Tips for analyzing a job offer even when you really need a job

December 14, 2009 at 12:29 am Leave a comment

These days, any legitimate job offer is a good one, right? Unemployed journalists who want to stay in the field can’t afford to be picky, right? Well, that’s certainly the conventional wisdom. But as a few email correspondents recently told me, they wish that they had been a bit more careful in analyzing their offers as just weeks into their positions they had buyer’s remorse — all for different reasons, but all wish they would have done more research before taking the job.

Experts say that part of the complexity of examining a job offer when you’re unemployed is that you can’t compare it to your current job as you usually would — you lack a baseline. Also, obviously there is a great deal of pressure — especially if you have been unemployed for many months and especially if your savings and severance is running out — to be in the working world again. But experts say that’s no reason to ease off on asking good questions of your potential employer and doing some further research. You don’t want to be job hunting again in a few months because the position is a poor fit. And you don’t want to fail to negotiate well on your behalf just because the economy is lousy — a fair employer that is eager to have you join their team will want you to feel good about accepting the position.

Here are some tips on how to examine a job offer so you’re making the best deal you can and making sure the position is a good fit for you:

*Seek specific, direct answers to questions about pay and benefits, and weigh these carefully. Don’t ask only about salary but other forms of compensation such as bonuses and overtime pay. Ask about all benefits such as health, dental and vision insurance, life and disability insurance, retirement savings plans and vacation, holidays and sick leave. If they don’t offer it, ask to see a benefits list from their HR department and for the name of someone there who can answer specific benefits questions. Determine when you would be eligible for a raise. Weigh such things as commuting time (and parking costs and commuter assistance benefits) just as you would if you were weighing a job offer when you already had a job — if you’re looking at a very long commute, for instance, that should count against the offer. And if you will be taking a pay cut (see recent post “When to consider taking a pay cut”) see if you can negotiate on other benefits — such as vacation time; often employers will let you have an additional week or more of vacation “off the books” if they really want you.

*If you haven’t already, carefully research the company. Look into its financial health, and especially how it has weathered the recession and the industry downturn. Have there been layoffs, buyouts, wage freezes, or benefits cuts — and how recently? Does the company look like it is back on the upswing? What are its growth plans and potential? Talk to other employees there, if possible, and get a sense of the company’s financial picture. Is the company a potential sales or takeover target? Do other employees think layoffs could be in the offing in the near future? Do this research carefully as you don’t want to be a layoff victim again after just a few months on the job, especially because as a relatively new employee you would likely be eligible only for a slight severance package.

*Research the specific position carefully. What are the specific duties and what will be the focus of the job? (Get details about this. If you’re eager to move into editing, for instance, and the hiring manager says “there may be a chance for some editing,” press them on that. Does that mean in the future? Or will editing duties be part of the position from the start?) What is the chain of command, to whom would you report? Make sure you have spoken to this person — at least on the telephone and ideally in person — if it was not the recruiter or hiring manager who was your main contact.  Obviously this will be an important part of your day-to-day job, and you should have a sense of who they are and what they will be like as a supervisor. What do others say about them? How will their working style mesh with yours? Also, do some reporting into why the position is open. The best situations are when it is a new position or when someone has been promoted within the organization (and try very  hard to talk to that person about the job). If someone left the position without a promotion, why? (See if you can find them and talk to them about it). How stable does the position appear to be within the organization? Research similar positions, if possible, as this will give you information about your possible job’s fit in the company’s structure.

*Watch out for some red flags. If the hiring manager is being vague about details having to do with salary, benefits or job duties, that’s worth worrying about — why can’t they be direct with you about this? If they won’t provide a benefits list or someone in HR for further information, that could be worrisome, too. If they want an answer from you in 24 or even 48 hours — especially if they have been considering you for months for this job — that’s worrisome as well. Tell them you’d like a few days to think it over and research the position, always thanking them for the offer. And if they react unfavorably to you talking to others in the organization about the job, that’s also a red flag. Again, fair employers who want you to join their organization — and having them want you is an important element to weigh as well — will give you the time you need to make the right decision.

*As always, some leads to mention:

*The first two are free-lance opportunities, the first with a deadline of this week:

*Absolute Publishing Ltd.
Freelance Writer
Location: n/a

Absolute Publishing Ltd has a global portfolio of travel, sport, consumer and B2B titles, including ASTAnetwork and Destination: Vacation – both published in the US. They are currently looking for writers who have recent or up-to-date knowledge in the following areas: the Chilean Lake District and France’s Loire Valley. The deadline for submissions is December 18. Please email possible story angles and ideas to Chris Peacock, Supplements Editor, at

*This next free-lance writing lead could be a good opportunity for business and financial writers:
Financial News
Freelance Writers
Location: N/A
The features desk at Financial News (a weekly newspaper covering European financial markets owned by Dow Jones) and Wall Street Journal Europe is looking for freelance contributors to regular features particularly in the areas of (institutional not retail) investment banking, capital markets, fund management, hedge funds, pensions, wealth management, private equity, restructuring, trading and technology, stock exchanges, custody, clearing and settlement, derivatives, fund administration, liquidity management, trading and technology from a back-office perspective, commodities, SRI, FX, Gulf financial markets, Islamic finance. Please send a CV outlining your areas of coverage and up to three writing samples to Yasmine Chinwala,

*For laid-off or bought-out marketing professionals (and I know there are plenty out there!) this lead from Atlantic Media sounds promising:
Marketing Director – AtlanticLIVE
Atlantic Media Company – Washington, DC
Atlantic marketing and advertising leaders and staff based in New York, editors, and events staff to develop programs in support of brand strategy and revenue…

Marketing Director – AtlanticLIVE
Location: Washington D.C.
Job Type: Regular
Division: Atlantic Consumer Media

Atlantic Media Company, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the parent company of The Atlantic, National Journal and Government Executive magazines. Our publications reach an audience of over one million influential decision makers in the Washington policy community and across the nation.
We are currently seeking a Marketing Director who will be responsible for creating opportunities to develop, enhance and broadly promote The Atlantic’s event programs and larger integrated platforms.  This position will work in collaboration with Atlantic marketing and advertising leaders and staff based in New York, editors, and events staff to develop programs in support of brand strategy and revenue goals.
·         Collaborate on AtlanticLIVE strategies and targets, as to branding, program portfolio, and financial goals
·         Develop event concepts and related marketing materials, promotional strategies and proposals, whether for:
– individual AtlanticLIVE clients
– Atlantic advertising partners
– multi-sponsor forums and other programs
– large, integrated franchises
·         Develop and deliver marketing materials, proposals and media kit sell sheets on AtlanticLIVE capabilities in support of brand positioning and individual accounts
·         Refine and manage AtlanticLIVE prospect database and develop both mass and targeted campaigns
·         Deliver consistently superior proposals that meet clients’ marketing objectives
·         Develop and support client “ROI” documents—debriefs and recaps post-event
·         Coordinate all press and media relations surrounding AtlanticLIVE events, working alongside an external public relations firm
·         Reports to AtlanticLIVE President
Characteristics of the ideal candidate:
·         Outstanding record of academic and professional achievement
·         Minimum of 3-5+ years experience in events and/or marketing; media/publishing experience a plus
·         Strong analytics and strategic thinking; ability to understand and use relevant research about publication, audience, and event data
·         Strong financial skills and budget management; fluency with Excel and tracking software
·         Ability to communicate goals and strategies internally and externally; strong presentation skills and exceptional persuasive copywriting/general writing skills
·         Force of presence, ability to lead by example
·         Creativity and a high degree of organization skills
·         Ability to work closely and cooperatively (with grace under pressure) with a variety of internal constituencies, as well as interface with high-level clients and other external colleagues (e.g., vendors, agency contacts, etc.); significant direct client interaction especially with the Aspen Ideas Festival management
·         Ability to create marketing materials; familiarity with relevant design software (InDesign, PhotoShop); occasional director of external graphics artists
·         Bachelor’s degree required
To apply, please visit us online at
Atlantic Media Company is an equal opportunity employer.

*Last but certainly not least, a repeat of an earlier listing from Medill for a Web site community manager, but with a change: the position is now full-time in either D.C. or Evanston, Ill. (home of Northwestern University). And the deadline for applications is fast-approaching:


Medill seeks a Web site community manager with strong production,writing and editing skills. The ideal candidate will have experience in social media, participatory media and interactive journalism. He or she will work on a small number of projects to gain visibility for students’ and faculty’s work and to build networks and public engagement. The first project will be centered on national security, defense and civil liberties with the purpose of improving journalistic practice and increasing public engagement. The community manager will help launch the  Web site and other outreach tools to bring together interested parties.

This is a full-time position of two years’ duration with a possibility of renewal, located in Evanston, Ill., or Washington, D.C.

* Launch the week-to-week editorial strategy for the new sites.
* Help develop the tone and the voice for the site and any associated programming.
* Maintain and produce the site. A working knowledge of HTML and CSS, as well experience with audio and video production, is essential.
* Grow and expand site traffic and audience engagement.
* Seek out and execute meaningful editorial and content partnerships.
* Supervise social media and other audience development strategies.

Please send cover letter and resume by December 31, 2009 to

Happy hunting!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Making a decision on a buyout Settling into a job-search routine

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