Q. I think I am coming close to an offer. I have had two interviews, and they told me they will be checking my references, and then inviting me in for another meeting. Everyone tells me to be ready for an offer. What does that mean?
A. Congratulations may be in your future, and all the signs point that way, but that doesn’t mean your work is over. Being ready for an offer means making sure the hiring manager and organization have no obstacles to making the offer. It also means knowing what you want in an offer so that negotiation and your acceptance go smoothly.
You have selected references who want to support your job search and can speak highly about your skills, work ethic, and talents demonstrated when you worked together. Your references need to know what the job is, why you are the ideal candidate, the challenges you will face and all about the skills you have to address these challenges. If there are any issues or concerns the hiring organization has about you, prepare your references to address these as well. Do not let them be surprised. Your references should sound similar enough to show they are all speaking about the same person, but not so identical the content appears scripted.
Ask your references to contact you as soon as they have completed the reference conversation. They can provide you with information about the questions asked, areas of special interest in your skills, and you’ll want to know if there are any issues. If there are, you may be able to have your other references address them in their conversations.
Make sure to select and prepare your references every time they may be called, and ask for that return call. Excellent reference conversation can validate why an organization wants to make an offer, or raise concerns that might not have been there prior to the conversation. Certainly a written thank you is in order after all the support is provided.
Being ready for an offer also means you know what you want your offer to look like. Compensation packages are involved with many areas including salary, benefits, retirement contributions, flex hours, the opportunity to work virtually, vacation time, tuition reimbursement, child care and car allowances. Companies change compensation packages based on the role, the value to the organization, and the difficulty in making a successful recruit. You may change what you want in a compensation package based on where you are in life, and being able to prioritize what matters to you will help you create a win-win environment .
Knowing what you hope to receive in an offer allows you to be prepared for the offer discussion while your negotiation power is at its peak – when the offer is made. Being ready for an offer also means knowing about the corporate culture and what will most likely be acceptable regarding what you value most as part of your package. If your highest priority is a 4-day work week and working virtually for at least two of them, what are you willing to give up in exchange? Is this an organization who has done this before? If not, your chances of making your offer look like this are slim – unless you have skills that are in high demand.
Take a complete list of offer components, and prioritize what you need and want. Evaluate what you’ll be willing to let go of so that you can maximize the gain in the areas you rank most highly. When the offer comes, be appreciative. Thank you is the appropriate first response. Then listen to all that is offered – the details really matter here. Does it meet what you had hoped for? Is it in the right range? Is something vital missing? Increase your value by reminding them why the match between your skills and the position is ideal. Then ask if you can ask a question about the offer. Your question might be about the flexibility in the offer because you have just a few points you’d like to address. Be ready to discuss your top picks, in a very positive manner. Negotiations will move forward if handled professionally, and show that you are ready for an offer.
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Meet the Jobs Docs
Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.