Every job candidate’s dream is to have several job prospects that meet your job specs and simultaneously produce offers when you’re ready to make a decision.
Sometimes it really does work out that way; most of the time it doesn’t. And what you’re left with, as the anonymous poster on Quora this morning noted, is a “way to extend a job offer” so they can see what other offers surface?
Joe Light from the Wall Street Journal wrote last week that there’s been a recent uptick in executives receiving multiple job offers, but also noted that it’s sector dependent. Like Goldilocks soup at the Bear household, some sectors are hot, some sectors are cold.
There are ways to steer the timing and conversation, but it’s frankly tricky and may get you bounced (e.g. places won’t consider you seriously unless they’re desperate or fall in love with you) once you’ve thought things over. And note that it’s thought over, not over thought (thank you David Allen Ibsen).
First the basics:
- It’s a really, really small world. The place (and person) you stiffed badly three years ago may pop up (Yogi Berra: “It’s deja vu all over again”) when you run into them in another place, and as another hiring manager. In a region like the San Francisco Bay area, the interconnections between board members, entrepreneurs, execs (and all of their families) are amazingly intersected. Word, in other words, gets out. Not six degrees of connection; more like two.
- It’s helped to be focused on what you really want. If the goal is a job that fits within your specs, than I’d recommend the first job that fits well is the job you accept. Psychologically we’re always hungrier before the meal; a couple tastes later and we start to get choosier. Unless you want to drive yourself crazy with neurotic anxiety (paging Woody Allen), avoid perseverating over choices that could have been or might have been. It’s a value-less exercise, and it will also chase away any helpful advisors if you pull the act more than once in a decade.
- You are mostly what you do – not what you hope. Your brand – everything associated with you in the work (and perhaps, personal) world – is what defines you. Think Michele Bachmann and most people think looney tunes as one of the descriptors. Think Hillary Clinton and people will toss in perseverance as a descriptor. When it comes to you and what you’ve done, what’s your brand?
- Never lead anyone on. See the three bullet points above.
So what’s a way to juggle multiple job offers? As I’ve thought about the issue from an earlier post on a similar subject, there are two paths that come to mind:
- One way is to ask for more time when you receive an offer you want to consider. The explanation should be accurate; “I’ve got a couple of things in motion and I’d like to be able to consider your offer along with the others. I think there are a number of things that are very attractive about working with you, and having some perspective on your generous offer against what other options might exist is the best way for me to know I’ve made the best decision.” It also means you may need to goose other prospects to see if they can accelerate their process so any offers happen around the same time. While it’s uncommon in the regular private sector to know that offers will hit at the same, it does happen in things such as college / grad school recruiting, and in some sectors such as education. Which leads me to the second point.
- Let folks know you expect that you’ll see some great employers with potentially interesting opportunities. Your fantasy is that you can consider all options at the same time. While this approach usually own works for people of great talent (think LeBron James or Apple’s Jony Ive ), it can make the runner-ups think you’re a jerk (think LeBron James) and burn some bridges even if it’s authentic and genuine.
Cut to the chase? There is a fine balance between wanting it all, and understanding most employers want the same. Threading that proverbial needle is what separates people with great EQ and “luck” from people with less grace and opportunity.
Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, new role, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.