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Take a Confident and Professional Approach to Negotiating a Job Offer
Getting a job offer can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking at the same time. The company likes you and wants you to join their team, but first, you have to negotiate the best terms for yourself and accept the job offer in a way that sets the stage for your professional success.
Express Your Appreciation
Your first response to a job offer should be one of thanks. After all, you are the successful candidate, and the hiring manager is indicating the ball is now in your court. Even if you want to take some time to decide, a simple initial show of thanks is vital to establishing yourself as a professional.
Example: “Thank you for asking me to be part of your team. It’s an amazing opportunity.”
Start Asking Questions
If you didn’t discuss salary, benefits or work schedule during your interview, it’s time to start. Hiring managers will often get the ball rolling by making a formal offer with a set salary and benefits package. Ideally, you will have researched the position in advance and have an idea about the appropriate range based on your experience, education and the size of the company, and you’ll know your “bottom line” in terms of salary. At this point of the job offer discussion, you have three options:
Accept: Accept the offer as-is, without asking for a higher salary, extra vacation days or a window office. If you accept, the hiring manager will typically provide you with information such as a start-date, pre-hiring orientation training schedule, or advise you to meet with human resources to fill out pre-employment paperwork.
Counter: If you want the job but aren’t entirely satisfied with the terms being offered, you can come back with a counter offer. Keep in mind that it’s not uncommon to negotiate, so hiring managers often start out offering a lower salary than they’re ultimately willing to pay, so don’t be shy about upping the ante.
For example: “I would love to be part of this team, and the work is exactly what I’m looking for. However, I would be more comfortable with a starting salary that’s about 10 percent higher than what’s being offered.”
The hiring manager may accept your counter or deny it. If you are denied, you have the option of accepting the job on the original terms, declining it, or asking for other ways to increase your total compensation, such as asking for extra vacation days or help with relocation expenses, if needed.
Delay: If you’re unsure about accepting the job, want to conduct further research or talk it over with someone else, ask for a few days to mull over the offer before making a formal decision.
For example: “This is a wonderful opportunity you’ve presented, and I’m excited about the prospect. However, I would like to take a few days to think things through and talk to my family. Can I let you know by the end of the week?”
Companies are typically open to letting you take a few days to decide, but don’t push it past a week and follow-up with your response on time, as promised.
Name Your Price
Some hiring managers will ask you what kind of compensation you’re looking for, rather than make a specific offer. In this case, you’re wise to have research on-hand to help you negotiate. Just as an employer may low-ball an offer, when you’re in control, ask for a salary slightly higher than what you’re willing to settle for. This leaves you open for negotiation. Use your research and background when naming your price.
For example: “Research I’ve conducted through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests a mid-range position such as this averages $55,000 a year. As I have 10 years of experience and managerial oversight responsibilities, I’d like to ask for $62,000.”
Note: Don’t underestimate the value of a benefits package when negotiating your salary. A company that offers health benefits, retirement match, a company car, paid vacation, tuition reimbursement or other perks is adding value to your overall package. You can even ask the value of the benefits package to give you a better idea of what’s really being offered.
In-Person, Email and Phone Offers
Just as job interviews can take place in-person, by phone, Skype or other electronic means, you may get a job offer in one of these forms. You may even get an email or letter offer.
While the same rules apply when responding to spoken job offers, correspondence gives you a little more time to read through the details and consider your response. Feel free to ask questions or counter via email. If you have questions, respond to the email and ask for the opportunity to discuss the offer by phone.
Example: “I received your job offer by email, and I have just a few questions I’d like to discuss with HR before making a decision. Could we chat briefly by phone?”
Declining a Job
You may opt to decline a job offer. Perhaps you found something else, decided the position wasn’t right for you, or you couldn’t come to acceptable terms regarding salary or benefits. Whatever the reason, professionalism dictates that you formally decline the offer and thank the employer for the opportunity to be considered for the position.
Example: “While I greatly appreciate your offer of employment, I’m afraid I've already accepted a position with another company.”
Example: “After giving it a great deal of thought, I don’t believe I’m suited to working overnight shifts. However, I appreciate your consideration and the time spent in interviewing me.”
Example: “As much as I appreciate the offer, I’m afraid the position just isn’t in the salary range I need to be earning right now.”
Always express thanks for a hiring manager’s time in verbal or written form. You never know where you might meet that person again, and a professional demeanor will always keep you in good standing.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.