With unemployment low, businesses are finding it difficult to secure the skilled talent they need to meet their hiring goals. So for job seekers with in-demand skills, now is a great time to explore new employment opportunities. Depending on the markets and industries you’re targeting in your search, you might even find yourself weighing multiple job offers.

But how do you really know which role is the best match for your abilities, interests and goals? Here are some factors that can help guide your job search and selection process:

Factor #1: Compensation

For most people, pay is a top consideration when evaluating employment opportunities. But don’t focus on salary alone. Benefits, like medical insurance, and perks, such as generous vacation time, are also valuable. They might have even more importance to you than the amount you are paid for your work. Also, take a long-term view toward compensation: Is there potential to grow with the firm and earn more in the not-too-distant future, for example?

Factor #2: Career path

How do you want your next job to enhance your overall career path? Sure, you’re trying to decide what’s right for you today, but you also need to think about whether the position will equip you with the skills and experience you need to succeed over the long term. Does the company emphasize professional development? If so, what type of training and support would you likely receive? Also, is there opportunity to move up in the organization over time, or the potential to work in other departments or roles that might interest you once you have mastered your current position?

Factor #3: Lifestyle

You have a life outside of work. What do you need from an employer to maintain the right balance between your professional pursuits and personal time? For instance, how time-consuming would your commute to a new job be? Be honest with yourself about how long you’re willing to spend in the car or on public transportation each day. A bad commute can ruin even the best job. Also, ask potential employers for specifics about work-life balance benefits. Is there a work-from-home option? Who is eligible and how often are employees allowed to work remotely? Is there an official policy around flexible scheduling options? You don’t want to find out once you’re in the job that you can’t take advantage of a perk you were banking on.

Factor #4: Corporate values and culture

Many companies today have distinct work cultures built around a set of core values that all employees are expected to embody. If you don’t believe in a company’s mission you’re not likely to thrive in the firm’s corporate culture. It’s well worth your time to find an employer with an atmosphere that aligns with your working style, values and goals. Perhaps environmental stewardship is very important to you, or a commitment to volunteerism? You can usually learn a lot about an employer’s workplace culture and mission simply by visiting its website or looking at company news highlighted on the firm’s social media channels.


Factor #5: Coworkers

Research by our company shows a clear connection between employee job satisfaction and the strength of workplace friendships. That makes sense. After all, do you want to spend eight hours a day interacting with people you don’t get along with? During the interview process, try to get a sense of what your future coworkers are like. For example, you might ask the hiring manager, “Can you tell me about the people I would be working with directly?” and follow up with, “Will I have an opportunity to meet them?”

Factor #6: The boss

When you work for someone you don’t mesh well with, or at all, your stay at the company is likely to be unpleasant and short. In fact, a survey by Robert Half found that unhappiness with management is one of the top reasons workers quit their jobs. It’s important to try to gauge the personality of your potential boss in the interview process. Try to spark light conversation at appropriate points during your meeting. You could ask questions like, “How long have you been with the company?” or “What do you like most about working here?” It’s a good sign if your future manager seems sincerely interested in what you’re saying and expresses enthusiasm and pride when talking about the organization, their job and their team.

Factor #7: The candidate experience

How the company treats you throughout the hiring process might not be something you reflect on until it’s too late. Did the hiring manager seem organized when scheduling interviews? Did they seem engaged or distracted when speaking with you? Has the company been responsive to you and prompt in providing updates? These little things can shed light on what your experience might be like once you become an actual employee.

Be selective but smart

One mistake I see many job candidates make is viewing the hiring process as one-sided. They’re so focused on trying to convince a hiring manager they’re perfect for the role that they fail to realize this is their opportunity to evaluate potential employers to find the right one.

Don’t be afraid to put a company under the microscope. Research the firm online. Ask your network for input. And don’t hesitate to ask tough (but polite) questions during interviews such as, “What’s the biggest challenge in working here?” and “When there’s conflict among team members, how is it typically handled?”

The job search process is a time for honesty. Employers need to be transparent about expectations, compensation and more, while candidates need to be direct about not only what they can bring to the table but also what they want in return. If either side fails to communicate clearly, it’s likely to lead to a bad match.

Finally, trust your gut. If you have a strong feeling, positive or negative, about a potential employer, explore it and ask yourself why. Being honest with yourself leads to clear thinking and can help increase your chances of committing to a job that will keep you satisfied.

Paul McDonald is senior executive director at Robert Half. He writes and speaks frequently on hiring, workplace and career management topics. Over the course of more than 30 years in the recruiting field, McDonald has advised thousands of company leaders and job seekers on how to hire and get hired.

McDonald joined Robert Half in 1984 as a recruiter for financial and accounting professionals in Boston, following a public accounting career with Price Waterhouse. In the 1990s, he became president of the Western United States overseeing all of the company’s operations in the region. McDonald become senior executive director of Robert Half Management Resources in 2000, and assumed his current role in 2012. He earned a bachelor's degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting from St. Bonaventure University in New York.