Have you ever walked out of a job interview knowing everything about it except what the position pays? Or, were you too bold and asked about money, benefits and vacation time when you walked in the door? I don’t recommend either approach, but I think there’s a happy medium you can strike. Here are 5 tips for managing the offer process.
Money is hard to talk about. For many, this is how we were raised…never discuss politics, religion or money in a mixed group. Never loan money to friends. Never flash your cash in public. While we’ve managed to violate those first two policies on a regular basis, most of us still abide by codes of behavior around money. Still, getting comfortable talking about how much money you need to earn is critical, especially in a job interview or during the offer stage. Here are 5 key components to managing the offer process:
1. Inquire about the salary range but don’t offer a hard number
You’ll know from the range they offer whether the Hiring Manager is working with a sub-par compensation budget. Is the opportunity worth the risk? The cost of living is not going down. Each person or family has a base-line level for living, and things like extra vacation time, generous car allowance or a strong equity package (as nice as it is) do not pay the bills. Candidates know this and many are forced to walk away from exciting jobs in disappointment. But if you can take a slight cut for better advancement, more stability or generous upside, don’t walk away just because it’s not your “magic number”.
2. Handle a low-ball offer with confidence
An offer at 5% below or lower then your current compensation is a low ball. Tell them you’ll think about it. If you still really want the job after 24 hours, go back and tell them what you need under the condition that you WILL accept if they meet your number. However, do not settle for a verbal offer. Get it in writing otherwise it’s not a legally binding offer. NEVER give your notice when all you have received is a verbal offer. ALWAYS get it in writing.
3. Negotiate on a lateral offer
Hiring managers who think this approach will make them look better to their boss experience a short-lived victory. The biggest jumps in compensation usually come when making a move. If you take less or a dead lateral, you’ll often suffer lower overall salary for the long hall. This is no way to start a job. You will only end up coming onboard under-invested, stressed out from personal financial pressures, or seeing this new job as a “layover” while continuing to keep an eye on the job market. Follow the guidelines under how to handle a low-ball offer above.
4. Don’t play against the other
Candidate who shop the market in order to find the highest bidder end up taking the best financial offer and not the best job. I do not recommend playing one company against another to see who will give you the biggest compensation package. This is an obvious form of manipulation…a bit of Russian Roulette. It is truly unprofessional to share the details of your financial offer with a competing company. While it is okay to refer to another offer in terms of a monetary range, you should only do so to inform…not to bait. If a hiring manager learns you’ve been “shopping the offer around” and calls you at your game, they’re likely to rescind the offer. After all, if you’re only about the dollars, the reason you’re working at the company will never make sense. (See what I did there?)
5. Accept or decline in the specified time frame
Honoring your interview obligations is always reasonable, as long as you are communicating your intention in a timely fashion. If a company makes an offer, check for the expiration date…this is usually the date by which they want an answer. However, asking a company to hold out for two to three weeks while you continue first round interviews is rude. Don’t treat an offer like an insurance policy. If you know it’s not the right fit, walk away. If it’s the right fit but the offer is lackluster, tell them what they can do to bring you on board whole and happy.
Bottom line; be very honest with yourself, and with others on what you’re willing to consider and what is out of the question. Don’t make compensation the primary focus, but a critical component of the overall decision. Never allow anyone to downplay the importance of your financial health, but when it comes to career happiness, don’t think with your wallet.