Before I get started, I want to note that many of the ideas for this post stem from Gary Bergmann’s Negotiation Strategy class held at Boston University, which I highly recommend.
Now that you have a job offer in hand, it’s time to negotiate. One thing I want to stress is the importance of attitude, and tone of voice. Throughout the negotiation process you should be enthusiastic about the job, and speak using positive terms. You want to send the message that you are excited about the position, and confident that you will be able to come to an agreement that works for both parties. Trying to be a hard-ass or implying ultimatums can result in the entire job offer being pulled off the table. I made this mistake once when I thought I had to act “tough” to get what I wanted. The company rescinded the offer (justifiably), and there was nothing I could say or do to change their mind. After that excruciating experience, I resolved to learn everything I could about negotiation, and never make the same mistake again.
Here are six important steps to consider when negotiating a job offer:
1. Be gracious – when someone offers you a job, take the time to say thank you, and reiterate your excitement. Communicate when they can expect to hear from you. “I will review the offer and get back to you no later than Friday.” Anywhere from 2-5 days is an appropriate amount of time to review an offer.
2. Gather information – look at everything you have been provided in the offer, and figure out if you need to obtain any additional information. A compensation package can be composed of many items including: base salary, bonus potential, vacation time, sick time, health/dental insurance, retirement plan/401K, stock options, tuition assistance, relocation expenses, job title, non-compete, starting date, signing bonus, and flex hours or telecommuting. Contact the hiring manager and request more information for any of the items above, as long as they apply to your situation. The company may have stock options, but you definitely won’t see them if you don’t ask about them.
3. Be clear about your priorities – before you start negotiating, take the list above, and determine which pieces of the compensation package are your highest priorities. Having that list in front of you while negotiating can prevent you from getting hung up in an area that isn’t important to you. You don’t want to be haggling over vacation days if bonus potential and health insurance are your biggest concerns.
4. Prepare – determine what salary range you will consider. Know the absolute minimum you will accept, as well as your goal for the high end. Determine your BATNA or Best Alternative to a Negotiated Deal. Next create what Career Management Consultant, Gary Bergmann, calls a “Leverage List.” On the left side list what the company needs are for the position (degree level, years of experience, certifications, skills etc.). On the right side, list your qualifications as they match up with the company’s needs, as well additional skills you have that will benefit the company. You will use those additional skills as leverage when it’s time to negotiate.
5. Negotiate – call the hiring manager, and have a discussion by phone. Again, you want to start off by communicating your enthusiasm about the role. Also, let them know that you have thoroughly reviewed the offer, and that you have a few areas for discussion. Indicate which areas of the offer you are content with, and then indicate what areas you would like to discuss (I do not recommend having more than 3 areas for discussion, as it can create too much clutter in the conversation). Use your leverage list when asking for more money/time/benefits. “Now I know you were looking for someone with a Master’s degree, and since I have both a Masters degree and a PMP Certification, I wanted to see if you had any flexibility on the base salary.”
6. Accepting the offer – if you are able to come to an agreement, obtain the offer in writing, and formally accept. You should immediately stop all other job search activities once you have made a commitment to your new company.
If you are unable to come to an agreement during the negotiation, you must remain professional at all times, and actively work to reinforce bridges instead of burning them. Communicate your appreciation for being considered for the role, and follow up with all the people in the organization that you spoke with. If you do not end up accepting the job offer, the end goal is to leave the negotiation with the relationship in tact.
Once you get comfortable with negotiation, it can actually be fun (seriously), instead of another dreaded conversation that leaves you feeling like an amateur. You may be young, but you can still get what you deserve, you just have to have the guts to ask for it.