Focusing On Your Best Offer

At Kelleher, when we begin the process of working with a new client, one of the steps we take is to identify what is important to a client in his new role. Thoughtful answers can include one or more of the following:

  • I want to work for a company with a global foot print, or
  • I want to work for a company that consistently invests in R&D, or
  • I want work with a company that believes in strong brands, or
  • I want to work for an organization that is mission driven, or
  • I want to work for a firm that’s 15 minutes from my home (as I have childcare issues), or
  • I want to work for a company that takes people training and development seriously.

Doing this seemingly simple exercise becomes invaluable later in the process as many find themselves with more than one offer on relatively close timing. Among other factors, what is important to them in their new roles can be the deciding variable in a complex decision process and often more influential than the offer package itself.

Other factors influencing the decision are the role itself and individual’s fit for it, the condition of the company and the industry, the geographic location and the daily commute, opportunity for growth and advancement, the culture of the company, the relationship with and assessment of the supervisor and colleagues, the level of innovation and differentiation at the company, the nature of the competition, and, of course, the specific elements of the offer package.

Often the potential employer will put the candidate through a search process of three to four months involving multiple interviews, psychological assessments, questionnaires, and presentations before an offer is made, and then ask the candidate to absorb, evaluate and respond to an offer in just a few days.

Very often the candidate will receive their initial offer via a phone call. It is critical to make detailed notes, ask clarifying questions, request the offer in writing, and not make any commitment. It’s possible that a second, or sometimes a third offer, can come in within a week or so of the first offer, and we’re highly alert to the opportunity of using one offer to precipitate or accelerate another, a fairly common situation.

We dissect the offer, or the term sheet, element by element, looking at title, salary, bonus, equity, severance (including career transition services), relocation package or housing allowance when relevant, healthcare coverage, other cash subsidies (company car, club membership, etc.), and the non-compete/non-solicitation provisions. If a candidate has more than one offer, we obviously compare one to the other, and each offer to the client’s prior compensation package, and what we know of offer levels in the marketplace.

On occasion, we will encourage a client to accept an offer that is complete and at or above market without any negotiation. Much more often, however, there is a need to negotiate key elements of an offer package and seek clarification and information on others (organizations, for example, rarely share the specifics of severance policies unless asked directly). We construct a template to be used as a negotiating tool that captures key offer elements, matching counteroffer elements, and an appropriate rationale for each requested change. We then rehearse the suggested approach with the key negotiator from the hiring company – a human resource executive, the hiring executive, or even the recruiter who, although never the final decision maker, may be acting as the intermediary or buffer for the company.

Additionally, if there are detailed employment and equity agreements packed with legalese, we encourage our client to engage an employment attorney.

After one or more successful rounds of negotiation, sometimes with more than one company, our client is well-positioned to accept a much improved offer relative to what was on the table initially. In a very recent situation, for example, we were able to help a client secure over $300,000 more than the company initially offered. An improved end result is very common when our Kelleher coaches work closely with clients during the negotiation process.

In summary, we employ a series of practices and tools that consistently prove to be crucial in helping clients define the role they are seeking, and develop a strategy and plan to secure the role. We then stand shoulder to shoulder with them to assess the opportunity and optimize the offer.