Questions You Can Ask at the Time of an Offer
There is no time in the interviewing process that you will ask more questions than now. Remember that we advised you to hold off on some of the tougher, qualifying questions until you get an offer, lest you be perceived as having a "what's-in-it-for-me" mentality. All those qualifying questions that you were tempted to ask during the interviewing process, all those "what can you do for me" questions that you were disciplined enough to avoid, are all going to get answered now.
If I haven't made it clear, let me state it one more time: Your purpose in the interviewing process is to sell yourself into getting a job offer. If you get a company and the individuals in it to want you badly enough, they will do everything they can to try to hire you. The more they are convinced that you can do a better job than anyone else, the more they will satisfy you with answers for every question you can ask.
When people want to hire you, they want you as comfortable as possible with the company, the people, and the position. Once you are at this point, you can start really deciding if the job is right for you.
The first group of questions you will want to ask are of the hiring authority. The second group will be of yourself. They are simple but very profound and will make a difference in your career.
Questions to Ask the Hiring Authority at the Time of an Offer
Most companies in the United States have the direct hiring authority, the person with the "pain," make the formal job offer. When you get that call from the hiring authority, you know you have done your job right so far.
Unless you are in a distant city or have absolutely no questions about the job opportunity, you can listen to the offer over the phone. But 98% of the time, you want to say, "I'm excited about this opportunity. When can we get together face to face to discuss the details?"
Up until now you have been outright selling yourself and telling this person and the company that you were right for the job. It is now your turn to find out if the job is right for you. And now is the time to do it.
You need to be sure that you have as clear an understanding about most of the aspects of the job before you decide about it. Just because you have been selling yourself into the job, to this point, doesn't mean you will take the job. Don't worry about that yet.
If you didn't have a reasonable interest in the job, you wouldn't have made it this far. So, now it is your turn. Set an appointment with the hiring authority. Write down every question you need answered. Don't all of a sudden be coy. Keep your enthusiasm up and be excited. Don't play silly games and say to yourself, "Well, if I say or do this, they will say or do that, so I'll do this and they'll do that," etc.
You have to approach the offer stage in a "we are all in this together" manner. This is not an adversarial situation. Your taking a job offer has to be a win-win for everyone. Too often candidates approach a job offer with the idea that "they are going to try to give me as little as they can, so I have to try to get as much as I can" attitude. Bad business! If a company has made you feel like it is you vs. them in the hiring process, you probably shouldn't go to work there.
Now that we have laid the groundwork, get a face-to-face appointment with the hiring authority. If, for some reason, and it does happen with some firms, the formal offer is made by the H.R. department, tell the person who calls you that you want to meet with the hiring authority before you make a commitment.
If the hiring authority calls and expects you to commit to the job over the phone, don't alarm him or her by saying, "Whoa! Wait a minute. I have a ton of questions and I don't even know if I will even consider taking your job." He or she may simply hang up on you and call the next candidate. Again, say that you are excited and you want to meet face to face. We all know that phone conversations and (especially) e-mail conversations are one-dimensional. It's impossible to read or appreciate body language over the phone, and e-mails are emotionless. Hiring is still a personal, emotional endeavor. Accepting a job is personal. You need to know as much as you can about the facts and feelings of a job offer. Do it face to face!
If you have sold yourself like you should have, the hiring authority wants to answer all of the questions you may have. He or she wants a win-win deal, too. You have no obligation to tell him or her that you aren't sure about taking the job anywhere along the line. You have nothing to decide about until you have an offer. Don't think that because you were selling yourself hard that you are implying that you are going to take the job. You never promised that you would accept their job any more than the company promised you it was going to hire you.