Managing Multiple Executive Job Offers

Now that the job market is heating up again, it’s worth considering the goal of every executive employment process-the offer. If one offer is great, getting the chance to consider multiple offers for high-quality opportunities is the “Holy Grail” for candidates. Figuring out how to manage multiple opportunities is a great problem to have but nonetheless can create stress for candidates trying to figure out how to leverage the best job at the right salary among often competing professional priorities. Here are the key areas to consider when weighing multiple opportunities:

Have formal criteria prepared
Depending on the model one is using, about 10-15 key categories comprise career satisfaction. They include compensation, intellectual fulfillment, culture, mission, work life balance, influence, independence – among some others. Of those key criteria, most executives consider some critical, some “nice to haves,” and others that are less important. Know what is important for you.

Rank these opportunities
Now that you have identified the key criteria important to you, evaluate the aspects of different job opportunities against those. If one opportunity is high on all criteria it’s clearly the winner. Executives need to think through the interplay among their criteria, if one opportunity is good in some areas while another opportunity is better in others. Ask yourself, what things are most important to you? What compromises are you willing or not willing to make? Sometimes even with a criterion that might not be most important to a client, there still is a minimum baseline a person feels they need to reach. For example, I’ve had many clients say that while compensation isn’t their most important variable for selecting a role, the pay needs to be above “X.”

Have a negotiating strategy
The first rule of negotiations is “don’t lose the offer.” An employer deciding to extend an offer is a significant sign. Express that you appreciate getting the offer and that you are very interested in the role before getting into negotiations to improve it. Make sure before those negotiations start you really understand the offer. How is the bonus determined? Is the equity really likely to be worth it, depending on different scenarios? Understanding the offer comes before negotiating for more!

Once negotiations start, use your leverage effectively, but don’t over estimate your leverage or wield it like a hammer. Let the employer know you are really interested in the position but have other options. Learn more about the offer and explain your position. Negotiating offers is fine and expected but it has to be done wisely. Even when you have gotten what you think is a “low ball” offer, don’t assume the employer has intended to low ball you. Learn how and why they got to that offer and explain your own position. It’s not just about what you want but about effectively explaining your rationale for why what you want is fair and appropriate to the situation.

Obviously, having another offer that is paying more is an important piece of leverage but understand when you are comparing apples and oranges. Having the big offer from the multi-national company may help you negotiate a start-up to stretch a bit on base pay, however, understand they are two very different kinds of opportunities and they will likely be compensated as such.

For slower moving preferred opportunities, try to appropriately coax them by gently conveying you are working through other options-that you are very interested or even excited about that organization’s role but are also being presented with other faster moving potential options. You have to position it properly, but it can help speed up the process, or at least provide perspective regarding where you stand with that organization.

Relationships matter-try to end things in the right way
Be mindful of burning bridges with employers and especially recruiters. I’ve seen relationships end based on how an executive candidate handled him or herself during the search process. When and why you turn down a job may have implications for a recruiter’s willingness to present you with a different opportunity at some time in the future. It’s fine to pull yourself out of a process early because you conclude it’s not the right fit. However, once you receive an offer, your messaging needs to be more thoughtful if you turn down an opportunity. Recruiters may not be happy if you turn down a job because you like another offer better but they get it. Be sure to convey that you took the opportunity seriously, “I really liked the organization, really loved the people and culture, but this other opportunity better fits my global interests.”

If you turn down an offer because of things you knew earlier in the process, such as location or compensation, they aren’t so forgiving. Hearing, “We’ve decided we don’t want to relocate” at the 11th hour or telling a recruiter that “the compensation is too low” when you conveyed it was acceptable earlier in the process, is a likely way to end a relationship with that person. Additionally, recruiters don’t appreciate believing they were being used as foil merely to help drive up the offer from a different organization.

Rescinding offers after accepting them or leaving a role after a short amount of time can have even bigger implications. It can be done (there are few absolutes in managing careers), but a lot of thought should be given to how it could affect future opportunities, how you should do it, and the messaging around it to others, including future employers.

Having multiple career opportunities and/or offers can be professionally rewarding. Managing them can be tricky but also exhilarating. The key to success is to couple thoughtful strategy with appropriate action.

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