Let’s face it, most of us don’t like to negotiate, and not much in life surpasses the discomfort of confronting a future employer with a request for more money. But the fact remains that most companies start an offer low, fully anticipating that you’ll negotiate your job offer, and if you don’t play the game then you’re likely leaving money and other benefits on the table.
Receiving a job offer is a big deal. An offer tells you that of all the candidates a company has met with, you’re the one they want to join their team. Acknowledge the honor by thanking them for the offer.
A quiet moment causes the future employer to wonder if you’re happy with the offer they’ve presented. Immediately, they brace for an impending negotiation session, and are likely thinking, “how much more money could I get approval for, so that I can get this candidate to join our company.”
The best shot you have at increasing your salary is when you’re between jobs. Once on board at a company, the raises tend to be small cost of living increases (short of a promotion). To make big jumps in your pay you often have to leave a company, so take advantage of when you’re between jobs to make the most of the increase that you can.
When you’re ready, whether that’s a day, a week or even just a few hours after receiving an offer, follow some version of the following script: “Thank you for your offer. You offered $X. I was really hoping for something closer to $Y. Is there any way we can meet in the middle; if so, I’m prepared to sign today.” It’s the final line, combined with the graciousness that helps speed the deal in your favor.
Your future employer has likely been interviewing for weeks, if not months, and very much wants to close the search and move on with their new hire. Have confidence in knowing that they’ve picked you, and the last thing they want is to have to start the search all over again. If you’re gracious and reasonable, the worst they’ll do is say no.
Even if you aren’t comfortable negotiating, never accept an offer on the spot, no matter how wonderful it seems. Always give yourself a minimum of a few hours to think through the pay, to inquire about benefits and to consider the whole package. Ask yourself if you have all the details to make the best decision.
Companies will often negotiate, but if you ask for too large of a bump in pay, or unrealistic benefits, the company may begin to doubt your true interest in the opportunity. While it’s highly unlikely to rescind an offer once received, you don’t want to cause unnecessary doubt in the manager’s mind.
Because bonuses aren’t tied to annual increases like base pay, it’s often easier to get a lump sum bonus than a higher salary. Keep in mind these often come with the caveat that you will need to repay the money if you leave before a year, and that they are also taxed.
Companies with tight budgets may not have much wiggle room on pay, but may be able to offer more paid time off or telecommuting options. Think about what will make your life easier; is it flex-time so that you can have time in the morning to get your kids off to school? Or is telecommuting for snow days and bad weather in your best interests?
If the company comes back with a new offer over the phone, ask for it in writing before accepting. You want a paper trail (email can work) to show the adjusted amounts, benefits levels and whatever else you’ve negotiated for. Sometimes companies will offer more time off, “off the record” in some cases, and you’ll just have to trust your new manager to honor your agreement, but make sure to get anything tied to money that payroll will be administering in writing.
Negotiating is part of the job search process and really, a part of life. Confidence in negotiating is particularly lacking in women, a frustrating legacy of their former roles as “less than equal” in the workplace. Negotiating an offer shows a company that you’re strong and confident, and really, don’t we all want to be perceived that way?
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