Congratulations! You’ve won over the hiring manager and received a job offer. All your hard work and preparation to land your dream life science role paid off. However, before signing on the dotted line, consider these elements before starting the next chapter in your executive career:
- Salary. How does your salary compare to the industry average for the role and location?
- Technical fit. To what extent do your strengths, needs and experience match the job?
- Cultural fit. How do your values, beliefs and conduct align with that of the hiring organisation?
- Perks and benefits. Executive-level roles are renowned for their generous compensation packages. Does yours deliver?
- Work-life balance. Switching off is essential for work-life balance. How flexible are the company?
Now is time to weigh up the job offer and negotiate with your potential employer. You are unlikely to get a better opportunity to shape the job requirements, influence salary and negotiate benefits for at least 24 months. Then, based on the outcome of your research, you can choose to either:
- Accept the job offer and further your career.
- Accept a counter offer and stay in your current role.
- Decline the job offer and continue your executive job search.
Which outcome you choose will depend on the strength of the job offer, your enthusiasm for the role and the thoroughness of your due diligence.
You’ve been offered the job, now what?
Chances are the hiring manager would have called to deliver the good news. This is considered good practice as it allows the hiring team to move fast (A-players like yourself are rarely available for extended periods of time), convey their excitement and, crucially, gauge your level of enthusiasm.
Remember that the employee-employer relationship starts from the moment a job offer is made, so maintain an enthusiastic and positive tone throughout the job offer and negotiation process. Even if you decide the role is not for you, you don’t want to burn bridges with the hiring manager and organisation. Who knows whether a better opportunity might arise in future.
Following the call, the hiring manager will put the offer in writing, either by email or letter. Regardless of whether you are incredibly excited about the opportunity or still considering your options, set some time aside to evaluate the job offer when it arrives. Three days is typical, though be sure to clarify if there is a deadline by which you must reach a decision.
Never, under any circumstances, accept the job offer right away. Generally speaking, the preliminary job offer is not the best offer the company is willing to give. Even if the offer is better then you anticipated, you need to evaluate the job offer and consider the five essential components – salary, technical fit, cultural fit, perks and benefits, work-life balance – as detailed below.
Evaluate the job offer
When it comes to evaluating the job offer for a senior-level role you need to be methodical and consider how it will impact both your professional and personal life. Assess these components:
Salary is only one component of an executive compensation package. A decent salary alone does not necessarily equate to job satisfaction. At the same time, accepting a lower salary then you are worth can hinder your efforts to achieve a rise in future and could impact your long-term motivation in your new role. Look at the financial package as a whole and ask yourself:
- Does the salary aline with your expectations?
- Is the salary in line with the going rate?
- What is the bonus structure like?
Do some research and find out what the going salary range is for someone with your knowledge and expertise in the life sciences. A few options for researching salary ranges include:
- Utilise databases and job sites such as Glassdoor, Ladders, Indeed, Salary.com.
- Consult your wider network, particularly people in similar positions in the life science.
- Get in touch with executive search firms and recruiters that specialise in your industry.
Your research should extend to devising a sound argument as to why you demand the top 10%-15% of the going rate. If you’re going to negotiate your salary successfully, you need to leave the hiring manager in no doubt that you deserve the additional compensation. However, if compensation is not available, consider what additional perks and benefits could compensate your salary.
Technical fit, also known as job fit, is the extent to which your strengths, needs and experience match the job specification. Ensuring technical fit is essential for your success, not just in the role but for the organisation as a whole. As an executive in the life sciences, the decisions you make can have a long-lasting impact, for better or worse. Ensure you’re a good technical fit by accessing:
- Job goals and how you will be measured.
- Responsibilities and day-to-day activities.
- Skills and competencies required.
- What do I want to do?
- Lead a big team?
- Negotiate or broker deals?
- Manage capital projects?
- What do I want to get out of it?
- What’s my minimum salary requirement?
- What are the perks and benefits of the role?
- What training and progression opportunities will I have?
- What am I prepared to compromise?
- How long/far am I prepared to commute?
- Do I need to relocate?
- Can I work-from-home?
Take the time to also look at what you will be doing on a daily basis, how success in the role is defined, and what benchmarks you’ll be judged against over the short, medium and long term. A deeper understanding now will help you make an informed decision as to whether you will derive job satisfaction from the role. If the answer is no, then the role may not be suited to you.
Cultural fit, also known as organisational fit, refers to the extent to which your values, beliefs, outlook and conduct align with that of the hiring organisation. Cultural fit is essential when it comes to job satisfaction and deciding whether to accept a job offer. To assess whether you’ll be a good cultural fit for the role and organisation, ask yourself the following questions:
- Will I be challenged?
- Will I thrive?
- What is the employee turnover?
Take the time to verify your cultural fit within the company and the team. You can do this by:
- Hunting for reviews on Glassdoor or Google.
- Reaching out to your network and asking questions.
- Asking to meet the team before accepting the offer.
Employees with good cultural fit tend to ‘gel’ with their coworkers and benefits from increased job performance, job satisfaction and retention. Employees with a poor cultural fit tend to leave for pastures new. You don’t want to accept a job offer only to find yourself looking for a new challenge in three, six or twelve months. If you’re don’t think you’re a good fit, pass on this opportunity.
Perks and benefits
Executive-level roles in the life sciences are renowned for their generous compensation packages. However, if you received a job offer from a startup, it’s unlikely they can match the compensation packages of established players in the market. When accessing perks and benefits of the role, break them down into essential (e.g. healthcare insurance) and nice-to-haves (e.g. severance package).
Examples of perks and benefits in an executive package might include:
- Profit sharing
- Stock options
- Healthcare insurance
- Life insurance
- Flexible work hours
- Company car
- Decent pension
- Relocation assistance.
>Your executive package is usually detailed in the job offer. However, if in doubt, confirm the perks and benefits that apply to you by:
- Reading the employee handbook.
- Ask the hiring manager
Some perks such as flexible working hours are easier to negotiate after you have proven that you are an invaluable addition to the team. Bring up these perks and benefits during the negotiation or job offer stage and find out if other employees are provided with them. If so, you may be able to request these particular perks and/or benefits.
Switching off is essential for work-life balance. You need to verify the salaried hours and your expected working hours – sometimes these can differ substantially. Ask yourself:
- Is flexibility a component of the job offer?
- Are the working hours acceptable?
- Are the communication expectations tolerable?
- How much time will I spend commuting?
- If there is travel, how long will I spend travelling?
You should also ask your hiring manager:
- Does the company offer flexitime?
- Does the organisation promote remote working?
- What is expected in terms of communication?
Take the time to carefully analyse the employee handbook to verify requirements and expectations. If you are in doubt or need clarification on something, be sure to ask the hiring manager.
Negotiating a job offer
Once you’ve evaluated the job offer and determined which aspects you are willing to accept and areas in which you wish to push for improvement, it’s time to negotiate. Remember, you are in a position of advantage. In making the job offer, the hiring organisation revealed their hand. You need to decide which cards you are going to play and the sequence you will play them.
You can’t negotiate everything, so choose carefully, approaching negotiations with the view of joint problem-solving. You both want the best from the situation, so how best can you work together to achieve this aim? Be calm, confident and demonstrate that you have been through in your evaluation of the job offer and the points you wish to negotiate on.
Enter negotiations with a flexible mindset; it’s unlikely that all your requests will be met. However, should you request continuously be rebuffed, consider this a red flag that the organisation is inflexible. Pay attention to your gut and know when to walk away from a negotiating, especially if it isn’t the right fit – there is no shame in politely and respectfully declining a job offer. However, if you feel there is room for improvement once you’ve proved yourself in the role, request a review after six months of starting in the position.
Finally, bear in mind you are still being assessed by the hiring manager and company. Be seen as someone they want to work with, not someone who is hard to work with.
Accepting a job offer
If you have decided that everything is in order and you are happy with the salary, benefits, perks and responsibilities you’ve negotiated, it is time to accept the offer.
You can accept the offer verbally over the phone or in person, but it is not legally binding until you have signed and returned the offer letter or contract. Always photocopy or scan the offer letter or contract prior to returning to your new employer, and post via recorded delivery.
Declining a job offer
There are many situations when it makes perfect sense to decline a job offer, even if you are desperately seeking employment. Reasons to decline a job offer can include:
- The company culture or work environment isn’t a good fit for you
- Salary doesn’t match expectations
- Perks and benefits aren’t what you anticipated
- There is a high employee turnover or financial instability
- The company has a negative reputation
When it comes to declining the job offer, send a polite, and respectful letter or email. This ensures you maintain a positive relationship which may be important in the future. Include the following:
- Your appreciation for the offer
- State clearly that you can not accept the role
- State why you can’t accept the position but do so carefully and keep it high-level
Sadly, there are situations where job offers get rescinded or put on hold through no fault of the candidate. If an organisation withdraws an offer, there is little you can do about it other than continue your job search. Ensure you are professional in your dealings with the hiring manager and ask him/her to keep you informed if/when the job becomes available again.
Disclaimer: The information provided is for ideas and assistance. Please seek legal assistance to ensure your interpretation and decisions are correct for your locality.
For more job search advice tailored to senior managers and executives…
* Fraser Dove International is a talent consultancy operating exclusively across the life sciences industry. While our roots lie in executive search, we provide more than the traditional recruitment services. Uniquely placed within the market, we have been providing cutting-edge talent solutions and insight to organisations at all stages of their journey – from start-up to established leaders – since 2013.