Tech & Work

Playing the counter-offer money game: Is it blackmail?

If a high-paying job offer lands at your feet unexpectedly, is it blackmail to use this in an effort to increase your salary with your current employer? Find out what career guru Kevin Rosenberg advises.


Let headhunter Kevin Rosenberg help you set your career compass. Kevin is managing director and partner of BridgeGate LLC, a California-based search firm. Kevin specializes in IT management searches and shares career tips in this monthly Q & A column.

Q: I am writing in response to your reply (“Changing stripes mid-career, and playing the counter-offer money game”) on Oct 28, 1999, to a question from AF. I find that you are being kind of harsh with AF. He doesn’t indicate that he has signed with the offering company, just that it is an enticing offer. Couldn’t he use that offer (without signing) and go back to his current employer and say, “I don’t want to leave, but here is what someone else is offering?” He doesn’t jeopardize his reputation with the offering company because he hasn’t accepted anything yet.

I am in a similar position at the institution where I work, and I don’t have many qualms with it. I hope to keep it between the HR person and myself. I want to keep working at the institution, just with a higher wage. Any comments?
bulkf

Rosenberg: Perhaps my tone was abrupt—I just reread my response. However, the message was important and should not be dismissed simply because the delivery was more pointed than the recipient may have liked. But consider this:
Robbery by gunpoint or verbal threat is still robbery, right? Well, marching into an employer's office with an offer letter in hand under the auspices of demonstrating what another company is “willing” to pay is extortion, albeit a mild form of extortion.

To do so, even with the most polite tone, can and most likely will forever change your employer/employee relationship.

A better tactic would be to engage your employer on the mission of determining whether or not your compensation package is commensurate with the market and your experience. To do so, schedule a meeting with your boss or HR to discuss your perception of the market, any facts you may have, and your sincere interest in continuing your employment.

If, after doing so, you do not receive an increase, it is fair for an employer to expect that you may begin looking for a new job, especially since you approached the situation with professionalism and the desire for an equitable solution—not with an ultimatum (implied or otherwise).

If you still feel that I am off base, perhaps we should agree to disagree.

Q: I have recently started job-hunting and came to the realization that sending out resumes just isn't enough. I keep reading about how calling the department managers directly can get you "in the door" for an interview a lot faster.

However, I'm a little nervous about calling the department manager when they have a fully functioning human resources department to handle these types of calls. What do you think is the better approach to "cold-calling" companies for possible interviews? Do I risk destroying any opportunities for a job when I call the manager directly?
JYoung

Rosenberg: You are right. Sending out resumes is rarely enough even in the most prolific times. A good job search is a series of well-organized efforts run parallel. The typical methods by which individuals conduct a job search in the technology field when times are good are too passive. Certainly, the results may be acceptable, but the question remains: Did the individual do all that he or she could to identify the best possible job, or just the first possible job?

When advising candidates that are “actively looking,” I recommend they do numerous things during their search, including:
  1. Research and identify possible employers and send resumes to them.
  2. Network with other professionals in similar fields through user groups and professional associations.
  3. Interview and select a series of recruiters to aid in the search.
  4. Regularly scour advertisements and Web sites for opportunities.
  5. Maintain a diary of events during the search to track where resumes have been sent, where interviews were conducted, follow-up letters, etc.

Similarly, I stress the importance of getting on the phone. A resume can be a static and silent vehicle during your job search. During these times of hyper employment growth, internal HR pros are inundated with open positions to manage. Accordingly, it is very easy for the stacks of resumes to blend together. Yours may very well blend in at the bottom of the stack.

In order to overcome this, a well-placed call to both the HR department and the person whom you believe to be the hiring manager is a great idea. Sure it may be assertive, but I’d rather hire the eager and assertive person than the person who is willing to wait.

If you are uncomfortable calling a CIO or Veep directly, a suggestion may be to call his or her administrative assistant (AA). The CIO’s AA, arguably among the most influential people in the department, can be an invaluable resource. Calling the AA, succinctly explaining your knowledge of an open position in the organization, your background and qualifications, as well as your interest, and coupling that with a request for their help in getting your resume in front of the “decision maker,” can make a world of difference. Good luck in your search.

Disclaimer
Remember, career decisions can be quite complex. This content is intended to be used at your own risk. The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind, and assume no responsibility for any problems that may be experienced.
Are your co-workers on your nerves? Is your boss a roadblock to advancement? Send Kevin your career questions or post a comment to this article. We can’t guarantee that he’ll answer your letter, but he reads each item and addresses the most common concerns in this column.

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