Monday, June 2, 2008

Before You Dismiss The Job, Get The Offer

While job hunting is not a game, it does have rules. And among the most basic of those rules is – get the offer!

When you interview for a job you think has potential, your objective is to make them want you. Actually, the role of the job hunter is to make the employer so eager to bring you on board that the prospect of losing you causes them distress.

It’s based on two premises.

One, the more an employer wants to hire you, the greater your negotiating options will be. And two, there are no negotiating options without an offer.

Sure, you’re also gathering information so that you can eventually make an informed decision, but there will be no decision to make if they don’t offer you the job. That's a reality job seekers sometimes forget.

A couple of months back, I received a call from a senior attorney who had just finished interviewing with the General Counsel of a firm she thought she might want to join. She had already had a positive interview with the executive search firm, an even better meeting with the head of HR and knew the firm was a top-notch place to work.

When I asked how her latest interview went she said, “Oh, it went great. The General Counsel is somebody I can see myself working with, the projects he described sounded interesting and I really think I can learn from him. But I’ve decided not to pursue it any further.”

That was a shock because even though she was still employed, her firm had just gone through an acquisition and integration that put her job in jeopardy and pushed her position further down the corporate totem pole. Plus, she was unhappy with her current employer and role long before the integration took place.

“Why don’t you want to pursue it?” I asked. She didn’t miss a beat “Well, it looks to me like most of them work in cubicles, the title he threw out wasn’t very appealing, I have concerns about their compensation structure and their vacation policy is a week less than I have now.”

“Did they make you an offer?” I asked. “No” she responded, “they want me to come back and meet with several of his direct reports but I think I’m going to call and stop the process.”

Talk about putting the cart in front of the horse.

Of course there are times when continuing to interview with a company is pointless, but unless the gap between what you want and what you see is a chasm so wide that under no circumstances would you work for the company – it's usually to your advantage to generate the offer.

When I asked this attorney if there was any way she could see herself working for the company she was interviewing with she said, “Sure, but I doubt they’ll meet my requirements.”

Further conversation got her to put her concerns on hold and continue the interviewing process with the objective of generating an offer.

The outcome – she got the offer. And a little post-offer negotiation resulted in a boost in comp, a private office, an AGC title and matching vacation time.

The sequence ... get the offer ... negotiate ... then decide. Nothing to decide without the offer.

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