How To Negotiate A Job Offer to Get the Best Deal

how to negotiate a job offerYou have been selected for the job and now you’re thinking how to negotiate a job offer – you are not alone. You are going to receive an offer – CELEBRATE! (The Kool and the Gang song will be running through my head for a week now.) How do you make the offer process successful?

Start here: Think about it – What do you want? Seriously, what do you want? This is the information that you desperately need to know in advance of your job search. The types of questions that you need to ask yourself are as follows:

  1. What am I currently making?
  2. What are other people in this same job making? (Do some Internet research)
  3. What is the reputation of this company? (Find out where this company falls on the pay scale – are they known for paying more or less than market?)
  4. What other benefits do they offer? (For example: benefits, relocation, bonuses etc…)
  5. What financial value do those benefits have for me? (For example: Will I accept less salary to get more vacation?)

Once you decide on the parameters of your salary expectations, do a double check. Is the amount reasonable? I add this because I have seen absolutely crazy requests from otherwise great candidates who missed out on their dream job.

  • For example, I saw a Software Engineer III who was making 62K ask for a minimum salary of 128K. (He felt he had been underpaid and his next employer needed to make up for it).
  • In another circumstance, I saw a Sr. Financial Analyst who was making 73K demand a salary of 110K minimum.
  • Lastly, I saw a negotiation for a Program Manager who was making 87K and he asked for a minimum salary of 125K and stock options worth over $2 million.

So the next question — What is reasonable? Each negotiation is unique dependent on your circumstance, market conditions, company culture and general expectations. To set a general guideline, when moving to another company, it is reasonable to expect a 5% to 15% increase in salary dependent on your current salary. When moving internally, a reasonable increase is usually in the 5% to 8% range.

We all have seen how to negotiate for a job in TV programs and movies where someone gets a 30% or 40% increase. This is fiction. In over 20 years in HR, the largest increase that I ever saw was 16%. The absolute LARGEST!! Before writing this article, I decided to poll other HR professionals to see if my experience was unique. Consistently, the highest increases ever seen were UNDER 20%.
Hollywood is fun to watch but please don’t be mislead. Employers do not grant those types of increases.

Hopefully at this point, you will have a range in your head and some key items (i.e. vacation) where you are willing to negotiating a job offer – known as your “hot buttons”.

For those of you who are unemployed – it happens, be sure to provide your former salary if asked directly. Many employers will try and take advantage of the situation and provide a “low-ball” offer. Dependent on your situation, you need to decide what is important to you. Can you negotiate? Are you willing to walk away from the job? This is dependent on your personal situation.

How to Negotiate a Job Offer to Get The Best Deal

Let’s back up – how do you get to the job offer? The most important thing to remember is that as you are going through the interview process — do not tell them your current compensation (if possible). There are times when you will be asked this information VERY early in the process (i.e. the first interview). Although you don’t want to challenge the employer, in the same respect, it is important for you to understand the job BEFORE setting salary expectations.

So how and when do you reveal your current compensation? Here are some guidelines:

  1. Do not include your salary requirements when you submit your resume on-line or on the formal application. When requested, provide words like open or negotiable. Again, the longer that you can wait to provide this information, the better. Employers generally use the “percentage” increase so if they don’t know your salary, they can’t pre-decide what they would offer you. With that said, sometimes, you will need to tell them. Be positive and honest!!! Never lie, more and more, employers are requesting tax documents. It is too easy to get caught so if you need to disclose salary, be honest!
  2. Try to wait to discuss salary whenever possible – Learn about the job First!!! So you are on a phone interview and the recruiter asks, “What is your current salary?” An acceptable (and respectful response) can include questions such as:
    • Before discussing my current salary, do you mind if I ask a few details about the job itself? I am not motivated by salary and would prefer to better understand the job.
    • Before discussing my current salary, can you please provide me with some more details about the job? I am more interested in learning about the job responsibilities, growth potential etc. In my opinion, the money will come with good performance and a good job fit.
    • Would you mind providing me with the salary range? I am not motivated by money but want to ensure a good job fit.

These types of questions demonstrate professionalism and may allow you to side step the salary question. With that said, some employers will insist and if you are unwilling to provide it will screen you out of the process. In those circumstances, if you are interested in the job, you will need to disclose your salary.

  1. Express interest and your value: If you are really interested in the job, be sure to end the interview by reiterating how your skills tie to the job and that you are very interested and would love to move to the next step in the process.

Let’s return to the beginning of this article where you are about to receive an offer. (CELEBRATE!) Every negotiation is unique but the best way to on how to negotiate a job offer is as follows:

  • Respectfully listen to the details of the offer
  • Where unclear, be certain to ask for clarification
  • Be certain to get details on additional perks such as benefits, stocks, vacation etc…
  • Request the offer in writing
  • Respond enthusiastically regardless of the offer amount – Trust me, they are assessing your response to learn more about your professional behavior
  • Request a reasonable length of time to think about it and discuss with relevant people in your life

At this point, you need to make some decisions:

  • If the salary is higher than you expected it – CELEBRATE AGAIN! That is great news. Be certain that other expectations such as vacation are reasonable. In this case, if you want the job, accept it. Congratulations!!!!
  • If the salary is lower than you expected, factor in other items such as signing bonus, vacation etc. If you are still unhappy with the offer after factoring in these items, you have 3 options:
    1. Turn down the offer. You are not locked in and you can respectfully decline. You should always be willing to walk away.
    2. Attempt to negotiate salary. The best approach is to contact the employer and ask questions such as:
      • Is my experience relatively consistent with the rest of the team? Am I coming into the role at the higher or lower end of the range?
      • Based on internal equity, do you believe this is a competitive offer?
      • I appreciate the offer but am slightly disappointed with the amount. Is there any room for negotiation? – (Be honest and respectful!!!!)
    3. In some circumstances, employers will not be willing to negotiate salary but you can negotiate other items such as the signing bonus, vacation etc…dependent on the result of this negotiation, you may be able to reach an agreement. In this case, you can ask questions such as:
      • Although the salary is not exactly what I expected, I am not motivated by money. There are a few auxiliary items which I would like to discuss. In particular, I have 3 weeks vacation with my current employer. Being able to spend this time with my family is very important to me. As a result, is vacation negotiable? (You can substitute a variety of things for vacation but as you can see, this type of negotiation is very professional and provides a respectful opportunity for discussion).

Now that you have learn how to negotiate a job offer, keep in mind that you need to look at each offer and decide the best option for you — this is your job search. Be professional and willing to negotiate. Remember – an important part of negotiating is setting realistic expectations and asking questions that give you the information needed to make a good decision. Your next negotiation could lead to your dream job.

This is a guest post contribution by Sarah Mayer

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