December 11, 2013
Make the most of a counteroffer situation
Who wouldn't want to receive multiple job offers? It's not uncommon to play offers against each other in an attempt to get a better deal. But use caution in a counteroffer situation, as it can feel like a bidding war to recruiters -- and could end up backfiring on you.
Getting job offers from two potential new employers at the same time is one example of when you'll likely find yourself entertaining a counteroffer (or two). Another example is getting a counteroffer from your current company when you reveal that you have received a job offer. Each has slightly different ramifications; first, let's talk about competing offers from new employers.
If I make a job offer to a candidate, and she has other offers, part of my job as a recruiter is to determine what is most important to her. As a candidate, it is paramount for you to know what is most important to you.
Although money is certainly a huge factor, often it's not the overriding motivation. For example: How were you treated as a candidate during the recruiting process (not just by the recruiter, but by the entire team)? Is the product, service or industry niche of one of the companies more appealing than another? What are their cultures like (consider things such as work/life balance and the ability to make a direct impact)?
I recently tendered offers to three candidates for different jobs, all of whom had competing offers from Amazon.com. Two of them decided to go to Amazon, one because of the stability of a large company (with admitted concerns about work/life balance in Amazon's culture), the other because of the opportunity to be challenged early in his career. The third candidate decided that a smaller company, along with the ability to immediately make a huge impact, was more interesting. Money wasn't a factor in any of their decisions.
If you are entertaining offers from two employers, there are some things you can do to see how interested a company is in you as a person versus just filling a position. Assuming you have already read the reviews on Glassdoor.com, tapped into your own LinkedIn and professional network, and done some general research online about the company, try these tips:
• Ask to come in for a few hours to spend some time talking to people on the team in a non-interview setting.
• Check to see whether someone has moved from one company to the other in the past year. Set up a phone call with that person to see why he or she made the decision.
• Request a call with someone in upper management, such as a general manager or vice president.
• Look up what analysts are saying about the financial outlook and products/services of the companies.
Whether you receive a counteroffer from your own company depends on the circumstances that lead to you interviewing elsewhere. If you were not looking for a new job but were presented with an offer from another employer, you are considered a passive candidate. In this case, a counteroffer from your current employer could be an indication of how valuable you are to the company. It may be reason enough to stay where you are, if you are reasonably content or don't want to take the risk of a new opportunity.
However, if you are actively looking at new opportunities because you are dissatisfied with your current position, you need to remember why you started looking before you decide to accept your company's counteroffer. Usually, when an active candidate accepts a counteroffer from his current employer, he remains unhappy and is out looking again in a relatively short time.
You can certainly use your current employer's counteroffer as leverage to get an even better offer from a potential employer. However, keep in mind that most companies make good-faith offers, and that offer letters typically include an expiration date.
I had a candidate last year who kept asking for more money and pitted me against another employer. He waffled so much that the hiring manager decided to pass on him after we had amended our offer twice -- and after the second deadline had passed. Don't make the mistake of pushing too far.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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