Getting a job offer is thrilling, but having two offers on the table can actually heighten both excitement and anxiety. Because nurses are in demand and much needed right now, you could someday find yourself having to choose between two (or even more) job offers at once.

How will you know what to do? What specific parts of each job will make it the right job for you? Nurses should look at each job move strategically and analyze each offer carefully. One job might offer a significantly higher salary, but the other might tempt you with flexible hours and more vacation time.

The process of choosing the right job for you is stressful. You have a lot riding on this choice and the companies you are interviewing with have a big financial stake in choosing the right candidate, too, says Kathy Quan, RN, BSN, PHN, author of The Everything New Nurse Book, and founder of You don’t want to waste their time—or yours. And if you choose the wrong job, you don’t want to find yourself back at square one looking for another job.

“When weighing job offers, there are financial considerations and work/life considerations,” says Kerry Hannon, author of Love Your Job: The New Rules for Career Happiness and Getting the Job You Want After 50 for Dummies. “And there’s some soul searching.”

Hannon says you should think hard about what makes you love your nursing work and what makes you happy in life so you know what each job can do for you. Are you leaving a position where your shift never ends on time or one where your boss is horrible? “What are your deal breakers?” asks Lisa Mauri Thomas, MS, a job search strategist and author of Landing Your Perfect Nursing Job. List those up front and rank them to give you a sense of what you absolutely won’t accept, she says.

Remember, your dream job could be another nurse’s nightmare, so figuring out what is important to your happiness makes a big difference in finding the job that will suit you. “Like most professionals, nurses can be easily swayed by salary,” says Nancy Brook, RN, MSN, of Stanford Health Care and author of The Nurse Practitioner’s Bag: A Guide to Creating a Meaningful Career That Makes a Difference. “But that shouldn’t be the whole decision if you are trying to establish a career path.”

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“Nursing is so stressful,” says Hannon. “Know what will help you balance that stress.” Is time off so you can recharge away necessary? In that case, vacation time might be worth more to you than a higher salary. Do you need a schedule where you can work three 12-hour days so you can have four days off to take care of family? You need flexibility. Will a big jump in pay help relieve your worry over a mountain of bills? Then focusing on your financial goals can help you weigh what’s best for you.

Start Digging Early

How can you find out all this information about a job so you know enough to make the right decision? When you are considering a new position, find out as much as you can during the interview process, but then dig deeper.

“Interviewing is a two-way street,” says Hannon. “You are in the driver’s seat. They think you have something that can make their workplace better.” Both sides are trying to find a good fit, so the interview is when you can ask questions about culture, job duties, and management style, but save any salary, benefit, or flex time questions until you have an offer. Ask your interviewers why they enjoy working at the company, and ask if you can talk to a few people in the department where you would work.

Turn to social media to find out even more. Look up any connections you might have to company employees. See if someone can make an introduction for you. Check out where former and current employees rate companies.

And if you are hesitant about checking into a company blatantly, you have to ask yourself an important question. “If it backfires, do you really want to work there?” says Hannon. As you gather all your information, think about what might make you want the job. Some common factors include cold cash offers and culture, but there are other ways you can determine if a job choice will make you happy.

Consider Salary and Benefits

Of course, salary plays a huge part in choosing a job offer that’s right for you, and money weighs heavily in most job decisions. “If you’re not being paid what you are valuing your worth, you’ll be resentful,” argues Hannon. Have an idea of your ballpark salary and see if the organization comes close to it. But consider the value of all the other things in the job offer package. Some, like health benefits, might be worth thousands of dollars, while other items might not have a monetary value directly attributed to it (e.g., leadership opportunities), but that might have direct value on your life or lifestyle.

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What’s the Work/Life Attitude?

Reflecting on what you honestly want will help you decide if the job is for you, so consider how the job fits into your life and how your life fits into your job—otherwise known as the work/life balance.

“The most important thing when making a decision about the work/life balance is to look at the bigger picture,” says Hannon. “There are things that don’t relate to money but that circle around things that make us happy.”

Flexibility and autonomy are often especially important for nurses. If you have a busy family life, you are probably looking for a schedule that includes flex time to some extent. Although flex time discussions shouldn’t happen until the job offer is made, you can certainly get an idea of how things work by asking other nurses about their typical schedules.

Does the Company Culture Match Your Values?

When you are interviewing, be extra-observant of the people and the surroundings so you can get a sense of what the atmosphere is like. “Does the vibe suit you?” asks Hannon. “Do you think you will fit in there?” Thomas recommends asking to meet with members of your potential team to ask about the leadership style or to describe the mood on the floor.

“Find out who will be your most direct manager,” says Betsy Snook, MEd, BSN, RN, and chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania State Nurses Association. The fit here is crucial to your future job satisfaction. “People don’t leave work, they leave a manager,” says Snook. When you meet with the team, don’t put them on the spot by asking about the manager, but you can ask about the management style and any challenges they have with the style. Or ask them to give some adjectives that describe the style of management. Brook recommends finding out how long the nurses have worked there. If many have years at the company, that’s a good sign that they are satisfied with how things are going.

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“Look at the culture,” says Snook. “Their values, their mission, their vision—does it match your core vision?” Snook says nurses might flock to the latest and greatest hospital in the area, but they should also step back and look at the new leadership as well. “What’s the management style of the leaders? Where did they work prior to here?” If you loved your previous job because you felt like you were part of the larger picture, then consider the overall corporation. “Is this a place where you believe in the ethics there or their purpose and mission?” asks Hannon. And is the organization stable, asks Snook. A quick Google search can reveal any merger talks, financial instability, strikes, layoffs, or worker dissatisfaction.

Is There Career Advancement?

For a strategic career move, assess your bigger goals and figure out how each position brings you closer to meeting a specific goal. “Always think of your next step,” advises Thomas. Career mapping, as Thomas calls it, means that while you might accept a position, it doesn’t mean that is where you have to stay for 10 years.

Quan agrees. “If you are looking to move up the ladder, you have to make choices that make sense,” she says.

If an advanced degree is in your plans, a job package that includes some kind of tuition reimbursement for the classes you want to take will be very attractive to you. Look into other opportunities for learning. For instance, will you be able to learn new things through courses and workshops? Some companies will pay for you to travel to conferences in your specialty. Consider what kinds of new challenges will be available and how you can take advantage of those. And as Snook mentions, make sure the timeline aligns with your own. If their nurse managers typically take a decade to achieve a certain position and you have a realistic goal of achieving that position sooner, will you want to wait?

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What if you aren’t looking for lots of challenges? Are you at a time in your life where your health or other personal issues are so demanding that you don’t want to be constantly challenged at work? Be honest with yourself. If you are interviewing for a job that sounds ideal, but that requires lots of travel for training or that will give you a fast track to a management role that you aren’t seeking and wouldn’t be comfortable with, then this isn’t the right job for you.

Do the Nuts and Bolts Add Security?

Finally, throw in all the other small things that can add up when you consider taking a job. “In general, pay is important, but you want to look at lifestyle, too,” says Brook. Does the great health plan include your favorite providers? How long is the commute? It is a traffic-jammed mess that you’d have to navigate every day, or is it an easier ride than your current job? How much will you end up spending in gas (and consider fluctuating fuel costs)? Does the company offer smaller perks? Would on-site child care help you? What about things like dry cleaning services or a wellness program? Do you like the idea of frequent company outings and get-togethers, or does that seem like an imposition on your time away from work?

What about the job expectations? Are you expected to sit on committees? Will you work holidays? Will any of these extras help you get closer to your career goals faster? For instance, will committee work, whether part of your job or as an unpaid volunteer, broaden your network or position you for leadership roles?

What Do You Do With Offers in Hand?

Now that you have a couple offers, you have some wiggle room if the offers are close. Before you make any move, it’s essential to have the job offer in writing, advises Thomas. “If they don’t offer one, you should request one,” she says. You can verbally accept a position contingent on receiving everything in writing—including hours, vacation time, and even any job training you’ve been promised. “Anything you have negotiated should be in there,” Thomas says. “Nurses are good at caring for others, but they have to be their strongest self-advocates. If an employer is shaky on that, I would question if that’s a place I want to work for.”

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If you need time to consider the job offers, ask for a few days to crunch the numbers, says Thomas, but don’t mention that you are deciding between two offers. If you really can’t decide, determine what information is missing. If you need to spend time with nurses on the floor, ask to shadow someone. Say your intentions are good, but you need this information to help you make a solid decision, says Thomas. Show respect for their time as well and schedule anything right away.

Saying No Thanks to an Offer

When you do choose one job over another, decline the other position with grace, says Thomas. “You don’t want to burn bridges,” she says. Instead, be very gracious and thank the company profusely for the interviewing opportunity. You can let them know it came down to certain variables—like the shorter commute time or the tuition assistance—the other company offered. As the job market changes so often, you want to keep the doors open and tell them you would like to remain in touch.

As Snook says, you have to do your homework so you know the hard facts, but if you’ve taken the time to figure out your needs and you have all the details on the table, you’ll probably find yourself leaning toward one company. “When all is said and done, you just have to go with your gut,” Snook says.

And take pride in your accomplishments. “You are coming in with value,” says Brook. “Be confident in your ability to bring a good deal of value to the organization and make a decision that is right for you.”

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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