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I'm currently working for a company, let's say company A. I feel really underpaid and I applied for a position in a new company, company B. Even if the company B makes me a good offer, I would like to let company A make a counteroffer, since I like this company despite the low salary.

How should the process go?

I've passed my first interview, and there are two left. I assume once I pass the two remaining ones HR will call me and make me an offer. Do I have to answer instantaneously? Can I say something like "okay, give me a few days to think about it" and let company A know about it and let them decide if they counteroffer? Can the offer expire? How should approach my current employer to inform them about the new offer?

Sorry for all the questions, but I'm new to the workplace and I don't know how to approach this situation. I would appreciate it if you could give me some advice.

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The way you approach any situation depends on your goals.

I´ve passed my first interview, and there are two left. I assume once I pass the two remaining ones HR will call me and make me an offer. Do I have to answer instantaneously?

No, you don't have to answer instantaneously. In fact, if a potential employer insisted on an answer to a question of this magnitude without allowing some time for thinking it over, I'd be very, very wary. It's very common to ask for a few days to think the offer over. (I always discuss things with my wife before making a job decision.)

Can I say something like "okey, let me a few days to thing about it" and let company A know about it and let it decide if they counteroffer?

Yes, you could do that.

Don't let company A know about it until you are sure you have a solid offer. Company A can decide to let you go, once they know you are planning to leave - they could just say "goodbye" at that point.

I almost never get into bidding wars for people on my team. In my experience, if they want to leave for more money now, offering them a bit more is unlikely to keep them around for very long. Even if I were to give them more money now, they will almost certainly leave for even more money soon. While I wouldn't fire someone who came to me saying they got an offer from another company, I'd very likely to just start planning their exit.

Can the offer expire?

Yes, offers typically expire.

Usually when I receive or generate a written offer, it includes an expiration date. Often that is within 1 week or less. An employer needs to get an answer reasonably quickly, so they can move on to the next candidate if needed, and still get the job filled quickly.

How should approach my current employer to inform about the new offer?

That depends on what you want to happen.

If you really want to stay at company A, then you could say "I really like working here, and I'd like to stay, but I have a tempting offer at B".

Then be prepared with however you wish to respond if they ask "How much is this offer?" and/or "Where are you going?"

If you goal is to stay at A and get "more", then you can choose to tell them how much your offer from B is, and hope they will give you more than you are currently receiving. They may or may not choose to do so.

If you goal is to stay at A if, and only if, they match B's offer, then you could choose to tell them how much your offer from B is, and also indicate that you will leave if they cannot match B's offer. They may or may not choose to do so.

Before you have a firm offer, spend the time considering what (besides money) makes A a good place for you, and how much of that B might offer. There is more to a job than just pay. If you just want to go to the highest bidder, then your decision is easy. But other factors almost always play a big part in job decisions.

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If you are banking on company B raising the ante after company A makes a counteroffer, you may find yourself working for neither.

Consider this scenario:

  • You receive an offer from company B
  • You run to company A with the news, hoping that company A will meet or exceed company B's offer, and it does -- but not for the reasons you're thinking of
  • You return to company B announcing that your current employer is going to match your offer. Company B backs out.
  • Company A keeps you long enough to find your replacement on its terms (instead of yours) and promptly figures out how to eliminate your position "on the books".

Be smarter.

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Can I say something like "okay, give me a few days to think about it" and let company A know about it and let them decide if they counteroffer? Can the offer expire? How should approach my current employer to inform them about the new offer?

You can tell them you have a few days to think about it. But if you are planning for a rushed negotiation where company A suddenly within a few days gives you an increase in salary in response to an offer from company B, I don’t think that will happen.

I think the most realistic scenario is you officially get an offer from company B & you are given a few days—or perhaps a week or so—too review it. Then you can give notice to company A and indicate that you would be willing to stay for an increase comparable to company B. Chances are they will want to think about it, so the next step is critical.

Here’s the deal: Even if it is not formally stated in a contract or via an employer, the first 3 months are the probationary period. Meaning—in a formal sense—you will have a review after 3 months to see how things are going. In the informal sense, if you decide after 3 months—or less—the position is not for you, you can leave & not worry much about anything. Your job history at company B will be irrelevant.

Do you see where this is going?

Now here is where company A comes into play. If you exit letting them know you are willing to come back, chances are in a month or so they will have a counter-offer or would be willing to restructure your position to fit your needs. Company A will be more than happy to welcome you back, company B might be sore about the issue, but it shouldn’t be serious. And all are happy.

But—in general—unless this is a long standing issue with company A, the chances of you quickly flipping an offer within s small from company B into a solid counter-offer from company A are slim at best. Use the 3 month probationary period at company B as an advantage for you.

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Can I say something like "okay, give me a few days to think about it" and let company A know about it and let them decide if they counteroffer?

No. You do not wave your offer in front of Company A to get a counteroffer. That sort of game-playing is bad news for all involved.

Say that Company B is offering $50K, and you go back to Company A where you're making $45K and tell them that. Company A says "OK, we'll give you $55K". You figure that's enough to stay, so you say "Sorry, Company B." That leaves Company B thinking poorly of you. Also, your time at Company A will probably be short-lived. You’ve them that you want to leave and that you can be bought off with a salary bump. You can bet that they’ll be looking for replacements as soon as possible.

Why do you think that company A will make a counteroffer? Any well-run company is going to be paying you what you're worth, no more, no less. It's not like there's a fund that companies keep around called "Money that we will throw at employees who try to game us against another employer."

The only time you should say anything about Company B to Company A is when you submit your resignation, and that is only when you have a signed offer letter on paper from Company B.

Even then, when you resign there is no need to tell Company A where you're leaving. You simply write this:

October 31, 2014

Dear Arthur Carlson,

I am resigning my position as System Administrator II for Cincinnati Radio Holdings. My last day will be November 14, 2014.

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It's a difficult situation. You see, had you received several offers and you told each of them that you had several offers and what's the best they can do for you it would be more palatable but once you're actually in a job your employer will not find it so palatable to have to bid for you.

Doing this is usually an issue because it results in hurt feelings, especially if you didn't tell them you were unsatisfied with how much you were earning and just went straight ahead for interviews with other companies. If you get an offer from the other company, and if it's a place where you feel that it would a good fit for you I would then just hand in my resignation and leave it at that.

If you like the company, but you simply want to earn more money - talk with manager and discuss your concerns and explain/show them why you're worth the investment. If you don't get the result you're after, then start looking at other jobs. At least then you know exactly where you stand.

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