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Negotiating a Job Offer

One of the most stressful parts of the hiring process for many people is negotiating the offer itself. Generally speaking, employers do not make their best offer first. A carefully-crafted, professional negotiation can not only help you earn more money, but it solidifies your position as a desirable candidate. After all, if you don’t make an effort to get the best possible salary offer for yourself, how does the employer know you will do your best on behalf of the company?

Salary negotiation is not as hard as it might seem. Preparing for salary negotiation, in fact, starts during the interview process. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you through the process.

You got the interview, now:

1. Research. While you’re preparing for your interview, find out as much as you can about...
  • Industry salary ranges for the position you seek – know what you’re worth.
  • The company’s benefits packages and salary ranges
  • Its competitor’s benefits packages and salary ranges
There are a couple of good websites that can give you a starting point for this type of research. will grant guests limited access to their company research without a subscription. is a free site that gets the majority of its information about companies from the employees themselves.

2. Decide what you want. Are you looking for an upward career path? Is it flexibile hours or a mobile workspace you seek? Where do you see yourself a year from now? Five years? ;Having a keen sense of your personal goals will ground you when you receive an offer, and will give you tools to negotiate with. Make a list of the benefits that matter to you and return to it with your offer in hand.

You’re interviewing, so:

3. Don’t talk numbers. However, it’s important to acknowledge that one of the filters employers need to use as they evaluate candidates is mathematical. They have a people budget, and they need to know who fits and who doesn’t. So the challenge becomes wooing the company to the point where they want to know what they have to do to make the relationship work.

If you are asked for your salary requirements, politely and professionally let them know you would prefer to save salary discussions until they have decided to make an offer. Another deflecting but respectful response might be to reiterate the experience and skills you bring to the table and suggest that until they are ready to make an offer you keep discussions to making sure you are a good fit. If you are pressured further, leverage your industry research. “I’m sure the offer you are prepared to give your top candidate will be at least within the industry standard of X-X,” might be an appropriate way to respond.

You receive the offer, then:

4. Stoicism is your friend. Usually the job offer is accompanied by the job description, benefits description and salary. Even if it’s beyond your wildest dreams, or if it’s far below them, do not give any indication of your emotional state. Be polite and thank them for their time and the offer, and give them a time frame in which you will respond. Always come back and ask for more.

5. Evaluate the offer. Go back to the beginning of the process, when you listed the benefits that were important to you. Compare what you were offered what you’ve prioritized, and note any significant differences. Those are your negotiation points.

6. Respond when you said you would respond. First and foremost, thank the employer for the offer. Then let them know what you’d like from the job, in terms of salary, opportunity, and benefits. Don’t forget to include things like memberships in relevant professional associations, conferences and professional education that can influence your marketability and upward mobility.

7. Remind them why they offered you the job in the first place. Did you save your unit money or increase their efficiency? Quantify your value in terms they understand and let them know what you expect to deliver for your new employer.

8. Competition is healthy, but be careful. If you have had other interviews, call those prospects and let them know about your current offer. Ask if they are prepared to make you an offer – if they are, mention it as part of your negotiation to help boost your value. Be forewarned: many people have attempted to bluff their way into a higher salary by exaggerating or fabricating a competing offer. Do not take any liberties here that would jeopardize your standing with either employer.

9. Ask for the next step. Reviewing and responding to a counter offer can take hours or days, depending on the company. Ask when you can expect a response. While you wait, decide what you’ll accept and what you won’t. It is unlikely that the employer will agree to every point in a counteroffer. Know what you’re willing to compromise in order to get the deal you want – or at least the deal you can live with.

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