While studies show that the average time to hire Software Engineers is about 35 days, for those in the middle of a job search, the process can seem far more arduous. For managers or executives, the job search process can last for months (or even years for top CEOs).
At the end of what can be a long and effortful process of finding a new job, a job seeker is now faced with a final hurdle. Which offer to choose?
This is a good problem to have, but a problem nonetheless.
Perhaps you are like Felix Feng who had to choose between eight job offers after completing a coding boot camp or maybe you are further along in your career and are faced with deciding amongst 3–4 offers (as I witness with many of my senior-level coaching clients).
Sometimes, the offers are easy to rule out. Perhaps you have an offer from your dream company that is head and shoulders above the rest. In most cases, the various proposals all have their merits, and it is a smart thing to be deliberate in deciding which will be the best offer for you.
Especially if you are looking for a job in a highly competitive market for talent (e.g. like many jobs in the technology industry), the ability to assess and choose the right offer is an important one. In this post, I will share a method that will help you analyze and determine the best job for you.
I call it the “Decision Table” method.
1. Brainstorm your Career Criteria
The starting point for choosing which job is best is to decide on the criteria that matter most to you. Coming up with these criteria is best done at the start of the job search process, but you if you didn’t do that, let’s come up with them now!
The process is simple.
Start by making a list of all the factors that go into your decision for taking (or not taking a new job). What matters most to you? Take your time with this exercise. Mull it over. Think about it as you are going for a walk. Discuss the criteria with your significant other, family and friends.
Many people come up with 10–15 criteria like:
- Company culture
- Office environment
- Risk (well-funded firm or risky startup?)
- Challenge (will I learn new things on the job?)
- Vacation policy
- Size of team
- Innovative nature of team/company
2. Create your Decision Table
The next step in the process is to create a Decision Table for each job offer, with pros (positive things) on one side of the table and cons (negative things) on the other.
The simplicity of pros vs. cons analysis shouldn’t make you think that the technique doesn’t have merit. It is a powerful decision-making tool. Ben Franklin loved it.
Come up with 5 pros and 5 cons, using the list of criteria you came up with in the previous step as inspiration for what to write down. If you have more than 5, that is fine, list them all. If you have less than 5, keep thinking harder! If you still cannot come up with at least 5, that’s OK. Leave those entries blank.
Here is an example what this might look like:
|Salary +20K my current pay||??||Not a manager position||??|
|Additional 2 weeks vacation||??||Product is not super innovative||??|
|Amazing office space||??||Risky startup||??|
|Close to home||??||10% more work hours||??|
|boss is very well respected||??||Travel once a month||??|
3. Rate your pros and cons
Not all the advantages or disadvantages are equal in weighting.
We all have certain criteria that matter more to us than others. Therefore, your next step is to rate each of the pros and each of the cons on a scale of 0–10 based on how strong a pro or con it is.
Your ratings will look something like this:
|Salary +20K my current pay||10||Not a manager position||5|
|Additional 2 weeks vacation||8||Product is not super innovative||5|
|Amazing office space||6||Risky startup||9|
|Close to home||10||10% more work hours||6|
|boss is very well respected||9||Travel once a month||5|
If you have more than 5 criteria in either side of your table, only select the top 5 ratings, and add up a total for each column. Why 5? In general, I’ve discovered in working with clients that this is a suitable number to capture all the essential elements.
The result will be a score for the pros and cons for the job offer.
4. Assess your various job offers
With multiple job offers, you will create a Decision Table of pros and cons for each.
You will find that the criteria you come up with may shift for the different opportunities. This is ok. As you go through the exercise and rate the criteria, you may want to go back and adjust ratings you made in previous Decision Tables. That is also ok!
The point of this exercise is not to fixate on the scores you come up with, it is to help you structure your thinking so that you aren’t overlooking any of the criteria that matter to you in picking the best job.
5. Salary: How important is it?
Instead of focusing on the job that has the highest overall compensation, you will take a more balanced view when you use a Decision Table.
It’s easy to fixate on the compensation numbers since they are quantitative and easy to use as the primary decision factor. This is a big mistake many people make when selecting a job. For example, perhaps having a short commute and boss you get along with well is more important than making an extra $20K a year.
How important is your salary to you?
Research by famed author and Princeton researcher Daniel Kahneman shows that beyond a certain point, incremental funds have a diminishing contribution to overall emotional well-being scores. As mentioned by Time Magazine’s article on Kahneman’s research:
“People say money doesn’t buy happiness. Except, according to a new study from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School, it sort of does — up to about $75,000 a year. The lower a person’s annual income falls below that benchmark, the unhappier he or she feels. But no matter how much more than $75,000 people make, they don’t report any greater degree of happiness.”
I’m a visual learner, and the chances are that you are among the 65% of people that are like me, so let’s take a look at a chart:
To further interpret the chart, it shows that one’s emotional well-being (called “Positive Affect”): feelings of happiness, smiling and enjoyment; doesn’t improve beyond $75,000. However, one’s “Life Evaluation” (the darkest dashed line), that is to say, one’s assessment of if their life was the best possible life they could have lived; does increase with additional money, even beyond $75,000.
$75,000 is also a very fuzzy number. It doesn’t provide the same lifestyle in San Francisco as it would in Omaha. It will also vary based on family size.
I interpret this research as meaning that money matters, but only up to a certain point, and definitely less than most people think!
All this considered, the research is clear, money only goes so far in improving our emotional well-being on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, when deciding on which job to choose, we should consider money in the context of all the factors that matter to us.
Don’t fixate on the dollar signs!
6. Make your decision
After doing this exercise for several job offers, you will notice that certain jobs will stand out. These appealing jobs will have higher scores for the pros and lower scores for the cons.
Total compensation and salary will also be put in the context of all the factors that matter to you. By looking at your job offers in this balanced way, it will be much easier to make a final decision on the position that is best for you, without regrets.
If you are facing an important and tough decision on which job offer to choose, take the time to apply what you have learned in this blog post. It will be time well spent.