Counteroffers Part II:
Should You Trust One from a Potential Employer?
Suppose a potential employer presents
a compensation package less than what you are expecting, then ups
the ante when you decline. Would you refuse her proposal because
anyone who offers less than what you're worth initially is probably
a long-term Scrooge? Assume your potential employer is simply naive
about your true worth, has your best interests in mind and genuinely
desires to make you a part of her team? Consider what you would do
in Jan’s situation.
Jan has been looking for a new job
the last few months because a recent banking merger eliminated her
position. Since she has been through so many downsizings in the
industry, she’s decided to focus her search on CFO or Controller
positions with fast-growing, alternative-energy companies in need
of seasoned management expertise. Last week she received an offer
from a firm that fits her criteria. Jan likes the job description,
the people, the culture and the opportunities for growth.
The only problem is the compensation.
The company offered her $8,000 less than she (and the market) thinks
she deserves. When she told the CEO about her disappointment with
the proffered salary, he said he would think about it. Today he
called to offer her $6,000 more than his original number, still
$2,000 short of her goal. Should she accept the position?
Questions Jan Should Be Asking
- Is this
company of engineers naive about what a seasoned financial pro
can demand in the job market?
- Or, does the
CEO just want to hire her "on the cheap"?
- Is he
discounting her expertise because it's different from his own
and consequently, not very important?
- Is his
unwillingness to meet her number a sign of a genuine Scrooge?
- Or, is he just
concerned about holding down expenses and keeping her salary in
line with others already on board, until the company can afford
to move beyond its current compensation model?
- If she takes
the lesser amount, will it be a constant thorn in her side?
- Or, is the
position sufficiently exciting that the opportunity outweighs
- Is there some
other perk she wants that is more valuable to her than $2,000?
- Given she is
unemployed, can she afford to reject this offer when it might be
a while until she gets another?
Jan's Thought Process
Often young companies run by
entrepreneurs are rather tunnel-visioned about things like
compensation, especially for staff personnel. Couple this with the
tendency for engineers to be generally more interested in developing
and producing the product than putting together effective management
systems, and you have a recipe for under-compensated,
under-appreciated business administrators.
Does this company's CEO understand
that technological expertise alone will not make his company a
success? If he genuinely believes that his firm needs good
financial management to move forward, he will do whatever it takes
to find and keep the right people. He may just not be financially
or psychologically able to do it at once. He may need some
educating, but he will learn quickly.
Perhaps Jan doesn't have to settle
for his second offer. If money is tight, maybe she could ask for
shares in the company, a year-end performance bonus, extra vacation,
a health club membership, dues and fees to professional
organizations and conventions, or other perks that would hold the
line on salary while increasing her overall compensation. A little
creativity might be all that's needed to bridge the gap.
Because she is changing industries
and job descriptions, the CEO may need proof of her performance
before he feels justified in giving her the income she expects.
Setting and evaluating specific quarterly goals for six months
before discussing salary again may give Jan the track record
required to increase her income.
Perhaps she should ask more questions
about company goals and spending policies before making a long-term
commitment. The CEO's resistance to meeting her salary requirements
might be a symptom of a general tendency to pinch-penny every
financial decision. If that's true, installing new systems, hiring
more people and keeping the best talent may be an ongoing struggle
not worth her effort.
There's a good chance that $2,000
will not make that much difference in Jan's lifestyle, but it can
have a tremendous impact on her attitude about her position and
executive team. If she honestly sees the issue more in terms of
principle than paycheck, she probably should reject the offer.
On the other hand, if the money isn't
that important versus the opportunity to build a company with a
committed team of respected colleagues, she should go for it.
Corporate success will breed personal success and satisfaction.
A Word of Warning
The worst scenario for Jan would be
taking a mediocre position at an insufficient salary just to have
somewhere to go every day. Doing a job she hates for less than
she's worth can have a tremendously negative effect on her
self-esteem and long-term career options. She could easily find
herself discounting her expertise because she's not getting to use
her best skills. This is a no-win situation for everyone involved,
including the company. Jan should reject such an offer and keep
looking, even if she has to do some interim temporary work to pay