Finally the phone rings, and you are offered a position at a certain starting salary and accompanying benefits. Now what?

Hopefully, you will have already done your homework and will know how to respond.

Astute employers are accustomed to receiving counter-offers from prospective employees. Asking for more than the initial offer is not offensive. Take some time to evaluate the offer to ensure that you understand what you are getting into. Use this time to clear up any uncertainties or to re-negotiate options.

In most cases, you will not get everything you wish for. So, decide which issues are most important to you and which you could live without. Before you accept the offer, make sure you have at least covered all your "bases". The following can serve as a checklist of things to consider when weighing an offer of employment.

1. Money

Your compensation package consists of more than an annual gross income figure. Will yours include cost-of-living adjustment? Are there performance bonuses or merit increases? Will the employer pay for any relocation costs (highly unlikely unless you are offered a top position)? How much will the commute cost you? Will you be offered a take-home car? Can parking be negotiated? Is there a retirement plan? What about retirement, health and dental care? Is training and professional development/conferences provided? Does the organization offer severance packages?

2. Career Advancement

What is the pay raise criteria and schedule? How often are appraisals? Is there fair opportunity for advancement? What are the steps?

3. Insurances

Is the medical plan offered flexible? Does it cover all of your and/or your dependents' needs? Does the medical insurance plan offer dental and optical? Does it cover mental health or does the company offer employee assistance programs? What about other insurance options like life, short and/or long term disability?

4. Organizational Culture

Interpersonal issues are key when accepting a new job. Is the corporate culture right for you? Can you see yourself "playing for the team"? Will you like the supervisor's style of management on a daily basis? Will your input and contributions be encouraged and valued? How stable is your new supervisor's position?

5. Job Security

Getting hired for a job is one thing, but you cannot always predict the future in this ever changing work force. Looking beyond can help you prepare yourself for a "downsizing". What are the trends in the community? Is the community growing? Has the organization recently laid any people off? Will you need to learn new skills to keep your job? Will you be affected by potential outsourcing or privatization?

6. Stress

Will there be a high quality of work life? Is staffing adequate to meet goals and expectations? What is the frequency of overtime? Will you be expected to provide weekend or holiday work? If so, how often? What are, if any, travel demands? Is the organization deadline, quota or quality driven? What is the scheduling for those demands? How are they executed? Finally, what about environmental hazards like noise, chemicals, ventilation, hot/cold, etc.? These factors can elevate an already highly stressful environment.

7. Essential Duties and Responsibilities

What will your day-to-day functions be like? Will you enjoy performing them? Will your level of authority be satisfying to you? Will you be comfortable reporting to the person who is your supervisor? How will you be evaluated?

8. Training and Development

Continuing education can only increase your job performance and overall worth. Does the organization offer tuition reimbursement? What about professional association memberships? What is their willingness to send you to conferences and seminars?

9. Vacation and sick leave

How is vacation time calculated? What are the allowable days per year? When you can take them? How are they requested?

10. Other Benefits

Does the organization offer child care? Are there club memberships? Employee Assistance Program? Health and Wellness program? Does the organization have a credit union? Does it allow time off for military commitments?

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