Tips for Negotiating an Offer — Even When You Really Want a Job
The hiring process remains a two-way endeavor right up until the time a job candidate accepts a position. Yet, understandably, many job seekers are wary of pushing too hard once they’ve received an offer, figuring that if they don’t take the job “as is” the employer will be only too happy to move on to someone else.
And while in this competitive environment you don’t want to be unrealistic, you shouldn’t say “yes” without giving the offer some serious thought, and trying to negotiate to get the best deal you can. Hiring experts remind us that you’re unlikely to be in as good a bargaining position as you are right now — once you’re working there, it’s much harder to negotiate, and right now, you have a perfect record with the organization — so you’d best take advantage of it.
Here are some tips for negotiating an offer, even when you’ve been looking for a while and really want this job:
*Take some time. NEVER accept an offer to join an organization on the spot. First, it doesn’t make you look good with the organization — hiring managers expect you to take at least 24 hours to think about the offer. If you say yes right away, they actually may wonder whether they’ve made a mistake — good recruiters expect candidates to do some research and some thinking about the position. Ask for 24 to 48 hours to consider the offer and then get back to the hiring manager in that time frame, even if only to ask for more time to think about it. If they try to rush you, think hard about why they may be doing so. And never sign anything — even a hiring letter that is well short of a contract — until you’ve carefully read the offer and discussed it with someone you trust.
*Do some research. You should try to find out as much as you can about the position, the salary and the benefits offered before negotiating. Some of this research you may already have done — such as where the position fits in the organization, just what the duties will be and why the opening has occurred. With salary, you should seek to find out whether others doing similar jobs are similarly paid, or whether they are making you a “low-ball” offer (perhaps you’re being subject to a “layoff discount” if you lost your previous job). Though it’s difficult to research salaries, former employees and some of your contacts who know people in the organization may be able to give you a sense of whether the salary is realistic or whether you should ask for more. Come armed to negotiations with information. When you are initially made the offer, get contact information for their benefits specialist and then have a detailed conversation with them regarding benefits. If they are vague or say that you’ll get information once you start, don’t be afraid to tell the hiring manager that you can’t make a decision about the job until you have detailed information about benefits.
*Be realistic when negotiating salary, and try to do so in person. While you should never just accept the initial offer — as often there may be some “give” in that number — you also should recognize what the organization pays for this position and whether there is much room for discussion. Many hiring managers these days have little flexibility when it comes to salary. This is an issue that should have been on the table — at least in a general sense — before you got to the offer stage. So after studying the offer, try proposing a 10 percent increase in salary. Do so in a friendly manner, but firmly and unapologetically. Carefully note their reaction (that’s why it’s better to do this in person; it also shows you are serious about the job and the offer). If the hiring manager doesn’t seem surprised, you are likely to get that. If they do or immediately respond that this is all they can offer, then explain your position. If you were paid more at your previous job, tell them that, and say that while you want to come work here (presuming you do, or you wouldn’t be wasting their time) you would like to start the job feeling that you are being paid a salary commensurate with the duties and your skills, and that the number you gave appears realistic. If they really can’t pay you more and say that, you’ll then have an opening to negotiate other terms.
*Consider the circumstances. First, figure out what can work in your favor. For example, if the position has been open for a while and they need to fill it quickly, you may be able to negotiate more salary or time off later if you are willing to start right away (or after only two weeks — with no break between jobs — if you are currently employed). Other things that can help you in negotiations: the fact you may not have to move and so the company saves on any moving expenses; some skills you may already have so they won’t have to train you as long; and if you already have medical benefits, say, through a spouse or partner’s employer. Note all this in the negotiating conversation — the hiring manager may be able to go back to their boss to sweeten the salary or other terms in exchange for these factors. If they can’t give on salary, see if you can get additional vacation (often “off the books,” so determine what that means), a review within six or nine months at which salary may be increased, or other benefits such as better office space or flexibility with telecommuting or your schedule. Again, consider what works in your favor and use that to your benefit in negotiating the offer — even if you really want this job!
*Long-term unemployment can be tough not only on your psyche but on your physical health as well. Marketwatch.com looks at a recent report on the topic from the Pew Research Center and provides some tips on how to try to stay healthy even while jobless:
Unemployment is hard on your health