How to Get Multiple Offers (Update)
Ben’s company was looking for a buyer. As Division President, he was well aware of the situation and started looking around for CEO opportunities a year ago. He called a handful of search executives that he knew and called a few new ones in his geography and industry. For a while, the search executives he contacted put him on the short list for just about every private CEO opportunity due to his track record, easy manner, and appearance. Each time a recruiter called him for a CEO search, he interviewed for the job, even if it didn’t really suit him or he wasn’t a great fit. He made it to the final round on one opportunity but on eight others, he didn’t get past the first company interview. By the time I met him, his company had been sold, he clashed with the new Board, and his haphazard search effort and subsequent failures had resulted in damaged credibility. He was no longer considered ”CEO material” by many of the top search firms.
What could Ben have done differently to generate not only one CEO offer, but multiple CEO offers that met his criteria for the ideal position?
If you are like most senior executives, when you decide to make a career move, you call a few important networking contacts and a couple of familiar headhunters. You might update your resume and profile on LinkedIn. Then, you wait for meetings and interviews. Your search may generate opportunities, but most likely in a linear fashion and they may not be the highest quality or best fit for you. Randomly considering one option at a time does not drive the best result for your career and poses higher risks to finding the ideal role for you.
Build a Strong Search Strategy
The first step in launching a career move for a senior position is to assess three key areas that will determine the parameters of your search: Yourself, your competition, and your target market.
- Take a good long look in the mirror: What do you have to offer? Self-knowledge is key. Take the time and necessary steps to get to know who you are as a leader. Define and describe yourself in terms of characteristics, skills, style, expertise and accomplishments. This will enable you to find your unique proposition, and ultimately this exercise will define who will want you and for what roles.
- Observe and learn from the competition. Who will compete with you for those roles? What do their careers look like? How are they presenting themselves? How do you stack up? What should you add or change to compete? Considering the competition, where will you win? What industries, companies and positions are likely to result in offers to you?
- Take a strategic and comprehensive view of the market. Do your homework. Assuming you know where you want to live, what position you want, how much you want to make and the type of company you want to lead; find every conduit and every company contact that will lead you to the right opportunities within the right companies.
When we started working with Ben, he still insisted on moving only for a CEO position. He felt that he was ready, and based upon our impressions of him and interviews with his references, we agreed. We advised him to build his search strategy and interview for fewer positions. He only interviewed for jobs that he really wanted and for which he had the potential to beat the competition. Within four months, Ben had two CEO offers that met all his goals and decided to accept one; the one with less short-term compensation, but which met his desire to have a relatively short-term equity event. He is still there today post change of control.
Don’t waste effort on opportunities that you don’t want or that won’t want you. Precious resources and time will be used. An inefficient search gives the wrong impression and the last thing you want is to be viewed as a “tired” candidate, one with poor interview results, or one who is confused about the next career step.
Take Focused, Rapid Action
Ben’s second mistake was to wait passively for recruiters to deliver opportunities to him. A smarter approach is to use multiple channels and go directly after the roles that interest you. Don’t be reactive, even if you are in between roles. If you have done your homework to build your search strategy, then you will focus on the space where you have the best chance of success in obtaining exceptional offers.
The goal is to have your choice of offers that meet your requirements. Senior executives should not be in the market to rack up offers and leave a trail of scorned recruiters. Instead, use laser focus and touch all the conduits and companies that have opportunities in your optimal area where your goals and the market’s goals are aligned.
Rob was EVP, General Manager for a $2B automotive division and had been trying to make a move for six months. But he was nearly burned out from a job search that had lacked strategy and rapid action. Once he defined his geographic target market and revamped his materials and message, we identified over 330 contacts to touch. Rob took the ones he knew, about thirty of them, and committed to reconnecting with each one over the next month. We prioritized the other 300 with his input and contacted them all within 90 days. After ten weeks, he had one interviewing opportunity and three weeks later, four more companies wanted to interview him.
Ultimately, Rob received four offers. He let go of the offer in his previous industry and negotiated two to the final offer stage. Rob landed his dream job, exceeding every one of his goals, plus he met his geography requirement. He was promoted last year and is still there today.
Get to Yes
How do you turn multiple opportunities into offers?
- Don’t negotiate the opportunity before it’s an offer. Many senior executives make the mistake of questioning corporate strategy, debating role specifications, and playing devil’s advocate during the interview process. If you are interviewing for the right role within a company on your target list, then pull out all stops to go the distance. Give it your best shot to get an offer.
- Don’t start comparing and evaluating opportunities too soon. So much can change during the course of the hiring process and specifically in the negotiations phase, that many senior executives cut opportunities short. A job opportunity at the senior level is analogous to a living thing; it develops and matures over time.
Daniel had three opportunities in process. Two were autonomous President positions with slight industry variations from Daniel’s present industry and one was a VP, Business Unit with matrix P&L (dotted line engineering and manufacturing) in his dream industry. From a compensation point of view, they were all very similar and in Daniels target range. They all hit the mark geographically.
One offer came in. Daniel was tired of looking and he wanted to walk away from the VP, Business Unit opportunity, since it ranked third on his list. We suspected that the offer had the potential to be the right job-maybe even his dream job. Dan had strong chemistry with the CEO. Chemistry can be a key factor at the negotiating table, and Daniel was negotiating with the CEO directly. We encouraged him to stick with it and after a series of meetings between Daniel and the CEO, he accepted a role and package that looked nothing like his initial offer. The final offer included full P&L responsibility for the core business (80% of the company) and a complete plan in writing to assume the CEO position in two years. The total annual compensation package was 2.5 times his previous earnings.
The goal in a senior search is to land your dream job. Take your best shot by creating a strategy, taking rapid action, and generating multiple offers. While there is significant advantages as a result of multiple opportunities, there is great risk in considering only one opportunity at a time. It may evaporate or take a wrong turn from your point of view and then you are back to square one. Instead, don’t eliminate an offer until you have at least three viable offers in hand. You must be methodical in your approach and tolerant of ambiguity and stress – key personality traits required in a leadership position.