In the March 19, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter a reader asks whether a big salary increase is enough reason to accept a job offer.
A rival company has offered me a job with a 30% salary increase. I know there are other things to consider, but it’s such a big pay bump that I think it may be sufficient reason to move. Should I accept it?
Only if money is your prime motivator. If it is, go for it. Of course, without any other information, I can’t really give you very thoughtful advice. But in general, this is a scenario that people sometimes face, so let’s deal with it generally.
No matter how big it is, I look at three things when a job candidate receives an offer, in addition to the money. If I were you, I’d compare the new company to your current employer on these factors, in this order of importance:
- The people
- The products
- The company’s reputation
- The company’s prospects
- The company’s finances
Whose are better? Try to put a value on each of those factors, then include them in your analysis.
It’s the people, Stupid
I’d give the most weight to the people you’ll be working with. Are they smart? Highly skilled? Dedicated to their work and the company? Do they demonstrate high integrity? Are they a tight-knit group that works well together? Do they mentor and help one another?
This matters especially with regard to the company’s management, of course.
Even if the company doesn’t score tops on the other four factors, a great team can compensate and drive the company to success. On the other hand, if the people aren’t great, it doesn’t matter how good the products, reputation, future prospects are finances are. That old saw is true: It’s the people, Stupid. You’re (hopefully) going to be living with them a long time.
What the world sees
The next three factors are intertwined. A company’s products, and new products it’s got coming down the pipeline, affect its reputation and future prospects.
Pay close attention not only to how the company’s customers regard the company, but also to how it is viewed by the business community, the business media, its competitors and its market.
You may have found a good job and great money, but the financial gain from that big salary bump may be very short-lived if those other factors aren’t strong.
Is the business sound financially?
Few job hunters consider the financial aspects of a job beyond the pay. That’s foolish. I’ve never accepted a job without first meeting with the Chief Financial Officer. I want to know about receivables and payables, sources of funding for operations and growth, and — if it is publicly traded — how the company’s stock has performed. Believe it or not, I worry more about whether a company is responsive to its employees than I am about how it responds to its investors — but how investors judge a company matters greatly. I also want to know how the company treats its vendors — does it pay them on time?
If a company isn’t sound financially, you’re probably not going to have that job very long, no matter what it pays.
Is it all real?
I’ve seen people move for money or other factors, only to regret it after they realized the image they had of the new company didn’t match the reality. It’s common for an employer to present a great image to job applicants. But it’s up to you to look under the hood of this machine!
Here’s my advice. Once you have a bona fide job offer, tell the company you’d like to come in for a day to shadow your new boss and the team you’d be working on. This is proper due diligence. (See How can I find the truth about a company?)
Ask to meet people upstream and downstream from your job. That is, other employees whose work product will affect your ability to do your work successfully, and employees whose work on what you produce will impact your success. For example, if you work in engineering, you need to know who is conceiving the products you will have to design and whether the sales team is competent to actually get customers to buy them.
Follow the money
Ask to meet the head of the finance department. That’s right — you may know nothing about finance, but you should have this meeting anyway. Check my comments above for some ideas about what to ask in that meeting. Even if the company is privately held, the finance officer should acknowledge your interest in your new employer’s financial state and philosophy. (The first time I did this, the V.P. of Finance was pleasantly surprised to see that a new employee cared about the finances — he loved it. Throughout my time at the company, I had a friend in a high place!)
Interview the company
When the company is done interviewing you and makes a commitment by extending a written offer, that’s the time to seriously interview the company.
It’ll cost you about a day to do these meetings, but it may save you a lot of heartache. If the company declines to let you come back in, I’d refuse the job offer, no matter how great the money is.
A company that welcomes your interest in learning more before you make a commitment reveals something you can’t learn in a normal job interview — that it really respects its employees. The added bonus is that all the people you talk to during this extra day of meetings — if you take the job — will take you all the more seriously as a co-worker.
I wish you the best.
What factors do you consider when evaluating a job offer? Is a big raise ever enough reason to change employers? (This is not a loaded question: It actually might be.) What other factors would you add to my list above?