Use a Decision-Making Matrix to Choose the Right Job

Whether you’re about to start looking for a new job or trying to decide between multiple offers, using a decision-making matrix can help to narrow down the options, as well as keep you focused on what matters most in your next role. It can be easy during the job hunt to get carried away by many varying types of compelling opportunities, but you’ll be a lot more effective—and efficient—if you get granular about what it is you really want, and a matrix approach can help you do just that.

Define your objectives

Before jumping into comparisons, the first step of creating a functional matrix is to prioritize the various objectives you’re hoping to achieve in a new job. First, consider the high-level categories that might be important. These could include compensation (think about salary as well as additional benefits), the prestige you get from the job, the industry/sector, the role, the company itself, and opportunities for growth and impact.

Next, tailor the objectives based on your personal situation. If you have a family and would prefer to work from home sometimes, for example, add an objective that refers to flexibility. Perhaps having a manager who you truly get along with is important to you; add that as an objective. Regardless of what your ultimate objectives are, be sure to spend time customizing them for your circumstances, as the matrix will only be as useful as you make it—and simply filling in generic objectives likely won’t do much to guide you towards the right decision.

Lastly, rank your objectives based on their order of importance to you. From a practical perspective, it’s easiest to create a table using Excel with each objective as a row, ranked from most important at the top to least at the bottom. If you want to be extra quantitative, it’s best to weight your objectives—that is, assign a number to each that reflects how important it is to you. The easiest way to do this is to allocate a total of 100 points across your objectives, divided in a way that reflects each one’s expected impact on your satisfaction with the job. You can add your weighting as the first column in the table.

Judge performance

Once you’ve defined and ranked objectives, add the various alternatives you’re considering as the columns of your matrix. If you’re in the earlier stages of  job hunt and trying to decide where to focus, these alternatives might be more generic—startup vs. large corporate vs. VC, for example. On the other hand, if you’re trying to decide between a few specific offers, the columns should reflect the exact company and role that you’re evaluating.

Then, go through and score the alternatives against each objective. Choose a simple scale (1-5 or 1-10, for example) to base your scores on, considering whether or not, and to what extent, each role fulfills the objective. You should end up with a fully filled-in table with a column for each objective and the objective weightings, a row for each role, and a score in each box.

After scoring each alternative, calculate the weighted average for each column. We at Hired are much better at helping you pick a job than at Excel, so go here if you need help with the calculation. You should end up with a weighted score for each alternative.

Iterate, but stick to it

Once you’ve completed your matrix, keep in mind that it’s not static—you can change your scores based on conversations or even add more objectives or change weightings to reflect your current thinking as you go through the process. Remember that a matrix can help you to make a decision, but the weighted scores it produces depend on your underlying decisions and process that went into it, so iterate to make sure you’re prioritizing appropriately and scoring the alternatives honestly.

Importantly, remember to keep coming back to the matrix as you go through the process of finding and deciding on your next job. It can be easy to throw logic and structure out the door when you get an offer, but the matrix can help to ground your decision in what’s truly important—meaning you’ll be that much happier when you choose the right place for your next career move.

About the Author

Napala Pratini

Napala is a consultant to early-stage technology companies. Prior to going independent, Napala led marketing initiatives across both consumer and B2B fintech for employers including NerdWallet and Earnest. In past lives she was a ballet dancer and a cancer researcher.