Job Seekers Get More Leverage

It’s still a buyers’ market, but job seekers (the sellers) should be prepared to exercise more leverage in the hiring process.


It’s no fun being a commodity. For much of the last two years it was a buyers’ market for hiring companies — they had their pick of willing and available candidates. The result was a protracted hiring process where the hiring companies (in this case, the buyers) took their time and shopped around for the best candidate, secure in the fact that they had plenty to choose from should one or two receive a better offer in the meantime.

It also meant job seekers (the sellers) had less leverage in setting the sale price and other terms. You might have had but one chance to accept an offer before it was rescinded.

“It was employers’ choice out there,” said Kathleen Steffey, president of executive search and recruitment firm Naviga, based in Tampa, Florida. “Clients had the upper hand and could take their time making sure they found perfect candidates, whether that meant keeping candidates ‘on hold’ for weeks, or asking them to return for more and more interviews.”

That’s changing, she said. Her clients (the buyers) are waking up to the changing reality and job seekers (the seller) should be prepared to exercise more leverage in the hiring process.

“If a client’s not pulling the trigger on delivering an offer, or they’re keeping a candidate on hold for too long, that person is now able to jet out of there and find something else,” she said. “They’re not as starved for opportunities as they once were.”

Job seekers should use this leverage to their advantage, Steffey said. But tread carefully and know where you stand. She recommends that job seekers set limits as to what they’re willing to compromise on and when; then stick to them. It also helps to inform the recruiter, if one is part of the transaction, about your job prospects and level of interest in the position so they know how to manage the hiring company’s expectations and pace. The things that can affect how fast the company will move in making you an offer include:

  • How actively are you looking for a job?
  • Do you have other job offers in your pipeline and how likely are you to accept one?
  • How interested are you in this particular company? Is it your last choice or your first?

This vetting process helps Naviga’s recruiters find out if a candidate is willing to give her client a few extra days if it could mean getting an offer, “and that helps us, and helps our clients and candidates, to understand where their interest lies and where best to expend energy.”

“If we’re in the process of presenting candidates, the client may express particular interest in one person. We make sure the client knows if the candidate has a number of other interviews scheduled and that they could very well accept an offer from another company,” she said. As a job seeker, you should be upfront about that information, even if recruiters and/or hiring managers don’t specifically ask.

By presenting as much information as possible about yourself and your job prospects and other competing offers, clients quickly understand that the market has changed and that “if they don’t make their move, they might end up missing out on a great hire.”