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Great advice from The Lawyer Whisperer

June 12, 2019
Question

When is a “final offer” really a final offer?

answer
Julie Q. Brush

I received an offer and the hiring manager said it was a “final offer”. Do you think he is telling the truth – or should I propose a counteroffer? What should I do?

 

The offer stage of an interview process can be tricky. Each professional enters the dynamic with his/her own set of beliefs and ideas as well as a strategy for how to best navigate the negotiation waters.

Employers vary in their approach to extending offers. Some leave themselves “wiggle room” in anticipation of a counteroffer; others, who are uncomfortable in this phase, may short-circuit it with a hard line attitude on the numbers, but can be moved; and finally others put their very best…and final foot forward. For candidates, it can be a difficult task to read the tea leaves and determine the best move forward.

So how should a candidate handle an offer with a “best and final” message tethered to it? Should it be considered an honest statement and a cue to take it or leave it? Or is it a negotiating tactic – and a counteroffer should be encouraged?

It depends.

In the vast majority of circumstances, when an employer states that an offer is the product of their best efforts and is final…they mean it. But every interview dynamic and offer phase is unique. And exceptions do exist. So you must assess your situation to determine how best to proceed. How? By examining the following variables leading up to your offer:

Prior Knowledge of Compensation.

Employers differ when it comes to the timing of disclosing compensation information. And candidates differ when it comes to asking. Any prior compensation discussions with an employer will provide you with insight on the concreteness of your offer. If your offer is the first time you’ve received solid numbers, it’s uncommon that this initial offer would be set in stone. So the employer may be open to a dialogue about some flexibility.

Is The Offer Above The High-End of the Compensation Range?

Rarely does an employer break the high-end of the compensation range barrier. So if your offer is above the ceiling you’ve been quoted, it is almost certain that an accompanying “final offer” commentary is genuine. In this case, be appreciative and either accept enthusiastically or decline graciously.

The Hiring Manager.

What is your sense of the hiring manager? Does s/he fall into the category of – what you see is what you get? Loves the thrill of the deal? Uncomfortable with “conflict”? Cautious? Always testing? Experienced? Green? How much power do you perceive s/he has? The background, wiring and demeanor of a hiring manager can also provide greater understanding into the circumstances of an offer. So put on your Freud hat and start analyzing.

Explanation Accompanying The “Final Offer” Statement.

When an offer is “final”, a hiring manager will typically provide a detailed explanation as to why. If your offer was accompanied by such an explanation and the message resonates, it’s likely that the message you’re getting is straightforward and honest. If it’s not, it could be a tell that there’s room.

Is the “Final Offer” statement coming after a negotiation?

If the statement has been made after one round (or more) of negotiations, it’s a signal from the employer that they are done negotiating. If it’s coming with an initial offer, there may be some flexibility depending on the other factors above.

When negotiating an offer, both parties should feel good about the outcome. And as a candidate, there’s a fine balance between pushing for more and pushing too hard. So when an employer states that an offer is final it can be confusing whether to heed the warning or continue to push the envelope. The majority of the time the sentiment will be true, but there can be outliers. To gain clarity on your situation, step back and assess the path leading up to the offer and look where the signs point. Then use good judgment to make your “best and final” determination.

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