job search tip 46You can’t accept a job offer you don’t have. There will be times when you expect an offer and it doesn’t happen. You are going to hear momentary lies like, “We really want to hire you. You’ll hear from us in a day or so.” Don’t celebrate anything at this point. Don’t believe anything until you have the offer in hand.

Most of the people who write books about finding jobs talk about qualifying your opportunities before you really get to the end of the interviewing process. I don’t agree with that concept at all! The reason is very simple: almost everything about a job opportunity can change between an initial search for a candidate and the final offer and acceptance. Sell yourself and communicate what you can do for the company to the point that you are the one the organization wants to hire. Then you can talk about what the company can do for you.

The time to qualify

Until receiving the job offer, the interview process is pretty much a one-way street. Qualifying questions are not, in my opinion, the same things that you might negotiate after receiving the offer. Negotiations center on those aspects of the offer that have inherent flexibility such as benefits, title, base pay, bonuses, commissions and so forth. Things like a working environment, employees, peers, subordinates, and supervisors, territory, and so forth are not negotiable 99% of the time. After receiving the offer is the time to ask about the details of the job so you know exactly what you’re getting into.

How to qualify the opportunity

Keep it simple. Once you offered the position, explain that you would like to have a meeting with the hiring authority to clarify all the questions you have before you start negotiating.

When you meet with the hiring authority, he or she might think that you are ready to accept the job and that you want to talk about specifics such as title, money, etc. However, say something like this instead:“Mr. /Ms. (hiring authority), I’m really excited about this opportunity however, I still have a number of questions about the position itself. Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, I’d like to find out….” Be prepared with a list of questions about the opportunity that were either unclear or which you haven’t had a chance to ask before.

It is likely that a hiring authority will have covered many of these in the interviewing process, however now is the time to get clarification. Do not hesitate to ask for detailed answers. Also, do not hesitate to ask for an audience with anyone else whom you feel can answer your questions. It is not out of line for you to ask to talk to peers or even other managers in the organization. You need to have a clear understanding of everything about the job before you consider accepting their offer.

Caution: do not string this out for more than one or two days at the most. If you come across as hesitant about the opportunity, it’s too easy for the hiring authority to move on to the second candidate. Be interested and proactive, but do it quickly. The purpose is not to over analyze; it’s to have a clear understanding of the position.

Before accepting a job offer, you must ask yourself, “Do I understand clearly everything I need to know about this job?” There should be no loose ends or unanswered questions. Sit down and write everything you think you know about the job. Write down any questions that are not clear to you. Then start asking those questions.