job search, recruiting

The highest offer isn’t always the best offer.

My other half and I have been down the house buying path together a couple of times.

The first time was in 2006-07, right in the eye of the real estate chaos. After losing a few houses we gave up and decided to rent. (One of the best choices we’ve made, in retrospect.)

We decided to re-enter the home buying market in early 2010. We figured with banks ratcheting up approval criteria for home loans about 1000%, it would be a buyer’s market. Wrong. We lost out on two houses before we came upon another, a nicely kept Tudor in our target area.

I found it about an hour after it first hit the MLS, around 9pm. I sent the listing to our realtor. He called before 8:30am the next morning. “That house is a peach. If you’re interested you need to see it today because it’s going to sell.”

By the time we walked in the door at 8pm that night, 24 realtors had toured the house (in 1 day!) and there was already one offer. After a 20 minute walkthrough, we decided to make an offer.

Two hours later, he called. “I have good news and bad news. The bad news is there are four offers on the table–and one of them is substantially higher than yours.” My heart sank.

He continued: “The good news: The seller likes the terms of your offer better.” I was confused. How can our offer, which wasn’t the highest, be better?

The answer is: The offer is a better fit for the individual. And this also holds true in your job search. Money isn’t the only thing.

You need to carefully prioritize what is most important to you:

  • Is it work/life balance–you want to be able to arrive at 8 and leave at 5 every day?
  • Is it base compensation more important than…
  • …Bonus or incentive compensation? Are you someone that wants to control how much you make (commission-based environment)?
  • How important are benefits to you? Do you need them, or are you covered under someone else’s plan? What about cost of coverage?
  • Is location and commute a factor? There are some people that will go nearly anywhere for the right job; others don’t want anything longer than a 20 minute commute by bike or bus.
  • How about corporate social responsibility factors–is working for a company that is a good corporate citizen, and pays its employees to volunteer/matches donations/etc a strong driver?

You need to look at all of these factors in considering a job offer. It’s imperative that you know how the above factors are prioritized for you in order to make that decision.

As a recruiter, I’ve occasionally extended an offer to a candidate when the company I represent doesn’t have the highest dollar offer they are considering. But occasionally, after the candidate walks through all of the decision factors, they realize that the best offer isn’t the highest.

Oh, and the house? Our counter-counter offer was accepted at about 11:45 that night. We went to bed in a bit of a daze, not quite believing that in the short time since dinner we’d bought a house.



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