Congratulations! You aced the interview, your reasoning was MECE and for analysis you SWOTed the BCG matrix with Porter’s Five Forces. You are, as they say, THE MAN, and the lovely person from HR let you know that they will send you a contract that is yours to sign and seal the deal.

Now what?

First of all, let me put a disclaimer. I am not an expert on this stuff, I just have been there before. As they say in the sunscreen speech – my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience.

Alright, alright. Still – Now what?

They want you, so they made you an offer. Realize that this is the point where you have the most power in the whole process, but you need to play your cards wisely. Once you signed the contract, you can of course try to further negotiate and do stuff – it might just not lead so much more than some very confused and borderline angry people on the other side. Including your future boss.
As is described wonderfully in the book “What color is my parachute” (a great what-am-I-good-at and how-do-I-search-for-a-job-that-fits-me-right book), you can/should only try to wiggle the posts that make up the contract before they are hammered into the ground.

  • The cash
    You were waiting for this the whole time, right?
    For a junior consulting job, normally there is not that much room to negotiate in the first place: Many firms have tight ranges that they pay for entry positions. Still, they are ranges. If you are so lucky to know what the range is, and you feel that your double MBA and PhD in theoretical maths are not priced into the contract well enough – you COULD ask for more money. I did not do this, as I was content with what I was offered, so for tactics and stuff you’ll need to ask elsewhere. Take this thought with you, though: They are constantly hiring people as smart and as well educated as you are. Heck, they have even seen better ones. You should make sure to know exactly what your leverage is before you ask for more money.
  • The benefits
    If you think everyone gets a car and it is not in the contract? Well, then you might not get one. Ask for such stuff once you got the contract in your hands and once you talk to HR. DO NOT ask for goodies in the interview rounds – that’s a killer, and not a good one. So – when the time has come, and you think something is missing to make this package real gold for you, ask for it, politely. Be reasonable and as humble as you can manage to be. Chances are that they ramp up a bit. For Germany for example, one thing is moving assistance. Often, a company does not include it in the first offer, but when you ask for it, they are happy (more or less) to help you out with some cash to get your stuff to the city where your “point of affiliation” (=home office) will be.
  • The home office
    When working for a bigger company, they have many offices, and you might have only interviewed at corporate headquarters. Check if you are assigned to an office in the contract, and if it is the one you want. If not, call them up and have it changed. Basically, this is a thing you should have talked about in the final interview, at least briefly – but who knows, maybe you were thinking about the (for sure!) upcoming Porsche too hard.

If you got that all settled, had a nice chit-chat with HR or the hiring Partner, the offer is final, and you should have a pretty good idea if you want to take it or not. But if….

You got other irons in the fire?
It was probably a good idea to not bet on one horse only in search for your first gig. Now you got an offer – or more – and maybe some applications are still in the process.
Most offers have an expiry date. It is reasonable to ask for an extension for one or two weeks, to be able to see how other things turn out – but much more, without a very good reason, just makes it obvious that you are waiting for something better to come around the corner before you take the offer they made you. This is not the perception you want to create, right?
If you have multiple offers on your desk at the same time – make the decision led by your heart and gut feeling (how did I feel around those people? Am I looking forward to working with them? etc.), and supported by facts. DO NOT BASE YOUR DECISION ON SALARY ALONE! Money can buy a lot of things, but not job satisfaction (ok, there might be people in iBanking who are an exception, but still). The money has to cover your basic living expenses, and more is better than less for sure – but really, I can’t stress this enough. It must not be all about cash.
If you are still in the process with other companies and you want to take the offer you got – play it fair, tell them that you took up a different opportunity (no details needed), and that you’d like to talk to them another time around. Be friendly, be polity – remember that people always meet at least twice, and maybe next time, they are your must-have-oh-my-god-I-want-to-work-there choice. Don’t burn bridges.
Some people might still go to an interview after signing a contract… make up your mind if you want to steal those people’s time, and if it really gives you anything to do so.
Avoid at all costs to sign a contract “just for safety, in case I find nothing better”. Many contracts contain a fine for not showing up, and although this can be settled in a talk in many cases, it certainly does not make the other side happy, because they just have to start all over again. If you are unfortunate, word gets around… especially if you are joining straight from university and the company’s HR talks to your school’s placement people. Seen it happen, wasn’t pretty, ’nuff said.

Now celebrate!
Hey, you just signed up for a challenging and exciting career, and maybe even your first real job. Celebrate! Invite your friends, have a blast… and use the time before you start. Travel, move if you need/want to, get settled… and maybe even prepare a little bit.

This post is part of Consulting 101, a series all about starting out as a consultant.
I’ll cover the preparation in the next installment – stay tuned!
As always, your feedback is most welcome.