The final stages of moving jobs can be fraught with emotion and decision-making. Anthony McCormack offers 19 top tips to help you through what can be a tremendously difficult process.
You are the preferred candidate in a recruitment process and have been offered, or are soon expecting, an offer from a company you are hopefully interested in joining!
So what now? Hope for the best and whatever it is, take it?
This very often seems to be the strategy taken by most people. But with my near 20 years of recruitment experience and success in negotiating literally hundreds of offers, this blog will give advice to navigate you through the minefield of a job offer – to help you get the right result!
My first advice is, don’t make it all about the money – even if it is, actually, all about the money! If you are in dialogue with a company contact about an offer by phone or email, reinforce why you are interested in the role, why you will excel and that you are open to any reasonable and competitive offer. Companies want to offer and secure a candidate that remains interested and if the level of offer is still in debate, a reminder of how well you will do in the role is always a good idea!
If you are asked how much you are looking for, don’t give a number (at least not straight away). An answer like the one in Point 1, demonstrating it’s not all about the money, but instead, about the ‘fit’ is most palatable for the hiring company. Plus, if you give a number, it will either be too high or too low! Too high and they may not offer you it at all, given that you may not accept, fall for a counter offer or worse still, join then leave soon after for a better offer. Too low, however, and they will bite your hand off and you may have unwittingly left significant money on the table.
When you are asked how much you are looking for, you may not give a number but it may seem better and less mercenary to give a range. I suggest that you don’t give a range, though. In many ways, it’s worse than giving a specific number as it can leave a gap that is never bridged. With a range of £40K – £50K for example, you are wanting the top half of that range right? The £45-£50K bit. Whereas they are wanting the bottom half around the £40K-£45K mark. See what I mean? You will be surprised and disappointed when you get offered £42K, which they view as £2K above your minimum. Then they will be surprised and disappointed when you are not excited to accept, and maybe stall and then ask for more.
Whatever negotiation you are involved in, it is always best when the other guy gives the number first and put’s their stake in the ground. Employment offers and negotiation are no different. If they give an offer you are happy with, you know that potentially you will be able to accept. If their initial number is low, at least you know there is work to do and you need to re-sell yourself and seek to move the goal-posts.
If it looks like they aren’t taking the bait and won’t for some reason give their number, then if you HAVE to. I suggest to give them your full, current/previous compensation package as a benchmark. This gives them a context but doesn’t commit you to a joining figure. It’s just a statement of fact. As per earlier points though, it is a risk and can be a lose-lose scenario. A number that is too high may push them upwards but may also put them off. A number that is too low can weaken your bargaining position as they may assume you shouldn’t get a significant pay-rise.
Notwithstanding the 3 points above, there is no one size fits all advice here. If you understand the companies acceptable range of flexibility and motivations to hire you, and are asked for a number, provided you can give a number you are 100% happy with, that they are OK with, then great, do so. This makes for a quick and clean ‘close’, ensuring no one else gets a ‘look in’. Plus this flexibility and transparency can reflect well on you and you may earn favour and flexibility in return once you have joined.
If you sense that the offer is negotiable and you are going to push for higher, I recommend to keep it within the realms of a win-win scenario. If your request is too high, the hiring manager may have to really go out on a limb to secure the money.
Do take into account, ask questions and seek to understand the full package. Given estimated tax, what effect will the difference in salary mean for you monthly. Hint: higher salary may mean less difference than you think but lower salary may also mean less difference than you think. Dependent on your lifestyle, add-ons to the package like a bike to work scheme or gym membership may be high value to you – alternatively, they may be a complete waste. Sometimes ‘benefits’ such as a company car can realistically just be a tax anchor, especially if you are low mileage. So think holistically.
Sometimes, as above, if you push the company to the limit ‘on the way in’, with respect to compensation, then this can cause resentment. It can also set expectations very high with respect to your performance especially if you are in a revenue generating role. Someone, somewhere, could be saying: “Fair enough, pay them £X, but if we’re not seeing returns quickly, cut them loose to cut our losses!
Assuming that you have verbally explored a mutually agreeable offer and/or traded an email of an acceptable outline settlement, this is great news, but don’t feel obliged to make a snap decision. It is much better with respect to professional reputation and integrity to think things through properly and give a considered yes, no or renegotiate, than to give a knee-jerk ‘yes’ that you have to go back on later. Saying something along the lines of: ‘I am happy that this is a very fair offer and I remain very interested in joining but do you mind if I sleep on it and discuss it with my partner and come back to you tomorrow or by the end of week. If you want to buy some time, just request to review the full offer and contract in writing before formally accepting.
It is fair to say that if it is a no-brainer, accept there and then. If they give you everything you asked for and more, then you will look indecisive if you don’t thank them and shake on it!
When you have an offer on the table, this is the best time to wrap up your other recruitment processes and scare out any pending offers before this one lapses. To trade conflicting clichés, ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’ but it’s also ‘sods law’ that the job that you want least will be offered first. I think the best strategy is simply to let any other companies you are ‘on interview’ with know that you have another offer. But also tell them you were really hoping to reach a conclusion in their recruitment process as you are very interested in their opportunity but realistically only have until end of the week.
It’s difficult to allocate a ‘value’ to the non-financial aspects of a new role so it’s more difficult to include them in a logical and objective decision. However, this is where you use your head as well as your heart! Career potential, interest level and work-life balance are perfectly valid deciding factors. You work to live. You don’t live to work!
If you are seeking to improve the offer, either just because you feel you can, or to bring it to a minimum level you would be prepared to accept, a good tactic is to trade variables. This means give and take and the fact that you are seeking a win-win will help keep negotiations positive. For example: ‘I don’t need the medical benefits as I am covered through my wife so can I have £X more salary please?” Or: ‘I understand you have offered maximum salary, so while I was looking for more, can you enrol me to the pension scheme from the very start instead of after a full year?’ If said variable doesn’t cost them as much as it benefits you, then this is a good trade.
I think integrity is hugely important and I assume you want to keep a positive professional reputation and not burn any bridges. In this case, be true to your word. Take as much time as you need but once you have made a commitment, treat it as such. If you agree to an offer, don’t then move the goalposts. If you accept, then join. People have long memories and what goes around usually comes around at some time in the future!
No doubt you have invested significant time, plus physical and emotional energy in getting to the offer stage with your target company. However, assuming you haven’t blown your cover with your current employer, then you can still stay if you want to. Review what you were looking to gain or lose by leaving and re-confirm in your own mind that these will be addressed by moving. If you do decline your offer, do this politely and ideally in a call instead of an email. Please don’t just disappear.
This contentious subject is covered in more detail in a subsequent blog which I highly suggest you read. However, assuming you are a valued employee, your current company will not just let you walk out of the door. They will make you a counter offer. For many reasons, primarily that it will not solve the issues that caused you to resign in the first place, I recommend not to get ‘bought off’ by the ‘counter’. A popular statistic (source unknown) is that 80% of people who stay for a counter-offer, leave within onee year anyway. Again because the ‘root cause’ issues remain.
It is important with a high value contractual arrangement such as a job change to do things in the right order. Again this sounds obvious, but in the excitement of offer and acceptance, even the most senior people in my experience may well risk doing things in the wrong order. For example, is the offer ‘conditional’? If the offer is conditional on references, can the hiring company take them from prior employment contacts before you resign. If security vetting is mandatory, ensure this is complete before you resign. Maybe I’m a bit OCD but I always insist candidates sign back their offer and confirm receipt before taking any action with their current employer.
Accepting an offer and moving jobs is a big deal. As with any decision, it is normal to experience some ‘cognitive dissonance’ AKA buyers remorse! Stay positive, trust the decision that you no-doubt laboured over in the first place and look to the future. Internet truth says that you will regret the things you didn’t do more than the things you did. Although I’m thinking this really depends on what you did do in the first place!
So again, if you are reading this with an offer in front of you, congratulations. I hope that these 19 pointers will help you confidently steer a safe course through offer, negotiation and ultimately acceptance.
If you are reading this in advance, well done on good preparation, fore-warned is fore-armed and at least you won’t be side-swiped by something unexpected.