Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Understanding your Offer

Congratulations! Should You Sign?

Reviewing your job offer can be an exciting but daunting task. It is important to understand the details of your offer before you make a final decision. Consider these key components:


Money matters, especially for current students and recent graduates who have student loans and other financial obligations.  

Note that your total compensation could include several components:

  • Base salary: recurring; typically paid once or twice a month; over-time (not for "exempt" employees)

  • Bonuses: one-time and/or recurring; types include sign-on bonuses, relocation assistance, performance pay (based on individual and/or organization)

  • Equity: one-time and/or recurring; perhaps the most complicated given the many forms and rules associated with company ownership including stock options and startup equity

Pro Tip! A higher base salary is a big advantage since it rarely decreases and bonuses & future raises are often a percent of your base salary. Negotiate for your market value or you might be playing catch up for years.

Watch Out! With bonuses and equity, it is particularly important to identify and understand any vesting rules. Vesting involves needing to wait a certain period of time before you actually receive the compensation. This strategy is often used for employer retention since the employee is incentivized to remain at the company to receive the bonus or equity.


Another part of total compensation that is often overlooked by young professionals are benefits. Common benefits that may be part of your offer include:

  • Insurance: Medical, dental, vision, disability, and life

  • Retirement: Often a 401(k), which can either be traditional or Roth; often employers "match" up to a certain amount (%)

  • Time Off: Vacation, sick, and personal days; holidays; maternity/paternity leave; note paid or unpaid

  • Professional Development: tuition reimbursement, subsidized training programs
  • Housing Assistance: especially important for interns given the need for temporary, seasonal housing; some provide accomodations, while others provide a stipend

  • Other Nice-to-Haves: flexible work schedule ("flex time"), casual dress code, telecommuting, parking, public transit subsidy, gym subsidies, free food

Pro Tip! Although retirement probably seems like the least of your concerns, investing early makes a huge difference and can give you more financial flexibility later in life.

Watch Out! Many employers offer over-the-top benefits that employees never use. Unlimited vacation might sound great but if your performance is based on not taking it, it might not be as great as it first seems.



The location in your offer can often be pivotal in helping you make the final decision. Some geographic points to ponder:

  • Commute time: Factor in the cost of your transit time; assess variability and commuting options  
  • Setting: Each place, from major cities to small towns, has its pros and cons; think carefully about which best matches your expected lifestyle preferences

  • Vicinity to family/friends: Don't underestimate the importance of being with the people you care about; price out flights home or explore who in your social group might be nearby

Pro Tip! You can connect with UMass alumni working in the geographical location that you have been assigned for their input on things to consider.

Watch Out! Cost of living varies greatly. It's even important to understand the cost of living for renters vs. buyers since these could significantly impact your budget projections.



Formal offer letters often specify details that may or may not have been on the original job description. If you made it through the interview process and you still have questions, now is the time to get clarification before signing.

  • Role: More than just your title, you should have a clear understanding of the scope of your responsibilities

  • Team: Many organizations are dynamic and shift employees between teams based on project needs, but it's good to know where you will be starting off

  • Manager: Ideally you would have formed a relationship with this person during the interview process, but if not, advocate for an introduction since this relationship is usually instrumental to your success

Pro Tip! If you don't have your first choice in role or team, position yourself to shift there over time by networking across the organization. Once your quality work is recognized, it will be easier for you to make an internal move.

Watch Out! Most job offers in the U.S. are "at-will" meaning you may resign at any time, but similarly, the company may terminate your employment at any time.

Employment offers vary greatly so if you have any questions about your specific situation, please come talk to our team!