Steps for Success in Today’s Marketplace – Part III
In this third part of our series on how to successfully find and land a new and better opportunity, we will look closely at the offer process. In part 1 we discussed the resume and getting an interview and in part 2 we talked about the interview process and how to best present yourself. Now let’s look closely at the offer process. Your potential new employer will have a set of standards that they will score you on before making an offer.
Some of those are obvious, like a degree or certification, and experience with a particular process, software, or market. Others are a bit less tangible, think phrases like ‘cultural fit’ or ‘energy’.
Similarly, you should have a set of standards that you hold a potential new employer to; stability, market position, vision for growth, and so on. In addition, the position within that company needs to make sense for you – does it allow you to utilize your strengths, provide an opportunity for professional growth, will you enjoy what you are doing, etc? If both you and the company feel good about the mutual fit, here are the three key steps to closing the deal and moving on.
First, make sure to get your questions answered before the company issues an offer, to the extent possible. Just because you had a ‘final interview’ doesn’t mean you won’t have questions after you leave. If you are looking at a sales role and you’re not certain what accounts you would inherit, what the expectations are for new business development in the first year, or how your market is defined, ask! Likewise, for any position, questions about the role provide evidence that you are interested, and the conversation is usually easier to have pre-offer. If this is a few basic questions, a follow-up email might be best. If you really have some major unanswered issues, request a 15-minute follow-up phone call with the person who would be your supervisor. There could be any number of potential clarifications at this point depending on the position, but as a generalization they should not include compensation just yet, although that leads to the second key.
Be certain that at some point in the process the company understands precisely where you are now in total compensation, and what your needs would be in making a move. This may have happened during a meeting with HR, or in an application process, of if you are working through a recruiter. As obvious as this is, remember that if you haven’t specifically told the company (and preferably in writing) there is no way they could know where you are or what you need. Most of us readily understand base salary, but there are so many other components of your overall compensation to consider, including paid time off, cost of health insurance, retirement plans or 401(k) contributions, bonuses, and so on. While the compensation equation contains many variables, we have found the two biggest to be; where you are currently, and how well you have impressed the company thus far.
Everyone has heard an anecdotal story of a huge increase accompanying a job change, but there are usually unique circumstances and that is not the norm, nor should it be your reason for making the change in the first place. It is however a reasonable expectation to take a step forward in making the change, and if the company has all the information they should be able to know whether they can accommodate that before putting together an offer. An apples-to-apples increase in the mid-high single digits is what we typically see. If there are gaps between that and your needs in making a change, for example a higher cost of living, let the company know that.
Now you fully understand the opportunity, and the company fully understands what you need to see in an offer. Those steps often are not as easy as I’m making them sound in a complicated world, I would acknowledge. The third step should be easy though, if both sides have done their jobs to that point. When you receive your offer there should be nothing there that comes as a surprise. If there is, call a time-out and see where the communication breakdown occurred – it will probably have been in one or both of our first two steps. Minor clarifications are to be expected, like if the offer letter doesn’t specify a start date, or vacation. Those can be handled with a quick email (the email has the advantage of documentation).
If all looks in order and your questions have been asked and answered, do not take too long to accept. Taking 24 hours to talk over one last time with your significant other is fine, but as a rule of thumb you should be able to give an answer within 24-48 hours or again something was wrong in the first two steps. The company just told you that they love you and want you to join their team, and as humans when we tell someone we love them we want to hear that they love us back, without too much of a pause. If the offer is fair and you want the job, this is not the time to try and negotiate for more.
If you do want the job, and the offer is light in one or more areas however, you should absolutely negotiate. Stay professional, of course, let them know that some part(s) of the offer did not line up with your expectations, and ask them to explain that part of the offer. When that discussion is done, be prepared to let them know that you absolutely want the job, and it is just that one thing where there is a gap. Further, let them know that if they can meet your expectations, which you are able to define, there is nothing else that would prevent you from accepting the offer. For example, if you really need a certain salary level and they come up short, do not just tell them you need more, give them a specific number.