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The Art of Negotiating the Job Offer

ChessBoard It is difficult at times to know whether or not to accept a job offer. If you are nearing a state of desperation or at that point, it is instinctive to accept the first offer an employer makes. The fact is, if the employer has decided he wants you, oftentimes he understands and accepts the fact that compensation is potentially an issue. It is also just a common practice for candidates to propose a counter offer.

Don’t sell yourself short. There are options for you to explore before accepting the first offer, so consider these points:

  1. Never attempt a salary or benefits negotiation until after you’ve received an offer. If you discuss this earlier in the process you will appear to care more about money and yourself than putting your skills to work for the company.
  1. Always ask for time to consider the offer and ask for the offer in writing. State how excited you are about the position and ask when the employer needs your final decision. You need time to evaluate the offer and determine what options you may want to negotiate.
  1. Review the offer in detail. The written offer should include details such as start date, base salary, bonus and incentive plans/options, health and medical benefits, 401K, vacation, personal days and holidays, tuition reimbursement, relocation, etc. Remember that salary is only a part of the total compensation package. Benefits can make a difference in your total compensation package, especially with the cost of health care.
  1. Decide what’s negotiable. Are you willing to trade $2,000 in base salary for an extra week of paid vacation? Do you really want stock options and a 75 hour work week or a 9-5 schedule and a 15 minute commute? Are you willing to take a slight reduction in pay for a career advancement opportunity? Are you willing to negotiate a signing bonus and ask for salary review in six months? Knowing what is important will help in the negotiating process, but realize that negotiating health care and 401K plans is generally not an option.
  1. Everyone needs to win. The best negotiations are when it is a win-win for both parties: when each side believes it is getting what it wants. Job offer negotiation is usually expected but that doesn’t mean you can be overreaching or demanding. Realize that in all situations how you approach the negotiation is critical. If you present an amended offer in a positive, constructive way, you should not worry about the employer withdrawing the offer.
  1. Understand what your “deal maker” is. In most cases, you can only go back with one, at most two, counter-proposals before you run the risk of alienating your future employer. Know when enough is enough.

Keep it professional. It is important to remember that the manner in which you and the company conduct yourselves during negotiations may impact how you will be viewed once employed. Remember, have no fear, but also know not to overstep any boundaries.


Paula Pope is a Senior Consultant with The Frontier Group. Her practice specialties are career coaching, outplacement and executive development.