Readers’ Forum: How do I choose between 2 job offers?

In the November 30, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to make a choice that more people would like to face:

I have two job offers, both in the same dollar range, from two good companies. I have never before been in a situation like this. The opportunities are very comparable. Usually there’s a pretty big difference between two job situations. How do I choose? Any thoughts or suggestions?

Here’s the short version of my advice: (For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

It’s easy to get so excited about a job offer that you forget to vet the opportunity carefully. I’m convinced that the chief reason people go job hunting is because they took the wrong job to begin with. Don’t succumb to excitement when you should be focused on carefully analyzing the offer. When you have to choose between multiple offers, the importance of the vetting process becomes more evident.

Here’s my rule, which usually helps people crystallize the real issues: Select a job on the basis of the people, the product, and the reputation.

Sure, that sounds obvious. But when faced with an offer, most people think about only two things: the money and the job. Of course, these are two crucial decision factors. But they blind people to other important considerations. The money might be great, and the job exciting, but have you looked at the bigger picture? Have you carefully evaluated the success factors that will determine whether you’ll get to enjoy your work and that paycheck?

This idea might shock you, but consider it. If a company scores high on its people, product, and reputation, the actual job you take is almost secondary. Suppose you take a not-quite-perfect job for less money than you’d like, but in a company that scores high on those three criteria. If you are good — very good — at what you do, you will likely make your way into the right job quickly and the money will follow. The company’s people, product, and reputation will affect your long-term career success more than any job, which is after all ephemeral.

After doing this analysis, I think you’ll see differences that will lead you in the right direction. (One caution: In your present state of excitement, do not discount the possibility that your further analysis may reveal that neither offer is a right one. If you don’t exercise Choice and Control, any offer can look good to you.)

Is that job offer any good? Maybe the offer sounds great, but is the company good enough? How do you decide whether to accept a job offer? Is it the money? Is it the excitement of the job? Do you go with your gut, or do you stop and vet the employer more thoroughly, once you have that offer in hand?

I think that’s the point where you hold the strongest cards, and it’s when you should ask the really tough questions. But I don’t think an offer is worth anything, unless the people, the products and the reputation are top-notch.


Readers’ Forum: Do I have to say it?

In the November 2, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a manager makes a complaint and a request. Listen up:

I am speaking both as a frustrated hiring manager and as a job hunter. When I was job hunting, I always made it clear that I wanted the job. I expressed this verbally during the interview and in my thank-you letter. Now, as a (beginner) hiring manager, I want to ensure that positions are filled by qualified candidates who I know, undisputedly, want the job.

Can you discuss the importance of this basic and obvious technique in interviewing that is often overlooked? That is, the applicant must always say to the potential employer, “I want this job.” Of course, this must be based on a sincere desire for the position. What are your views on the importance of this statement?

A truncated version of my advice:
(For the entire column, you need to subscribe to the free weekly newsletter. Don’t miss another edition!)

There’s a footnote in one of my books about a sales vice president who interviewed for a job and failed to get the offer. He argued to me that making such an explicit statement is awkward and that it shows the candidate “has no class.”

My response to him: Failure to say you want the job indicates you aren’t worth hiring because you don’t have enough interest in working for the employer.

“Of course I want the job,” he exclaimed. ” That’s why I’m interviewing! The manager knows that!”

No, the manager doesn’t know that. Most jobs people interview for are jobs that come along, not jobs they really want. Most candidates don’t know they want a job until after they’ve met and talked with the manager at length. When the candidate makes a decision, the manager needs to hear it.

When you interview for a job and decide you want it, do you say it? “I want this job.” No, I don’t mean do you hem and haw and mince your words. I mean, do you say, “I want this job?”

I think if you don’t, you don’t deserve to be hired. (Would you expect someone to accept your marriage proposal if you don’t say, “I love you?”) If you’re a manager, I suggest you watch your next candidate, and listen carefully. Does she tell you she wants to work on your team? No? Hit the EJECT button. On to the next candidate!


We don’t need no stinking references…

So, why do employers ask for references, then never bother to contact them? Guess they don’t really need no stinking references, eh?

A reader asks:

I found a job listing on Craigslist that interested me. I did some homework and liked what I found out about the company, and I sent my resume and cover letter. I received a response quickly and was given an interview the following day. The interview went really well, and was told a decision was going to be made quickly.

I received an email four days later telling me they were close to a decision, and would like references from me. I replied within minutes (thanks to a smartphone). Three days later, I got a job offer over the phone. After checking with my references, I found this company never called them. Why is that, do you think? Do they just want to see if I can list three people without my last name? I don’t get it. Is this commonplace these days? Another company I applied to asked as well, but never called any of them. Any ideas?

Congratulations on the offer. You’re asking a very good question. Not enough companies actually check references. Fewer job candidates check a company’s references before accepting an offer. This is a mistake on both sides.

But yes, it’s common for a company to ask for your references but not to check them prior to issuing an offer. Someone in HR may follow up with them later, after you’ve already started work. That’s pretty useless at that point for you, isn’t it? But if something negative turns up, you could get fired.

All of this points to the really big problem: HR does things simply because “that’s how it’s supposed to be done” – even when they don’t actually do it!

It’s idiotic.

Just make sure the company you’re joining is a good one. Never accept an offer just because the money’s good or “because they want you.” This article might help: Peeling The Offer.

Have you ever accepted an offer, only to find the employer never really checked the references it requested? If you’re a manager, do you check references? If you work in HR, and you collect references but never check them, why pretend?


Readers’ Forum: Just 2 weeks off? Are you nuts???

In the October 26, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks:

One thing that has kept me from seeking other employment is that I don’t want to lose the four weeks of vacation time I’ve built up. Are vacation benefits negotiable?

Everything is negotiable, but not every negotiation is winnable… The position many companies take has never made sense to me. They claim they wouldn’t be able to keep a lid on vacation policy if they were to negotiate special deals with new hires. “We must be consistent and fair.”

But I look at this another way. Vacation time is not a benefit, but a form of compensation… Wait until the offer has been made, then diplomatically and matter-of-factly explain that just as you are worth the salary level you have attained, you’re worth the vacation time, too.

(The rest of my suggestions are in the newsletter. Subscribe now — it’s FREE! Don’t miss getting the whole story next week!)

Employers will ask for your salary history, and base a job offer on it. So when it comes to vacation time, why do they want you to start back at square one? More vacation is good for the gander! Just 2 weeks off? Are you nuts???

Did you leave your vacation time behind, or did you negotiate it? What’s your story?


Readers’ Forum: The ethics of juggling job offers

In the September 21, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to deal with two job offers, when you accept one then a better one arrives a few days later.


I am in this dilemma and read your article about Juggling Job Offers. Yours is the only one that says to accept the first job offer, and when the second job (which would be a better offer and more suitable) presents itself, then retract acceptance of the first job offer.

However, the other articles and guidance suggests not doing this at all as it is unethical and can damage one’s reputation in a given industry. I have gone back to the first company and gotten a decision window of one week to decide. The timing is off as I need one more week for the second job’s response and possible offer.

Do I ask for yet another extension? Any thoughts?

Nick’s Reply

Here’s the short version of my reply. (You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

Sorry, but I don’t buy the ethics angle on this. As I point out in the article, if a company lays you off six months after hiring you, is it behaving unethically? No. It’s a business decision. What if it lays you off a week after you start, due to unexpected financial setbacks? What’s the real difference?

How many job offers do you really have?

The fact is, in a situation like this, you are not making a choice between two job offers. You are making a binary choice: Yes or No to one job. While I hope the other offer comes through, I can tell you that in many years of headhunting I’ve seen most “sure thing” offers go south. Either they are delayed indefinitely, or they never come through.

Is this about ethics or business?

I agree that accepting then rescinding your acceptance can have an effect on your reputation. But likewise, a layoff has an effect on an employer’s reputation. Still, sometimes it happens out of necessity. It doesn’t make the company (or you) unethical. It’s a business decision.

I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of rescinding an acceptance. But to behave as though the second offer is a sure thing is to put the first offer at risk. Is it unethical to continue to ask the first company — which has stuck out its neck and and made a commitment to you — to keep extending the decision deadline?

How many times will the second company need “one more week” to produce the offer, if it produces one at all?

Sorry, but a bird in the hand is the only bird you’ve got! Decide about that, and then deal with the future later.

For more about this thorny topic — and how to deal with job offer challenges — see Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master Of Job Offers.

Am I being unethical? Is it wrong to accept an offer then change your mind because a new offer is better?

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Readers’ Forum: How can I negotiate the salary I want?

Discussion: June 29, 2010 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter

(You’ve got to subscribe to the weekly newsletter to get the whole story!)

A reader says:

Through a recruiter, I received an offer for a job that’s a good fit for me with a lot of potential. However, the compensation is below what I expected and I don’t actually need the new job. I’m secure and pretty happy where I am, but I would consider this job if the money were better. I’d like to signal that the current offer is one I won’t accept. How should I negotiate this?

Get ready to walk, then negotiate!

Effective salary negotiations are rooted in knowing what you don’t want as much they require knowing what you do want. People often lose negotiations because they’re so determined to make a deal happen that they sacrifice their objective.

My advice to the reader in today’s Q&A is to be ready to walk away from a job offer, then negotiate. In the newsletter, I explain how to re-state and re-emphasize the two reasons the employer is making an offer… and how to politely question the terms of the offer. Then leave it up to the recruiter and the employer.

(We also talked about the importance of knowing How to decide how much you want.)

In the end, your strength lies in your readiness to walk away if the deal isn’t right for you. Do you agree? I know it’s easier to advise this kind of approach than to actually do it. What’s been your experience with salary negotiations?