The Offer: Take It or Leave It?

Today’s post is written by Scott Trossen of the Trossen HR Group.

If you read my two prior blogs on applying and interviewing for a job, you might have felt the tone was a bit tough.  Here’s the deal: If you are reading these, it is probably because you, a family member, or a friend are looking for a new role. As you probably have experienced, it can be a difficult journey, so don’t be discouraged. A job search is, well…work. That is why I chose to be a bit in-your-face with my advice. More often it is better to set aside your pride or insecurity, and step forward. As you go through this process, you will inevitably get to the offer stage – what then?

Your resume was read and you not only were interviewed, but an offer was made. Congratulations!! The recommendations today are less precise than the prior two because how much you get paid and whether you should say, “Thank you, yes!” depends on many things.

I approached an organization about hiring me and answered the question about my salary range during the interview process. The hiring manager was preparing to call me back with a, “We really like you but are not paying that number”, when he received a phone call, “Do you know an HR person with such and such background? We are paying X.” “As a matter of fact I do, and X is his number.” Sometimes it literally pays to wait, but most times you make a decision, and never find out what might have been. Keep stepping.

It is not easy to know your exact number, your X. It is harder still to find the right organization, right commute, right work, right boss, right benefits, and a job that pays X – let alone, X plus 20%. Sadly, while managers say most people quit because of pay, those walking out say just the opposite. People leave because of poor managers or working conditions, but seldom is it due to just dollars.

Here are some ideas for negotiating a wage offer. As a business strategy, some companies choose to pay around the market average. Some managers will skinny your pay along with every other cost. Some intentionally pay above market, while others don’t even know what the rate is for a job. (Maybe you went to www.salary.com to check salaries. These sites are getting better, instead of all jobs being overpriced, only some are.) If you feel the pay is low, you may want to hold out for more or go across the street for another 50 cents an hour (which by the way, after taxes is about $15 a week). You might be tempted to say, “No, not taking that offer.” Do you know for sure another, better offer will come? Does the organization provide a great product? Is your boss really solid (which is worth so much)?

Is it arrogant or smart to demand more and walk away from less? True, it may be naïve to assume your potential employer put their best offer on the table right from the start. Though in my wide experience, the offers made are about the best the org will do. Can you get another 10% from this-already-is-our-best-offer? Maybe. This is a sensitive area. You can light the relationship bridge you just built on fire by challenging an offer. Understand compensation is a combination of science, art, general rules, and guessing. Organizations are balancing budgets, pay rates of current staff, market wages, economic conditions, and what you made in your last job to arrive at a number. “Hey, wait!” you counter. “It is not fair to consider my prior wages. Scott, you said most orgs are paying about the best they can. How can it be the best if my last pay rate influences the offer?” The offer itself is not what changes. It is who gets the offer that changes. If you make $23 an hour and the job is targeted to pay $17, you are likely not getting offered $24 or 30% over the target. Even if you make a sincere case for why you are happy to get $17, organizations find it very risky to underpay so much. The risk you will quit in the first year is simply too high.

One thing is precisely true: if you are headed towards a new job with a disappointed or bad attitude, then abort now and don’t go.

It bears repeating: Never burn a bridge. Be a blessing and step graciously through each day. This includes asking questions before acting on an assumption, and closing the loops. If you don’t want the offer (or an interview), communicate, and preferably do so voice-to-voice. If the offered position, pay, place, or peers turn your stomach, don’t say that. Just say thank you, and then a polite, no thank you.

Scott’s company the Trossen HR Group provides HR consulting and outsourcing to small and mid-size organizations.

 

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