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Q&MBA from MBA Jungle

Q: What 10 questions should I ask after I receive a job offer but before I accept it?

A: Gone are the days of free massages and foosball; nowadays, when companies come knocking, dot-com-style perks are scarce. But when the call comes with that coveted offer, MBAs should still be prepared to do a little asking.

For advice, we talked to Jana Rich, managing director in the San Francisco office of recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International, and Sherrie Taguchi, former director of the MBA career management center at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

Far more important than the perks of cell phones and health-club memberships, says Rich, who has also been recruiter-in-residence at Softbank Venture Capital, are the lasting factors-from how performance is judged for your bonus to the long-term value of a company’s stock.

With that in mind, keep these questions on the table when considering an offer:

1. Who will my supervisor be?

Before you talk about money, make sure you have met your boss-to-be. “You want to know you can work well with that person, to see if the chemistry is there,” says Rich. “Ask about management style; what types of people work best with them? How do they evaluate performance?”
If you have concerns about your future supervisor, talk to the recruiter before making a decision. Such a conversation should be handled “very gingerly,” cautions Taguchi. “That supervisor may be very powerful and be offended.”

2. What will my salary and/or signing bonus be?

While base pay is pretty set at most companies, signing and year-end bonuses are more flexible, Taguchi says. Find out whether you have to pay back the signing bonus if you jump ship within a certain period.

“Most everything is open to negotiation, but it is critical to do your homework beforehand so you know how big the ballpark is and what flexibility you have,” says Taguchi. “View the negotiation as part of the relationship you are building with your potential new company. Research what the market rate is for the industry, the company, your background. Factor in what’s important to you, what you absolutely need, and what you’d be giddy about.”

3. What will my year-end bonus be based on?

Find out what percentage will be based on individual performance, on team performance, and on company profitability. Ask how your performance will be measured-and what the range of bonuses has been in the past few years.

4. Will I receive shares in the company?

If you receive a stock package, thoroughly research its value. Check analyst reports and inquire about the vesting timetable. If you have to wait five years to be vested, ask yourself whether you expect to stay with the company that long.

In the past 10 to 12 months, Rich says, the percentage of cash in compensation packages has begun to return to previous levels, and stock options are no longer seen as a quick windfall. “People have to stop looking at [stock options] as a quick hit,” she says. Still, she adds, “I don’t think anyone would ever turn down a stock package as a percentage of the scheme . . . if it’s small with long-term value.”

5. What are the health benefits and vacation policies?

Find out which insurance providers the company works with, whether you have a choice of managed care or an indemnity plan, and how much the premium is for you (and any dependents). Ask whether the company has a flexible spending account, which allows you to pay medical expenses with pretax dollars. Inquire whether there is a waiting period before you can take vacation days, and whether unused vacation days can be carried over to future years.

6. What are my choices for a 401(k)?

Find out if the company will match your contribution and by what percentage, as well as how long it takes to become vested.

7. Will the company pay for my moving expenses?

According to Taguchi, this depends on the level of the position, base pay, and whether you are moving within the country or to an international location. Typical expenses include temporary housing for 30 to 90 days; transporting your household goods, which could include your car; relocation help, such as a house-hunting trip; and a cost-of-living adjustment.

8. What is my start date?

If you’d like to start earning income right away-or have a scheduled family event or vacation coming up-the answer to this question could influence your decision.

9. Are there upcoming company events-such as an all-hands meeting, a company happy hour, or a town hall with the CEO-that I could attend?

Taguchi recommends attending an event before accepting an offer to get to know the company’s culture better. She also suggests asking for the contact information of alumni from your school who work at the firm or people who were previously in the position you have been offered, if you have not met them during the interview process.

10. Will I receive a laptop, cell phone, company car, or educational benefits?

Some companies pay a certain amount toward professional development or continued learning; others match contributions to nonprofits; still others offer gym memberships and other perks. As for a cell phone, car, or laptop: If the position involves travel (sales or development, for instance) these are fair questions, says Rich.
printed courtesy of mbajungle.com

October 29, 2001
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