How to read a job offer

Graduating from college calls for a big celebration, but there’s not much time to let loose before having to officially start the job hunt. It’s a frightening crossroads that is inevitable for most. There will be long nights of filling out applications, followed by grueling follow up emails, phone calls and, if you’re lucky, interviews.

If you’ve managed to ace the interview, you might be fortunate enough to receive a job offer. This is exciting, and a congratulations would be in order, but you’re not off the hook yet.

Figuring out the job offer and reading all the small print is vital. It’s important to know what you’re signing up for when accepting the job, so we’re here to help you decode the job offer.

Start Date

This could be one of the most important parts of your job offer because it’s the part that’s going to get you there on the very first day. Do more than skim the information, and keep your eyes open for your official start date, time and location. Plan accordingly, and remember that your start date is negotiable.

Vacation Time

Don’t think you’re going to cash in all of your vacation days at once. A lot of times, newbies don’t get to use theirs until they’ve worked there for three or so months, and it would be inappropriate to try to use vacation prematurely. However, if you’re aware of a prior commitment or already have a family vacation scheduled, it’s acceptable to discuss it upfront before committing to the terms.


Your job offer is a form of contract, so you certainly want to pay attention to and remember what was stated. If somewhere down the line, you feel your position has changed from what you agreed to, you’ll have your original offer to prove it. Your responsibilities could change, and it’s important to remember what you were promised from the beginning. If you snooze while accepting the offer, it’s quite possible you could miss out on something, like a bonus.


Make sure the benefits offered fit your needs. There could be many benefits listed, but if they’re not going to work for you, it’s important to say so. If you don’t have success negotiating your benefits, there are ways find an individual healthcare plan that works for you.


Your ears should be perking up right about now, because we’re about to talk money. Obviously, how much you’re going to be paid is important, and that’s something most people know to negotiate. But there are other salary factors to pay attention to as well.

For instance, consider asking the following questions:

  • How often are salaries reviewed? Is it yearly?
  • How do you move up in salary range?
  • Will you be moving up by tiers?

Ask for specifics about whether or not the salary listed includes bonuses or commission. If you don’t understand this before agreeing, it’s going to be harder to dispute later.

Additional Expectations

It’s very possible that your offer is not yet finalized. You may have to complete additional requirements like a drug and alcohol test, and this is something that would be outlined in your letter or where you originally applied. You should also keep your eyes peeled on the job description or website for something like “All employment offers are contingent upon applicant successfully completing drug and background screenings.” If anything, this is simply something to be aware of, because it might be the deciding factor of your employment.

Keeping all of these factors in mind when reviewing your offer will ensure you know exactly what you’re accepting. Clearing up any confusion or negotiations early on will help keep your relationships at work positive and professional.

This is a guest post by Sarah Landrum, a recent Penn State graduate turned Cubicle Warrior and career blogger. You can connect with Sarah on her career development blog or tweet her @SarahLandrum

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