Consider more than salary when evaluating a job offer

Once you have been offered a new job, you might assume the process is at an end. But is it really? Not all jobs are created equal, and the goal in getting a new job is (typically) to improve your situation. So job offers must be evaluated carefully to ensure that your goals, personal finance and otherwise, are being served.

Salary considerations

The standard advice when interviewing for a new job is to avoid being the first person to put forward an exact number. Why? Because you risk low-balling yourself and losing any chance of getting the upper hand as you negotiate.

Of course, this depends on the industry in which you work. The majority of my own experience, for example, is at public universities, where salary ranges are posted as part of the job ads. Salary can be just as much of a clue as job title and description in determining whether you are a good fit for a position, and you can focus your efforts on negotiating for the top of the posted range (though I know from personal experience that doesn't always work).

If your job search takes you into an industry where salaries aren't posted, you can research job titles on sites like Indeed.com, Salary.com, and Glassdoor.com. You can network with your colleagues and friends in your industry to get an idea of what positions pay as well. As you research salaries, try to compare the job descriptions to ensure that you are in the right salary range given the responsibilities you would be taking on.

If you are fresh out of school or switching industries, you may not have much negotiating power when it comes to salary. The benefit of being entry-level is that you may have more potential positions to which you can apply. If you are more advanced in your career or possess a highly technical or unique skill set, you may be able to command a higher salary. However, there may be fewer jobs and/or employers that offer positions that cater to your skills, especially if you are geographically bound.

Remember that there is more to a job than salary

Of course, there is more to a job offer than salary. In fact, hiring managers may be more willing and able to negotiate the non-salary aspects of a job offer. As a result, you may experience more negotiation success by focusing your efforts on other things (assuming, of course, that the salary being offered is fair both in terms of industry standards and your own experience).

Non-salary aspects of job offers include:

  • Whether a retirement plan is provided

  • If the company provides a match of employee retirement contributions

  • Stock options or profit-sharing

  • Paid holidays

  • Vacation time

  • Sick time (some employers categorize vacation and sick time separately while other employers lump it together and call it Paid Time Off or PTO — I think separate is better if you can get it)

  • Health/dental/vision insurance (consider availability, quality, and cost to you)

  • Whether overtime is available, and whether it is ever mandatory

  • Availability of flextime

  • Remote work policy

  • Company-paid training or continuing education in your field

  • Tuition reimbursement

  • Promotional opportunities within the company

  • Free water/coffee/tea/snacks

  • Dress code

I can't stress enough that there is more to being happy at your job than money. There may even be situations where someone voluntarily slashes their salary. Sometimes people downsize their homes after their children move out. Similarly, someone who has reached financial independence may take a job they feel they will enjoy simply because income is no longer the only factor or the most important factor to them. What non-salary factors are most important to you? Are there any biggies that I am missing?

What advice would you give to someone who is considering a job offer? What aspect of previous job negotiations are you most proud of? Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

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Nick @ Millionaires Giving Money
Nick @ Millionaires Giving Money
5 years ago

Very useful post. In the past when I was employed I sometimes took a job paying less because the benefits far exceeded the monetary value. When face with a choice between two position I always list all the benefits and then give the benefits a monetary value and then consider carefully how useful or necessary these perks are. Once I’ve determined the real value of the job offer and position I then make a decision on the actual real monetary value. This is a great post for people who are just getting on the employment ladder. Great post Honey!

Petrish @ Debt Free Martini
Petrish @ Debt Free Martini
5 years ago

I agree with the point that there is more to a job than a salary. I am about to change careers and If I do decide to work for someone (hopefully I can stay home and freelance for a living) I refuse to work for a company who doesn’t have a good retirement plan to offer. I also need to be able to take vacation once a year…just saying.

Kirsten
Kirsten
5 years ago

Going along with time off – dies unused time roll over? Or do you lose it if it’s unused? In industries that have tight deadlines, you really want it to roll over in case you can’t use it. Also consider on site daycare or fitness center.

Beth
Beth
5 years ago
Reply to  Kirsten

See, I’m of two minds of daycare centres and other advantages for parents. I’ve seen a couple of onsite daycares close now because they weren’t being used enough — it’s an expensive lesson for the company, and one that non-parents and empty nesters had to pay for too. Sometimes companies can’t afford to offer everything to everyone and they have to put their budget where it will benefit most people — like a retirement top up. One thing no one mentions is caregiving leave and caregiving benefits. Two of my friends recently had to juggle work with helping care for… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Kirsten

Daycare definitely might be a perk for parents, though I think it is probably relatively rare.

Knowing if there is a “use it or lose it” policy with time off is important, great point! There is a cap on my vacation time after which I start losing it. No cap on sick time. However, you get paid out for unused vacation if you leave, and can’t get paid out for sick time.

Beth
Beth
5 years ago

All good things to consider!

One important thing for me that isn’t on this list is company culture. What do people like best about their jobs? Is there a high turnover rate for employees? (I often ask why position has become vacant, if I don’t already know). What is a typical day or week like? What big projects or programs are coming up? What outside-of-work activities are there? (Baseball team, volunteering, etc.)

Being treated well and respected makes a world of difference.

Johanna
Johanna
5 years ago

How’s the commute? Long, expensive, and stressful, or quick and cheap? If you’re moving to take the job, are there neighborhoods where you’d want to live within easy commuting distance (maybe even walking/biking distance) of the workplace? If you’ll be commuting on public transportation, are the buses and trains reliable? Are they comfortable and uncrowded enough that you can use the ride time productively, or will you be packed like sardines, with nothing to do but just endure? Stressful commutes are one of the biggest negative influences on quality of life – and also one of the most underestimated, meaning… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Johanna

I agree that commute is important (I’ll be talking about it in an upcoming post) but it’s not really part of a job offer, since you decided to apply for a position knowing the location. Whether or not the company will pay for or subsidize public transit might be a big consideration in certain locations though, great point!

Johanna
Johanna
5 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

It’s not part of the job offer, but it affects the appeal of the job offer. If you have job offers from two employers, both of whom are offering the same salary, but one is located within walking distance (so the commute costs $0) and the other is located in a distant suburb (with a commute that costs, say, $5000 a year), that’s a big difference.

JoeM
JoeM
5 years ago

I do like the order you listed things to look for in, with snacks and dress code being last.

I worked for a staffing agency who promoted its foosball table, free drinks/snacks, and Friday end of day team drinking events above benefits, salary, hours, and quality of life. Needless to say it was a company that worked its employees to the bone and has a high turnover.

Drinks and snacks are fun, but irrelevant in the long term. They’re just shiny perks to distract recent college grads into thinking the job isn’t as insufferable as it is.

lmoot
lmoot
5 years ago

I’m currently job hunting and I am willing to go in one of two directions. 1) job that doesn’t pay nearly as well as my previous (but unliked job), but that offers the basics of health, dental and 401k, preferably with match. The catch is that it has to be an emotionally fulfilling job that allows me to keep my part time job and leaves me with lots of energy to pursue other money-making ventures to make up for some of the pay reduction. Or option 2) Get a job I do not enjoy but that I have experience in… Read more »

Sjdjoy
Sjdjoy
5 years ago
Reply to  lmoot

Wereyou laid-off while you were trying to reach your 2 year mortgage payoff date? In any case, best of luck to you in your search!

lmoot
lmoot
5 years ago
Reply to  Sjdjoy

Thank you for the well wishes SJDJOY. I left my job before I had the goal of paying my mortgage off in two years, though I don’t think I would have changed my mind anyhow. I needed the break to reevaluate things and to spend extra time with my family.

Ava
Ava
5 years ago

Great post. I’m still relatively new to the workforce 5 years or so post grad school. For me, some non-pay related things that really matter for me are the commute – spending anything over 45 minutes driving is a deal breaker, although I will commute 45 minutes by public transit if its reliable. I also want a job with people I like to work with. Culture is a huge factor for me. Its often hard to tell this one from the interview, but I usually like to meet with members of the team if possible before the interview, and try… Read more »

Tricia
Tricia
5 years ago

I am in HR and I’m always surprised by people who don’t look at their entire compensation package. It is more than just salary, but that is all anyone ever seems to think about. We’ve got one guy here that periodically complains about his salary, conveniently forgetting his company car, company phone, his grandfathered 100% company paid insurance, flexibility, etc.

Jean
Jean
5 years ago

Great post, and great comments. I was one of those people who took a pay cut for a less stressful job and shorter commute, where the gas savings & less frequent oil changes pretty much negated the salary cut. Because the company has grown, the job has become more stressful, but still not to the point that the previous job was. And since I haven’t paid for a plane ticket in 6-1/2 years with my current job (airline employee), I have to take that into account when considering if it’s worth the stress and/or looking for another job.

Dee
Dee
5 years ago

Lesson learned the hard way: whatever non-salary things you negotiate, GET IT IN WRITING!

Michelle
Michelle
5 years ago

Love this article. A job is definitely more than just what the salary is. I regret not negotiating for more at my last day job, but I don’t work there anymore (I work for myself now) so oh well.

I definitely would have asked for more vacation time!

DealForALiving
DealForALiving
5 years ago

There are a lot of great valid points here. I would say that in my mind, if I’m considering a move from my current situation I would have to prioritize as follows:

1. Work/Life Balance
2. Pay
3. Retirement match
4. Future career path opportunities
5. Relevancy of the company/organization

Alllyson
Alllyson
5 years ago

Very good article. Personally, I think the part about free snacks and water was so trivial it didn’t need to be mentioned, but I suppose there are people for whom that would be a big benefit. I definitely agree with the point that it is better if your vacation and sick time is separate. I have only had one employer (the State of Michigan) my entire adult life, so I don’t have personal experience with it any other way, but my vacation time (annual leave) is separate from my sick time. When your sick leave balance gets high enough, your… Read more »

Someone
Someone
5 years ago
Reply to  Alllyson

With my current employer, we get 15 days of sick/vacation/personal time each year. You can carry over up to 5 days per year. The benefit to the employer is that people are more likely to schedule their time off rather than calling in “sick” just to be able to use their paid time off.

Melissa
Melissa
5 years ago

This is a really interesting post, because I recently chose -not- to apply for a job because the PTO was very different from what I have now. I really value the time off we are given at my job now, and I just wasn’t willing to give up a couple days for an increase in salary. Time with my family at this stage in my life is too important!

Zambian Lady
Zambian Lady
5 years ago

Try as much as possible to find out how the organizational culture is like, though this may not be easy. I would not want to work in an organization which has a reputation of discriminating against some groups of people.

Carla
Carla
5 years ago
Reply to  Zambian Lady

Good point, especially when you’re a minority in your area and/or occupation.

Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
Emily @ Simple Cheap Mom
5 years ago

If I were to go back to work, I would definitely be looking at more than just the salary. Now that I’m a mom I would want a lot more flexibility. I also think the people you’re working with can make or break a job.

Mortgage Free Mike
Mortgage Free Mike
5 years ago

What a useful post.

I would also say to consider your proximity to the job. Will you be driving 1 hour to work? That’s going to cost you precious time and money. I’ve always tried to find jobs near where I want to live.

Carla
Carla
5 years ago

I think if I’m ever in the market again, paid time off will be a huge consideration. While working for a small company we don’t get any paid time off. No vacation, sick time or holidays. Over the past 2 1/2 years I have only taken Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day and two days before my wedding off. 🙂

Donna Freedman
Donna Freedman
5 years ago

I weighed quality of life vs. continuing to earn at the same level. Ultimately I chose “work less, watch spending and recognize happiness.”

https://www.getrichslowly.org/voluntarily-slashed-salary/

Then again, I no longer have kids to raise or a mortgage to service. YMMV.

Tricia
Tricia
5 years ago

Great article. Three years ago, my husband and I decided to move to Hong Kong, where he took a job teaching at an International school (I work there also now as the school nurse). For us, the benefits were far greater than any we had ever had. To name a few: housing stipend over and above salary–who does this is the US? (This more than covers our housing and we get to keep the difference), 3 kids go to this top notch school for free (at 18K USD per kid/peryear, this is a significant benefit), the school pays to fly… Read more »

Grace @ Investment Total
Grace @ Investment Total
5 years ago

You have a point of view here. One of the best thing in working for someone else is to get paid the highest salary possible. In the book of T. Harv Eker in his book secret of the millionaires mind, according to him, if you want to get rich, you must know your worth. If your boss will pay what you worth and then continue working for your boss, if not getting paid what you really worth, stop working, think and start your own business.

Linda Vergon
5 years ago

(This comment came from Andrew, a reader of our daily newsletter.)

Okay this email [post] is really helpful and lets me start to think of what’s involved. But is there a way I can negotiate better? Thanks.

Gilia
Gilia
5 years ago

A better place to research salary is your own state’s labor website. They take all employment information by job code and title and you can search for it state wide or by county and get an EXACT salary for that type of position. CA is at http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/occguides/Search.aspx

Dave
Dave
5 years ago

A huge consideration should who your manager will be. Are they positive and will they help mentor you through your career? Is your team micromanaged or do they have freedom to make improvements? Who is your boss’s boss? Are they also willing to mentor and promote from within?

Dee
Dee
5 years ago
Reply to  Dave

While a good supervisor can make even a lousy job great, and a poor supervisor can make even the best job lousy, I personally feel very cautious of making long-term decisions based on another person. The excellent boss you love working for might be promoted or transferred next week. The awful boss you can’t stand could be fired or demoted. I’ve seen supervisors come and go, so unless I have strong reason to think that this person will be telling me what to do for the next decade, I wouldn’t make decisions based on personality.

Johanna
Johanna
5 years ago
Reply to  Dee

That depends a lot on the situation. In some very-low-turnover workplaces, it really can be worth taking individual personalities into account. I’ve been in my current job for eight years, and more than half of my coworkers have been here for longer than I have. My boss has been in his current role for, I think, 20 years. Fortunately, he does a good job.

Diva
Diva
5 years ago

I wanted to chime in about PTO, as I really like the system where I work. I work in the private sector, so PTO is generous. We accrue 2.5 days a month of PTO, and we can use any amount starting at 15 minutes to two weeks (depending upon work flow and time of year). They don’t really like us to go into deficit with PTO, so you do have to make sure you have the time before you can take it off. If I need an extra hour at lunch for an appointment, I can use my PTO. Need… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Diva

I use my sick time for doctor’s checkups and dentist appointments, that sort of thing. If I notice my balance is getting really high then I assume I’ve been working too hard and call in for a mental health day. My supervisor knows this (and knows I wouldn’t call in if something was urgent) and suggested the code phrase, “I’m not feeling my best.”

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