March Madness is one of the most exciting times of the year! Not only are the athletic skills of some of the country’s best collegiate athletes on display, but the games are even more fun for those watching at home thanks to the rise of “bracketology.” If you’re unfamiliar with the term, bracketology refers to the building of brackets that chart out an individual’s guess as to who will win the NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament.

Last year, 17.3 million people filled out brackets through ESPN alone!

While bracketology isn’t necessarily something you can earn a degree in, there are still valuable lessons to be learned through this increasingly popular March Madness tradition. Believe it or not, your process for building a winning bracket can also apply to your search for a new job!

Jobsearchology

Consider the following scenario: After months of searching for a job and hearing nothing back, you suddenly line up four job interviews in a single week. After thorough preparation, the interviews go great! Each employer brings a little something different to the table, and now each is making you a job offer. How do you pick a winner when deciding between multiple viable offers?

The answer is bracketology! Just as millions of fans evaluate teams by breaking down their strengths and weaknesses in head-to-head match-ups against tournament opponents, job seekers need to be able to review job offers side-by-side. However, instead of making evaluations based on athletic ability, candidates need to determine what their categories for review will be.

In general, there are four major categories that can help job seekers break down their field of potential employers: pay & perks, purpose & values, opportunity & growth and instinct & intangibles. If you’re having trouble deciding a job search champion, here’s how infusing these categories into your own bracketology can help:

Pay & Perks

When evaluating job offers, it’s important to go beyond salary alone. Sure, a hefty paycheck is always nice, but it’s not until you consider the entire package of benefits that the full picture of compensation becomes clear. In addition to the standard employee benefits, such as health insurance and paid time off, companies are increasingly becoming creative in the perks they offer employees. From student loan assistance to flexible work schedules, these outside-of-the-box add-ons could just add up to more than a comfortable salary alone. Be sure to evaluate your job offers from every angle of compensation.

Purpose & Values

Meaningful work is more important for driving individual and team success than ever before. After researching the company and going through the interview process, job seekers should ask themselves, “Do I connect with the work being done by this organization on a deeper level?” One’s ability to complete the daily responsibilities of a role is important, but finding purpose beyond the black and white details of a job can lead to higher levels of employee satisfaction and productivity.

At the end of the day, this piece of the puzzle all comes down to culture fit. Culture is one of those tricky elements of the job search to pin down. While concepts like a company’s values and mission may be spelled out on a corporate website, feel free to explore these ideas further through interview questions and other interactions with employees. From the style and layout of the workspace itself to the way employees communicate to each other, all elements of a company’s culture should factor into your job search bracketology.

Opportunity & Growth

How would this job opportunity factor into your five year plan? How about your ten year plan? If there’s ever a time to consider the long game for your career path, it’s while you’re deciding on a new job opportunity. If professional development is important to you, research the opportunities being provided by the potential employers for continued education and leadership training. Determining your potential path for advancement upfront can make the decision making process easier and save you headaches down the road.

Outside of individual growth, do you see opportunities on the horizon for the organization and industry overall? Identifying major projects in the works at an organization that excite you is important. After all, if the direction of the opportunities ahead for a company don’t match what you’re looking for, why commit to working there in the first place?

Instinct & Intangibles

While we all do our best to evaluate all the information we gather about an employer – from internet research to job interview notes – in a logical way, there are intangible elements of the job search process that cannot be ignored. How did you feel you were treated throughout the interview process? Were your interactions with future managers and coworkers positive? Can you visualize yourself working in that role in that working environment? These are the questions that only the job seeker themselves can answer through thoughtful self-reflection.

The end of your job search should be just as exciting as March Madness! Your hard work is about to pay off – as long as you are confident in your decision. Make sure you’re finding the right fit by applying a little bracketology to your job offers!

What do you think the NCAA Men’s College Basketball tournament and finding a job have in common? Join the conversation in the comments below!