I have had many candidates say to me, “Pete, I’m not going to jump at the first offer that comes along.” Fair enough and, in a lot of cases, a smart strategy. But is it? How do you know that bypassing your first offer means that you will get something better down the road? Let’s explore some circumstances and strategies that will help guide you through this dilemma.
First of all, you should examine where you are at that particular time. Are you unemployed? Are you about to be unemployed? Are you happy or unhappy in your current situation? Do you have enough resources to carry you through an extended time of unemployment? You need to assess where you are to determine your course of action, and it could very well be that in all the above-mentioned circumstances, the best offer may be the first one.
If you are unemployed, I hate to say it but you may be in a position of weakness. Now I’m not saying by any means that you should accept a position that would be damaging to your career path or hurt you financially, but I am saying that you may want to adjust your criteria at this moment and reassess your situation. And that may mean accepting the first offer. If you do not, the next position may not come for several months, and you could be forced to accept an even lower position at that time.
Now if you are on a severance package, you do have time to assess various options. But the tendency is to over scrutinize job opportunities thinking that other offers may come and may come quickly. But what if they don’t? As time draws near the end of your severance package you may also grab something that you would not have accepted months earlier. You may have bypassed that great career opportunity months earlier only because it was the first offer.
If you are currently employed and are just beginning your job search, you undoubtedly will avail yourself of several resources such as Med Reps, LinkedIn, referrals, and use of Executive Search firms. You may receive several phone calls/e-mails from companies and recruiters wanting to interview you. And you will go on interviews and may get that inevitable first offer. So you have to ask yourself, “Do I turn this down because this offer is not right, or am I turning this down JUST BECAUSE IT IS THE FIRST OFFER? If you employ the latter strategy, you may be making a mistake.
So how do you guard against making an error in judgment? A simple solution is to create a simple checklist of criteria that a company must have in order for you to accept a position. The criteria can be important as “Will this company promote me in three years or sooner?” or as trivial as, “The company car must have a four-wheel drive for winter driving.” Keep in mind that the criteria are YOUR criteria -not the recruiters nor the hiring managers.
You should list five criteria that are important to you and you only. And each time a recruiter calls or you interview with a company, you should match that opportunity against your five criteria. If the opportunity matches the criteria, you should take the job- even if it is the first offer. That will safeguard you against wasting your time on countless interviews and calls from desperate managers and recruiters eager to fill their position. And it will certainly safeguard you from waiting months on end for a better offer- an offer which may never come.