Negotiating

You have a job offer. Now what? Should you accept outright, negotiate the terms, or decline and pursue other offers?

While your instinct may be to enter negotiations immediately in order to maximize the terms of the offer, your first step should be to evaluate how closely the job aligns with your career goals. Once you are confident that the job is a strong fit, the next question is, should you negotiate?

Always remember that a job offer negotiation is the beginning of a potential professional relationship. Embrace a “win-win” approach.

Understand the Hiring Manager’s Perspective

  • If you have been given an offer, they want you to join the company!
  • They prefer to get signals from you during the interview process — about your level of interest as well as compensation expectations.
  • They want you to have the confidence to ask for what you want.
  • They have limits on what they can offer based on budget, internal equity, and company-specific constraints.

Prepare

  • Concurrent with interviews, begin research on industry standards for compensation. Please note: While salary websites can be helpful, you often will get the most relevant data from people in your network who hold similar positions or are recruiters in your field.
  • When given the offer, receive it graciously and request time to consider the offer. Get the offer in writing.
  • Formulate your strategy. Along with industry research, evaluate your needs — your desired package, your walkaway point, and your alternatives.
  • Consider all elements of compensation — cash (salary, bonus, signing bonus, or relocation), stock, vacation, and additional fringe benefits. Determine the two or three items that are most important.

Negotiation Tactics

  • Negotiate with a decision-maker. In some cases, this may be the hiring manager, but it may also be your contact in the human resources department. Inquire about the company’s protocol and don’t try to circumvent it.
  • Ask, don’t demand, and focus on the value you bring. Strive to find a mutually beneficial outcome.
  • Try to make all of your requests in the first round, and don’t go back and forth more than three times.
  • Reveal your previous salary if it will help you in the negotiation — or if it won’t hurt. You will raise suspicions if you refuse to disclose it.
  • Do not negotiate via email.
  • When asking for additional compensation, be prepared to provide the data that justifies your request.

How to Decline an Offer

  • Once you feel certain a job is not right for you, decline promptly.
  • Inform the organization of your decision by phone.
  • Keep it short. You do not need to explain all the factors in your decision.
  • Once you have spoken, write a formal letter to the person who offered you the job to briefly and graciously reject the offer. Consider sending brief letters to others with whom you interviewed, thanking them for their time.