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Publish Date: 10/11/2006

Bidding wars are risky ways to obtain pay increases

Dear Kate & Dale: My daughter has signed a letter of employment with a new firm. However, her present company is now offering more money. She does not want to stay with her present company; however, she wants to negotiate with the new firm. Can this be done? Is it considered a bad thing to do? – Andy

Kate: If she tries to renegotiate, the hiring manager at the new firm will have to go back to human resources, as well as his or her boss, and explain that the applicant now wants more. Rather than putting her new boss in this position, perhaps she could mention that her old employer made her a counteroffer, and she turned it down. Perhaps they will up the ante just to be fair.

Dale: Call me old-fashioned, but here’s what’s fair: She made an agreement, and she needs to live up to it. Ask friends who are managers what they would think of an employee with a signed agreement who wants to reopen negotiations. I’m betting they’ll tell you they’d wonder whether the person is trustworthy.

Kate: So, Dale, your position is that even mentioning the old firm’s offer is forbidden?

Dale: No, I like your suggestion if the daughter is a great actress and doesn’t betray her real intentions. Even so, if she’s angling to set off a bidding war, she’s in a lousy position, because she isn’t willing to go to the highest bidder.

Kate: As a general rule, the applicant who tries to start a bidding war needs to be sure the new company is desperate to have her. Otherwise, she might be like a recent example from my company. We had an urgent need to fill a job, and stressed how we needed someone right away. We made an offer to someone who then said she wanted to wait at least a month before starting. We then retracted the offer because we wanted someone who understood our sense of urgency, and because we had plenty of other applicants.

Dale: Ouch, there’s that ugly word, retract. Your daughter might be thinking, “All they can do is say no.” No. There’s a lot more downside than upside. Remind your daughter that if she wants to renegotiate, she needs to be prepared to lose the negotiation and the job, and to carry on with her job search.

Dear Kate & Dale: I’m making a move from being a partner in a business to seeking a position in the corporate world. When the online application asks for current employer, I want the person reading it to know that I’ll be a loyal employee, and I do not want a job just to get over a rough spot with our company. Should I refer to selling my partnership share in my cover letter, resume or both? – Mary

Kate: Under reason for leaving you can write, “Want to get back into the corporate world,” or something similar. Once you’re in the interview, you need to provide an explanation: “Now that I’ve tried my own business, I realize that I prefer working for an organization where...” and then you insert whatever it is that you are working toward. Many people try something entrepreneurial and then go back to being an employee, and it won’t be a problem if you address the issue rather than try to avoid it.

Dale: If all goes well, you won’t have to mention the partnership until the interview. When applying, there’s no reason to bring up ownership issues. Just list the old company and call yourself the marketing director, or whatever best fits your specialty in your company and the job you’re going for. Then in the interview, you can mention selling your share as evidence that you’re committed to leaving your old position. That’s also your chance to make it clear that your company didn’t fail, but rather, your definition of success has changed and you’re evolving with it.

Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O’Clock Club, a national career-counseling network (www.fiveoclockclub.com). Her newest book is “Mastering the Job Interview and Winning the Money Game” (Thomson Delmar Learning). Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators’ Lab. His latest book is “Better Than Perfect: How Gifted Bosses and Great Employees Lift the Performance of Those Around Them” (Career Press). Please write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail dale@dauten.com.

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