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When someone comes calling...

by Douglas E. Welch

May 19, 2000

© 2000, Douglas E. Welch

While most of us will never have to deal with job offers filled with large stock options, company cars or housing allowances that are used to entice tech superstars into jumping ship, we would all do well to evaluate any job offer as if it where this dramatic. Whenever another company courts you it is very important to perform your "due diligence" before typing up your resignation letter.


Whenever you receive a job offer out of the blue your first goal should be to find out as much about this company as possible. This might mean dropping in on the new company unexpectedly, calling the company in the role of a customer or visiting their web site.

If the offer includes large ticket items such as a signing bonus, stock options or a company car you will need a clear understanding of the company's finances. Are they making any profits? Do they have a plan for becoming profitable? Are they planning an IPO? When? How long will it be before your stock options vest? Through your research you are trying to insure that the company has the resources to follow through on any offer they make. A company that is having trouble paying its bills will probably also have trouble fulfilling its promises to you.

Talk to other knowledgeable industry people and get their opinion on the company. When doing this, though, talk only about the company not about your specific job offer. All of us have the capacity to feel jealousy. You don't want someone's jealousy over your "sweetheart" deal clouding their view of the company.

You can also turn to the Internet for one final dose of information. While you will need to consider the source of anything you read there, the Internet can help you gain a general feeling of how the company is perceived by the public. A few customer complaints can be a red flag that something is not quite right at the company.

Getting specific

Once you feel you have gathered enough information about the company, you can start talking about the specific points of their offer. As with any business deal, both sides must have a clear, unambiguous understanding of each and every point or someone is going to be unhappy. Don't rely on the goodwill of a company to protect you. If you don't think an item is laid out clearly enough, rewrite it until you feel comfortable.

Each and every item should include a detailed description of what is to be accomplished (sometimes called a deliverable), when it is to be accomplished, what the reward will be for meeting that deliverable and when the reward will be paid. If the company has guaranteed you a specific computer or other technology, when will this equipment be available? The first day of work? In 2 weeks? When? Will the company lease you a car? What make/model? When will it be delivered? When must it be returned?

As job offers become more and more complex you might have to call on someone who is more knowledgeable in these areas, perhaps a lawyer or manager. Your goal, while somewhat impossible to achieve, is to have no regrets about your decision 1, 5 or even 10 years down the road. It may seem cliché, but dotting all the "I's" and crossing all the "T's" can save you years of headaches down the road.

Finally, and most importantly, get everything in writing. Oral promises lead to hours of employment litigation every year. While written contracts can be contested they can prevent playing "he said, she said" in front of a judge. It is always better to spend the time today to insure that there are no misunderstandings tomorrow.

Whether a company is offering you a company car or merely a closer parking space it is important to treat each offer seriously. You will be making a large change in your life should you decide to move to a new company. You want to be as sure as possible that the perks luring you away are more than just high-tech hype.

Douglas E. Welch is a freelance writer and computer consultant in Van Nuys, California. Readers can discuss career issues with other readers by joining the Career Opportunities Discussion on Douglas' web page at:

He can reached via email at

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