How to Negotiate a Job Offer
If you have been offered the job of a lifetime, you may feel ready to jump at just about any offer passed across the table. However, the best way to accept a job offer is to make sure the package is exactly what you want. Because a job is such a time commitment, and because you'll likely only get one shot to determine your pay range, negotiation is a critical skill to have during any job offer.
Setting Yourself up for Success
Find out all the particulars.It's important to know what you have to work with when you're offered a job. Ask the hiring manager or your liaison in the company about the dimensions of the offer, and be sure to get them in writing. These include:
- What is the salary?
- Where is the job located and would there be any relocation reimbursement if you had to move?
- What are the benefits? (401(k), paid vacation time, remote working opportunities, etc.)
- Is there a signing bonus?
- What is the starting date?
Thank the employer for the offer, even if it’s horrible.Always appear gracious and thankful when accepting any offer. Try to conceal any feelings of disappointment if you receive a low ball offer — the idea of negotiating is to not tip your hand.
Negotiate a time frame for deciding.When you get your offer, don't be so star-struck by its shininess that you immediately accept or start the negotiation process right away. Give yourself some time to think things over rationally. Say something like"I appreciate your offer. I'm very excited about starting, but am still waiting to hear back from several other organizations. Can we discuss the offer again in a week?"
- Talk with the hiring manager about the company's expectations for hearing back and try to reach a middle ground. If they want the position to be filled immediately, you may want to give them an answer sooner rather than later. A reasonable amount of time to think about the offer is anywhere from a day to a week.
- Don't be worried about losing the job offer after asking for time to decide. This happensvery rarely. An employer that really wants you will give you as much time — within reason — as is necessary to decide. An employer that makes an offer and rescinds it before you've made a decision is likely to cut corners, cheat, and generally treat its employees poorly. Consider yourself lucky to have gotten out!
Do your homework.Know what you are saying “yes” to before you sign on the dotted line. Obtain a financial history of the company to determine if this is the type of company you want to align yourself with and whether you see a future at the business.
- Talk to other employees. If you have friends or business connections with the company ask for a candid response to what it is like to work for the company. You never really know what the work conditions are like until you talk to someone who is on the inside. If you don’t personally know anyone at the company, don’t try to talk to a random employee but instead look for message boards online where you could pick up cues or hints within threads between employees.
- Obtain the company mission statement. Consider if the mission statement is something you agree with or whether it isn't aligned with your personal work ethics or goals.
Think about whether the potential job meets your needs and goals.Ask yourself what advantages and disadvantages the potential job has for important areas in your life. Because you'll be spending the majority of your waking week at work, finding a good personal and professional fit isextremelyimportant. Consider these three needs:
- Individual needs. Does the job satisfy your intellectual needs, creativity, and natural curiosity? Do you think you could fit in with the company culture? Would you be motivated about and excited for work?
- Family needs. Is the job likely to be compatible with your family duties and interests? Is the job geographically close enough to give you enough time to spend at home? Can you imagine your family thriving with other families in the company?
- Career goals. Can you imagine furthering your career with the organization? Is there room for growth? Do they offer competitive training, job experience, and pay to make this a "step up" from where you were before? Is there job security?
Research the competition.Knowing what the company’s competitors will offer may provide you with leverage during negotiations. Research salary and benefits from two to three competing companies using career search engines on Careers.com, Monster.com or Salary.com. Take into consideration that each comparable job may offer different perks and benefits, but use the general information to make comparisons to the possible offer on the table.
Find out what kind of leverage you have, if any.Leverage is ability exert control or influence over a situation. Brainstorm things that might give you leverage. You'll use these things as bargaining chips very soon:
- Stronger leverage:
- You're a great candidate in a highly sought-after position
- You have a respectable offer from another company in a related field/industry
- Weaker leverage:
- You know the company wants to fill the position soon
- You know what the "industry standard" salary for the position is
- Stronger leverage:
Negotiating Your Best Offer
Get in contact with your liaison or hiring manager again.Shoot them a quick call in order to set up a meeting to talkin person. Don't start the negotiation process over the phone, or worse, over email. It's harder to say "no" to someone in person than it is over the phone. Plus, the human connection of face-to-face interaction will be important later on in your job — don't treat it lightly!
Before going into the negotiation, know your minimum and target salary.The minimum offer is the absolute lowest salary you'll take. The target salary is what you'd like your salary to be. Establish what these two numbers are for you. The more leverage you have, the lower the difference between these two numbers will be.
Ask for more money without actually stipulating a number.So you feel like the offer you got a week ago was a low-ball offer, and your worth is more in line with a higher figure. What you'll want to try to do is ask for a higher salary without actually stipulating a number.
- Why not stipulate a number? If you place the burden of renegotiating your salary back on the employer — and they know their initial offer was too low — they'll think long and hard about offering you a number that doesn't lowball youtwicein a row.If you get the employer to offer first, you're putting yourself in a position of power.
- Here's how you might bring it up:"I'm excited about the opportunity to start, and I feel like our partnership is going to be beneficial for both parties. Is there any way we can increase the starting salary?"If the salary is non-negotiable, decide whether the salary is a serious sticking point for you. (it doesn't need to be.) If it is negotiable, continue trying to get what you want.
Rebuff the employer's attempts to pin you down to a number.At this point, the employer is starting to squirm, and they're hoping you'll make the tactical mistake of blurting out a number, which they could say is out of their budget. Don't budge. Here's a hard-line scenario of what the employer might say if s/he's dead set on having you spit out a number, and what you can say in response:
- Employer:"Well, what do you have in mind for a starting salary?"
- You:"Given my would-be job responsibilities, I was hoping my starting salary would be a little higher."
- Employer: "Our salary is negotiable, and we certainly want you on board, but until we know what you're asking for, I'm a little in the dark."
- You:"My rates are competitive with market rates of individuals in[your industry]with[x]years of experience."
- Employer:"I really don't know what to offer unless you give me a ballpark figure."
- You:"A competitive rate for my services would be somewhere in between[x]and[y]." If you need to, you can give the employer a salary range, but this will still force the ball onto their court.
Wait for the employer to offer a number.This may involve an uncomfortable silence, but it's worth the momentary awkwardness. When the employer says the number, smile but wait to speak. Mull it over. There's a chance that the employer could perceive this as hesitance on your part, prompting them to immediately offer an even higher number.
Present a better offer if you feel like you're worth more.Put yourself in the employer’s shoes if you plan to re-negotiate a better offer. While you may think the employer should bump up your salary by ,000, realistically that may not be possible. At the same time, staying firm about a high number could help you chip away at a the gap between your minimum salary and your target salary.Keep your offer high if you think you have leverage.
- Start to use your leverage. Do you have another offer from a competitor? Are you highly sought-after talent? While not bragging or showboating, make your case for why you should get the job at or near the salary you're asking for.
- Be ready to walk away. When putting together a better offer, remember that the employer may not be able to meet your requirements. If that’s the case, consider just walk away. It's a risky strategy, but you could call the employer's bluff and get an offer of just what you wanted all along.
Weave benefits or perks into the conversation.If the salary discussion grows stagnant, and it feels more like bickering than a fruitful conversation, consider trying to get make your case for added perks or benefits. Ask for things like a matching contribution to your 401(k), additional paid time off, or even a defined travel stipend. Although these things seem small, they can have a huge financial impact over the course or months or even years.
Get everything in writing.After you've used your leverage to negotiate your best salary and benefits, get the offer in writing. If the employer doesn't put the offer in writing, they might not honor the details of the contract come starting day, and you could find yourself in the unenviable position of needing to make your case all over again when you realize the facts aren't straight. Unfortunately, thisdoeshappen. Make sure to get the offer in writing!
Making Other Considerations
Listen to your gut during the entire negotiation process.The entire interview process is an opportunity forboth partiesto get a feel for one another. It may seem like they're the one interviewing you, but you're also interviewing them! If it feels like the employer is constantly trying to wiggle out of firm commitments, tell untruths, or intimidate you into accepting a lower salary, consider whether you actually want to work there. If they're willing to do these things, it probably won't be pleasant to work with them for a long period of time.
- The negotiation process is war, but it's the 16th century equivalent of war, not the anything-goes modern equivalent. The negotiation process should be civil, filled with "honor," and governed by rules. If it feels a bit too much like Vietnam instead of the Battle of Agincourt, run far away, knight.
When asking for a salary, ask for a precise number.In salary negotiations, asking for ,745 is a lot better than asking for ,000, even if it's asking for less money. Why?
- New research suggests that people who ask for a precise salary instead of a round figure are perceived by employers to better know their worth. The idea is that a precise number tells people you've done your homework on comparable market rates.On the flip side, the perception of people who ask for a round number, such as ,000, is that they don't have specific knowledge of what the job entails or what the market is priced at.
Don't play the pity card.Don't invoke your sick spouse or your children's rising daycare costs during the negotiation. The employer doesn't want to hear about it, and could even be negatively affected by its mention. The employer wants to hear about your skills, and why they make you a great fit for the job and a steal at the price you're asking for. Focus on them!
Be courteous, understanding, andneverburn bridges.During the negotiation, be on your best behavior. You probably will get flustered, annoyed, or even afraid, but try to maintain your calm and civility. It's in your best interests. You never know — the person you're negotiating with may end up being a working partner or direct supervisor.
- Even if the negotiation stalls and you end up taking a different job, circumstances can change; you might find yourself looking for a reference, a job, or a referral later on. Being courteous and keeping those connections alive will help you later on.
Be confident.Be confident in your skills, your past experience, and your ability to secure the best deal for yourself. Your high (but entirely reasonable) estimation of yourself should translate into a high estimation by your potential employer.
- Power pose your way to increased confidence by striking an open, relaxed pose during the interview process. Scientists have discovered that people who "power pose" for just minutes at a time have increased testosterone, reduced stress, and are perceived by other people as being more in control.
- Don’t make it look like you are negotiating by making demands or insisting on certain conditions before you take the job.
- Avoid telling your future employer what you made at your last job, because it can be used as a metric for your next salary (especially if your last salary was much lower than what you’d like to make).
- Although you may deserve the moon and the stars, consider economic conditions before going into negotiations.
- Don’t bring up money until after you’ve been offered the job. If you start off with money as the main topic of discussion, you may be tipping your hand.
Sources and Citations
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