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Leveraging User Research to Decide Between Job Offers

Choosing between job offers can be overwhelming, here's how you can objectively tackle the decision without letting fear take over.

Words by Nikki Anderson-Stanier, Visuals by Danbee Kim

It is a privileged feeling to choose between multiple job offers. However, this can be a double-edged sword. You went through the painstaking process of applications, interviewing, and getting offers, only to encounter a crossroads—which job do I choose?

As humans, we have an inherent sense of FOMO or the grass always being greener. As a result, we make many fear-based decisions because, well, we are afraid of making the wrong one. Choosing between two (or more) job offers can have a similar feeling. What will I miss out on if I take Job A? Is it the wrong decision? Maybe Job B would be better. Around we go!

This topic is one I frequently get during my Day of Voxer service. People ask about which job they should take and how to negotiate Job A to be better or as good as Job B because "that's what they really wish they could do."

Choosing a job can feel so permanent, but there is a better, more objective way to think about your future than through a fearful approach.

Let's start with some advice

Before diving into actionable steps you can take, let's work through some of the fear-based reasoning we use to start a new job.

It’s important to remember that you are never stuck at a job. You may feel stuck, and there may be multiple reasons to feel that way, but you can always find a time to leave. I am telling you this as someone who was let go one day, entirely unexpectedly, from a job I loved. I mean really loved.

For some context, I walked into the office on a Tuesday at 9:00 am, and an hour later…I no longer worked there (alongside 250 other colleagues). It was devastating. I had a small severance package, and the holidays were coming, which meant a bit of a hiring freeze as many people would be on vacation for the next few months.

I was desperate for a job and applied to many that I was overqualified for, often paying an abysmal amount. The interviews were taxing and horrible. At one point, on the phone, I could hear my interviewer texting. During another interview, someone rolled their eyes when I mentioned that I believed qualitative research couldn't be directly "quantified."

But they gave me an offer. Every part of my body was screaming not to take it, but what was my alternative? My severance had run out over the holidays, and while I was in the process with other companies, I had an offer. I would be stupid to turn it down, right? A fear-based decision.

At that company, I felt alienated, unwanted, and a complete misfit from the moment I started. I cried in the bathroom. I felt stuck. I had no other job prospects and had just started at the company. I didn't want to leave a stable salary or make it seem like I was quitting too early. So I stuck on for a few more weeks until it was unbearable.

During that time, I started applying to jobs again and interviewing. Eventually, I had a few bites from potential freelance clients. After that, I knew it was now or never. I left with little security and a substantial monthly rent. But it was the best decision I ever made.

We can make many fear-based decisions, but we don't always have to. We can break the mold and surprise ourselves. After leaving that company, I did some freelance work, and then, when I moved back into a full-time role, I was in the lucky position to choose between several jobs.

But then, it was right back to fear-based decisions. This time though, I decided it was time to look at this process objectively. I didn't want to make the same mistake twice.

Tackling this objectively

Objectivity means looking at something with less emotion. Now, choosing a new job is inherently emotional, which is okay. However, where can we strip back the emotion when it feels impossible to make a decision?

Using my research superpowers, I created a matrix and point system, brainstormed essential themes, and used a lot of virtual post-its. My goal was to create a systemized way of looking at and comparing each job offer. From there, I made a job comparison board that I now use when faced with decisions like these or when helping others.

Here are the steps I take:

  • Choosing important areas to focus on for comparison
  • Creating a point system
  • Brainstorming information for each area
  • Adding up the points
  • Weighing any red flags for each of the jobs
  • Reviewing the information
  • Get feedback from others
  • Make a decision!

Now, this is a bit vague, so let me take you through an example to bring more clarity to each step (and you can use my template!).

Choosing important areas to focus on for comparison

I like consistency during my job comparisons. So, I want to compare and assess jobs across a set list of areas. For this step, I brainstorm essential parts of the jobs. I use the first ten consistently, but here is my overarching list:

  1. Location or remote working opportunity: Where is this job located, and do they allow for full or partial remote work?
  2. Role and level: What role and level did they offer?
  3. Salary and compensation package: What salary and other compensations go into the offer, such as insurance, vacation days, bonuses, shares, etc.?
  4. Development opportunities: What development opportunities are there, such as learning budget, learning time, and learning new skills versus doing what I already do?
  5. Research maturity/culture: What is the research maturity or culture of the organization? How do colleagues respond to research? Is there a balance between generative and evaluative research?
  6. Company size: What is the company size and the consequences of that (ex: fast-paced start-up with fewer resources/processes)
  7. Company culture: What is the overall company culture like?
  8. Colleagues and people: How did the conversations with colleagues or others feel?
  9. Manager: What was my potential manager like? How did it feel to talk with them? How would they be as a manager?
  10. Work/life balance: What are the hours like? What is the flexibility of the company?
  11. Travel opportunities: What opportunities are there for travel or international research?
  12. Extra perks: What other additional perks are there? (ex: stipend for the gym, coffee, lunch)
  13. Level of interest in the industry: What is my level of interest in the industry?
  14. Research space: What type of research space is it? (ex: B2B, B2C, technical platform, SaaS)
  15. Research team: Is there a research team or is this a first/only UXR role?

I use the first ten most often because they are my non-negotiables. If I can't work remotely, I won't take the job no matter what you offer me. If the research maturity is super low and other researchers have run away screaming, I likely won't consider the opportunity.

Creating a point system

My points range from one to three:

  • 1 = Not good
  • 2 = Good
  • 3 = Great

I choose the top five areas from above that are most important to me and assign them points on how well that organization responded to that area. Of course, I still consider the other areas, but this helps when you look at a long list of ten areas and still can't decide. For example, as I mentioned, remote working is one of my non-negotiables. So, if Job A allows partial remote (with negotiation), Job B allows for fully remote work, and Job C provides a few remote days a month, I would use my points to assign:

  • Job A = 2 points, partial remote with negotiation could work
  • Job B = 3 points, fully remote is the ideal
  • Job C = 1 point because it's not ideal for me

If one of the jobs were to offer "no remote work," I would either remove the job from the running or assign it 0 or even -1 points.

Now, you choose the top five areas that are most important to you. These are the areas you will assign these points to after you brainstorm the information. My common five include:

  1. Remote working
  2. Manager relationship
  3. Research maturity
  4. Size of the company
  5. Development opportunities

Brainstorming information for each area

At this stage, you go in and fill out what you know for each of the ten areas you decided on for each job option. However, if you find that you didn't get important information from a company (or are still waiting on it), you can put that in a "remaining questions" section to keep that clear.

Adding up the points

Now that you filled out the information, it is time to assign the correct points to those five areas you deemed essential to your decision-making. First, rate each response from the jobs from one to three. Then, add up the total points for each job.

For instance, if we look at my example:

  1. Remote working
    1. Job A: 2
    2. Job B: 3
    3. Job C: 1
  2. Manager relationship
    1. Job A: 3
    2. Job B: 2
    3. Job C: 1
  3. Research maturity
    1. Job A: 1
    2. Job B: 3
    3. Job C: 2
  4. Size of the company
    1. Job A: 3
    2. Job B: 1
    3. Job C: 2
  5. Development opportunities
    1. Job A: 3
    2. Job B: 3
    3. Job C: 1

Total points:

  • Job A: 12
  • Job B: 11
  • Job C: 7

As you can see, I did grade two development opportunities as a three, which is also okay to do, but I encourage you to try and pick the majority for each area. These points can help you start to see some distinctions between the jobs.

Weighing any red flags for each of the jobs

Next, I look at red flags and determine if there is anything that could take one of the jobs out of the running. Another way to go about this, if you want, is a reverse point system from above. For each red flag, you can assign:

  • -1 = not too bad
  • -2 = bad
  • -3 = very bad

Then, you can subtract the red flags from the total points you added up above.

Reviewing the information

With all this information in front of me, I look through it and weigh the different areas, taking in the points. Usually, the two companies with the highest points start to take the lead. However, if the points are tied, I continue to review the information and narrow it down to at least two companies. This then leads to the next step.

Ask for feedback

Show family, friends, or anyone you think could help what you have created to get their feedback. Sometimes other people know us better than we think.

For example, I was debating on a larger-sized company, despite a small company being one of my non-negotiables, because of everything else. My husband kindly reminded me that I am miserable in larger companies, and this was very helpful in taking that company out of the running.

Make a decision

When you look through all of this information, it is, hopefully, easier to make a decision. This method weighs out all your non-negotiables, the most important aspects of a job for you, and creates a point system to grade each company objectively. Based on this information, you can (if you want to) add in a bit more of that emotion and leap. Always remember, you are never stuck anywhere.

I know it can be difficult to make this decision and I very much hope these steps (and this template) will help you choose your next dream job!

Nikki Anderson-Stanier is the founder of User Research Academy and a qualitative researcher with 9 years in the field. She loves solving human problems and petting all the dogs. 

To get even more UXR nuggets, check out her user research membershipfollow her on LinkedIn, or subscribe to her Substack.

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