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You did the research, nailed the interview, and now there's a job offer in your inbox. Don't let the process stop there. Most hiring managers expect a small amount of back and forth after an offer, so be sure to take advantage of this step. Here's how and what to negotiate to go from an average offer to one that really stands out and gets you excited to start.
Be Clear About What You Want
Hone your expert negotiation skills and lay out a clear plan about what's needed to get you on board. Career experts advise that specificity and enthusiasm are often more important than what you are asking for (within reason). Use phrases such as "If you can make these changes, I can take the offer immediately." Or "I'm really excited about this position, however, we need to discuss X or Y before I'm ready to accept the offer." Why use these terms? Hiring managers and HR want to to know two things — that you are sincerely interested in the job and that there is a clear path to an amended offer. Don't make them guess!
How to Negotiate a Higher Paycheck
First, a few things not to do. Don't say you are the best person for the role, or that you'll prove you're worth the extra money. They assume you are a good fit for the position, or they would not have extended an offer in the first place. And don't be vague about other offers on the table by saying something along the lines of, "well, another company is willing to pay me more." Again, be specific and diplomatic.
Instead, here's the kind of conversation that is productive and won't insult the hiring manager. Experts advise staying cool and neutral, using terms like, "I'm excited about the offer, but we are a little apart on the salary. Can we discuss a starting salary of X, which is more in line with industry average?" And then expect a seasoned HR pro to respond with the following script, "we are really excited to bring you on board, but unfortunately, that's the highest we can offer."
But don't stop there, ask one more time, and reiterate that you are ready to take the offer and start ASAP if you can find a way to close the gap between what they offered and what you are asking for. Often they will go back and see what they can do. If it's a company that really does have a tight budget, be prepared for a final response indicating that salary negotiation is not possible. Remember, the base salary shouldn't be the only thing you discuss. If they can't increase your weekly paycheck, as about other pay-related items such as a signing bonus, end-of-year bonus, or a bonus related to meeting specific KPIs.
Negotiate PTO or Vacation Days
If you are in a situation where they can't match your request for a higher starting salary, move on and ask about other benefits or working conditions. For example, it's standard for non-managerial roles to come with two-weeks vacation or PTO. Reiterate your excitement for the role and ask if instead of a salary boost you can have an extra week of PTO, which, when you do the math, five days only adds a small amount of compensation. For example, a salary of $65,000 translates to $1,250 a week. It's really an inexpensive way for employers to secure your interest. As an added bonus, those who take more vacation, on average, tend to end up with higher raises! That's likely because you're more refreshed and productive, btw.
Don't Forget About Other Perks
We know, it's complicated to navigate the ins and outs of a job negotiation, but don't stop now. This is the appropriate time to clarify other points of your position. Can you work from home one day a week or more? Will the company pay for any professional memberships or classes? Will they reimburse you for attending professional conferences? Are there additional fitness or health benefits that can be included? For example, do they provide a gym or will they pay for your annual health club membership?
Though it feels like a lot of effort for small monetary increases, don't get discouraged. Research shows that avoiding negotiation leaves a lot of money the table, on average, nearly $1 million over a lifetime. Hopefully, that made you perk up.
Kristin Amico is a career and business writer who spent more than a decade managing creative teams at digital agencies. She has written for The Muse, The Independent and USA Today.