluate an offer is the “Ben Franklin” approach, which means to simply balance the pros and cons. If you have ten to twelve reasons why you ought to accept the job and only two or three reasons why you shouldn’t, the decision is fairly obvious. The idea is to make you think about every aspect of the position.
Forcing yourself to write down the pros and cons is also great catharsis. Talking it out with a peer, or even better, a mentor, is also of value. Hearing yourself talk about what you think and feel about an opportunity will clarify your perspective.
At the end of the game realize that there’s always risk in taking a new job. Do the best you can to analyze all the factors that are involved. Then, follow your gut.