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What to do When Everyone Wants You

Deciding between two (or more) job offers

By Nancy J. Mellem

After you complete the painstaking job application and interview processes, the period of waiting and wondering begins. The wait won't last long, however, if you've done everything properly. In an ideal situation, an employer will get back to you quickly and offer you a position. At that point, they will also highlight the benefits of the position including the starting salary, vacation days, 401(k) options, health coverage and any other perks offered. In a really ideal situation, more than one employer will offer you a job. In fact, you might even find yourself choosing between multiple offers!

Perhaps it's difficult to imagine this kind of situation in the current job market, but multiple job offers can still happen particularly within some high-demand engineering disciplines. Assuming you find yourself in the enviable position of having two or more offers on the table, you have a major decision to make. But the job offer assessment process is complex what might be an ideal employment situation in some aspects could be a nightmare in others. For example, a position with Company A might have an amazing starting salary, but the work environment might be extremely high pressured and demanding. A job with Company B, however, might offer lower pay but plenty of on-the-job perks, like flexible hours.

So, how do you begin to figure out which job is right for you? The first step is to sit down and write out a side-by-side comparison of the multiple offers so you can clearly define what each company is offering.

Salary

Salary is the most easily quantifiable factor in the comparison of multiple job offers. Which company is offering the most money? As a foundation for the comparison process, salary is a good place to begin, however, there are many other factors that can affect the appeal of the base salary offer. And keep in mind, by the time a company makes you a job offer, they've probably gone through the trouble of researching your salary range and have made you an offer based on this knowledge. As a result, your multiple salary offers might be very similar, so you'll need to dig a little deeper into the offer.

Benefits

It's vital to take a close look at the benefits packages of each offer. One company's package may far outshine the other, and this could easily tip the balance in favor of a particular company. Benefits packages will offer you some or all of the following:


  • Health insurance

    • Medical
    • Dental
    • Vision
  • 401(k) or (government equivalent)
  • Stock options
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Vacation time

These are quantifiable factors in the job offer and should be considered as part of the complete salary package. These benefits are also the points that can make a job offer much sweeter in the negotiation process.

There may be certain additional benefits that are unique to the company making you an offer. For example, imagine that both Company A and Company B are automotive companies and both have made you very similar offers. Company A, however, offers employee discounts on new cars. The only downside is that it is located across the country forcing you to move and incur the expenses. Company B does not offer any discounts, but it is located close to home so you won't have to move. This is where personal interests come into play. If you are an individual who buys a new car on a regular basis and is looking for a change of scenery, Company A would be the perfect match. Another person could be perfectly happy with their used Honda and would accept Company B's offer simply because they view not having to move as a much more desirable benefit.

The Not-So-Specifics

If you've made your comparison list of quantifiable factors and you're still not sure which company to choose, you'll have to take a look at the qualitative aspects. It can be very helpful to make another list at this point in the process; it should contain your personal information and goals. Here are some factors to include:


  • Career goals

    • Possibility for advancement in the company
  • Project-related goals
  • Opportunity to learn a new vocation
  • Personal goals

    • Family
    • Travel
    • Change of geographic residence
  • Family's goals/needs

    • Children's education
    • Impending marriage

Before you interviewed, you most likely did some research on the company, and during the interview process, you probably learned even more about the company. Now, however, it's really time to give the company a hard look. At this stage you must determine whether or not the company will allow you to reach your goals both personal and professional.

"There are numerous sources of information about nearly every company. Information can be found in the library, in stores, in retired employees, in databases and on the Internet. You want to learn all you can about the company, its people, its products, its markets, its competition and its future," asserts Jeffrey Fox in his book, Don't Send a Resume, And Other Contrarian Rules to Help Land a Great Job. He goes on to say, "When doing your research, constantly ask about problems, changes in the marketplace, areas to improve, trends that affect the company, and new product ideas." If a company is doing well in their market, chances are you will do well while working for that company.

The information you discover as you do some in depth investigating should solidify your confidence in a company or lead you to believe they aren't the workplace for you. With a firm grasp on the quantitative and the qualitative aspects of each offer and a little "gut instinct," a clear decision should present itself.

It's Negotiable

When you enter into negotiations with a prospective employer you are taking a risk. Orrin Wood, author of The Executive Job Search: A Comprehensive Handbook for Seasoned Professionals, warns: "Negotiating with a future employer on compensation can put you in a delicate position. In buying a house or a car, your involvement with the seller is only on that particular transaction. In the case of a job, however, you are negotiating with those who you're going to work closely with if you accept the offer."

Others argue that if you make a decision to accept an offer without negotiating, you are missing an opportunity. Both sides are correct, and you will have to answer a few key questions to help you figure out if you should negotiate.

How many applicants are there for the position?
This information should come up during the interview, and if it doesn't, ask. If there are 100 applicants for a position, why should the company negotiate with you? If there are 100 applicants and you decide to negotiate, you had better be the only one who can successfully bring project B back from the brink of failure, and don't make this claim unless you really are the one.

How high (or low) is the position on the food chain?
Let's face it, fresh-out-of-college employees usually start in entry-level positions. Negotiating at this level is not recommended because there are usually many applicants who can be easily trained for the position.

One thing you can discuss with an employer at this level is the date of your first review, however, this should be a request and not a demand. Ask the employer, "Will I have an opportunity for an early review? I would like to receive feedback from my supervisor as soon as possible." This will show the employer that you are eager to benefit the company, and it will also demonstrate that you're savvy enough to know that early reviews are an option. It might not get you a raise right away, but you will get feedback that could help you to get a better raise when your yearly review comes around.

The higher up the position is on the food chain, the more room there is for negotiation. Of course, the jobs toward the top of the food chain will most likely be the ones that are filled by individuals with extensive, specialized experience in their field.

Is the interviewer open to negotiation?
On rare occasions, the interviewer might open the door to negotiations. If they do, it could be something as obvious as, "We realize the salary we are offering for the position is a bit lower than you were hoping, however, there is some flexibility in. . ."

Certainly, if the interviewer opens the door to negotiations, take advantage of the situation. Keep in mind, this is not an opportunity to ask for a brand-new company car and a month of paid vacation. Before the negotiation, assess what the shortfall in base salary is and ask for balancing compensation in benefits. This will show the employer that you have good business sense and that you're just seeking fair compensation.

Are you sure you want to work for this company?
Asking an employer to negotiate with you is asking them to devote more time and effort. Don't ask them to expend this time and energy if you aren't very serious about taking the position.

This can be tricky since you may be choosing between multiple job offers. Once you enter into negotiations with a company, you should be certain that if their offer is decent, you would take the position. Remember, you don't want to burn any bridges with a company that might hire you in the future, and there's no better way to sour a relationship than engage a company in negotiations and then decline their offer. If they are making a good faith effort to attract you to the position, you need to show a little good faith in return.

Nancy J. Mellem is a contributing editor for Graduating Engineer & Computer Careers magazine.

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