Many job searches during this post-lockdown period result in candidates receiving multiple offers.
That is a high-class problem for a job hunter, but that situation requires finesse to avoid burning bridges. Egos, time, money, and personal relationships all play a role in the outcome.
Most of the time, when a company extends a job offer, its team believes that the candidate fits well with the business, culture, and goals of the company. The company management expects that the opportunity works well for the candidate as well. Candidates often interview with different companies for a variety of reasons. Candidates use interviews for practice, out of curiosity, or sincere interest. Sometimes as candidates learn more about a firm/team, they become less enthusiastic, but do not necessarily indicate that diminishing interest. The company will waste time and money pursuing the candidate who has little likelihood of accepting an offer.
Sometimes, candidates interview for more than one role that interests them and until each company presents an offer, it can be hard to distinguish between them. An offer can help to separate what each company can provide in compensation, title, and career growth. That decision can be clear cut. When the offers look similar, candidates need to spend more time with the teams to get a read on how things really work. Candidates can speak to former employees as well to get a clearer picture.
Hiring managers understand that when there are two strong offers, they can end up jilted. But there are job seekers who collect offers. It can happen to feed an ego or to assure they have some alternative to their current role or to unemployment. In the latter situation, stringing along a company to make sure there is some job offer, makes sense. In the former, companies often figure out what happened. If these are people that the candidate may encounter again socially, on a deal or the next time they look for a role (since people move around), there can be long term negative ramifications.
The worst outcome results when the offer is used to leverage a better situation with a counteroffer from the candidate’s existing employer. Here is an example:
Jack G. complained constantly that he was not appreciated in his role as a Director in XYZ Investment Bank’s Financial Sponsor group. Jack had significant revenue attached to his name. The bank decided not to do any promotions to MD in his department. Jack was concerned that there would be no opportunity in the next cycle either. When a recruiter brought the opportunity for an MD role in the Financial Sponsors team at ABC Bank, Jack knew the group head and decided to have a conversation. Jack went on to meet the entire team and it looked like a good fit all around. Jack received an offer with a significant guarantee and an MD title. Whether out of “loyalty” to the head of his team at XYZ or because he preferred to stay put, Jack informed management that he would be leaving the bank.
XYZ Bank’s senior staff went into overdrive with the goal of preventing Jack from leaving the bank. The Head of Investment Banking, the Vice Chairman and a variety of other senior bankers paraded through a conference room where Jack was escorted when he told his group head about his plans. They told Jack that he was a rising star, they planned to promote him to MD, that they would match the offer from ABC Bank and contribute to internal funds on his behalf that would vest over the next three years. They warned him of problems at ABC Bank, the risk he took, that he could be a LIFO layoff. They appealed to Jack’s loyalty and convinced him that he would be foolish to leave. Jack turned down the offer from ABC Bank. Later that year, when XYZ bank’s revenues fell short of expectations and the Board insisted on layoffs, Jack got the first “pink slip.” It was an easy decision. Jack proved himself to be disloyal.
That example is fictitious but is based on numerous scenarios we have witnessed as recruiters.
Occasionally, accepting a counteroffer works out to the job seeker’s advantage but that is the exception. Typically, the disloyal employee misses out on promotions, larger bonuses, or other opportunities.
The Showtime television series Billions used this type of scenario in Season 1, Episode 3, “Yum Time.” The career counselor Wendy who works at Axe Capital learns from the Axe COO that a key portfolio manager has received a job offer from another fund. That PM used the offer to try to get a better deal from Axe. The COO was so angry about her disloyalty that he planned to make her a counteroffer and then prevent her from getting and using information that she needed to make investment decisions. Without information, the PM would not be able to invest effectively and would fail to reach the returns needed to get her improved package. She would eventually be forced to leave and would no longer have her strong track record. Although that was also a fictional story, it did not come from Andrew Ross Sorkin’s imagination. It was likely based on stories he had heard.
When you have a job offer that you would like to accept, do not seek a counteroffer and if you are offered one, do not accept it!
They rarely result in an improved position. If there were grand plans for you in your current firm, it should not have taken an outside offer for you to find out. If you take the counteroffer, do not believe that the outcome will be different for you. There is a slim chance that the promises will be realized but they probably will not, and you will never have the same value in the market again.
If you found this article helpful you might also want to check out, “The Art of Resigning“