Do Your Homework Before Accepting a Job Offer

Do Your Homework Before Accepting a Job Offer

One of the biggest mistakes job seekers make is forgetting to check out any company that offers them a job. So thrilled with getting a position, some jump at the chance to join a new team and a new organization.

Before you accept a job offer, don’t forget to check out the company. You don’t want to accept a position and then hear a month later that most nurses in your professional group would have told you to stay away from that particular company.

What do you need to know before you join a new company?

Find out some of this information before you sign. If anything raises a red flag for you, that’s a good sign you need more information to make an informed decision.

Is this a new position? If you are being hired in a new position, find out why the need arose. If it’s not a new position, see if you can find out why the previous nurse left.

Have they had recent layoffs? They might be cutting down on full timers so they can have a part-time staff with fewer benefits.

Do they have high turnover? Nurses retention is a sign that the nurses are happy with the company. If nurses come and go quickly, you might want to find out why.

Do they have any kind of superior ratings? A hospital that has good ratings or something like magnet status has high expectations.

Do they have new management? If so, you should ask professional colleagues what they know about the changes.

Have they been in the news lately? This is obvious, but a quick Google search can reveal a whole lot about an organization’s stability. Anything like a potential takeover, a recent merger, a strike, a lawsuit, or patient safety complaints might come up.

Do you know anyone who works there? If so, reach out to them to find out what the culture is like. Do they have realistic expectations for nurses? Are the nurses a cohesive unit or a disjointed group?

What does the company look like on LinkedIn or Glassdoor? See what other employees have to say.

These are just a few ideas, but they show that you can’t just accept a job offer blindly. Most of these questions can be answered with a quick Google search and a few others might require some asking around (only of people you trust).

Remember, you want to make sure you pick a good company just as much as they want to make sure they are getting a good employee.

8 Benefits that Could Make or Break Your Job Offer

8 Benefits that Could Make or Break Your Job Offer

There’s nothing like that huge relief when the call from human resources says “You’ve got the job!” After the long application and interview process, you finally feel a sense of accomplishment and you’re ready to just shout, “Yes! I’ll take it!”

But don’t leap at a job just because you have it. An offer is great news, but there’s a lot to consider in a job offer package. At the top of your list is probably the hours you’ll work and how much you’ll get paid for those hours. Salary is, after all, a motivating factor in many job searches and job transitions.

But a job is a package. You’ll be paid a certain amount, but you’ll also get lots of add ons – benefits – that vary greatly from one job to the next.

Before you say yes, consider these job benefits and if they meet your needs. And if you get an offer that falls short on benefits you want, consider negotiating for what’s most important to you.

1. Health Insurance

Health insurance is huge for most employees. Find out exactly what is included in the health insurance you are offered. How much is the premium? Which doctors can you see? What is your deductible? What is the co payment for office visits, emergency room visits, and inpatient and outpatient stays? Does the coverage include any prescription plan? If so, are your medications covered?

2. Health Assistance or Savings

Does the company offer any kind of flexible spending account plan so you can set aside money to be used for healthcare?

3. Dental Insurance

How much is the premium? What kinds of care will the plan cover? If the plan covers routine preventative care like cleanings and xrays, how many is each family member entitled to? Does the plan cover any orthodontic care?

4. Vacation Days

Now frequently just lumped into a “paid days off” group, how many days does that include and will it be enough for you? Three weeks of paid time off sounds great, but if you or a family member you care for has a chronic illness that causes you to miss work more than a couple of times a year, three weeks can easily be consumed. Are you allowed to take unpaid time off?

5. Retirement Benefits

Does the package include any kind of retirement benefits like a 401k plan?

6. Volunteer Hours

If you are an avid volunteer, a company that offers paid time off to volunteer in an organization or a local school might be very attractive to you.

7. Education Plan and Career Development

If you are on track to get a higher degree or are thinking of going back to school, does the company reimburse you for partial or full tuition? Can you take classes that offer professional development or career tips?

8. Company Culture

No, the company culture isn’t listed on a benefits package form, but the company culture makes two similar organizations vastly different. If you like to socialize with your colleagues and find a sense of camaraderie essential to your professional happiness, an organization with company outings, softball teams, or volunteer groups might be worth looking into.

Don’t just take a job based on your paycheck. A good career move offers more than just money in the bank. Your benefits package is as important as your salary and can sometimes add thousands of dollars in value. And if you are close to accepting a job but really want more paid time off, for instance, see if you can negotiate. You might get what you want.

Negotiating a Job Offer

Many job seekers miss out on an opportunity to increase their salary and benefits, due to their lack of understanding of, and preparation for, the negotiation process. Unlike some career fields where salary negotiation has been impacted negatively by the poor job market, the salary negotiation prospects for those entering high-demand positions within the allied health field are still good. But as with all aspects of the job search, preparation is key. Successful salary negotiation requires self-assessment, research, planning and strong communication skills. Careful preparation will increase your ability to create a mutually satisfying agreement between you and your potential employer.

The following steps will help you prepare for the salary negotiation process. Just remember that the topic of salary should never be addressed until the employer brings it up. And the actual process of negotiation shouldn’t begin until you have received an offer of employment.

Self-Assessment: Prioritize Your Needs

The first step in preparing to negotiate your salary and benefits is to clarify and prioritize what is important to you. This is necessary because your needs will influence all aspects of the negotiation process. When considering a job offer you’ll need to know what your priorities are in order to decide the value of the offer and what aspects you may want to negotiate.

There are many potential benefits to consider in addition to base salary when accepting a job offer. These benefits increase the monetary value of your base salary, in addition to adding quality to your work life. Depending on your priorities, you’ll want to consider various benefit areas when preparing to negotiate.

For example, if you value learning about new developments and opportunities for advancement in your field, continuing education should be an essential part of your compensation package. You may be able to negotiate reimbursement for renewal of certifications, subscriptions to professional journals, and/or tuition reimbursement for an advanced degree or continuing education courses.

Perhaps you are concerned about having ample opportunity for professional development. In this case, you could negotiate for payment of membership fees for professional associations, conference registration fees, or subscriptions to professional publications.

If you have children or are considering starting a family in the near future, the ability to balance your work and personal life will be important. You’ll want the opportunity to increase your vacation time, arrange for flexible work assignments, obtain reimbursement for child-care costs, and extend benefits coverage to family members.

Another subject you might be able to negotiate is your performance review. Some employers will grant a shorter time period before your first review, thereby giving you the opportunity to discuss a salary increase and advancement opportunities earlier than usual. Finally, if you’re really fortunate, you might even be able to get the employer’s assistance in repaying your student loans.

Take time to review and consider your priorities. Knowing your main concerns ahead of time will help you present yourself to your employer with composure and conviction. In addition, you will be prepared to compromise benefits of a lesser value in exchange for benefits that are more beneficial to you.

Self-Assessment: Know What You Have to Offer

Another step in preparing to negotiate is understanding your intrinsic value. What do you have to offer an employer in terms of your knowledge, education, skills and experience? You need to assess these areas to identify your strengths.

During the negotiation process you will present these strengths to explain your value to a potential employer. The strengths you choose to emphasize during the negotiation will depend on the needs of the employer. Understanding the employer’s needs can be difficult when you are thinking about your own priorities, nonetheless, it’s important to put yourself in the employer’s shoes. When you understand the priorities of the employer and the organization, you’ll be able to relate to the employer’s priorities and tailor your needs to the employer’s frame of reference. Your goal is to utilize this knowledge to create a mutually satisfying outcome to the negotiation.

Research: Understanding Your Market Value

When it comes to attaining the best possible base salary, you will need to do your homework ahead of time in order to discover your market value. This means identifying the current salary range offered for the position you are seeking.

There are various resources to access this information, many of which are available on the Internet. See the sidebar “Bookmark These Sites!” for further information on useful Web sites.

Utilizing the services of allied health professional associations or societies is a vital component of your career development process and many of these organizations provide salary data. Trade journals can also be good sources of salary information.

Planning: Negotiation Strategies

The best time to enter salary negotiations is when you have been offered the position and before you have fully accepted it. This is the time when you will have the most negotiating power. By that point you will have assessed your priorities, market value and needs of your potential employer. But before you enter into any negotiation, you will need to create a plan for a dialogue that addresses your concerns and creates an amiable negotiation. A useful strategy to focus the discussion on areas that you’re interested in is to use exploratory questions.

For example, an interviewee with a few years of laboratory tech experience may be interested in a promotion to a supervisory position. During the course of the discussion the interviewee could ask, “What is the opportunity for advancement into a management or supervisory position?” This question opens up the discussion on the requirements for this position and opportunities for receiving additional training. It also sends a clear message to the employer that this candidate is serious about a career and not just looking for just another job.

An interviewee just out of college may be interested in continuing his or her education. In this case the interviewee could ask, “Can we explore the possibility of reimbursement for an advanced degree?”

Always maintain proper etiquette during the negotiation process. One of the best ways to do this is by putting your requests in the form of questions, rather than stating your demands. This is especially important for entry-level interviewees; aggressive, inexperienced candidates turn off most interviewers. On the other hand, a candidate who is perceived as polite but inquisitive will often be viewed in a positive light. For examples of how to properly start off such questions, see the sidebar, “Exploratory Questions”.
As you discuss and explore the possibilities during negotiation, it is important to remain flexible in your questions and responses. When you are asked a question, never respond with a flat “no,” instead pause, consider the question and then respond. Remember you can’t get what you do not ask for.

When answering questions regarding salary, it is best to give a range because it allows flexibility during the negotiation. You want to find a salary that will satisfy both you and your potential employer. If you have done your homework, you’ll be able to provide a range based on your research to identify the market value for the position and an estimate of your intrinsic value based on your unique skills and experience. You need to decide what is the highest you are worth within that range and what is the lowest you will accept. To support your request, you can bring salary information from your research to the negotiation.

According to David Soprych, regional recruiter for HCR Manorcare, in Aurora, Ill., “Salaries are typically set for staffing levels at large organizations. Smaller organizations have more flexibility in salary. Also, for management positions there is greater flexibility for base salary.” In any case, you will have to sell your skills and accomplishments when negotiating your salary.

Another area that has received media attention is sign-on bonuses. Soprych cautions job seekers to be wary of large sign-on bonuses. “This could be a red flag that the organization is having difficulty keeping and finding employees,” he says. “Also, a company may provide a top salary but poor benefits or a moderate salary with excellent benefits. It is in your best interest to investigate these organizations carefully.”

Communication Skills: The Art of Diplomacy

Successful negotiations are built on developing rapport and trust. By applying active listening, strong communication and keen observation skills, you will be able to present yourself well and respond to various situations in an appropriate manner. Listen carefully and pay attention to the employer’s attitude, words and body language. You are looking for positive reactions to your statements; your goal is to create a positive and friendly atmosphere. This is very important when you are trying to reach a mutually satisfying outcome.

Because your emotions will be running high during the negotiation, it is helpful to rehearse your presentation with another person prior to your interview. This will prepare you for answering questions and allow you to receive feedback on your style of communication and the logic of your presentation. Through preparation and practice, you’ll increase your confidence and ability to handle the negotiation process.

Don’t miss out on an opportunity to negotiate a great offer. Take time to prepare and you’ll be able to negotiate an offer that is mutually satisfying for you and your potential employer.

Exploratory Questions

During the negotiation, you will want to steer the conversation towards points of negotiation that interest you most. Here is a list of appropriate introductions to such questions.

1. What is the opportunity for…?

2. Are you willing to…?

3. What would you consider…?

4. Can we talk about…?

5. What are the alternatives to…?

6. Have you considered…?

7. Can we explore the possibility of…?

8. Is there anything you might be able to do about…?

9. What if…?

10. Would you think about…?

Bookmark These Sites!

The following Internet sites are helpful for researching your appropriate base salary ranges.
Provides information on salaries searchable by profession and geographic location. Keep in mind that salaries for identical positions vary depending on geographic location and years of experience.
Lists salary surveys with links to other occupational salary sites.
The Occupational Outlook Handbook offers consolidated salary figures for specific occupations.
Provides salary information for various health professions based on degree level and years of experience but does not list by geographic area.

Negotiation Skills for Minority Nurses

Ampy de la Paz, MSN, RN, a 40-year nursing veteran who works as a quality management analyst at Bayshore Medical Center in Pasadena, Texas, uses an incident from her own career to demonstrate to newly arrived nurses from the Philippines how to negotiate in the American workplace.


The incident occurred when she was offered a promotion a number of years ago [by a previous employer] and met with her superior to discuss her new salary. The first lesson de la Paz imparts to her colleagues is that she didn’t walk into the meeting blindly. She prepared for it by deciding how much of a raise she deserved on a percentage basis and how much various percentages meant in actual dollars.

Then, when the initial offer came, she knew the dollar amount was a smaller percentage increase than she deserved, and she told her superior the amount he was offering wasn’t enough. A few weeks passed before the superior returned to say he had spoken with someone in human resources who claimed that a survey of people at other hospitals employed in the same position had found that the amount de la Paz had been offered was average for the position.

Her response was: “I’m not average.”

She had lots of management experience, she told him, as well as a master’s degree, so she couldn’t accept the salary the organization was offering. Several more weeks passed before the superior met with her again. This time, he made what de la Paz considered an acceptable offer and she took the job.

Although negotiating is more often associated with legal, business or union issues, advancing your nursing career requires negotiation skills, too. Many people find negotiating difficult and some experts believe minority nurses are at a particular disadvantage when it comes to lobbying for promotions, raises or support for their projects and ideas. For example, they may come from cultures where disagreeing with superiors is considered disrespectful, or where being humble and part of a group is valued over self-promotion.

“The majority of [Filipino women] are very shy, so they [are] not as assertive as [they need] to be,” says de la Paz, the former executive director of the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA). “They’re taught to avoid arguments and not rock the boat.”

Filipino nurses often get passed over for promotions because of this, she continues. “Sometimes you have to encourage them and tell them, ‘Why don’t you apply for it? You’re qualified to do that.’ They want to be asked [rather than ask for it themselves]. They would not go out of their way to ask for [a promotion], but if it’s offered to them they would take it.”

Know Your Value

In negotiating for a promotion or a pay increase, de la Paz says it’s important to know your worth, become comfortable with the person you’re negotiating with and demonstrate your value to the organization by promoting yourself whenever you get the chance.

For Ruth W. Brinkley, RN, CHE, president and CEO of Memorial Health Care System in Chattanooga, Tenn., negotiating in the workplace means “having the confidence to position yourself in a way that helps you best put forth your unique qualifications, skills and abilities, so that those skills and abilities become apparent to the organization.”

That may mean obtaining skills and knowledge you currently lack. “However,” Brinkley maintains, “I believe that in many cases people [already] have the abilities and skills they need, but don’t know how to position themselves and package themselves correctly. Once you know what skills you have and you’re confident in what you have, then you’re better able to negotiate from a position of strength and sell yourself to your organization.”

When a position that you want becomes available, she continues, “the first thing you’ve got to do is be able to package your unique set of skills that [are a good fit for that job]. It’s not always apparent. Many times we don’t recognize the skills we have.”

Years ago, Brinkley left a job as a chief nurse at an academic medical center to become a consultant for a professional services firm. “It took me a while to understand how to repackage my skills from an operational framework to a consultative framework,” she says. “I began to recognize that I did have the skills to be an effective consultant. What I needed to do was use the skills I had in a different way.”

Know Your Organization

Gwendylon Johnson, RNC, MA, a staff nurse at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and past president of the District of Columbia Nurses Association, says one of the most important things a nurse can do is to understand his or her organization as much as possible. This means not only knowing the direct care aspects of your working environment but the business aspects as well. Selling your idea, or yourself, will be easier if it fits in with the organization’s mission, she says.

“You have to make sure to bring to the table something that will expand the mission of the organization in a positive sense,” Johnson explains, “because [that way] you’re more likely to be able to get them to accept what you’re trying to do.”

Johnson, a past member of the American Nurses Association board of directors, says knowing the organization you work for means knowing its culture and how that culture defines value. This will help when it comes time to promote an idea, seek a higher-level position or negotiate for a pay raise. Determine what qualities the organization values and then seek to obtain those qualities.

Keep in mind, she says, that successful nurses don’t limit themselves to activities at the bedside. They bring other skills to the table, such as leadership abilities, organizational skills or knowledge of the community.

“[Hospitals] are now asking direct care nurses for ideas about how to market the organization,” Johnson points out. “If you are the nurse who comes up with the best idea, then you are probably the one who is going to be asked to advance or promote that idea. Also, [it’s important to have] a business sense of what the organization’s needs are and [how those] needs are in line with the mission statement of the organization.”

Gloria Ceballos, MS, RN, CNAA, BC, former chief nursing officer at Kettering Medical Center in Ohio, recommends volunteering to serve on a hospital committee that advances the organization’s mission.

“Volunteer for maybe some ad hoc work that the committee has to do,” she says. “This will expose you to other people, their ways of thinking and other professions outside of nursing. Not only that, the leaders [of your organization will] focus on people who want to advance. Those are the first people that leaders think of.”

Participating in committees and other volunteer activities helps increase your visibility within the organization and sets you apart as someone who is interested in more than just collecting a paycheck. “No leader is going to give advancement to somebody who’s just doing their work, coming in and going home,” explains Ceballos, who now works as a fill-in nurse while pursuing her doctorate. “You have to demonstrate that you bring value to the organization and that’s when the salary increases come.”

For example, Hispanic nurses should remember that their knowledge of the Spanish language and Hispanic culture can often be an asset, she says. “If [they work for a facility that serves] a lot of Hispanic patients, they add great value in communicating culture and differences in care that Hispanic patients would need.”

Ceballos recommends serving on diversity committees or volunteering to translate brochures into Spanish.

Prioritize and Practice

Johnson, who has worked as a union activist for the District of Columbia Nurses Association, advises nurses not to rush into things when preparing to negotiate with their employers.

“Take your time and fully develop what you see as a priority interest for you and the organization, because you have to set priorities,” she says. Build a strategic plan if necessary for how you can achieve your goals and how you can best sell yourself.

“Do not feel embarrassed about taking ownership of a new idea and doing something with it,” Johnson continues. “There are times when you have to step up and say, ‘Yes, this is my idea.’ But you also have to take ownership of the challenges and problems as well as the successes. Use every opportunity as a learning experience you can build on for future use, both from an individual growth perspective and an organizational growth perspective.”

Like other important nursing skills, negotiation skills can be learned. Johnson points out that many hospitals offer professional development programs that focus on cultural diversity and how different cultures address issues such as conflict resolution and assertiveness. She also advises minority nurses who have difficulty in asserting themselves to role-play.

“If you have difficulty doing it in a mixed-culture group,” she says, “one of the things I suggest is practicing in some type of group where you can feel comfortable–where you can say ‘this is what we have to learn how to do’ and practice it.”

Johnson says she has seen it work in minority nursing associations, such as the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) and the PNAA. “I have experienced it firsthand with the NBNA and with Chi Eta Phi Sorority. Organizations like these have programs that focus on teaching nurses, regardless of their cultural background, to speak up and stand out as a positive influence in the workplace.”

Strength in Numbers

Having an advocate in the workplace who can lend support to your cause is also beneficial. “One of the things that helps is if you have a mentor,” Johnson says. “That person can also serve as a conduit for floating some of your ideas.” If you don’t have someone who can serve as an advocate, she adds, then finding a partner who has the ability to enhance your proposal is the next best thing. “That means knowing your colleagues and knowing the organization to be able to make that determination.”

Brinkley agrees that it’s helpful to have an advocate in the workplace who can tout your abilities. It’s also important, she says, to be willing to take on extra duties and responsibilities, especially unpleasant or difficult ones, in order to get noticed and increase your value. Plus, you should be willing to take risks and work outside your comfort zone.

If you don’t have certain skills, learn them and work with a mentor or a career coach, Brinkley advises. Talk with that person about ways to position yourself to improve your value at work. “I would encourage any minority nurse who’s having trouble with that, or who can’t find a mentor within their organization, to invest in a coach,” she emphasizes.

It’s important to remember, Brinkley adds, that because of the nursing shortage, nurses are in a good negotiating position at the moment. “Organizations don’t want to lose valued employees, they just don’t. So to the degree that you are able to constantly repackage and refine and continue to develop your skills, you make yourself that much more valuable to the organization.”

Improving your negotiating skills also means being willing to change employers if necessary. “If it isn’t going to happen for you in the organization that you’re in,” says Brinkley, “then you have to decide whether you’re willing to move on and [find] an organization that values you.”