Considering Job Offers
In a perfect world, you will receive job offers from all employers with whom you interview, the money will meet your expectations and be the similar for each offer, and the commute will be comparable for each position. If we lived in a perfect world considering job offers would be a lot tougher as you would be choosing the best position for you solely on subjective factors – but the decision might provide you with a lot greater personal satisfaction. However, the world in not perfect and more often than not, salaries and commutes are major factors when considering job offers. As a result, commute/location, salary and subjective factors (fit) should all be factors when considering job offers.
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After examining commute/location benefits, salary and fit, hopefully a decision will emerge. However, if you are still debating, try to identify the factors that are preventing you from coming to a decision. If the answer is you are afraid to commit because something better may come along, your choices are simple:
- Figure out what would make this option “better.” If that thing(s) is something you will realistically receive from another offer, you may want to turn this down and try for to obtain that factor(s) from another opportunity. If you haven’t negotiated on that factor or clarified it with the employer, go back and do so.
- Don’t allow a fear of commitment to rule. If it is unrealistic to think another offer will give you that thing(s), you may just be dealing with a fear of commitment. Remember, accepting a job does not lock you in for life. If you want to make a change later, you can. It may be that at this time this is the right position for you – but in the future another position may be more appropriate.
- Trust your gut. Those nebulous factors may never be fully qualified. If your instincts are telling you something is wrong, and you’ve done everything you can to determine what is wrong about them but haven’t, trust in yourself.
If you are a low risk taker, declining when you do not have an alternate job offer or job can be overwhelming. If you come to the decision to decline an offer, trust that if you were offered one position, others will follow.
In any case, once you make a decision, don’t second guess yourself. You will never know if the path not chosen would have been better. Some days it may appear that way, but the reality is that unless you are in the circumstances day-in and day-out, you’ll never know. If you find yourself thinking the about the road not taken frequently, it may be time to consider a new role.
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Often job seekers overlook factors they later wish they had considered. Unless you are able to work from home, which happens infrequently in the healthcare industry, there will be a commute. Only you can assess whether the commute is acceptable for your lifestyle. Factors to consider:
- Commute Distance
- Commute Time – be sure to calculate at the times of day you would be traveling
- Personal Safety – how comfortable are you coming and going from your potential place of employment
- Availability of Mass Transit
- Commute Costs
- Parking – is parking provided or do you pay for it (even if it comes out of your salary, that is a cost)
- Mass Transit – if you would be driving to the mass transit, include any parking fees for the mass transit stop
- Gasoline – for any driving you do related to commute
- Vehicle maintenance
- Wear and Tear on self – impact of commute on you (stress)
In addition to examining each aspect of commute/location, you may want to assign a weight to factors. Perhaps your perceived personal safety is more important to you than commute costs. One person might be more willing to take on a one-hour commute, at a distance of 50 miles, on an open road; than a 50-minute commute at a distance of 20 miles in stop and go traffic; another person might feel that the time is more important.
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A “good” benefit plan can cost the employer up to 50% of an employee’s salary. For example, if you are hired at a salary of $70,000/year with a “good” benefit plan, the true cost of your employment to the employer would be $105,000. If you were hired as a contract employee for a similar position with a salary of $80,000 and no benefits, and pursued securing benefits equal to the “good” benefit plan discussed previously, theoretically it would cost you the same $35,000 – netting you a salary of $45,000. If you need those benefits to secure yourself and your future, which offer is the better option?
As mentioned, benefit plans vary greatly, but typical benefit plans include elements of the following:
- Health care insurance – most employers require some contribution towards health insurance from the employee; however, the cost to the employee is still significantly less than it would be if you were to seek insurance. Some employers offer multiple options with varied expense and coverage options. Health insurance typically will cover wellness and emergency care as well as hospital stays. Variables may include
- Types of health plans
- Individual Cost Factors
- Premium – individual’s payment for health plans
- Deductibles (a predetermined amount the insured covers prior to insurance taking effect
- Co-Pays – the set amount an insured pays for each service they receive
- Out-of-pocket maximum – the overall amount an insured will pay towards the cost of their individual care and/or for the care of all those covered in the household
- Payment caps – the maximum amount an insurance company will cover over a specified period of time or over the length of your coverage
- Prescription Plans – sometimes included in health plans, and sometimes a separate purchase. Cost factors, mirror those impacting health plans
- Dental Insurance
- Vision Coverage – coverage for checkups may be included in health plans, vision coverage is often offered for lenses (glasses or contacts)
- Disability Insurance – different than workmen’s compensation (for work related injuries), disability insurance is financial protection if you are unable to work due to health issues.
- Life Insurance – employers may offer optional life insurance for purchase, or provide life insurance based on your salary level or service
- Pension Plan - a specified payment, lump-sum (or combination thereof) on retirement that is predetermined by a formula based on the employee's earnings history, tenure of service and age, rather than depending directly on individual investment returns
- Retirement Savings plan - sponsored by an employer, it lets workers save and invest a piece of their paycheck before taxes are taken out. Taxes aren't paid until the money is withdrawn from the account. Employers may offer a defined contribution amount in addition to the worker’s contribution, may match the employee’s contribution up to a certain amount, or may offer no contribution towards the employee’s retirement other than the investment service
- 401K – pre-tax retirement investment plan
- 403b – non-profit or government plans with lower administrative costs than 401K plans
Though retirement may seem to be a long time from now, wise retirement investing now, can greatly impact your financial future and later life decisions. For more information on retirement strategies for people entering the workforce, visit: Your Investing Life: Starting your First Full Time Job or The College Graduates Guide to Saving for Retirement.
- Paid Leave – Paid Time Off (PTO) (not designated), Vacation leave, sick leave. Factors to consider:
- amount you earn
- how it accumulates
- how it is used
- can it carry over year-to-year
- upon your resignation/retirement is there a pay-out for unused time
Though the cost of employee benefits is significant to employers, employers vary greatly on whether waiving benefits can be used to secure a higher salary. For example, if you will be covered by your significant other’s health insurance, some employers may honor a request to have the value of that insurance added to your salary - but today, many will not.
Though these are the major benefit categories, some employers will offer additional benefits, such as free parking, workout facilities, employee assistance, meal allocations, and shopping and entertainment discounts.
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On the face of it, compensation seems to be the easiest to compare – you go with the largest amount of money. However, total compensation is more complex. Compensation includes salary and benefits. Benefits have a dollar value and can be vital to financial security as well as a healthy lifestyle. Benefits vary widely not only by the types of benefits offered but the range offered within each type. When evaluating a job offer, consider the full salary and compensation package.
Even when looking at income, there are two chief factors to consider – type of payments and additional income factors.
Within the healthcare industry there are two main income types:
- Hourly wage workers who are paid based on the number of hours they work
- Salaried workers are typically paid on an annual amount distributed over a year – regardless of the number of hours worked
- Overtime – explore what overtime rates are (time and a half, double time) and standard for earning overtime (on a daily – overtime for more than 8 per day or weekly basis – hours in excess of 40 hours per week); typically restricted to hourly wage employers
- Holiday Pay – Time and a half or double time for designated holidays (state and/or federal)
- Shift Differentials – an hourly supplement for overnight shifts
- Bonuses – often tied to a department/unit or individual exceeding his or her performance goals
In most cases, if you are in a management role or a corporate professional position, you will be salaried. Often when people move into leadership roles they move from hourly to salaried positions. Though individuals are typically excited by leadership opportunities, they may experience a minimal net gain in wages – especially if they are currently earning overtime and shift differentials. If making the shift from hourly to salaried, you want to evaluate both the short-term impact and long-term potential.
Calculating your salary
Evaluating salary offers and negotiating higher salaries is complex. Most salary information is reported in national averages and ranges. This information typically includes both new hires and experienced personnel, and does not take cost of living into account. This doesn’t make it useless – it just means it is a guide for the higher end of what you should expect starting out as NJ is in the top 20% of nursing salaries, nationally.
Between nursing specializations, salaries can vary significantly. To give you a sense, the following is information on national salaries for BSNs
- Nursing Home RNs - range $59,790 - $67,740 (average $65,016)*
- Pediatric Home Care (RN) – $59,500 - $73,000 (average $65,239)
- Hospice Home Care RN - $63,200-$78,452 (average $69,056)
- Phone Triage Staff Nurse - $64,000 - $79,300 (average $70,166)
- Home Care Nurse - $68,900 - $83,700 (average $75,871)
- Oncology Nurse - $63,400 - $79,300 (average $70,971)
Keep in mind, frequently new hires work in shift environments. Most employers pay a significant shift differential for overnight shifts (up to 15%).
Though being appropriately compensated for your efforts is important, consider that a couple of thousands of dollars will not change your lifestyle significantly. If you are weighing multiple job offers that have a salary difference within that range, I encourage you to consider issues of fit, commute/location and benefits more heavily in your decision making.
Negotiating Your Salary
Employers approach to salary is varied. Some will make you an offer and will not negotiate; others will be open to negotiations. When initiating salary negotiations, it is best to tread lightly, be assertive, and be respectful. “I’d like to discuss the salary.” If the response is negative, don’t assume it is a value judgement on your financial worth. There may be policies in place that prevent them from negotiating or starting salaries may be established in collective bargaining unit agreements (union contracts). In case the response is positive, prior to initiating negotiations, you want to have determined what you feel would be an appropriate wage and developed a rationale for why you deserve that wage. What are the skills, knowledge and experience you bring with you and what should they be valued at? How do your skills, knowledge and experience compare with other people starting in your position? Have you received recognitions that document your worth? “Based on my (describe specific skills, knowledge, credentials or experience) I believe a wage of $_____ per hour is appropriate.” Focus on what you are worth – not what you want or need. Employers are responsible for providing a fair wage for the services they receive. Employers are not responsible for meeting their needs. Additionally, be realistic in what you are requesting – understand that a request that is significantly higher than the offer may be perceived negatively by the employer.
Your decision to work in a higher cost of living area or to travel a longer distance is your decision. Employers do not have to take those factors into account when assessing salary. However, the nursing shortage and an anticipated worsening nurse shortage that is on the horizon may give you some leverage in negotiations – the offer has to be worth traveling a long distance or needing to live in a higher cost of living area.
When you choose to negotiate you have to be prepared for all contingencies.
- The employer refuses to negotiate at all. Be prepared to take or leave the offer on the table. Decide prior to speaking with the employer if you are willing to accept the salary at the rate offered, or if you will walk away.
- The employer agrees to negotiate, but is unable to meet your request. If you have a minimal amount that you will accept and the employer is not meeting it, be prepared to walk away. If they don’t agree to your request but you are still open to hearing what they will do, try and get them to come up with a number, “Based on the skills and qualifications I highlighted, what is the best you can do?”
- The employer agrees to negotiate and accepts your request. Celebrate. Don’t get greedy. Sometimes if the employer quickly accepts, job searchers feel they should have pushed it further. You cannot continue to negotiate after you have won! Feel satisfied that you received what you requested.
If you are not able to negotiate a salary increase, you may want to see if there are any perks you could negotiate. These include things such as additional time off, reimbursement for professional development, and release time for professional development. As with salary, be prepared for them to be unwilling to negotiate on any factor. However, if you handle yourself professionally, this should not create an issue between you and the employer.
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Outside of the practical issues of money, benefits and commute/location, a big factor in whether or not you will be happy in a job is the esoteric concept of fit. To some degree it is like finding a life partner – there is something nebulous that is hard to explain, but when it is there you feel rewarded!
Determining this nebulous thing is hard, but not impossible. As you did when forming your questions for employers during the interview process start assessing the factors that aree important to you – those you would consider if you had multiple job offers in the same geographic region and at the same salary. They may include:
- Does the staffing level seem adequate for the role?
- Do coworkers appear to get along and support one another? What gave you that impression? *
- Did staff seem motivated? What gave you that impression? *
- Were staff member’s interactions with patients and their families positive? What gave you that impression? *
- Did you hear people complaining? Were others joining in? If so, could you tell if this was the norm or a relatively unique situation?
- Is this a place you could see yourself working in? Why or Why not?*
- Did you meet your supervisor? What was your impression of him/her and what did they do they gave you that impression?*
- Did you feel you would be supported in your efforts? What gave you that impression?*
- Did you have any negative impressions during your interviews? If so, what happened that gave you a negative impression? * (Could be concrete – cleanliness, safety, etc., or esoteric - vibe)
- Conversely, what positive impressions did you form from your interview? What left you with those impressions?*
- Do you have a sense of the employer’s commitment to the role and their ability to meet that commitment?
- Are they undergoing a leadership change or merger? If so, how might this impact your role?
- Does the work of the role excite you?
- Is the patient/customer profile you hoped to work with and will you work with them in the way you anticipated? What way is that? *
- What opportunities would you have for professional growth (clinical ladders, professional development, promotion)?”
* Questions that clarify your impressions are designed to help you examine things you may not have realized were important to you.