4 Reasons to Seek Executive Employment Advice Even Before You Receive a CEO Job Offer

By Robert Adelson on 4 March 24   Executive Employment

This post was originally published in CEO World on February 21, 2024.

As a CEO or C-level executive, you may well be receiving calls or emails from recruiters with new positions for your consideration, or alternatively, it could be you that is initiating the process seeking out new opportunities due to dissatisfaction with your current position or employment termination that finds you between positions. The same is true for the CEO or C-level aspirant who seeks promotion to the next rung on the corporate ladder.

Sometimes the matter of moving from your current position to a new one is easy and straight forward.  But often times it is not.  There can be challenges, uncertainties, and potential pitfalls in securing a new position and securing it on the terms you want in order to make the move.  When you get your CEO or C-level officer job offer or employment agreement, it’s wise to hire an expert to review and advise you the terms.  But this article goes beyond that and suggests hiring that expert attorney earlier – four areas where the executive employment attorney can aid you, even before a job offer comes in and even if it never comes in.

Enhancing Your Attraction as a Job Candidate

The process of pursuing a CEO or C-level position is not dissimilar to a high-stakes courtship. As a candidate, you are not only seeking to impress your potential employer, but you must also stand out from the competition. Whether you’re vying for the CEO or a C-level position, you’re likely up against other highly qualified candidates. It’s at this juncture that an executive employment lawyer can step in to enhance your attractiveness as a job candidate.

Your resume is impressive, your skills are top-notch, but how can you make yourself stand out even more?  Sometimes, the attorney experienced in representing CEOs and C-level executives can offer guidance on how to highlight your vision, unique strengths, and past achievements in a way that sets you apart to increase your desirability as a candidate, increasing the likelihood of receiving a favorable job offer.

A recent pre-job offer advisory illustrates this.  My client was asked to take a CTO position in a different part of the country and did not wish to relocate. My advice was to turn this to his advantage. I advised putting emphasis on his ties to MIT and how continuing those ties and being physically present in Massachusetts could create important opportunities for the prospective employer.  We both believed that those ties and his presence were strengths the competitors for the position could not match. Those strengths played a role not only in the job offer but he was able to negotiate successfully to work remotely and on other executive contract terms as well.

executive considering job offer

Guarding Against Missteps and Preserving Negotiation Leverage

Pre-offer discussions are a delicate dance. On one hand, you want to make a strong positive impression and secure the position, but on the other hand, you must ensure that your interests are safeguarded for the final offer.

Very often the recruiter and sometimes the company as well, will be putting questions to you with the stated goal of determining if you are a good fit.  Yet, the questions have a second goal – the goal of limiting the level of monetary and non-monetary commitment that the new employer must make to you.   These questions often seek out full details of your current executive compensation package and what you are seeking with the new employer.   Once certain amounts are stated, this often puts you in a poor position to seek a higher amount later, and often sets a marker for the employer to try to push it downward.

Your concern here is how to answer these questions in a way that is responsive but also in a way that does not box you in to set limits, dollars and otherwise, on the terms of your job offer once made.  Your executive employment attorney would advise on how to respond to both preserve your future negotiating position but to also fashion justification to support your responses as reasonable and appropriate as this stage of the courtship.

Providing an Independent Sounding Board

In the high-stakes world of executive positions, it’s easy to get swept up in the allure of a prestigious role. However, it’s essential to step back and objectively assess whether the opportunity aligns with your financial, ethical, and career goals as well as its potential impact on your personal life, family, and work-life balance.

An executive employment lawyer can serve as an impartial sounding board, helping you evaluate the opportunity from a holistic perspective.  As an attorney paid by the hour, your executive employment attorney as advisor has no stake in the outcome – thus in a position to offer you advice based solely on your needs and situation.  This is clearly at variance with the recruiter who will be paid if you accept the job.

Your executive employment attorney can offer insights into industry norms and standards, helping you assess whether the proposed terms are reasonable and in line with market standards for executives at your level.  If your executive employment attorney has a national practice, the attorney can offer precedents and examples of what other C-level clients received and what you too ought to receive.   This is certainly true in negotiations over the job offer, but also with issues, questions and terms that arise in those discussions before an offer is made.

Ending the Job Negotiations When the Fit Is Not Right

The fourth area, where engaging your advisor prior to the job offer can be important, is advising you on if or when it is appropriate to break off discussions. Here your own advisor can play an important role.  Your advisor knows what ought to go into the job offer.  Your advisor knows where you stand today in your career and what objectives you seek with the new position.

Importantly, your advisor can assess how you have been treated in the course of the discussions.  For this courtship should be a two-sided matter.  You are trying to sell your experience and capabilities as the right fit for the company.  But you with your advisor are also developing a view of the new company and how you might be treated if you do make the move.  Having the advisor in there with you from the beginning can help you to assess if this might not be the right move for you.

Your advisor can also counsel you on how to adroitly withdraw from consideration, to minimize  ill will especially where the recruiter, whom  you may value for future leads, may be disappointed with a lost placement.

In conclusion, engaging the services of an executive employment attorney during pre-offer discussions can be a strategic move that pays dividends in the long run.  Whether it is helping you to stand out, avoiding pitfalls, offering independent sounding board, or helping you assess if this is the right fit for you, involving your executive employment attorney earlier rather than later – even before you’ve received a formal job offer can pay important dividend for you. Your future self may thank you for it.