By Doug Arms
Finding the right job is never easy, and a recession that has caused employers to be gun-shy on hiring has made it even harder. So it's easy to understand how it might be tempting to jump at an offer for a job that seems to meet your requirements: full-time with a salary.
Yet it's important to take the time to think carefully about whether the job is really the right fit for you in terms of professional and financial goals. Whether you're unemployed or looking to switch jobs, making a move without asking the right questions could be a big problem.
Although you probably asked some questions during the interview process, they were most likely about the actual position -- duties, managers, staff and responsibilities. It's just as important to know the right questions to ask after you've been given an offer.
Here are five questions to ask before signing on the dotted line of your acceptance letter:
1. Can I review the benefits package?
Benefits include everything from retirement and health insurance to stock options and vacation time. Every company has a unique package, so it's important to prioritize what matters most to you in terms of the benefits offered.
Not all benefits start on your first day, so consider when they'll start (especially health insurance coverage) when planning your transition. For example, if it's a month before your health insurance policy starts, you may have to think about budgeting for COBRA coverage until it does.
2. Does the company have a 401(k) plan?
A 401(k) plan is simply one of the best financial investments you can make for your future. It allows you to put tax-deferred funds (money that is deducted from your paycheck before taxes) into a savings account and is only taxed when withdrawn for retirement.
Although it's a popular retirement option, this may not be the plan your company offers. Understanding different plan options, and what kind of retirement you will be able to have as a result, is necessary for long-term planning.
You should also ask what percentage of your contribution, if any, is matched by the company, as that will also help you figure out how much you should be putting toward it from each paycheck.
3. Does the company have a tuition reimbursement program?
Tuition reimbursement benefits become especially important if you're planning to continue your education. Keep in mind that the amount of reimbursement may be limited or there may be eligibility requirements (i.e., you have to work there for a certain amount of time, pursue a degree within a program related to your field or maintain a certain GPA).
Knowing whether you'll qualify for tuition reimbursement will allow you to plan financially for your future degree.
4. Am I eligible for bonuses? If so, is this offer base-compensation only, or does it include bonuses?
Not all companies offer bonuses, and not all employees are bonus-eligible. Make sure you understand what your total compensation package entails. For example, if you receive a base offer, ask if you are eligible for bonuses and what is required to be considered.
Bonuses can be contingent upon a number of factors, such as employee or company performance, so be sure to know your bonus type and how you might be able to control it.
5. Am I eligible for company work devices (cell phone, laptop, etc.)? If not, can I get reimbursed for them?
Getting reimbursed for your cell phone bill could save you up to $100 a month or $1,200 annually-and that's not small change! Before joining a company, ask whether you'd be eligible for company devices or reimbursement for either devices or a data/cell phone plan -- and which portion of the bill you can expect the company to pay.
Finding a position in the right field, with the right company and for the right salary can be a tough process for anyone to navigate, so when that job offer comes in, accepting right away might seem like a no-brainer. But by asking a few key questions about what you're entitled to, you'll be able to say yes with a clear head and nothing but excitement for the next chapter of your career.
Doug Arms is Senior Vice President at Accounting Principals, a staffing company for accounting and finance jobs. He leads the Southeast division of the Ajilon/Accounting Principals and Parker & Lynch Brands and is also responsible for the national strategies of Training and Recruitment.
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