Steve Miller, C.P.M., CTM
Steve Miller, C.P.M., CTM, Director, Supply Management, California Amplifier, Camarillo, CA 93012, 805-987-9000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Abstract. Unemployment is at a 30 year low. It's a job-seekers market! But, many workers are untrained in job searching and offer evaluation. Job offer evaluation is the least written about, but may be the most important in today's market. Read on to learn the basics of evaluating a job offer.
What is the "Big" deal about job offers? The U.S. Labor Department states the average college graduate will change jobs 10 times in his/her career. For most people, this is more frequent than taking a two-week vacation, buying a computer or even a new car. Yet, many of us will spend far more time studying and gaining knowledge to make a decision on topics that have much less impact than changing jobs. Many psychological studies cite changing jobs as one of the top stress incidents that people are subject to. But, how many professionals are really prepared to make these critical decisions that can affect them emotionally, physically and financially, not to mention the affect on their families? The truth is, most of us get by on "gut instinct" or subjective judgment. If this is the case, then it makes sense to spend some time learning a few techniques that will benefit you many times during your career.
Why do professionals change jobs? Gone are the days when it was possible (favorable?) to work at one company for your whole career. It has not been that many years since changing jobs was considered taboo. "Rightsizing" has changed everything. Interestingly though, the underlying reasons why people change jobs has not changed all that much. Understanding the "why" is a good place to start in learning how to evaluate a job offer.
In anyone's book, leaving a job on your own terms is more desirable than on your employer's terms. Often though, the underlying reason(s) for voluntary or involuntary termination are the same. Sometimes reality is tough to swallow; studies show that most adult workers lose at least one job involuntarily. As painful as it is to lose a job, a real professional turns it into something positive, or in different words, a growth experience. Understanding someone else's perspective of how they see you, is an important, maturing fact-of-life.
Here is a true story about my first opportunity to "see myself" through someone else's eyes. Years ago I had just returned to the United States after a two-year foreign assignment. After two weeks stateside, an opportunity arose to interview for a customer-sensitive field assignment. The interview progressed well until the manager asked if I knew a fellow named "George" from my last assignment. I indicated that not only did I know George, we were actually pretty good friends. The manager proceeded to tell me that when George returned stateside, he came to work for him and was the new site supervisor at the customer location where I was being considered. The manager decided to get George on the telephone to discuss my candidacy! There was one proviso, however; I was asked not to speak when George was put on the speakerphone. What transpired next was a complete shock. George heaped high praise on my energy, enthusiasm and solid potential for greatness. The manager probed for my weaknesses and George told him that I was "A real hot head. One time Steve got so angry during a potluck dinner, that he threw a frying pan across the room." The hiring manager gave me a quizzical look, as I explored my mind to recall the frying pan incident. Well, you can imagine the final result: I did not get the job. I was really angry with George for what seemed at the time as a "grand selling-out." Later, I realized that George had done me a favor by allowing me to see myself in someone else's eyes. That opportunity allowed me to avoid many mistakes over the years, by regularly looking at myself from another person's perspective. Try it; you will be amazed at what you see.
Relating this to changing jobs, it is vital when you leave a job, voluntarily or involuntarily, that you know why you are leaving. All the fancy analysis in the world is useless if you repeat the same poor performance or take a job that has the same "problems" with it as the last job.
Whether you already have a job offer, or are just starting to look, do a self-evaluation. Remember the story from above; it is better to do some introspection while you have the chance. Often times, an attractive offer is accepted that does not address latent problems with your last position. It is easy to get caught-up in the euphoria of big salaries, fancy titles and such, only to start work and realize you made a mistake. Determine what you liked about your last job, what you did not like, what you performed well and what areas you need to improve. To avoid rationalizing your thoughts later, write down the key points. Before you get into the specifics of a job offer, be sure the intangibles that only you can judge, are compatible with the points you have identified. As was stated in the first paragraph, many people use subjective judgment to evaluate a job offer. If you faithfully perform Step One, you are on your way to making an objective, quantifiable decision.
How many people, regardless the salary and prestige, would have taken the position of Captain on the Titanic, if they knew what we know now? Too often, a job offer is too good to be true. Is the position a new one, or replacing someone else? If you are a replacement, find out the history and length of stay of your predecessors. How well does the employer articulate the duties of the position? Is there a job description? It is a sure bet that if there is not a job description and the duties can only be described in rough form, you may end-up doing much more than meets the eye, possibly tasks you have no desire to perform. Another factor in doing your "homework" is the company's business condition. Learn as much about the company as you can. Get sales brochures; read employee handbooks; check out their website; pull a 10-K report from the SEC (if publicly held) and obtain a copy of their Dun & Bradstreet credit report. Business information is good for anyone to look into, but is critical for anyone considering a management position. As a manager, the new employer may have the idea that you are going to be a "key" element in fixing the unmentioned business ills. The old theory of "The higher you go, the farther it is to fall," holds true most of the time. By not checking out the business conditions before accepting a management position, you could be a casualty of "the fall" in a year or less. Everyone likes a challenge, but nobody wants to be the Captain of the Titanic.
All the money in the world and the most prestigious title goes right down the drain if you and your new boss do not "Wear the same size." Talk about the feeling of being trapped! If you and your new boss are incompatible, it is like wearing a sweater that is two sizes too small. Chances are, you are not going to change him/her and if you try defiance, you will probably be gone before they are! Carefully evaluate your new boss at each meeting prior to accepting the job. Although this sort of evaluation can be subjective, there are many things you can look for objectively. Do they have a gender bias? Use excessive foul language? Prone to embellishment? Poor listening skills? Overly authoritarian? A good boss can make a bad situation tolerable and a good situation, great. Make sure you "Wear the same size."
Frederick Herzberg defined intrinsic and extrinsic job motivators in his "Motivation-Hygiene Theory." Herzberg states that intrinsic factors such as, recognition, job enhancement, promotion and increased responsibility are major factors to retaining an employee long-term. Extrinsic factors such as, co-worker relations, job titles, opportunity to travel and salary, are extrinsic. Herzberg's research showed that extrinsic factors can only motivate someone to a level that will remove dissatisfaction, but will not create a high level of satisfaction, leading to high achievement. When evaluating a job offer, you need to initially look past the obvious facets of the job, such as salary, benefits and so on. Look deeper into future advancement potential, opportunities to do new things and how employees are recognized for high achievement.
If an offer still looks good thus far, it is time to look at the things most people tend to incorrectly focus on. You can believe it: It is difficult to avoid dropping directly to Step Five when a prospective employer offers you a 40% increase in pay! For that much money, you would be willing to work for the most obtuse and negative person you have ever met. But, will it last? Take the time and effort to go through steps one through four, first.
So, steps one through four did not scare you away, huh? Step Five is broken down into the following four sub-routines, in order:
When dealing with salary concerns, watch for the practice of "managed compensation growth," which is routinely used by many companies. The philosophy of managed compensation growth encourages companies to pay new employees based on three factors:
Items 1 & 2 are expected; however, item 3 catches many candidates off-guard. Even if you are qualified for a job that has a higher pay scale, many companies prefer to pay you closer to the level of your compensation history. This can be upsetting because you feel your pay should be based on the higher levels of money available. Conversely, if your salary history is much higher than the scale of the position you are being considered for, a company practicing managed compensation growth may decline to offer you a job. Managed compensation growth is designed to accomplish two things:
Managed compensation growth has its merits. You may not like it when it comes to your own compensation, but it does help with the two issues just identified. If you cannot get the compensation package you want from a prospective employer, they may be practicing managed compensation growth. You can try to negotiate a better deal, but ultimately you will probably have to settle for what is offered or look for another job.
This is a two-step process. First, seek clarification on all points in question. Be careful to note any questions that get evasive answers or answers that do not meet your requirements. If you still have major, unresolved issues in steps one through four after a serious Q & A session, you may want to try one more round of clarification. If you still have major issues, then the warning bell is telling you to pass it up and look for another opportunity. If you feel good about one through four, then go to work negotiating your concerns from Step Five. One clarification: Negotiate with your prospective employer, not your family! Here is where many candidates fail the test: They are unwilling to pursue their desires upfront, thinking they can get things turned around once they are on the payroll. WRONG! Once you start collecting a check, you lose all your leverage and if you push too hard, it could be misconstrued as insubordination. Write down a list of your needs that are "musts," and those items that would be nice to have, but you would be willing to give-up. Be reasonable in your requests, but firm. If they ultimately cannot meet your needs or withdraw the offer, then the opportunity is not a loss for you; it just was not the right one.
If you accept an offer for another job, be sure you accept it with the full intent of leaving your current job. It is a dangerous practice to use a job offer to leverage a better deal from your current employer. First, they may call your bluff and let you leave without a counteroffer. Second, you may receive a counteroffer (usually in the form of more money) that may not address the real reason(s) you want to leave. Maybe you do not like your boss, or you are experiencing some on-the-job harassment. More money will not fix these problems. Employment experts will tell you that many people who accept counteroffers from their employer, end-up leaving within a year or two anyway. Before you accept an offer to go to another company, consider in advance whether you might receive a counteroffer. If you got one, would you really want to stay or would you be compromising due to the emotional pressure? If you think this through beforehand, and then it occurs, you will make a more objective decision.