You have assessed your strengths and weaknesses and made a list of your past accomplishments. You have committed them to memory so that they are readily on the tip of your tongue during interviews. You have examined your previous jobs to gain insight into what is important to you and motivates you.

Good! You are starting off on the right foot. All that homework is not only necessary, but commendable because the majority of people short-cut it and go into an interview cold.

But hold it! Before you jump at every seemingly viable option, have you prioritized what you want in a job? The temptation is to keep your options open and scoop up everything that sounds interesting—thus putting as many eggs in your basket as possible.

Most job seekers drop the ball early by sending out résumés and just waiting for responses. Finding your perfect job takes an immense amount of thought, soul searching, preparation, and attention to detail before you begin contacting companies!

Eight points are essential to your job search preparation because they force you to think about the attributes of your ideal job and to what degree—if any—you are willing to compromise. Why bother with this beforehand instead of just going job hunting, seeing what is out there, and figuring it out after the interview?

• It highlights opportunities worthy of a closer look. This saves time and gives you focus. Do not spread your time and attention too thin, or you will include options that sound good but do not really meet your requirements. The result is usually a job that “works” and is sufficient. It is neither quite what you wanted nor what you expected.
• Most people go on an interview and then decide if they like the job and want to pursue it. This is backward. If you do not know what you want first, you are not likely to go after it as hard. When you have assessed beforehand what is important and have prioritized those items, then when they are presented to you, you will know if and how they fit your bigger picture.
• If you are presented with two offers, each from a different company, you are assured of making an objective decision according to your goals and values. When you have not given careful consideration to what you want in a job before beginning your search, puzzling through which offer is best can be confusing and painful. There is too much attached to the outcome of the decision, too much fear of perhaps making the “wrong” choice, and almost every factor is looked at with a somewhat biased weight as a result.

The eight factors that apply to new job opportunities follow.

Location. The job’s geographical location is important, whether you are relocating or commuting. The time to discover that you do not want to leave your house at 6:30 to be at work at 8:00 is not on the second day of your new job.

Growth. This applies to the company, your movement within the company, and your knowledge. The key is knowing which factors apply to you. Your progress up the ladder does not have to hinge on the company’s growth, any more than the company’s growth will ensure your progress up the ladder! But if you are looking for a promotion, you will want to know if the company posts jobs internally before looking outside itself.

Are they looking for someone to pick up new challenges? Will you need to adapt your skills? Will they be grooming you for a larger role? You need to know which scenario you prefer and which is applicable to the job for which you are interviewing. Make sure they match.
Philosophy. If a company’s most important factor is bottom line contribution at all costs—even if it means perhaps compromising the customer—and you’d prefer to give up the sale rather than sell the wrong product to the wrong person, your performance in the eyes of your employer will suffer. What is more, you will be uncomfortable and unhappy working there.

The most productive way to find out the answers to philosophical questions is to ask the hiring authority directly. Be willing to ask tough questions, especially if there appear to be inconsistencies. This is your career, remember?

Chemistry. The money is great; the commute is easy; the company is an industry leader; the company philosophy sounds ethical and compatible with yours; and you love the idea of what you will be doing. But gee, the interviewer just rubs you the wrong way. What is more, you will be reporting to the person! You cannot quite put your finger on what you dislike. Do not discount that, but do not jettison the whole opportunity because of it either.

Set up another interview (or phone conversation). Can you meet with a prospective peer in the department? If so, include questions about your potential manager.

Stability. This applies to both the company and the position. Some ideas you will want to explore follow.

• What is the position’s turnover rate? If it is high, chances are very good that it is more than a coincidence. You do not want to learn about it firsthand.
• Has upper-level management changed frequently?
• How long has your boss been in his or her position?
• Was the company recently downsized? Did a larger company absorb it?
• Is it a well-established company?
• Maybe you groove to the challenges that come with a small start-up. Is there a risk that comes with the position?

Money. If there is relocation involved, know the difference in costs of living. Are you willing to take a pay cut, and how much? Most importantly, know why you are making that trade-off.

Be aware that the willingness to take a pay cut is met with suspicion by most hiring authorities because they fear that eventually, you will become dissatisfied and leave. Frequently, people equate salary with personal worth. Even if you do not and money is low on your priority scale, you may have a tough time convincing someone else of that.

Can You Do the Work? If you are looking to change your responsibilities slightly or to shift in your industry a little, you need to make sure that you are realistic about your ability to perform the job or that training is provided.

Will You Like the Work? Do some research. The library, the Internet, job boards, and discussion forums are all excellent places to learn if what you think sounds like a great new career actually will be a great new career.

If your new job involves a promotion, make sure you know about new responsibilities, that you will like carrying them out, and that they are within the scope of your ability to learn. Be aware that sometimes what looks like dissatisfaction with your current title or job is actually dissatisfaction with your company or career choice and vice versa.

It is far easier to know if an opportunity meets these priorities when you have given thought to them in advance. During an interview you are less likely to be swayed by factors that sound attractive but do not really meet your goals.

Before you begin interviewing, list the eight points by priority. Later, when you find yourself debating a decision, come back to your list. For any opportunity you are struggling with, assign a value of 1–10 to each point, with 10 being the best. Total the scores.

Anything over 50 is fine, as long as your higher numbers are toward the top three priority items. A score below 50 means you need to ask yourself why you are considering the job in the first place!

If you are having difficulty making a decision between two offers, the eight points are ideal for helping you choose. Examine your priorities and their scores. You might find that some factors seem to be so attractive that they overwhelm what would otherwise be a clear signal to move away from the position.

Your perfect job might land in your lap by grace and good fortune. But more likely, you will need to look for it. It is there—but to recognize it, you will need to know what it does not look like as well as what it does.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways3.html

Author's Bio: 

Prior to starting her firm, VisionQuest, Judi Perkins was a search consultant for 25 years in both the contingency and retained market, including a short stint in the temporary and local permanent placement markets. She has owned her own recruiting firm and successfully assisted numerous repeat clients in hiring all levels of management. She is a career expert and forum moderator with http://www.CareerCube.net. To sign up for her newsletter and learn thousands of powerful concepts to find your perfect job, go to http://www.findtheperfectjob.com.