In our excitement of landing a new gig, we often forget to ask vital questions. Dear Debt’s Melanie Lockert shares what she asks before accepting a new job.
It’s easy to think, “At least I have a job!” and get wrapped up in emotion, ignoring some important details. When I got out of college and entered the real world, it seemed like quickly accepting a job offer was a no brainer. After all, I had been on the hunt for more than six months—and job hunting was anything but fun. But after starting the new job, I realized there were many questions I should have asked before accepting.
Here are five essential questions to ask before you commit:
1. When is the start date?
Before saying yes to a new position, make sure you and your employer are on the same page regarding start date. They may want you to start as soon as possible or at a later date. As a busy professional, you may have conflicts, so it’s important to lay them on the table before saying yes. If you have any appointments or vacations coming up, notify them ahead of the start date so they’re not caught off guard.
2. What work hours are you expected to hold?
When I got my first full-time job, I assumed it would be a typical 9-to-5. However, since it was at a nonprofit with an after-school program for children, the hours were longer than I anticipated. The hours were 9:30AM to 6:30PM, with an hour lunch break. In reality, though, the hours often went over, inching toward 7:30PM. This was important for me to realize so I could schedule social plans outside of those hours and knew what was expected of me. It’s key to know the schedule expected of you and how it could vary depending on your status—whether you’re an hourly or salaried employee. As a salaried employee, I often worked more than 40 hours per week, but there was no overtime pay. If you’re hourly, you may ask about the company’s overtime policy.
3. What is the company culture like?
A job may look great on paper—great salary, nice job title, exciting duties—but it can fall short if the company culture doesn’t align with your values. Before signing on the dotted line, ask about the company culture. What is the leadership style like? What is the dress code? What’s the mission of the organization or company? You can check out reviews on Glassdoor.com as well. Culture is extremely important to your happiness as well as your success in your new position. If the culture is in conflict with your values or your personality, it may be hard to be successful in the position.
4. What’s included in the benefits package?
Salary isn’t the only thing you should think of when accepting a job offer. Your benefits package can add a lot of value to your salary, so it’s key to understand what your company covers. Some things to consider:
- Does the company provide full medical insurance? Or do you have to pay a portion out of pocket?
- Does the company provide vision or dental insurance?
- How much vacation time do you get? How does it accrue?
- How many sick or personal days do you get each year?
- Does the company have any life insurance or disability insurance?
- Does your company provide a retirement package? Even better, a retirement match?
- Are there any educational reimbursements?
- Are there opportunities for growth?
Make sure to receive a copy of the benefits package in writing to refer to at a later date.
5. What are the communication expectations?
In any relationship, especially professional ones, communication is key. Ask about communication preferences—does your immediate supervisor prefer to chat in-person or via email? Are there any tools they use to communicate, such as G-chat or Slack? What about text messages? We live in a world where there are so many ways to communicate, but communicating in the right way with the right tools can make a huge difference. Also, ask what is expected of you in regards to communications. Are there weekly meetings to touch base? How often should you chat with your supervisor or when should you ask for permission before doing something? How much lead time do they expect if you’re requesting time off? How should you notify them if you’re suddenly sick at home? Touching base about key communication issues can help mitigate any misunderstandings and make sure you’re all on the same page.
Landing a new job is an exciting rite of passage in adult life. But before committing the majority of your waking life to a position, make sure to get the key details ahead of time to make sure it’s a good fit. Remember, a job is a two-way street, and you have a say in what you want. If you don’t like what the company is offering, try to negotiate and compromise. If they offer you a job, they’ve made it clear they want you…so make sure you want them, too.
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While Society of Grownups hopes the information is useful, it’s only intended to provide general education. It’s not legal, tax, or investment advice, and may not apply or be useful to your specific financial situation. If you need recommendations geared to your personal financial situation, schedule time with a financial planner.