Woo Hoo! You’ve got a job offer! Now all that stands between you and your first pay is an innocuous looking employment contract. You really want this job; it’s exciting and perfect for you, so just go ahead and sign right? Actually no. Think of it as if you’re about to cross the road – there are things to watch out for and not paying attention can have unpleasant consequences. So before you sign on the dotted line: Stop, Look and Listen.

Take time to consider the job offer and employment agreement. It is tempting to say yes straight away but most employers will allow you a few days before you have to accept or reject an offer. Establish when you need to make the decision and use the time to ask any questions and clarify details you are unsure about.

Read through the employment contract carefully. And then read it again.

  • Role description: Make sure that the job description fits the role accurately and there are no surprise duties or extra responsibilities you weren’t expecting. The job title should also reflect the position.
  • Hours of work: Ensure the start date and hours of work are manageable. If you need flexibility, negotiate this in advance. Check whether the role requires evening or weekend work and whether this is covered by overtime pay. It is worth finding out when holidays can be taken and your leave entitlement in the first year.
  • Salary and benefits: Check the salary and the nature of any benefits and bonuses. Bonuses can be guaranteed or discretionary/performance based and targets should be identified. If you are relocating, ask the employer if the costs are covered.
  • Conditions: Some contracts will include employment conditions such as trial periods, police checks and restrictive covenants. Ensure you understand these fully and agree to them before signing the contract.
  • Notice period: Notice periods can vary from role to role and are usually 4 weeks to 3 months. Your first job is unlikely to be your forever job so a lengthy notice period could be inconvenient if you want to move on.

If you have questions regarding your employment contract, don’t be afraid to contact the employer, their HR department or the union where relevant.  You can also seek advice from your university Careers Advisor.

Happy with your contract? It’s now safe to step out and enjoy your new job!

Helpful links:
Employment agreements  – Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment
Dealing with Job Offers – Careers NZ
Evaluating your Job Offer – Victoria Careers and Employment


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Advice, Graduate jobs, Jobs


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