You churned out a resume that rocks. They were impressed enough to invite you to a face-to-face interview. They grilled you in the first round, invited you back for a second interview, and then a third. You went through round after round but they didn’t knock you out. You just kept coming back for more. And just when you thought to yourself “When are they going to offer me that job already”, you get the call. They want to make you an offer.
You did it! Smooth sailing from here. Right? Not so fast. What happens when the job offer letter doesn’t meet all of your expectations? Don’t despair. You don’t have to accept the offer as is, and if you go about properly, you need not worry that asking for more is going to jeopardize this career opportunity you worked so hard to get. Here’s how to negotiate a job offer without turning you future employer off.
1. Don’t respond to the job offer letter right away. Any reasonable employer will give you a few days at the very least to think about the terms of the offer. And most employers anticipate that candidates will make counteroffers.
2. Evaluate all of the elements of the job offer letter and determine how each one measures up to expectations. The best way to do this is in writing or on a spreadsheet. Create three columns on the page. In the first column, write a vertical list of categories such as salary, bonus, vacation, benefits, 401k, etc. At the top of the second column, write “Job offer letter”, and at the top of the third column, write “Expectations”. In the “Job offer letter” column, summarize the main points of the offer letter next to each category. So for example, next to salary, indicate the salary offered in the offer letter. Then in the “Expectations” column, write down the salary you want. Do that with each category so that you have a concise view of how the job offer letter compares to your expectations.
3. Focus on the things you want most. I’m a proponent of win-win negotiation and I believe that to succeed at negotiating a job offer letter, you need to be ready to make some compromises. Don’t try to have everything your way. Decide which elements of the job offer letter are most important to you and put forth your counteroffer on those items in clear terms. But it’s important to remember that there are some things you may want that they may not be able to offer because of company policies. It’s always a good idea to keep several options in mind so that if they can’t agree to something you want, you can offer them an alternative that will make both parties happy. For example, if you want three weeks vacation but their company policy is that all employees get two weeks vacation, consider if you’d be willing to forego the extra week of vacation in exchange for flexible working hours.
4. Of all the elements of the job offer letter, people tend to worry most about how to negotiate a higher salary. But it doesn’t have to be that difficult. If the salary offered doesn’t meet your expectations and you want to ask for more, be prepared to explain why you deserve it. There are lots of websites that provide in depth salary information. If you do your research, you’ll be in a position to show why someone with your skills and experience should get paid more for the position. But again, company policy may dictate what the employer can offer. If you can’t get the salary you want, be prepared to propose alternatives such as a higher bonus.
5. Always maintain your professionalism. You must be prepared for them to say no to things you want. Don’t let your emotions get the best of you and don’t make any rash decisions. Take a day or two to think about their final offer. You may come to the conclusion that the opportunity is worth foregoing a few perks.
Negotiating a job offer doesn’t have to be tedious. Determine what’s important to you but be ready to compromise. And don’t lose sight of the intangible things that you won’t see in your job offer letter. Happiness and fulfillment don’t always come with more money.