The 4 P’s of Evaluating a Job Offer

When I graduated college, I was lucky enough to even receive a job offer. Turning it down was like a death sentence. The immense fear of not having a job and living with parents (love you Mom & Dad) for another 12+ months was enough to drive any young graduate into accepting a job they knew they were going to hate.

As you grow more skilled and experienced though, your leverage in the job market increases significantly. Not only that, but simply being employed affords you the chance to stick it out until the right opportunity comes along. But how do you know what that opportunity looks like? It’s not wrapped in a pretty bow and dropped on your front doorstep. No, it’s far more subtle than that.

Since being laid off four weeks ago, I’ve talked with a lot of people. Coffees, beers, impromptu office visits, LinkedIn messages, you name it. Unfortunately I didn’t have the luxury of waiting it out until the right job came along, I had to actively pursue it, and fast.

The Spark

During an interview last week I was asked what was important to me for my next role, and what came out of my mouth was nothing short of a miracle. Usually I just go all stream-of-consciousness on their ass and watch them try to make sense of the nonsensical jargon that never should’ve come out of an intelligent being’s mouth (this is why I write, people).

This didn’t start off as “the 4 P’s” of anything. But I wanted to come up with something easily reference-able, and being a marketer, the 4 P’s come up all the time (product, place, price and promotion). So here are the 4 P’s…of evaluating a job offer: people, product, position and pay.

People

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American spends 37% of their work day at work. If you take away the time spent sleeping and just focus on our time awake, it jumps up to over half the day (dayum!).

Far and away, nothing is more important than the people you interact with every single day. When you’re assessing a potential new employer, you’re not just vetting the company, you’re vetting the people who work there. You are going to spend significantly more time with your coworkers than your friends and family. You better understand what you’re getting yourself into.

Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t gloss over the details in your interview process. For me, ample vacation and time off are a requirement. Just because a company’s Careers page boasts unlimited vacation doesn’t mean employees feel comfortable taking more than a few days off. Ask direct questions about what’s most important to you.
  • Understand their management style. If you thrive in an autonomous role, make sure your manager isn’t like that creepy dude over Helga’s shoulder in Hey Arnold. If you prefer more structure to your day, ensure your manager can regularly provide that to you.
  • Search for the people you’d be working closest with on LinkedIn and find any shared connections. Connect with those people to see if they can provide any additional insights on personality, experience and management style.
Don’t be Helga

Product

You do not have to be super passionate about the product you’re selling. You do, however, have to judge for yourself whether or not it’s solving a real problem, and if so, you have to understand and sympathize with the problem it solves.

This can be particularly hard to assess in the early stages of disruptive startups. But be diligent in your competitive research and find people in the target market to help build your own case for product-market fit. Do similar products/services exist? If so, what makes this one different? Remember, Myspace and Friendster had already established themselves by the time Facebook launched.

It can be easy to fall head-over-heels for a company because the CEO is good with words. But that’s not enough. Do your due diligence on the product side, you’ll be happy you did.

*Oh and by the way, if after all of this you’re still confident in the product, you’ll probably be passionate about it by this point anyways :)

Position

The last thing I ever want to be at a job is bored. It’s not good for either party involved. While this isn’t an ideal situation, nothing is more detrimental to a person and a company than someone stepping into a role that’s way over his or her head. Typically, both parties are too afraid to admit it until it’s too late, and then, well, it’s too late.

If you’ve received an offer from an employer, they obviously think you’re the right person for the job. But “there is no one alive who is youer than you,” so be honest with yourself about what you’re getting yourself into.

Furthermore, do you actually know what you’re getting yourself into? Job descriptions are a great start, but your expectations should be crystal clear before signing that offer letter.

I recently came across the best job description I’ve ever read. A local Boston startup had a marketing position open that caught my attention. After reading it, I was hooked. It had a solid foundation, but went a step further and laid out expectations for the first 30, 60 and 120 days. They didn’t have to tell me they cared about the success of their employees, I already knew it just by reading the posting.

Pay

Out of all 4 P’s, this is the most quantifiable, and often the most coveted. I’m going to take the liberty and lump in equity and benefits into this because I need it to be a P or else this whole thing is sham.

When I refer to pay though, I’m not talking in absolute terms. Sure, making $1m/year would be great. But what is reasonable for the position, the location, your experience and their cash flow? These and a slew of other factors will determine your compensation. It’s on you to decide whether or not this is fair.

And it’s not just about the amount they offer, but also how they negotiate. Any company worth their salt will be happy to open up the floor to negotiations. This doesn’t mean you’ll be pleased with the end result, but it’s a major red flag if they leave no room for it.

Here are a few tips:

  • Visit Indeed.com’s Salary Search to get a sense of how similar positions in your geographical area are being compensated.
  • Search for your position’s salary on the company’s Glassdoor page. This can be tricky for early-stage/smaller companies as employees have not shared, or are less willing to share compensation data. But it’s worth a shot.
  • Find someone in the space you can trust who holds or has held similar positions to the one being offered. Ask them straight up what you should expect. Talking openly about salaries can still be taboo and a bit uncomfortable for some — but I think you’d be surprised how many others are willing to be open about it.
  • If you can manage to get a second job offer on the table, it gives you a lot more leverage with negotiations and gives you a real benchmark to measure against.

Gotta Love a Good Graph

No job is going to be absolutely perfect. The most important part of all of this is identifying which of these P’s you value most. For me, it’s people and product. But I won’t be making any significant sacrifices in position and pay to have that.

In the diagram below, you want the diamond to be as big as possible. The bigger the area, likely, the happier you’ll be.

Job searches are complicated, taxing, nebulous, and sometimes even demoralizing. This framework is intended to bring clarity to the process and to help steer the ship as you trudge your way through. But after all of this, just like baseball, sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and there’s no framework for that.

Happy hunting.


Interesting in connecting? Here’s my LinkedIn.

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