A job candidate who’s in high demand is highly desirable to potential employers. The better talent they have, the more competitive they can be. A powerful and distinct brand is expressed through your résumé, LinkedIn profile and biography. Being a competitive candidate also means having an effective targeted employer campaign and being able to elicit several job offers. How you accept and turn down offers can impact your future career prospects. Strategic career management is like chess – you want to think several steps ahead. Let’s take a look at how this can play out.
Katie is a Marketing Director who is ready to move on to a new employer. She’s highly influential on social media and she has established herself as a thought leader. Katie enjoys a mode we call “career autopilot,” where offers to interview and meet high-powered players in her industry come weekly, and sometimes daily.
After confidentially letting her network know she’s looking for a new job, it wasn’t long before Katie began to receive interviews for a variety of companies. She had several job offers, but knows she’s only really interested in one company. The other companies offer her better pay and benefits, so Katie decided to play the companies in the hopes of getting the same benefits from her favorite company. Her favorite company ultimately rescinded the offer after deciding the amount of pay Katie wants is too high. The other two companies feel as though Katie manipulated them by using other offers and suspect that she had no real interest in ever accepting their offers. They also rescind, and Katie suddenly finds herself without any job offers AND with a new reputation as an unethical manipulator who will waste precious time and man-hours. Word spreads because the world is so small. Not only did Katie eliminate her current prospects, but also future prospects with these companies and many more who will learn about the games she played. Where did she go wrong?
Many job seekers would envy Katie’s scenario of having multiple job offers. That said, no one wants to find themselves in a position where their attempts to negotiate better pay or benefits from potential employers backfire, and they find themselves without any job offers. There is a way to create demand for yourself, use that demand to get competing job offers, and to negotiate what’s best for you without manipulating potential employers so that you can remain in-demand and position yourself for future career moves.
Social media is an excellent tool to establish yourself as an expert and to generate demand by creating and sharing valuable content. The ability to engage a recruiter or an industry influencer as a sponsor is only a few clicks away. This shows potential employers that you’re passionate about your industry and it may even help them partially determine if you’d be a good cultural fit. A productive presence on social media where you constantly create and share valuable content for your followers can make employers want to reach out to you.
That said, social media can be deceiving if you’re not careful. Being in demand doesn’t mean just having a lot of followers. Being in demand means having job opportunities that are organically generated amongst your engaged followers because you’re constantly in the spotlight. However, you’ll need to use real-world networking activities to capitalize on those opportunities and turn them into job offers. My article, “7 Steps to Powerful Introductions” details how to do this.
The ultimate leverage and the dangers of improper etiquette:
Imagine your job leads have materialized into several competing job offers. This is what I refer to as the ultimate leverage. You have the ability to choose which job interests you the most. Before deciding to accept any job offers, you must narrow down the number of companies based on a list of your personal criteria. This allows you to focus on the potential employers you really want to work for and to prequalify them as good fits. A good rule-of-thumb to remember is that when a job meets 80% of your criteria, it’s a good indication that the opportunity is a strong fit. Our Criteria Identifier and Target Company Evaluator is a tool that can help you research a company. Having these lists help you narrow down what you really want from a potential employer and will even pair down the list of competing offers.
Every person uses logic, their intuition, and their heart to different degrees when weighing these decisions, so while these tools and processes will provide you with logical input, you may still want to go with your intuition or heart. If you are drawn to a particular company or opportunity, use the same process to evaluate what you want for your life that a company might offer you that would actually make you seriously consider their offer. If the answer is nothing, gently let that company down as soon as you discover this. Thank them for the offer and express an interest in keeping in touch for the future.
If following your list of criteria still leaves you with several competing offers, you can use that as leverage to help decide which company to choose. What you don’t want to do with your potential employer is be pushy. It’s okay to let them know you have received other job offers. You don’t want to demand that they make you a better offer, or to imply that you won’t consider their current offer. The employer may just decide to go with another equally-qualified-less-demanding candidate.
Don’t try to bluff a company into hiring you sooner at a salary you want. Bluffing could consist of creating a fictitious salary, benefits, or even a fictitious offer. They may ultimately call your bluff. And you’d be surprised how many competitors consort. The companies may be competing for customers, but the employees have frequently been co-workers and friends.
You also don’t want to make unrealistic demands. For example, if you’re really interested in Company A, but Company B pays a higher salary, expecting Company A to match that salary may be unrealistic. Company A may not have the budget to match that salary and may instead offer you other benefits, such as a flexible start time, or the ability to work remotely. Be open to what a company can offer, and make the effort to determine if what they are offering has a value beyond salary. Potential employers want candidates in high demand, but they also don’t want to be manipulated or played against other employers.
Properly leverage competing offers:
When you have competing job offers, narrow down the list of offers to a favorite company and a follow-up company. As for the contenders, go into negotiations with a very clear idea about what a company would have to offer you in terms of salary and lifestyle to entice you to accept. Be transparent and respectful of their time and efforts. Hiring is costly, and companies will appreciate knowing where they stand.
Let your potential employers know that other companies are also considering you. Think about it this way: an employer doesn’t want to make an offer and prepare to hire you, only to discover you’ve suddenly turned down their offer without knowing why. You don’t have to go deep into detail with companies about competing offers, but give them a timeline of where you are in the process. Be careful with the question “Who are the other companies?” If you’ve been upfront up to now, they may believe you when you say that you’d rather not disclose that information. However, if you have been at all shifty, they will assume you are bluffing and manipulating and you’ll find yourself like Katie. Some companies, however, are conducting a confidential search, and you don’t want to look loose-lipped by divulging that, either. If it is not a confidential search, let them know with whom they are competing. If it is a confidential search, however, state so. They will appreciate your discretion.
If a company really wants to hire you, they may move the hiring process along faster or offer you incentives to help you decide. Or you could be upfront (without being pushy) and ask if the company can provide additional incentives such as extra vacation time, transportation credits, a nicer office, or even a flexible work schedule. Do not ask for these things if you wouldn’t accept the offer. Making an offer work is time consuming and requires the effort of multiple people. Don’t put them through that if in the end, there’s nothing they could offer you that would make you accept.
Once you’ve decided to accept a job offer, break the news to the competing company. Let them know you appreciate the offer and why you accepted another offer. Be kind and authentic in expressing how hard of a decision it was, and how interested you were in their company and opportunity. You don’t want to come across as rude or arrogant. It’s best to leave the door open for future opportunities or the chance to expand your network.
Having multiple companies compete over you seems like an enviable position, and it is. Once our clients are there, however, they are surprised at how much pressure they feel to make the right decision. By using our tools and processes, and by playing the game with integrity, they ensure that they are not closing doors and limiting growth. Instead they are using the ultimate leverage to win now and in the long-term.