The best-case scenario just happened: You got a job offer for a startup position. That’s awesome. Your cover letter, CV and interview had the desired outcome of proving you are a great fit. The good news is often followed by a mistake: immediately accepting or declining the offer. We recommend considering a few factors before accepting or turning down a startup job offer. Follow this guide to prepare yourself for this kind of situation.
Receive and Evaluate a job offer
There are a few things to consider before accepting a startup job offer. Let’s dive right into them. First and foremost, evaluate the job offer. We will point out a few factors that you should definitely assess closely:
- Compare prospective salary: One of the key points in whether accepting or turning a startup job offer down is the offered salary. A helpful suggestion from our side is to use tools such as “Gehaltskompass” (meaning a “salary compass”). It is necessary to enter details such as age, experience in the competence, education and location to receive an informative comparison of salary.
- Review job content: Look closely at the advertised job description, revisit any information you got during the interview and do research on what the position you are applying for might also include. If something is unclear or vague, go ahead and selectively send a handful of questions to your potential employer to clarify.
- Do your due diligence: You definitely want to be up-to-date with the startup’s economic status and its reputation. Annual reports, social media, press releases, magazine articles and people, who work/worked there are your go-tos.
- Location: Another important decision making factor is the place of work. Many of us spend hours (yes, hours!) a day commuting. Is the offered position worth it? Is it easy to get to? It gets even more complicated if the new job might require a relocation. We could and should write a whole article about that topic. What we highly recommend though is to check our city rank widget to find your perfect spot for a tech startup position.
- Is joining a startup the right decision? Maybe you have never worked at a startup and are unsure if joining a startup is the best fit for you? Generally, we advise people who are looking for a work environment that is innovative, young, collaborative and focused on growth to go with a startup position. For a more detailed comparison of working at a startup vs. a corporate, you can find more info here.
How long do you have to accept a startup job offer?
Before getting right into the next part of the guide, we want to advise you to ask for time to evaluate the startup job offer. Some decisions need a couple of nights to sleep on it. Once you have received the startup job offer, make sure to get back to your potential employer and find out by which date they would like to hear back from you. This is not only common professional conduct but also lets the other party know that you are serious about the opportunity. Adding a short “Thank you very much for the opportunity” expresses your gratitude and establishes a friendly and polite discourse.
Evaluate benefits of the job
It is important to not only find the right in-office culture but to achieve a good and healthy work-life balance. So let’s dive deeper into the benefits the position could offer. It is advised to assess the following elements before accepting a job offer:
- Possibility for remote work: Are you going to be able to work from home? All the time? Once a week? Make sure to discuss these details. Here is an additional guide on how to work from home effectively.
- Time off: Find out upfront what the vacation or sickness allowance is.
- Travel requirements: Will you be required to travel on a regular basis? Are travel-related costs reimbursed and is the time away included in the compensation package?
- Insurance and pension are major factors to consider before accepting a job offer. In Austria there is no wiggle room, as the standard health care and pension system applies for any employee.
- The list is endless. We recommend thinking about what values, materialistic or not, are important to you. You might be interested in the company’s stock (we will get into that in the next paragraph) or additional benefits such as gym memberships, use of company cars. Please remember, just because it is not on the initial job offer, does not mean that the company is actually not willing to offer additional perks. The process of accepting a startup job offer is often a time-consuming one.
Job offer with stock options
In some cases, startups will offer stock options within their compensation packages, which is the opportunity to purchase a set number of company shares at a certain price (so-called “strike price”) within a certain period of time. It is absolutely necessary to understand how to evaluate stock options in a job offer and if you have never even heard of equity compensation, a vesting schedule and a cliff, you need to do your research before accepting any offer.
Those of you, who are already familiar with the term ESOP (Employee Stock Option Pool) will know that these are shares, which have been reserved for early and key employees in startups. In the case of finding yourself in the position of signing a shareholder agreement, please pay close attention to the good and bad leaver clause. This bad and good leaver provision indicates for what price the shareholder, in the event of leaving the company, transfers his shares to the remaining shareholders of the company (meaning the company buys them back). So usually a “good leaver” gets the market (current value of their shares), whereas the “bad leaver” receives the share value at the time of purchase. If you have assessed options and are happy with the negotiated terms of your shareholder agreement (signing this is necessary!), make sure to formally confirm all details in your acceptance letter as well.
Negotiating a salary
You probably wonder how to respond to a job offer and negotiate your prospective startup salary. To set a good basis for the salary negotiation, we recommend checking out 13 tips to negotiate your salary in a job interview early on. This sets you up well for the point when the company is actually making you an official startup job offer. We put together a couple of tips on how to negotiate a job offer salary:
- Be prepared to put out numbers. How will you justify asking for a bigger startup salary, if you actually cannot back it up by comparing it to the sector’s average.
- Be ready to come to a settlement with your potential employer.
- Rank your needs from top to bottom. Is working from home twice a week more important than receiving a bigger paycheck?
Remember that the critical part of negotiating a startup salary often isn’t about what you are asking for, but how you are asking. Show yourself in a respectful, cooperative, solution-finding demeanour. It can quickly backfire by choosing an aggressive, “my way or no way” behaviour.
Accepting a job offer
Sometimes negotiating, contemplating and revisiting the pros and cons results in an even harder decision-making process. We advise trusting your gut feeling in those cases. Will working at the startup make you happy and motivated? Will the offered job allow you to grow professionally as well as personally? Did you negotiate the salary to the point you are ok with? If the answer to those questions are yes, go ahead and let the employer know you are accepting their offer. We put together an email job acceptance letter sample, in which the applicant confirms the start date, salary, benefits and vacation leave.
Download the template here.
How to turn down a job offer
Getting a startup job offer is a great feeling. You nailed the interview and they want you on board. But what if you are not ready to leave your current job or just don’t feel like it is a cultural fit with the new company? Turning down a startup job offer is OKAY. Just make sure to respond politely as well as honestly and try to keep the relationship for the future alive. wecanbeheros.io put together a great guide on how to politely reject a job offer.
Are you worried that by turning this one down, you will never get another chance to work at a startup? Don’t worry, follow this guide to ensure employers can find you and the job offers will come to you naturally.
Alright, you are set to make an informed decision when receiving a startup job offer. Start by evaluating the pros and cons of the offered startup position. Think about what it is that you want out of your startup job and don’t be shy about sharing your findings with your potential employer. They will profit by having a team member on board that is motivated, skilled and ambitious. Be selective about the things that matter the most to you and constructive on others that are less important. Before accepting a startup job offer, we advise you to trust your gut feeling and consider walkaway alternatives. Don’t worry there is always another open startup position.