Once again, December turned out to be a banner month for local hiring, and we were thrilled to have our Christmas shopping constantly interrupted by clients needing last-minute assistance in evaluating and negotiating potential job offers.  It’s one of the favorite aspects of our work, for obvious reasons, and we also salute these people for their willingness to reach out for help with this critical step, given that many candidates lose a great deal of objectivity in the “heat of the moment” — causing them to overlook critical job considerations or leave large sums of money on the table by failing to negotiate properly.

And while we always shy away from offering generic advice on job offer evaluation, given the highly subjective and situational nature of this step of the process, we’d like to share three hard-earned lessons we’ve learned that might help you distinguish a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity from a potential dud:

1. Treat the relationship with your boss as the most critical factor.
While it’s tempting to put compensation or the specific responsibilities of the job first in line, our experience has been that no single factor has a greater effect on a person’s career satisfaction than how well they get along with their boss or supervisor.  Do you feel you’ve gotten a good sense of the person’s management style?  Have they treated you with respect throughout the process?  Have they been punctual to each interview?  Do they have a track record of promoting their subordinates?  Are they a mentor figure you can learn from?

2. Reflect on the courtship process. Often, the maturity, culture, and attitude of any given organization is closely reflected by the way they treat candidates throughout the hiring process.  A company that seems to have their act together and that runs their interviews like a well-oiled machine will often be enjoying — and profiting from — similar efficiencies in their other business processes.  A company that seems to be making your candidacy an afterthought, on the other hand, or that appears to treat hiring new employees as an annoying and necessary evil, may be giving you a warning sign of things to come.

3. Observe the attitude of current employees. No matter how glowing a company’s mission statement might be, or how much lip service they pay to valuing their people, there’s no company (outside of the former Soviet Union, perhaps) that can systematically compel their employees to laugh, smile, or maintain a positive attitude in the workplace.  So while the corporate recruiter or hiring manager might appear outwardly friendly, and jovial, pay close attention to the attitude and body language of the other people you encounter throughout the hiring process — including the receptionist.  If these people seem sullen, downtrodden, or less than enthusiastic about being there, BIG red flag!

While these three clues are definitely more subtle than the analytical, apples-to-apples comparisons we also help clients make between competing job offers, we felt it was important to share them, since they truly represent some of the best “windows into the corporate soul” that job applicants today have at their disposal.  Companies, just like candidates, can be shrewd salespeople and misrepresent the potential of an opportunity to try and hook their ideal candidate.  Over the years, therefore, we’ve felt that these more organic factors have gone a long way to helping our clients see beyond the “take the money and run” attitude and find work environments offering true long-term satisfaction potential!