Using the “Do You Have Any Questions?” Question

During most interviews, an interviewer provides the candidate the opportunity to ask questions. In most cases the highly-anticipated “Do you have any questions?” question falls towards the end of the session, though some companies today throw candidates a curveball and start the interview this way (consider yourself warned).

Many candidates use this invitation to gather information that will be helpful in making a decision on any offer that may be extended. This reaction is instinctual. The interviewer used the allotted time to ask the candidate questions to determine whether or not an offer should be made, so when the tables are turned the candidate asks questions to determine whether or not an offer should be accepted. At best it’s a chance to “interview the company”, and at worst learn if they have direct deposit.questions

Others may go into a reflective mode and ask about their own performance. This puts an interviewer on the spot and isn’t likely to produce a positive outcome. A candidate that performed well might now be considered insecure.

What if interviewees viewed the opportunity to ask questions in an entirely different way?

The interview is a finite amount of time where the candidate’s ultimate goal should be to make a positive impression on the interviewer and ideally gain an employment offer.¹ Any minute of interview time not used towards those ends is wasted.

The minutes provided to ask questions are the only time during an interview where interviewees have total control of the conversation. This window provides candidates a one-time opportunity to steer dialogue to areas advantageous to their candidacy.

This is not to suggest that candidates should never ask about perks, benefits, responsibilities, and all the things that will help with evaluating an offer. Candidates should fully utilize interview time to convince employers of their positive qualities. There will be ample time post-interview for candidates to get the information needed about the company’s offerings.

How can interviewees maximize the opportunity?

The key is to anticipate the question and not to blow it. Unprepared candidates may react with “How did I do?”, but most will gravitate towards asking questions best described as “What’s in it for me?”. Any questions about salary, benefits, perks, vacation, and training fall into this category in most situations, which are best to ask at the offer stage. Interviewees who lead with questions about the company’s tuition reimbursement policy give the appearance that they are looking for a scholarship more than a job.

What strategies can prepared candidates use to utilize the time wisely?

Create positive thoughts – Creating any positive thoughts in the interviewer’s mind gives the best chance for offer. Most interviewers (even engineers, with some exceptions) will enjoy talking about themselves for a bit. “What is your background?” and “What was it about this company that interested you?” are ways to make that happen, while the latter also should generate a positive answer. Too many questions like this will start to resemble an interrogation.

Redirect to a highlight - If an interviewer failed to address a particular strength or highlight of the candidate’s career, that can be corrected. “Do you feel my experience in PROJECT/SKILL would be valuable to me when working for COMPANY?” may bring the interviewer’s attention to an accomplishment or skill that the interviewer overlooked.

Demonstrate interest and insight – A question that required research, such as one relating to a company current event, can demonstrate that an interviewee keeps tabs on the company and industry. “How do you believe COMPANY’S recent acquisition of COMPANY2 will impact future projects?” and “Do you feel COMPANY’S recent new product is indicative of the direction the company is headed?” will show that the interviewee did homework.

Show long-term thinking - Questions about long-term topics could show the interviewer that the candidate isn’t a mercenary just thinking about the next paycheck. Most questions about future projects, career path, and the goals of internal departments and groups can serve to differentiate an interviewee from the herd.

Conclusion

Interview time is limited, so use every bit wisely. Almost all questions that candidates use in their decision to accept/reject offers can be asked after an interview, and those candidates that fear they may waste time interviewing for jobs they won’t accept should be asking ‘deal breaker’ questions before interviews. Prepare questions in advance.


¹ For anyone thinking “But I’m interviewing the company as much as they are interviewing me”, I don’t disagree with that overall philosophy. However, I’d suggest that most candidates will probably gather most of the required information without needing to ask a multitude of questions, and those questions can be answered after interviews are complete. Let them interview first.

Independent Contracting: How to Get There

The concept of self-employment is appealing for many technologists, but the path to getting there isn’t always clear. Independent contractors may cite several attributes of their work that they find preferable to traditional employer/employee relationships. The allure of money is obvious, but independents may also be drawn to project variety, an emphasis on new development over maintaining existing projects, and additional control over work/life balance.

Independent contracting has historically been a trend primarily among the more senior and advanced in the profession, but today it’s not uncommon to hear intermediate or even junior level developers in pursuit of independent work. Often the decision to become an independent isn’t premeditated so much as it is circumstantial. A lucrative contract offer is hard to refuse, and once a new level of compensation and freedom is reached it is difficult to accept a return to lower salaries. These ‘accidental contractors’ sometimes find themselves wholly unprepared for what skills and knowledge are required to build and operate a sustainable business.

Many seem to think that technical strength is the difference. Technical skills are clearly part of the equation and in unique situations superior skills can trump everything else, but many strong developers have failed as independents. Those that are thinking about exploring the independent contractor lifestyle in the future should start considering the topics below well before signing any contracts.

Communication skills - Independents need the ability to acquire clients, either through direct interaction with the client or through a broker/recruiter. Once a client is made, maintaining their business will depend upon clear communications regarding expectations, schedules, delivery, etc. Using brokers can help those with communication or social skills issues.

Varied skill set / independent learning / research - A skills inventory with some variety (languages, tools, frameworks) is fairly common with successful contractors, although advertising an unrealistic variety will hurt credibility. Independents have more incentive to invest off-hours learning new skills and keeping an eye on trends in the industry.

Comfort with interview process - For those in the salaried employment world, one great interview can result in years of work. Depending on contract durations, independents can find themselves in some form of interview several times a year. Anyone hoping to be successful in contracting must overcome discomfort or anxiety in interview settings.

Relationships – Successful independents usually know (and are known to) a number of people spread across various employers. Senior level contractors may have developed hundreds of relationships over time without any targeted networking efforts, while younger entrants will likely need to reach out to strangers. A lack of professional contacts is a barrier to entry for junior technologists and will negatively impact sustainability for senior contractors.

Basic sales - Advanced sales skills are unnecessary, but an understanding of what a close is and learning a few different ways to close will be helpful.

Basic marketing, brand management – Contractors have a brand, though many don’t think of it that way. Independents should pay attention to making their brand more attractive. Speaking engagements, tech community leadership, and publication/blogging are a few ways to increase visibility and potentially become a recognized authority.

Focus on billing - Independents become frustrated when they realize that running their small business is more than just writing code. Taxes, insurance, contract review, time sheets, invoices, and expense reporting eat into time that would be better spent as billable hours. Successful contractors try to maximize billable time and often outsource (or automate) tasks when possible.

Negotiation - When using a broker it is customary that they handle negotiation with the hiring entity, but an independent will still need to negotiate rates with the broker. A sum as small as a few dollars per hour quickly adds up over long client engagements. Negotiations for salaried positions can be easier due to the number of components that a company may be willing to adjust (salary, bonus, stock, etc.), but for contractors the negotiation is almost always a single figure.

Exploding Job Offers and Multiple Offer Synchronization

A recent post by Y Combinator’s Sam Altman, Exploding Offers Suck, detailed his distaste for accelerators and venture capitalists who pressure entrepreneurs into critical decisions on investment offers before they have a chance to shop. The article outlines Y Combinator’s policy of allowing offer acceptance up until the beginning of the program.

An exploding offer is as any offer that lists a date for the offer to expire, with the allotted time being minimal. Altman’s article is about venture funding, but most in the industry gain exposure to this situation via job offers. This practice is fairly standard for college internships, where acceptance is required months before start date. Exploding offers may be less common for experienced professionals, but are hardly rare.exploding offer

Many companies use templates for job offers where deadlines are arbitrary or listed only to encourage quick responses, which gives a false appearance of an exploding offer. Other firms have strict policies on enforcement, although strong candidates in a seller’s market will cause exceptions.

Why exploding offers exist?

The employer’s justification for exploding job offers may focus on planning, multiple candidates, and finite needs.

If a company has three vacancies and three candidates, how likely is it that all three receive offers? What is the likelihood they all accept. Companies develop  a pipeline of perhaps twenty candidates for those three jobs. If six are found qualified, the company has a dilemma. The numbers and odds become ominous for firms evaluating thousands of college students for 100 internships.

The exploding offer is one method for companies to mitigate the risk of accepted offers outnumbering vacancies. They are also used to ensure that the second or third best candidate will still be available while the hirer awaits response from the first choice. Fast acceptance of exploding offers may be viewed as a measure of a candidate’s interest in the position and company, particularly at smaller and riskier firms.

Job seekers may feel that exploding offers serve to limit their employment options, with a potential side effect being lower salaries due to reduced competition. These offers may also help level the playing field for non-elite companies, as risk-averse candidates may subscribe to the bird in the hand theory.

Since they are not uncommon, it’s important to consider a strategy for how to handle exploding offers, multiple offer scenarios, and how to prevent these problems altogether.

Avoid the situation entirely

The issue with exploding and multiple offers is time constraint, and job seekers need to be proactive about these scenarios. The best strategy is to maximize the possibility that all offers arrive at the same time. If all offers are received simultaneously there is no problem.

Those applying to several firms should anticipate the possibility that offers may arrive over days or weeks. When researching companies of interest, investigate their standard interview process, the number of steps involved, and how long it takes. Current or former employees and recruiters representing the company will have answers, and when in doubt the general rule is that larger companies tend to move slower. Initiate contact with the slower companies first, and apply to the fastest hirers once interviews start with the first group.

Strategies to control timing of multiple offers

Unfortunately, job searches are unpredictable and candidates feel they have little influence on the speed or duration of a hiring process. Stellar candidates have much more control than they might expect, but even average applicants can affect timelines.

If Company A has scheduled a third face-to-face meeting while Company B is just getting around to setting up a phone screen with HR, the candidate needs to slow the process with A while expediting B. What tactics can hasten or extend hiring processes in order to synchronize offers?

Speeding up

  • Ask - Asking about the anticipated duration of the interview process and about any ways it can be expedited. This is a relatively benign request so long as it is made respectfully and tactfully.
  • Flexibility and availability – Provide prompt interview availability details regularly even they aren’t requested, and (if possible) offer flexibility to meet off-hours or on weekends.
  • Pressure – As somewhat of a last resort, some candidates may choose to disclose the existence of other offers and the need for a decision by the employer. This can backfire and should be approached delicately.

Slowing down

  • Delay interviews – This is the easiest and most effective method to employ, with the risk being that the position may be offered to someone else in the interim. When multiple rounds are likely, adding a couple days between rounds can extend the process significantly.
  • Ask questions – There are many details about a company that influence decisions to accept or reject offers, and the process of gathering that information takes time. At the offer stage, questions about benefits or policies can usually buy a day or two.
  • Negotiate – Negotiating an offer will require the company to get approvals and to incorporate new terms into a letter.
  • Request additional interviews or meetings – Once an offer is made, candidates feel pressure to accept or reject. Another option is to request additional dialogue and meetings to address any concerns and finalize decisions.

Specifics for exploding offers

The issue with exploding offers is typically the need to respond before other interviews are completed, so the goal is to buy time. Some candidates choose to accept the exploding offer as a backup in case a better offer isn’t made. This tactic isn’t optimal for either party, as the company may be without a replacement and the candidate has burned a bridge.

In an exploding offer situation, first discover if the offer is truly exploding. As was mentioned earlier, many companies want a timely answer but don’t need one. The offer letter may give the appearance of being an exploding offer without actual intent. One response to test the waters is “The offer letter says I have x days to decide. Is that deadline firm or could it be extended a day or two if I am not prepared to make a decision at that point?”. The company’s answer will be telling.

If it is discovered that it is truly an exploding offer, resorting to the tactics listed above could help. HR reps may be uncomfortable asking for a decision if they feel a candidate’s legitimate questions are unanswered. As the deadline approaches, negotiating terms and asking for more detail will provide time. The request for another meeting will require scheduling, and the parties involved might not be available until after the deadline. As a last resort, simply asking for an extension is always an option.

How To Get a Job in a Different City

There are subtle nuances to job searches outside of the local area. Unless a candidate is considered superlative, non-local applicants are not always given the same level of attention as locals when employers have healthy candidate pools with local applicants. Why might remoteness impact interview decisions (even in a tight market), and how can the potential for negative bias be minimized?

We’ll get to that in a minute. Before we can apply for a job, we need to find it.

Finding jobs

Job sites – The usual suspects are where some people start, and those jobs will have multiple applicants. Googling to find regional job sites may help find companies that fly under the radar.

LinkedIn - The Jobs tab can create a search for new posts, but everybody may use that strategy. Try an Advanced People Search using one or more of the technologies or skills (in keywords box) that might be used by an attractive employer, and enter a zip code and mileage range using the desired location. Note both the current and past employers for the profiles, then research those firms.

Remote networking – Reaching out directly to some of the profiles found during the LinkedIn search will produce leads. Many fellow technologists will respond to messages stating a desire to move to their area. Finding a local recruiter on LinkedIn or via web search may bring several opportunities.

User groups and meetups – Some user group sites have job ads, and sponsoring firms usually have a local presence. Speakers from past meetings often live locally. User group leaders are often contacted by recruiters and hiring companies that are looking for talent, so contacting group leaders directly and asking “Who is hiring?” should be helpful.

or let the jobs find you… – Change the location field on a LinkedIn profile to the desired location and add language indicating an interest in new opportunities, and companies and agencies from that location may start knocking.

relo map

Applying for jobs

Now that the jobs are identified, initial contact must be made. This is where things can get complicated.

Recruiters and HR professionals are tasked with looking at résumés and any accompanying material in order to make a reasonably quick yes/no decision on an initial interview. Screeners know an interview process is time consuming, and the decision to start that process will usually take valuable time from several employees of the organization.

There are several factors that go into this decision, with candidate’s qualifications being the most important and obvious. Another factor is the recruiter’s assessment regarding the likelihood that a candidate would accept the job if offered, which is based on any obvious or assumed barriers. Details such as candidate compensation requirements in relation to company pay ranges or current job title in relation to vacant job title may play a role in the decision.

Is someone making 150K likely to accept our job paying 110K?
Is a Chief Architect likely to accept our Intermediate Developer position?
And generally speaking, is this person likely to accept a job in another location?

For exceptional candidates these questions are irrelevant, as they will be screened. But if a candidate barely meets the minimum requirements, has a couple additional flags, and happens to be non-local, will the employer even bother screening the candidate? Should they?

Without additional context, it may be assumed that a recent graduate in the midwest that applies to a job in New York City is probably shipping résumés to Silicon Valley, Chicago, or Seattle. The HR rep could believe that they are competing with many companies across several markets, each with its own reputation, characteristics, and cost of living. How likely is it that this candidate will not only choose our market, but also choose our company?

How can we lessen the impact of these assumptions and potential biases?

Mention location -When location isn’t mentioned by non-local applicants and no other information is given, the screener is likely to get the impression that this candidate is indiscriminately applying to positions. An applicant’s non-local address is the elephant in the room, so it is vital to reference that immediately in a cover letter.

If a future address is known, it should be listed on the résumé along with the current address. Keep in mind that the screener may open a résumé before reading any accompanying material. When there is a specific reason for relocating to this location, such as a family situation or a spouse’s job relocation, that information will be additional evidence of intent.

Availability for interviews - Listing available dates for on-site interviews demonstrates at least some level of commitment to the new location. Screeners interpret this as a buying sign.

Availability for start – Candidates that relocate for positions may have to sell their home, sublet an apartment, or have children in the middle of a school year. A mention of start date helps to set expectations early.

Additional considerations

Cost of living and salary – Some ads request salary history and compensation expectations. Be sure to research salaries and market values in the new city, and state that committing to a future salary figure is difficult until all of the data is collected.

Relocation assistance – Companies may be willing to provide some relocation assistance even for candidates who are planning a move. Requesting a relo package in an application adds a potential reason for rejection, but negotiating relo money during the offer process is common. Since it is a one-time cost, companies may be more willing to provide relo if negotiations on salary or benefits become sticky.

Consider the overall market – Before committing to an opportunity in another city, research employment prospects beyond the target company. How healthy is the job market, and how many other local companies have specific demand for the same skills? A strong local tech market does not always indicate a strong market for certain specialties.

Who Needs Side Projects?

The topic of side projects or personal projects for software professionals (commonly in the form of mobile apps, websites, various GitHub repos, and even technical blogs) has been fairly well-documented in the past few years. The concept of side projects as hiring barometer is still a relatively nascent industry phenomenon that emerged in parallel with the rising popularity and eventual ubiquity of open source software, web-based repository hosting, and usable blogging platforms. I distinctly remember the first time a client of mine indicated a preference (however slight) for candidates that could demonstrate coding from outside their employment. It was 2004, still a few years before GitHub.

The growth of SourceForge and then GitHub provided the opportunity to collaborate easily and effectively with friends, colleagues, or even strangers. Some engineers chose to code off-hours and some chose not to. As has been written before, others may not have had the time. Whether engineers did or did not contribute to open source or create side projects, all eventually became aware of the trend, and some likely predicted that the landscape for job search may be changing.

Flash-forward to today, where we commonly see job advertisements requesting a résumé and links to GitHub or personal projects. College seniors scramble to assemble a code portfolio while balancing internships and coursework in their final semesters. Highly experienced engineers with 20 years of stable employment and a formidable list of professional accomplishments still wonder if their work alone is enough to compete for jobs. Even high school students ask questions about starting to build things in preparation for a job search several years down the line.

It’s clear that many engineers are concerned with the perceived necessity for personal projects, regardless of experience. Blogs like mine are probably guilty of unintentionally feeding fears, as career advice is not one-size-fits-all. It’s a useful exercise to clarify the benefit of side projects for different groups.

Who benefits most from side projects?

Entry-level candidates, new college graduates - When a group of largely homogenous candidates compete for positions, side projects are a differentiator. Typical résumés for new grads list GPA and select courses. Without internships or projects, they are virtually identical in every way. Even a link to rather mundane GitHub repos might give employers a bit of insight into ability.

Recent industry entrants without marketable experience - Many professionals are forced to accept undesirable jobs due to personal circumstances, while others make poor career choices early on. Two or three years of professional experience in the wrong shop might not lead to any real accomplishments. Side projects may be the best method to demonstrate skill early in a career.

Stagnant employment history - Candidates who have held the same position in the same company for many years are subject to somewhat unique scrutiny, with the most common theme being the concept of whether someone has “ten years of experience or only one year of experience ten times“. Showing some other skills gained outside work might shed the one-trick pony image and demonstrate an interest in learning.

Dated skill set, limited technical environment - For some engineers, side work might be the only opportunity to play with the new and shiny toys that other employers use. If the day job only allows archaic languages and tools, future marketability may depend upon side projects.

Those looking to change their path - Similar to entry-level candidates, professionals attempting to alter career direction may look to side projects as their most powerful strategy to gain some credibility. A good example of this is the large number of budding engineers who accepted QA positions while intending to move into development roles, or web developers who seek employment in mobile.

Conclusion

Side projects are often effectively used in lieu of work experience and tangible accomplishments in order to establish credibility and demonstrate skills. Their importance fades over time for professionals in ideal technical environments, defined as places where engineers are productive, learn continuously, move between projects and groups, and are able to develop a varied set of marketable skills. The value of side projects may vary over the course of a career depending on factors in the workplace, which are usually beyond the employee’s control. The groups outlined above derive the most benefit from side projects. For established and highly accomplished professionals, side projects can be completely unnecessary.

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“…but I’m negotiable”

I review many emailed job applications each week that include a salary expectation, usually in the form of “seeking $X,000 per year“. Some continue with a phrase that has become trite, not to mention quite costly to job seekers everywhere.

“but I’m negotiable”

What these candidates are telling us is “I have a target number, but I want you to know in advance that I’m willing to accept less.

This phrase is also a common response during live conversation with candidates, whether in speaking to me or in interviews with my clients.

INTERVIEWER: What are your salary expectations?nicubunu_Emoticons_Silence_face
CANDIDATE: I’m seeking 80K, but I’m negotiable.

But usually it goes more like this

INTERVIEWER: What are your salary expectations?
CANDIDATE: I’m seeking 80K…
INTERVIEWER: [Silently takes a note for five seconds]
CANDIDATE: …but I’m negotiable.

Don’t do that.

The mistake here is that the candidate willingly dropped their request before hearing any objection to the number provided. In the first instance, they have altered their negotiating position before even giving the interviewer so much as an opportunity to say no.

The Fix

IN APPLICATIONS – When providing a salary requirement in writing, there is the option of using a single number or a range. Supplying a range could be potentially useful, as a range may account for variation between what companies offer in time off, benefits, bonus, or perks. When providing a range, expect employers to start negotiations at the bottom.

Providing some brief context along with the number (“assuming competitive benefits and working conditions”) will provide an opening to negotiate above the provided number/range when necessary. Usually there will be some part of the package that can be cited as below market to justify raising an offer.

If the recipient of the application feels the candidate is qualified and at least in the ballpark for the budget, contact will be made and the flexibility topic may come up early.

IN INTERVIEWS – Prepare a number to ask for along with any context before the interview. It’s quite a common question, and having an answer available should provide the best results. Improvisation on this question is usually where things go wrong.

When the question about compensation expectations comes up, reply with the number along with any brief and necessary clarifying context. Then, stop talking. Don’t say a word until the interviewer responds. Even if the stare down lasts a minute, say nothing.

Interviewers realize you are probably a bit on edge and slightly uncomfortable during an interview. Any silence, even for just a few seconds, is commonly interpreted by candidates as a negative sign (“Uh oh, why did she stop asking questions???”). Some hiring managers or HR professionals actually have a pause built into the script in order to determine possible flexibility without having to even ask.

Conclusion

Never start negotiating downward until some objection is provided, and don’t mistake the silence of an interviewer as an objection.

How to Evaluate Job Offers

At some point in a career, many will be in a position to decide between multiple job offers from different companies – or at worst having to decide between accepting a new job or staying put. When starting to compare offers, it is common for the recipient to focus on the known quantities (i.e. salary, bonus, etc.) and perhaps a couple additional details that are generally considered more subjective (work environment, technologies).

In order to make a truly wise choice it is also useful to include less obvious factors as well as future considerations, as those generally will have a much stronger influence on career earnings and success. These are harder to predict, but must enter into your decision unless your sole objective is to meet some immediate short-term need.

scales2 copy

 

The easy part

The most common components factoring into gross compensation are:

Cash compensation (salary, bonus, sign-on) - If the bonus is listed as guaranteed, the figure can be lumped into salary. Most bonuses are not guaranteed, but rather are tied to personal and/or company goals being met. Some firms or individual employees are willing to provide data on bonus history. Sign-ons are used to sweeten an offer or to rectify a potential cost the new hire would incur by leaving their job, such as an unpaid bonus.

Healthcare premiums and contributions – Offer letters typically do not list employee out-of-pocket insurance cost, and personal circumstances may weigh heavily on how one values health insurance. Employer contribution can vary from 50-100% while other companies offer employee-only contribution (no contribution towards spouse/partner/child), which can result in a total compensation difference of a few percent.

401k or retirement plans – Employee match and contribution to these plans can be significant. Consider both the dollar amounts and the vesting schedules.

Education reimbursement - If considering a return to school this policy could make a difference.

Paid time off – Although the real value any employee places on time off will vary, the dollar value of each day of PTO can be estimated using a formula.

(Annual salary / estimated annual work hours) x work hours in a day

Many candidates make the mistake of basing their decisions with too much weight placed on base salary. This may be attributed to our emotional attachment to numbers and compensation “milestones” (usually round numbers), the perception of status that results from salary, and the inability of candidates to accurately gather and calculate the details of a comprehensive package.

A friend might tell you about her 100K salary, but how often do you hear someone independently offer up that they pay 10K per year for health insurance and only get one week of vacation?

Additional considerations

The details above are all easily obtained, quantified, and require no interpretation. Everything from this point on will require a bit of investigation as well as some educated guessing.

Expected hours – To put a value on time for offer comparison, a quick calculation to convert salary into dollars per hour can be a telling figure. All else being equal, that 80K offer with a 40 hour work week is more per hour than the 100K offer at 55 hours. Estimates of work hours may not be accurate, so multiple data sources can help.

Commute time/cost and possibility for remote work – Distance may not be a reliable predictor of commute time or cost, and mundane details such as gas efficiency will quickly add up when you consider the trip is repeated 400+ times a year. Mass transit inefficiencies and delays have a cost to commuters as well. The ability to work remotely, even for one or two days a week, makes some difference.

Travel – This can be viewed as a positive or a negative depending on the worker. Consider any hidden expenses that may not be reimbursed, such as child or pet care costs.

Perks – Company provided phone or internet, gym membership, and office meals/snacks are not things job seekers expect, yet could provide thousands of dollars in value.

Self-improvement budget – Some companies may be willing to foot the bill for training or conferences that the employee would have paid for anyway.

Forecasting and speculation

The most vital characteristics contributing to a job’s long-term value are often hidden and unsupported by reliable data. Establishing the present day value of any one job is somewhat complex, and trying to forecast future values requires speculation.

Future marketability – This is a key factor in career compensation, yet is often overlooked when the temptation of short-term gains are presented. The consideration of future marketability is most critical for new grads or junior level employees, who are (unfortunately) often in debt and easily influenced by short-term gains and cash compensation. What skills will be obtained in a job, and to what extent will these new skills increase market value? Will having a company’s name on a résumé (whether by associated prestige or number of direct competitors) create some additional demand for services? If a goal is to maximize lifetime earnings, one could theorize that a year of unpaid work at a place like Google or Facebook is preferable to two years of paid work at many other companies.

Promotions and raises - Job offers only include starting salary/title. How, and how often, does a company evaluate employees for salary increases, and what amounts might be expected for performers? Do they tend to promote from within or hire from outside? Is there a career path and is there a point where compensation plateaus?

Stress and satisfaction – It’s impossible to place a hard value on work stress or job satisfaction, and the amount of either is difficult to predict. Satisfaction, work/life balance, and stress can impact both health and productivity, which could also contribute to marketability.

Stock/stock options  - The number of factors that influence the potential value is too long to list. Vesting schedules may have substantial impact on perceived value if a long tenure isn’t expected.

Environment, team, management - Companies try to make a strong positive impression during interviews, but that image doesn’t always accurately reflect day-to-day operations. Younger workers should place considerable weight on whether there are team members to learn from and mentors who are both available and willing to guide. Employees with long tenures will have insight, though the opinion of more recent hires may be more relevant to anyone considering an offer.

Conclusions

Job change decisions are complex, and tough choices usually end up coming from the gut. The immediate results of a choice are easily identified and quantified, but the more important long-term ramifications require research, interpretation, and a bit of conjecture. When combining all of the smaller elements of a compensation package, the highest salary will not always be the most lucrative offer.