Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Evaluating Multiple Job Offers

I have often wondered why many candidates tell me that they have to think about an offer, usually over a weekend or for a couple of days.  If a candidate has asked the right questions and met all the people they need to meet, they should be able to accept or reject an offer pretty much on the spot (accepting a job is a big decision and should certainly be discussed with family or other close advisors). I have written about accepting job offers previously, but I wanted to put it in a different perspective.

Often people hesitate because they are contemplating multiple opportunities.  Be careful.  As they say, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.  When interviewing at multiple companies, it is vitally important to obtain comparable information from each so that you have the proper information to accept or reject offers.

A surprising number of people evaluate offers based on the wrong criteria.  Title, salary, even vacation should play only a minor role in the decision making process.  The key thing is always the opportunity.  Never be greedy or you will end up like the dog in the Aesop tale of the dog and the bone.  The story goes something like this:

It so happened that a dog had a fine bone and was carrying it home
to chew on in peace.
   On his way, he had to go across a plank over a stream.
   As he walked across the plank, he looked down and saw his reflection
in the water.
   Thinking that it was another dog with another bone, he made up his
mind to have that bone, too.


But when he snapped at his reflection, his own bone fell into the water and was lost forever.
Moral: The greedy often lose what they have.

I was recently quoted in Bloomberg.  The essence of what I was talking about is how to interview properly so that you can evaluate an offer.  During the interview process, especially when seeing multiple people, a smart candidate will ask each of them the same questions and look for variations in the responses.  That is smart interviewing.  If you are lucky enough to be interviewing simultaneously at multiple companies, the same thing applies.  You want to be able to compare apples to apples.

It is important to ask tough and smart questions while interviewing.  Asking things like why the job open may actually generate different responses from different people who interview you (I have seen this happen) which can then be evaluated and, if the responses seem to be in conflict, they should be challenged.  Asking about both the opportunity and the likely career path can generate surprise answers; I once had a candidate who was told that every single person who had succeeded in this job had been promoted quickly. It turned out that this was a very important job and was watched closely by management.  Finding out how your success will be measured and determining what the criteria for success can make all the difference.  I always tell candidates to determine if they can succeed; this means determining how performance will be evaluated and insuring that you have both the responsibility and authority to succeed.  That is information which should weigh heavily in decision making.  And it doesn’t matter if you are interviewing at one company or ten, this is critical information.

The best way to evaluate multiple offers (as well as any single offer) is to determine if you can succeed in the job.  I once had a president who was considering three possible offers.  When we discussed them, it turned out that he could be successful in only one of them.  The choice was easy.

When an offer is made, the response should come quickly and easily.  If a candidate is evaluating multiple jobs and both are in relatively the same timetable, asking the right questions should make the decision almost anti-climactic. If the information gathered in two different opportunities is not comparable, it is critical to a career to obtain comparable information so that you can determine whether you can succeed..


  1. Nice post.

    I believe that "proper interviewing" (as described above) can be challenging, driven by the relative comfort of ignorance—particularly among candidates who are actively looking.

    To wit: "It is important to ask tough and smart questions while interviewing."

    Sound advice, but often challenging advice to execute fully. Candidates who "want out" of an existing role, or who have the misfortune of being unemployed, are more likely to be reticent to mine deeply for information that can derail getting to that coveted green grass. Ignorance is bliss. It's contentious work to weigh the "hard" qualities of any job (salary, title, colleagues) against any "soft red flags" (inconsistent information, ambiguity, unease, etc.) that may arise. We are human. We want a new situation. New ladders are hard to come by, especially as you advance in your career. So it's much less stressful—and much safer emotionally—to be on the "things left unsaid" side of the fence. A foolish strategy for all the reasons you point out, but much easier emotionally during a period that's already steeped in anxiety.

    (this is probably why recruiters tell us that the best candidates are often those content in their current role.)

    1. Dan, What a nice thoughtful comment. I suspect you are right. But I also believe that smart people appreciate smart questions when they are interviewing prospective candidates. But your points are very well taken. Thanks.

    2. No doubt. Your post was a good reminder of that.


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