Workforce Surveys

Closing the Deal

By | November 16, 2011

A lot of talented folks are unemployed or “in transition” these days, working full time in their efforts to land a new job.

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When that goal is finally reached, when someone says, “we love you, please come to work for us,” the tendency will be to respond with “thank you, YES.”  However, that immediate, knee-jerk reaction could be a mistake, as at that point you’re a desired candidate with options, while tomorrow you’ll be one of the staff – with little leverage at all.

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When the moment of decision occurs, most Human Resource professionals would advise you to give the person who extended the offer a warm thank you, but then to take a little time for reflection on the particulars – the details.  The higher up the food chain you are, the more moving parts will comprise your employment offer.   No one is going to force you to decide right away, so don’t.

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Presuming that the career implications are positive, that you don’t have to move to Northern Alaska, and that you want to accept the offer, let me suggest a few tactical strategies to help you make the most of what was offered.  Because with a bit of luck you can do better.

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The Recruiter

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Internal recruiters can be difficult to work with at times, but you need them.  So keep a smile on your face and play nice throughout the interview process.  At some point your recruiter may be called on to negotiate with management on your behalf, so the relationship you have with this individual is critical.  Why?  As your offer was likely developed from the combined thought of the hiring Manager and Human Resources, the recruiter would play the part of the messenger.  So if you wish to negotiate revised terms it’s the recruiter who needs to “sell” your point of view for a better deal.

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The Package

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I always advise clients to look past the base salary to the rest of the package, considering the offer in its entirety.  And make sure you have the offer in writing.   All the necessary elements should be included (i.e., title, salary, incentive, vacation, relocation, stock options, retirement, etc.), as there may be a cornucopia of opportunity to negotiate improvements by expanding your line of sight.

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Cash Is Still King

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It’s a safe bet that the company has left itself some wiggle room with its base salary offer, but the trick is to gauge how much room is left.  So be cautious.  Don’t be greedy by asking for a major increase, as that will alienate the hiring manager and your new friend, the recruiter.  Also, avoid giving the impression that you think they’ve low-balled you.  You can lose a lot of goodwill with that tact.

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Perhaps an early performance review (six months?) will give you the time to prove your worth; or a sign-on bonus to improve your first year earnings.  Both are less visible within the organization than base salary, and management is often amenable to such “compromises.”

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What’s Negotiable?

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Once you’re past the cash part of the offer the company may prove more flexible, as the transparency of cash can be a limiting factor due to possible internal equity concerns.

Unless the company is restricted by plan documents, policy or statutory obligations they may be accommodating to certain requests, especially as they are eager for your acceptance.   As verbal promises carry little weight even a signed note in the margin of the offer letter would be sufficient authorization, so consider vacation days, early eligibility for incentives and options, perquisites as well as flexibility on relocation as possible improvements.

But have a care before asking for changes to tax-advantaged programs or those where equity issues might be a concern.  You will have little success here.

The Push Back

To open the negotiations first profess your genuine appreciation for the offer, then express an excitement at becoming part of the company team.  Only then should you mention your “disappointment” with whatever aspect of the offer package has created concern.

Note: make sure your list of disappointments is small.

When you ask for consideration of an improved offer remind the recruiter of your extensive background and experience, and the type and degree of contribution you will soon be making – but be specific.   Give the recruiter enough ammunition to help represent you.  Don’t leave the impression that you simply want more, but that you deserve more.

Final Thought

Your hard work at job search will pay off, that offer of employment will come your way.   When it does make sure you finish the job by not leaving opportunities on the table.  You can’t go back later to pick them up.

Chuck Csizmar is the Founder & Principal of CMC Compensation Group,an independent global compensation consulting firm whose expertise lies in helping companies manage the effective and efficient utilization of financial rewards for their employees. He also maintains a popular blog on compensation at his website

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