As an executive recruiter, I recognize that some candidates will tell me what they think I want to hear. For the most part, I give people the benefit of the doubt that they are being truthful, although there is one statement that candidates say that I no longer allow myself fully believe, “Money is not that important.”
I used to love hearing “money isn't that important” because I thought it meant that the candidate was truly evaluating the job without dollar signs in their eyes. Yet, too many times when we were at the offering table I’d find myself on the phone with a seemingly different candidate than who first uttered those words. Over the years, I've learned that money is always important.
Now, I don’t think anyone is being purposefully untruthful; it is just that people get uneasywhen a big decision is being presented to them, especially when money is concerned. Considering a job offer is foreign territory for most people, and they want to make sure they don’t leave money on the table. I call this uneasy feeling Offer Anxiety. I wanted to answer some routine questions I get around offer time with the hopes that it will ease the pressure of this big decision on unfamiliar footing:
1. Are you (the recruiter) going to negotiate for me? First, I want to say that most offers are generated with careful consideration and companies extended the thought-out offer with the expectation that a negotiation will not take place. Much effort goes into the generation and approval of an offer, and companies don't desire to unnecessarily go through it more than once. The best time to influence your offering is before the offer is even formulated, not after, and that is where a recruiter can help the most.
Before the offer is generated, a recruiter should have a conversation with their client about what would and would not be acceptable to the candidate. Fraught with Offer Anxiety, some candidates begin playing coy with their recruiter, not clearly directing them. The recruiter and the company simply want to find out what is and what is not acceptable, so that they will get a "yes" when extending the offer. The recruiter speaks in your behalf to broker the best deal for each side.
2. Should I accept their first offer? A major misconception out there is that it is a best practice to never accept a company’s first offer even if it is great. There may be some who would agree with that, but I don't necessarily subscribe to this way of thinking. Let me explain...
In a following article, I will address my philosophy on accepting a company's first offer, so stay tuned for that.
3. How do I politely ask for the offer to be increased without burning up political capital? If the offer is not acceptable but you really want the job, then that is a separate topic than just asking for an increase without well-founded reasons. The simple way to get them to an agreeable set of terms is to tell them exactly what you would accept and explain why the current offer is not something you can accept. Don’t allow them to generate another offer without them clearly knowing what would get you to say "YES!".
Here’s a script that you can form into your own words, “Mr./Mrs. Manager, I am very grateful that I am the person you've chosen to hire, and I am excited to be on the team. I can’t wait to get started on PROJECT-A and PROJECT-B. The only hesitation I have at this point is that the financial part of the offer was below what I was expecting. Can you help me understand what factors XYZ used in generating this offer? (HEAR THEM OUT) I understand. With the financial responsibility of my family resting on my shoulders, the current offer is not something I can accept. I wanted to say clearly what I would accept so that we can get started on these projects. I would, without hesitation, accept an offer of $__________. The reason that is an appropriate offer in my situation is because __A,B, and C__. Do you think an offer like that is appropriate and possible for XYZ to do?”
I hope this insight is helpful as you work through the very real anxieties that exist around offer time. I recommend to develop trust with your recruiter throughout the process and confide in them about what would be an acceptable and unacceptable offer. To alleviate Offer Anxiety, be candid about your expectations so that your recruiter can successfully broker this touchy part of the process and save your political capital. If you want the job and like the people, be fair and reasonable as you consider their offering. This will ensure that you start this new journey on the right first step.