How to Effectively Negotiate a Job Offer

Woman sitting in home office on phone.

A hiring fact: When drafting up formal offers, around 70% of hiring managers expect the candidate to counteroffer, so they build wiggle room for that into the package. But, while so many employers are prepared for negotiations, only around 41% of job seekers actually negotiate the offer they receive. This means that 59% of qualified workers are missing out on the opportunity to potentially raise their starting salary by 7.4% (on average).

We get it. After rounds and rounds of applications and interviews, a formal job offer that you either really want, really need or some combination of the two seems like something you better grab hold of, and quickly. It is important, however, not to get so caught up in the excitement of the moment that you blindly accept the first offer you are given. Because chances are, you have some leverage to negotiate an even better offer. After all you are being offered the job for a reason—you are their best choice for the role.

Look at the whole package

Another important point: salary isn’t the only thing on the negotiations table. Your take home pay is always a major factor in whether or not to accept a job offer of course, but there are other employment benefits to consider as well as they can each impact your professional well-being. In addition to the salary, think about things that may be included in your offer such as:

  • 401k matching
  • Sign-on bonus
  • Insurance
  • Flexible work schedules
  • How much paid time off you will get

When considering your offer be sure you are looking at the whole package and seeing what points you would like to address before moving forward with your acceptance.

Negotiating a job offer is an important skill to hone, and can also be an intimidating one. There is a reason nearly two-thirds of workers aren’t engaging in the practice— negotiation isn’t a skill that comes naturally to most people. Still, as difficult as it may be, you need to push through the experience so you can get the job offer you deserve.

To help lighten the load, here are some tips for you to use along the way.

Know what you want from the start

During the first call with a recruiter, you’re likely to be asked about your salary expectations for the role. This is common practice and shouldn’t be something that makes you nervous. Instead, be sure that you’ve done your research on the role, the company and the industry standards, and come prepared with a range that you are comfortable with. Practice saying your acceptable salary range out loud. Say it to yourself, to your mirror, find whoever you can practice with so when you say it in the interview it comes more naturally to you. Again, the salary conversation isn’t a bad thing, but it does require two things from you—research and confidence. 

Remember too, both you and the company are trying to find out if you are a good match for one another and that means the salary needs to match as well. A company will have a budget to work within and you will have a salary requirement to work within as well. Better to know if you are a good fit monetarily, or not, in the early stages of the hiring process. No one wants to go through weeks of interviews only to find out in the final stages that there is a large gap in salary expectations. Get it out there so you can move on, one way or another, toward your best possible future. 

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This is also a good time to inquire generally about any other benefits that are top of mind for you. If you need to be fully remote or want to know about the insurance they offer, maternity leave policies, or 401k plans you can ask during the interview. But, there’s no need to delve too far into your needs or wants in the initial interview as you can include more thoughtful questions or engage in discussions around those things as the hiring process continues, should you move forward in it.

Don’t get too caught up in the initial offer

You’ve got an offer on the table! Woo-hoo! But, press pause for just a moment. While this is definitely celebration worthy, you’ll need hold onto the confetti for a little longer. 

Early in your career, blurting out “yes!” before a recruiter finished giving you the details of a job offer may have happened. We aren’t judging, entry-level jobs don’t always have room for negotiation and sometimes we have to take what we can get. But once you’ve established a career you have more authority and expertise to negotiate with. And even if you know you’ll take the offer, you should always take a bit of time to think about what the offer entails to make sure you are truly happy with the opportunity. 

If the initial offer doesn’t reflect your expectations this is where you have the chance for discussions. Rather than feeling slighted, insulted or undervalued, collect your thoughts and bring your concerns and reasonings to the table in the form of a counteroffer. A company will have a range in mind for an offer and usually they don’t offer the top number in that range right out of the gate. Just as you should have a range in mind and you don’t start with the lowest number in yours. The initial offer should be seen as a starting point, one that you can rise from.

Take time to review and strategize

Any good hiring manager will expect you to take time to respond to a job offer. After you’ve been presented with your initial offer, ask when they need your response, and then use the time in between to strategically develop your counter-offer. Keep in mind though that the longer you take, the more likely the hiring manager will see you as someone who is potentially unexcited by the role or the offer so try to get back to them as soon as you can.

If you feel the salary is too low, revisit your research to determine if it is appropriate and competitive for this role in your area, and use it as both a guide and further leverage for your counteroffer, if you plan to make one. Additionally, see if you can find out what kinds of benefits similar companies offer employees. If the benefits you’ve been offered aren’t comparable, then it’s not unreasonable for you to ask for a higher salary to compensate. 

You should also use this time to determine if there is any specific language you’d like to see in your revised offer letter. Any unique arrangement or benefit that the hiring manager agreed to should be explicitly spelled out in your offer. For example, if the hiring manager verbally agreed to let you work from home during the summer months while your kids are out of school, that’s the kind of benefit you want to have in writing to ensure they will hold up their end of the bargain.

Again, this is a time to evaluate your whole offer. Factor in your salary, any benefits and the extras you may have asked or hoped for (work from home Fridays for example) when considering the offer on the table. From there, make a note of any changes you would like to ask for and the reasoning behind the ask.

Submit the counteroffer with confidence, but manage expectations

Once you’ve drafted and submitted your counteroffer, decide where your hard lines are for the next round of negotiation. Are you comfortable accepting a salary that’s lower than what you’re asking for, but higher than the initial offer? Will you walk if they’re unwilling to add certain language into your formal offer or provide you with specific benefits you want? Establish your deal-breakers before you’re presented with your next offer so that you know what to focus on should you need to counter again.

The purpose of any negotiation is to find a solution that everyone is comfortable with, even if it means no one gets exactly what they initially wanted. It’s very likely that you’ll need to compromise on some aspect of the job offer, but don’t let that hold you back from asking for what you deserve—just keep it in mind to help manage expectations as the process moves forward.

Decide whether to accept or decline the final offer

Companies don’t typically do several rounds of back and forth when negotiating a job offer, so at a certain point, you’re going to be presented with your final offer. When that time comes, you have to decide whether to accept what you’re being offered or walk away in search of something else that will give you what you need. There’s no rule for when this time comes in a negotiation, but you’ll know it when you get there and the right decision will likely be clear by then. 

As uncomfortable, intimidating or aggravating as it may be, negotiation is often necessary to get what you need from a job offer. Remember, if a company is offering you a job it’s because they have chosen you, out of numerous candidates, to fill a role in their organization. A job offer means the company is already invested in you and will likely do what they can to convince you to come on board.

You are a commodity, and a good employer will make sure your job offer reflects that!

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