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How to Negotiate a Job Offer

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Negotiating a Job Offer Is the Last Part of the Job-Seeking Process

Congratulations―you've been offered a job. Now comes the fine art of negotiating your salary and benefits. While talking dollars-and-cents can be uncomfortable for some people, recognize that it’s just part of the employment process. Be calm, professional and assertive, and don’t forget―they offered you the job, which means they already see your value―but make sure you remember your value, too.

Know What You Want

Ideally, you will go into job negotiations knowing what similar positions in your industry pay and the type of salary range you need. You can prepare yourself by reading through the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, which provides salary statistics per industry. Not only will this help you understand what others in similar positions are earning, it will also be a good tool to use as supporting documentation to back up your request.

Starting the Negotiations

In some negotiation talks, the hiring manager will make you an offer, either verbally or in writing. In other instances, you may be asked what kind of salary you’re looking for. Since this is a negotiation, keep two things in mind:

  1. The employer is likely to offer a salary that’s at least a little bit lower than what they’re ultimately willing to pay. They expect you to come back with a higher request, so don’t disappoint them.
  2. If you’re asked to name a figure, employ the same negotiation tactic; come in with a salary that’s a little higher than what you actually want.  This leaves you room to negotiate if they counter with a lower offer.

Explain Your Reasoning

When stating your desired compensation or countering an initial offer, preface your response with a justification for the figure you’re quoting.

Examples:

  • “According to research I’ve done, the national average for this position is about 15 percent higher than what you’re offering. Could we close that gap with a 15 percent bump?”
  • “I think that’s a very fair salary for someone in an entry-level position, but I have 10 years' experience and a proven track record for high sales performance. I hope you’ll agree my work history warrants a salary with a starting rate that’s at least 20 percent higher.”  

In doubt? Ask what the last person holding the position earned, or ask for a little bit of time to consider the offer. That will buy time to do your research, crunch your own numbers and make an informed decision.

Benefits and Perks

Salary isn’t the only thing you’ll negotiate as part of a job offer. Other things to consider include a signing bonus, earning or performance bonus, profit-sharing, benefits, sick time and vacation pay, retirement, and other perks like child care or professional development opportunities. While these extras don’t equate to extra dollars in your bank account, they have tangible financial value and shouldn’t be overlooked. For example, if you normally pay $500 a week for child care and the company offers free child care, that’s $24,000 a year you save through your job. Look at the value of your benefits package, and if you can’t negotiate a higher salary, ask for enhanced benefits instead.

Declining a Job Offer

If you can’t reach agreeable terms or you decide the job just isn’t right for you, a job negotiation may very well turn into a thanks-but-no-thanks conversation. Be professional, thank the hiring manager for his or her time, and simply state that you are unable to accept the position. Use caution in declining a position as a job negotiation tool; there’s no guarantee the employer will come back with a counter if they’re afraid you’ll walk. Only decline if you have definitively decided you don’t want to accept the job.