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Top Tips for Negotiating a Job Offer

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Negotiating a Job Offer

You did it. You interviewed like a champ, you followed up, and you got the job offer. Congratulations!

But wait. Your work isn’t done yet. Now you must negotiate your compensation, your perks and your start date.

Where do you go from here? Will you blow it, come across as greedy, if you ask for too much? Will you sell yourself short if you ask for too little? Many applicants simply accept the first offer for fear of jeopardizing it. Often, they leave money and perks on the table.

Now you finally have some real power. They want you. They selected you over all of the other candidates. You have some leverage to ask for what you want.

Some bonus advice for negotiating your job offer. Former FBI agent Chris Voss offers his advice on negotiating a great offer:

The first rule is that you don’t play the numbers game until the time is right. Do whatever you can to avoid being the first person to name a number.

Early in the interviewing process, both you and the employer will likely try to determine if there’s a match in terms of compensation. If you speak first with a recruiter, she may provide a salary range and will likely ask you how much you’re making and how much you want to make in your next position.

When asked to name your price early in the process, your first response should be deflection. You don’t want to price yourself too low or too high before you know the company’s position. The best answer is, “For the right opportunity, I would be open to considering any competitive offer.”

Do what you can to find out the company’s salary range for this position and the going market rate for similar positions. If the recruiter won’t give up the information, conduct some research through your network.

Sites like Payscale.com, Salary.com and Glassdoor.com also provide information on average compensation and even salaries for specific jobs at specific companies. This will help you set some parameters around what you’re worth.

For some companies, there is little or no negotiating room beyond the set salary range and benefit package.

When to Negotiate

The company that wants to hire you has also done its research and knows what their competitors are paying. You should know this, too, so that you’ll know whether their offer is competitive and fair.

The conventional wisdom is that the hirer will open with a offer fifteen or twenty percent below what is budgeted to allow room to negotiate. Always let the hirer make the initial offer and take it from there.

If you’ve done your research (see above), you’ll know if the offer is generous or stingy. If the number seems less than competitive, you should feel free to counter. Can you name a number that would satisfy? Counter with a number slightly above what would make you happy. The end game is bartering until you reach a number both sides can live with.

You must approach this negotiation with some diplomacy. After all, you want to get the best possible offer you can get without jeopardizing a “good enough” offer.

Make it clear that you remain very interested in the position throughout the negotiation. Don’t be afraid to drop hints about other offers and possibilities. Let them know that you’re an in-demand candidate and have other options. However, don’t deliver an ultimatum unless you’re fully prepared to follow through. It’s also generally best to avoid revealing which other companies you are considering since this can tip your hand.

Even for companies without the ability to meet your salary demands, there may be room to negotiate. For the right candidate, they may be able to offer perks to make up for a lower-than-desired salary. Think about vacation time, office space, telecommuting privileges, training, and other criteria that could improve your quality of work life. You might also be able to negotiate a three-month or six-month review with an associated pay increase if you have met specific goals.

Get It In Writing

Once you’ve reached an agreement and accepted the offer, make sure you receive a written offer letter that includes all of the details that were negotiated.

Until you have the offer in writing, it’s just talk. That means you should keep your other options open. Don’t cancel other interviews or announce your new job to everybody you know.

Now Get to Work

Once you have the offer in writing and your start date scheduled, it’s time to celebrate! Congratulations on your new job and your excellent interviewing performance.

You may be breathing a sigh of relief that you’re done with the job interview process (for now). You’ve conquered the dragon.

Just remember that you never know when the next opportunity will come along. Now you’ll be prepared. The communications and persuasion skills that you learned and developed during the interview process will also help you on the job.

Good luck in your new position.

Written by

Pamela Skillings

Pamela Skillings is co-founder of Big Interview. As an interview coach, she has helped her clients land dream jobs at companies including Google, Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan Chase. She also has more than 15 years of experience training and advising managers at organizations from American Express to the City of New York. She is an adjunct professor at New York University and an instructor at the American Management Association.

18 Comment to Top Tips for Negotiating a Job Offer

  • Larissa

    Great article. Any thoughts how to politely prompt an interviewer if they seem to be a little tardy with the offer letter?

    I guess I could take that as a sign that they’re not that excited – but my potential boss did seem a little disorganized.

  • Dennis

    Thanks for the tips here. I’ve always found negotiating a job offer especially in this job climate to be a sticky situation.
    Any advice on how I could defer a start date on a job offer by a few weeks?

  • @Larissa – all you can do is give some gentle nudging after about a week, maybe a follow-up call. If you’re still not hearing from them then the signs point to lack of interest, change in circumstances or plain unprofessionalism.

  • @Dennis — I’ve seen many people successfully negotiate their start dates. It’s best to wait until the offer has been extended (sounds like it has been in your case) and then bring up the topic of preferred start date. Unless there’s some pending deadline or other reason they need you to start immediately, they are likely to be at least somewhat flexible. If you have a good reason that you can share (having to relocate, already-scheduled family commitment or vacation), that can help. Be careful not to position it as an ultimatum unless it really is a deal-breaker for you.

  • Yes, absolutely get it in writing. I have a few clients, during the past few years of the recession, who have had the offer modified then sent upstairs for approval. Not a good way to treat people during a stressful time in their lives.

  • Shane Harison

    My last interview I gave numbers first. Not any more . Thank you pamela

  • Watson

    Must read article. This part is very important in interview.

  • Cathy Linda

    I am a fan of your blog pamela. I love this.

  • Kumar Nigam

    I’m going to share with my friends . This is very important article.

  • Kumar Nigam

    I just entered my email and name. Please send a ebook. Thank you.

  • Emma

    I thought I’m very success full with interviews but I never thought about how to negotiate salary. This is good.

  • Ellen

    I think you should submit a video. It’ll be very helpful for us.

  • Kirthis

    Very good article. You make me think what i never thought.

  • Nagla

    Keep it up pamela. thank you for this effort.Very useful one.

  • Nagla

    I had a bad experience. I finished my earlier interview with success . They even gave me the dates to report to duty. But in few days they call me and tell me that they don’t need me. If I had written document I would never face this.

    thank you.

  • Anonymous

    Just a quick question, how do I avoid naming a number first if they ask me to list my previous salaries at previous employers on my job application? Should I leave it blank? What if the application is online and demands a specific number? I just don’t want to get lowballed.

  • Hi Anon,
    Sharing salary history can definitely put you at a disadvantage when it comes time to negotiate your offer and salary (if you make it to that stage). However, refusing to provide the information can take you out of the running for some jobs before you even get a chance to interview (depends on the company and/or the recruiter).

    Each situation is different. A lot depends on your industry, the leverage that you have (if you’re a superstar in your field or just starting out) and what you’re looking for in terms of salary increase. You have to decide what’s most important — your negotiating position or getting your foot in the door.

    I have known many candidates who left the “previous salary” fields blank on their applications and still got job offers (after waiting to discuss salary expectations in the interview). I have also heard from several recruiters that they don’t call a candidate back if he/she won’t provide salary history info.

    If you want to share more details about your specific situation, I would be happy to provide some more thoughts on how to approach.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Pamela,

    Thanks for answering that question. I am a recent college graduate (age 22) and am looking for an entry level position in Human Resources to eventually get my PHR/SPHR certification. I have about 2 years of HR experience with my previous employer as a data analyst but unfortunately got laid off. The PHR/SPHR certification requires a salaried position to meet the experience requirements and I obviously did get paid hourly when I was at my previous job.