You’ve slogged through a competitive interview process at multiple companies and you’re ready for the job offers to start rolling in. Even better, you’ve been told you’re a finalist with two employers. Company A (we’ll call them Beam Me Up, Inc.) is a start-up developing the first teleportation machine, while Company B (We Make Flying Cars, Inc.) makes the most popular flying cars in the world. Great choices, right? It’s a great situation to have – how should you handle the multiple companies vying for your talents, and how do you decide which is the right for you?
Consider the following scenarios:
Scenario 1 – You receive an offer from the Beam Me Up, Inc., which is clearly your first choice. Many people use a situation like this to see if they can wrangle a better deal by pitting the two offers against each other. Think carefully before engaging this approach – the outcome of such negotiations can be unpredictable and might even work against you if it feeds a perception that you’re trying to incite a bidding war. If the offer comes up short of your expectations, you’re certainly well within your rights to try to sweeten the deal, and taking a collaborative approach with the person who extended the offer (something like, “I’d love to see if we can get to yes, I’d love to work with you!”) can help. If, on the other hand, the offer fell squarely within your expectations, it could very well be in your best interest to accept the offer outright and end your interviews with We Make Flying Cars, Inc. Start off on a positive note.
Scenario 2 – You receive an offer from We Make Flying Cars, Inc. (your second choice). But you really, REALLY want an offer from Beam Me Up, Inc. (your clear first choice). This is a delicate dance. You don’t want to settle too early on a company that, while perhaps great in its own right, is still your runner-up. Here are some steps you can take to move the process along.
Step 1: Align your expectations with We Make Flying Cars, Inc. who extended the job offer, to see if you can buy some additional time. You need to this in as collaborative and professional a manner as possible; keep it simple, thankful, and reasonable. Reach out to Human Resources and say, “Thank you very much for your offer. I do have some other factors to consider. May I have a little extra time to talk to my family and make a decision?” Then gauge the situation carefully. They may or may not be willing to extend your deadline, so proceed accordingly. Missing a hard deadline could result in a withdrawn offer.
Step 2: Reach out to the Human Resources department of Beam Me Up, Inc. to see if you can give the process a nudge. Be direct and honest. For example, “I just wanted to let you know that I received an offer from another company, but Beam Me Up is still my first choice. I believe the work you’re doing is more challenging and rewarding, and that I am an ideal cultural fit. Were the company to make an offer in the range we discussed, I would happily accept it. I look forward to hearing from you, and thank you!” The wheels of corporate bureaucracy move slowly, but a call like this can provide the essential momentum.
3. You receive simultaneous job offers from both companies and you have no clear preference. Make no mistake, receiving two competing offers puts you in an advantageous bargaining position and certainly provides a nice ego boost. You are indeed in a prime position to lure the two employers into a bidding war.
That said, rather than risk your good fortune and potentially jeopardize your relationship with each employer by trying to sweeten the pot, it may be better to compare each offer on its own merit and make a decision accordingly. Consider the following factors:
The Work Itself. Which role will be the most rewarding, and will help you achieve your long-term career goals? Don’t just look at the job title, since these may mean different things at different companies. Focus on the specifics of the job description, and the specific work experience and skills you will gain. We devote most of our waking hours to work – maximize the ROI on your precious time with a fulfilling career.
Total Compensation. The salary figure presented by an employer is almost always the primary consideration, but compensation is much, much more than just salary. Total compensation can include medical insurance, paid time off, bonuses, 401k matches, employee discounts, car allowances, and other benefits. Run the numbers – a job that pays a high base salary but makes you pay for the bulk of your medical expenses out-of-pocket or gives you minimal vacation time may be a bad deal in disguise.
Company Culture. Where are you going to going to feel good heading to work every day? Which employer shares your professional values? Even if all other factors of their offers are equal, company cultures and work environments – even in the same industry – can dramatically different. And don’t forget to factor in work/life balance. Get as much information as possible.
Once you’ve worked through the details and compared the offers, proceed carefully. Beam Me Up, Inc. and We Make Flying Cars, Inc. both believe you are lucky to get an offer from them. If you try to negotiate with the companies and come across as demanding, unreasonable, or ungrateful, or if you appear to be fostering a competition, an employer may believe their offer was a mistake and consider withdrawing it – especially if they feel like they are being played off against each other. Have your salary market data ready (pay a visit to compensation site paysa.com), do your homework, and be reasonable in your request. If you’re already being offered a compensation package above the market average, requests for more may not be well received; the converse is also true, where if you do your homework and discover you’re being offered below market average, you may have room to negotiate and improve your standing. But it’s still a precarious situation.
If Beam Me Up offers you $5,000 less than We Make Flying Cars, and you ask Beam Me Up to match their offer, you must be prepared to accept the revised offer if they meet your request. A back-and-forth between yourself and both companies will only engender ill will and may result in no offers to choose from. Keep in mind that how you handle the negotiation will be a reflection of your integrity.
Philip Roufail contributed to this article.
Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the website, www.insidercareerstrategies.com.