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How to evaluate multiple offers & a counter offer
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Q  "Choosing from multiple offers & a counter offer"
When a career search has born too much fruit, how does one choose the best
possible position? How does one filter through, when all offers are intriguing? And how does one evaluate a counter-offer if the current employer offers one?

A  People, product and reputation. Those are the key criteria in evaluating your options, assuming the money is in the right ballpark. Even if you take the wrong job in a company that scores high on those three criteria, you will make your way into the right job quickly and the money will follow.

Everything else is ephemeral and incidental.

1. People. Make sure they'll be good to work with. If you've interviewed with only a few, ask to meet more. Ask to meet managers and people whose own work will directly impact your ability to do your job effectively. You'll quickly see what life will be like on the job. Too often, job candidates see an appealing job and take it, only to find that the people they have to work with (not necessarily in their own department) are inept, unmotivated, unenthusiastic, or just plain miserable to work with. Try to figure out who will be part of your "cross-departmental" work team, and spend some time with them. Ask about management's "reward" practices - do they acknowledge good performers with raises, promotions, new projects and exciting work? Finally, do a search (at the library and online) for the people in the organization who are the key players - see what the professional and business press has to say about them. Don't base your decision strictly on the job interview THEY want you to have.

2. The product. You judge a product (or service) by comparing it to competing or similar products. You can also try to benchmark it against itself - what did it look like a year ago? Two? Five? How has it evolved to meet the needs of the customer? Has the product changed on a continuous curve, or has it made some leaps that significantly changed the way its customers benefit from it? Did the organization take some risks to drive improvements? Or has it been complacent? Make an educated guess about what competing product might replace THIS product in customers' minds a year or three down the road (especially consider internet-related services/info/products, whether they cost $ or not). All these "measures" will suggest something about the future, and about how your own ideas/contributions might be met by management. These are issues to discuss in your interview. If the interviews are over, request an additional meeting to go over your "strategic questions".

3. Reputation. Again, search the professional and business media for information. Talk to reporters who write about the organization. Most important, talk to the customers. Review the questions in (2) above with them as well. You'll learn a great deal.

Then, apply these same criteria to your current job and employer. It will take a lot of thought, research and time spent with people who will have a lot of potential impact on your future - and it's the value of that future you're trying to assess. When you've got the information you need, you'll be able to put the compensation, the benefits and all the other relevant issues into perspective when evaluating your offers.

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