By: Emma Hickey
It’s exciting to get a job offer. By the time a hiring manager is prepared to make you an offer, you’ve likely given a lot of your time and energy to researching the company, thinking about the company, and meeting with their team. Interviewing is a marathon and when the finish line is finally in your sights, it’s hard not to sprint over it. But wait! Take a beat. Fight the urge to run full speed ahead and accept that job offer on the spot, because there are some questions you need to ask first.
This month’s Poros Pro Tip is a list of questions you should get the answers to before accepting a job. They’re nuts-and-bolts-type questions, the kind that some of us may forget to ask in heightened moments. Hopefully, this list will help you stay grounded even when you’re on cloud nine at the end of a long interview process.
What’s the salary?
Sometimes the topic of salary doesn’t come up during the interview process. I’ve even been in the situation where I was asked for a verbal commitment to a role before I knew what the salary was. Don’t follow the lead of your interviewer in this regard. If they haven’t brought up salary yet, you should. Throw out everything you learned about not talking money in polite company. This might sound obvious but in stressful situations it’s easy to fall back on learned conventions rather than remembering to asking the hard questions. You need this information in order to make an informed decision in accepting or declining the role. Feel empowered to get it.
Are there stock options?
In addition to your annual salary, you may get stock options. If you do have stock options, then they’re considered a part of your compensation package, albeit your deferred portion. It’s important to ask whether or not stock options are available to you because that affects the value of your offer.
What are my health benefits?
Health benefits are also a part of your compensation package and you should know what they are before accepting a job offer. You should ask if the company covers a large portion of the monthly premium–because whatever they don’t cover will come out of your paychecks–and it would also be good to know if there are options with low deductibles. You may not get concrete answers, but it’ll be helpful to simply hear the language your recruiter uses when describing health insurance options.
Is there a 401(k) program?
If the company doesn’t offer a 401(k) program, then your only option for retirement savings is an Individual Retirement Account, and the maximum amount of money you can contribute to an IRA annually is $5,500. 401(k) programs are great because they’re additional options for retirement savings and the maximum amount of money you can contribute annually is $18,500. Many companies will also match a portion of the money you contribute to your 401(k), which is basically free money! Some companies will even match 100% of your 401(k) contributions. That has the possibility of making a huge difference in your retirement savings, so definitely ask about this upfront to know where you stand.
What’s the vacation policy?
The US is woefully behind much of the developed world in terms of vacation time offered to employees. Vacations and time-off from work affect your quality of life. You should know before accepting the job how many vacations days, sick days and personal days you’ll get, or how many hours of Paid Time Off are available to you. You should also ask if unused vacation days roll over from year to year or if unused days can be converted to cash. If the company tells you they have an unlimited, or a take-what-you need, vacation policy, ask what the guidelines around that are. Do they recommend everyone takes off at least two weeks? Or do they recommend taking off 14 days off? Ask this question in order to gauge expectations around vacation time at the company, that way you can make sure they align with your needs.
Is there a tuition reimbursement program?
If you’re thinking about going to grad school, definitely ask this question. Some companies will contribute to tuition for graduate studies, and it’s good to know if this would be an option available to you. If so, find out the extent to which the company would reimburse your tuition, as well as the parameters around the amount of time you need to be employed at the company in order to access this program, and how long you’re required to stay with the company after completing your degree.
There are so many other questions you could, and in many cases should, ask before accepting a job offer. In particular, there are softer questions that would be helpful to ask, like “what’s the office culture like?”, “what are the expectations for this role?” and “what’s the path for growth in this role?” In terms of practical questions, though, these should guide you through the adrenaline-filled moments after receiving a job offer in order to help you make an informed decision when you accept, or decline, the role.