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Ways to gain the upper hand in a job offer


When my media executive client got an offer from a top company, he mentioned it to a competitor that was his first choice but was slow to interview. The competing offer fast-tracked his hiring process. The fact that another company was in the game, and a head-to-head competitor no less, gave my client leverage to force a decision. Another interested party, especially a competitor or brand name, is one way to gain the upper hand in a job offer negotiation. Here are six others:

A Better offer

In addition to a faster decision, my client also secured a more generous package. The competing offer had a higher base, which my client mentioned in order to convince his first-choice company to match. The other company didn’t actually offer a better total package, just the higher base, so that was all my client focused on. You don’t have to share everything! Mention the items that move the negotiation in your favour.

A plentiful, productive network of contracts

Another offer works as leverage because other companies compete for you. However, it also works because it gives you the confidence not to settle. Similarly, if you have lots of helpful contacts – viable leads, people who are willing and able to refer you, strong interest from recruiters – you will also have more confidence in your negotiations.

You won’t rush to accept because you have other leads to consider. As a recruiter, I always informed my hiring groups if a candidate was in play elsewhere – being in play, but not at the offer stage, didn’t carry the same weight or urgency as an outright offer, but it did light a fire to hurry up. Keep your pipeline full even as you move towards an offer at one company.

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A widely sought expertise

Similar to the confidence a full pipeline brings, an in-demand skill set enables you to thoroughly vet an offer and ask for more. If your background is hard to find, an employer is not going to have many alternatives. When the employer is constrained in any way, you have the upper hand.

Cash in the bank

A large severance package, savings, or even a part-time consulting practice coupled with frugal living all buy you time for your search. When you feel less urgency, you don’t settle so readily. This is why I always encourage my clients who receive a generous severance package to start their search right away.

A solution to a time-sensitive problem

One of my non-profit clients was going for a senior role she had never held before – upper hand to the employer. They positioned that by taking a chance on her, promoting her to a higher level, they should be able to offer less to mitigate their risk. But my client had specific connections to the exact donors this employer was targeting – upper hand back to my client.

She countered that she offered a solution that would pay for itself. In addition, the employer had already announced a capital campaign with a tight deadline so they needed my client now – upper hand stays with my client. Not only did she offer a solution, but they needed her now

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