Comparing Job Offers

What to Consider

The smart job seeker will assess multiple prospective employers, comparing job offers where possible. He or she will conduct comparisons across a number of different dimensions: pay, benefits, nature of the work, opportunities for advancement, chances for career growth, corporate culture, and so forth. Employers, meanwhile, frequently try to entice the desirable job applicants by engaging in puffery, such as by painting unduly rosy scenarios about what it is like to work for them.

Most unique was an experience that a young person dissatisfied with his first employer had relatively early in his career, when a new prospective employer actively discouraged him from accepting their offer until after he had completed some due diligence of his own, including comparison shopping with other firms.

The job seeker had just received a firm job offer from the managing partner for the consulting practice at the midtown Manhattan headquarters office of Touche Ross. This was a predecessor firm to what is now called Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, and which is headquartered in the same location. His next stop was a meeting with their director of recruitment. To his complete astonishment, the director insisted that he do yet more comparison shopping. Her stated reason was that she did not want him to accept the offer unless he was absolutely confident in his decision. If he became dissatisfied with Touche shortly after joining, that would be a suboptimal result both for the firm and for him, she explained.

Even more amazingly, that director of recruitment immediately called a consulting partner at a competing Big Eight (since then reduced to a Big Four) accounting firm. Peat Marwick Mitchell (now KPMG), and set up an interview for the new recruit. The recruit had a very positive, enjoyable and productive discussion with the Peat Marwick partner, which resulted in yet another job offer that he had to take very seriously.

However, Peat Marwick organized its consultants as industry and/or functional specialists, and the recruit preferred the Touche Ross concept of cultivating generalist consultants. As a result, he decided to take the Touche offer.

After comparing job offers, the main reason why the recruit preferred the generalist consulting approach at Touche Ross was that he was unsure of his future career direction. Accordingly, since being a generalist consultant would expose him to a wider variety of industries and functional areas, this would help him make more informed choices. He expected to use his tenure in consulting as a way to gain more broad-based business experience, enhance his credentials and open up much more networking opportunities. In particular, like many consultants, he hoped that successful consulting engagements would lead to attractive job offers from those client companies. Ironically, given that his next career move was to the financial services industry, assisted by a Touche Ross colleague who referred him to a headhunter specializing in this industry, the Peat Marwick offer that he decided not to pursue would have placed him in a financial services practice group.

In the ensuing years, he never forgot this unique experience.

Too many employers paint an inaccurate picture of what it is like to work for them, in order to snag recruits. Unfortunately, this practice inevitably creates disillusionment and needless employee turnover, with typically becomes a lose-lose proposition for both parties. It is usually much better, in the long run, to be fully forthcoming with potential employees. This is not to say that Touche Ross briefed this recruit on all the (many) downsides of working for them, such as the negative aspects of their up or out policy. However, they (or at least that one recruiter) were unique in their realization that better-informed hires are apt to have fewer unpleasant surprises, leading to fewer disappointments and frustrations, and thus greater employee satisfaction and productivity.