Evaluating An Employment Offer

by Ted Leamy

Welcome back to the Leamy blathering portion of the SCN website! This is going to be my final entry of a multi-part blog on finding exciting employment in the world of AV that you really love to go to every day of the week. In the previous blog entries we have discussed:

When it’s time to look for a new gig

The Resume – Ya gotta have a good one

The job interview – are you ready?

If you missed any of these earlier discussions go back through the SCN site and have a read through them. They are short and to the point. (And very well written, if I do say so myself!) You'll find my advice is practical, focused, and based on my own career path as well as my experience as a hiring manager.

Finding your dream gig takes some real effort doesn't it? Getting doors closed in your face and 'thanks but no thanks' emails back from your inquiries sure can get depressing. Searching for your dream job during a tough economy only makes it look like an impossible challenge with seemingly endless dead-ends.

Don't give up. Don't give in. Perseverance is ultimately rewarded. A little luck sometimes helps, but I would say perseverance in finding the employment position that fits YOU is the biggest factor.

Okay, let’s say your perseverance with a sprinkling of luck has paid off and you make it through the interview process of a gig you think really fits you. The potential employer makes you an offer. How best to evaluate that offer? Here are a few guidelines that will help you understand the offer and make the best decision.

I basically have three rules that you always, always, always need to follow:

1. Get it in writing!

2. Get it in writing!

3. Get it in writing!

Ok… let’s go through these three important steps one at a time.

1. Get it in writing!

If it is worthy of discussion it is important to document. Make sure you get the offer in writing. Email is okay, but I prefer an actual letter signed by the person making the commitment to you. This is the time to ask questions and make clear expectations. Some of the items that should definitely be clearly outlined in the letter are:

- Detailed job description and title along with starting date

- Salary or hourly wage (don’t confuse this with total compensation)

- If a sales gig, what are the quotas and commission schedule

- Who in the organization you will report to and take direction from

- Working hours including expectation for overtime and travel

2. Get it in writing!

It is most important to understand total compensation being offered.

Salary + Benefits = Total Compensation

Benefits come in many sizes, shapes and dollar amounts! Some typical benefits offered these days include health and dental insurance, life insurance, signing bonus, relocation package, matching contribution to a 401(k), extra vacation time, stock options, corner office, and travel accommodation upgrades.

You will need to evaluate what is being offered and what it means for you. All benefits offered have a dollar value that you should consider as part of your total compensation. Some offerings will be more meaningful than others to you. How meaningful equates to how valuable a particular perk is to you. You will need to assign your own value to each benefit offered despite what the actual dollar value might be. For example, if your wife has great health insurance at her job, this may not be as meaningful a benefit as it would be to another applicant.

Employers generally are reluctant to negotiate very far when it comes to salary, however, they tend to be prepared to negotiate when it comes to benefits and additional perks that prove valuable to you. It’s up to you to ask—start the conversation. Make it the focus of your negotiation.

Here is another ‘Ted Tip’ to always remember. Never, never, never take a high-falutin’ job title instead of compensation. The potential employer may try to tug on your emotional heartstrings by offering you a title such as “senior-whatever”, “chief-whatever”, or (I really love this one) “account executive”. Titles are worthless. Compensation is what it is all about. Don’t get fooled. You want to start in any organization as “low as possible” when it comes to title. This means you can look forward to being promoted quickly AND gaining the compensation that goes with that improved position and title. (You can thank me later for that tip!)

Okay, on to step #3…

3. Get it in writing!

A few words about company policies. All companies, large and small, have policies. They may not be clearly written or even written at all, but rest assured there are policies. The time to find out about them is before you start work. Things like sick-day leave, approved time for lunch, payday schedule, use of personal equipment, expenses that will be reimbursed, company holiday schedule, how to report a problem (and to whom), scheduled employee reviews, etc., etc. If you can dream it up, there is probably a policy for it. Get a copy of the company employee handbook before you agree to start the new job. It is an important document to peruse. If the company does not have a written employee handbook inquire why!

The most common reason for a new job not working out is due to missed expectations. These can be on the employer’s side or on the employee side. Get everything out in the open for discussion before you agree to start the new gig and you will prevent this from happening. The best way to do that is in writing.

There are many ways to negotiate things ahead of time that may be a concern to both parties… there are seldom ways to negotiate after the fact. So you can begin to understand my fascination with writing things down–makes for the fewest missed expectations and provides the clearest, cleanest start to the new relationship for all involved.

Oh and one more thing while I am thinking of it. You say you want a contract? You need security? Fuhgettaboutit! Most of us are what is known as at-will-employees. We have jobs provided the owner wants us and there is work to do. If you are offered a contract, have someone with contract experience look it over carefully before you sign. There are plenty of downsides to having a contract and it can usually be found in the fine print!

The key to job security is to always remember YOU are in charge of your own “job security” – good work, attention to detail, focus on quality – that is what secures your employment and your future with any company, regardless of your role.