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How to Negotiate a Job Offer

One of the critically important skills I’ve had to learn in my 9 year career is the art of negotiation. It can make your skin crawl to confront another person. It’s a rare person than enjoys confrontation. However, I am usually surprised to learn of someone who took a new job, without negotiating the terms of their hire.

Naturally, some industries and jobs are non-negotiable (i.e. healthcare, military, union controlled, etc.). But in many industries, particularly business, the terms are always negotiable. They may not tell you this in school, but money is left sitting on the table if you jump into a new job without negotiation.

How it works:

Employer: They have a salary range and benefits package budgeted for a particular position. They will offer the prospective employee a salary somewhere in this range (usually lower to mid range), plus the company’s standard benefits package (i.e. 2 weeks vacation, health plan, 401k).

Employee: Believes the myth that negotiating will make them undesirable to the employer, they will feel awkward, nervous that this isn’t a normal practice for the company. Wishing to avoid any discomfort, they take the first offer extended.


Bringing these strategies to the negotiating table will add to your bottom line. Be upfront, genuine and clear. Just remember: you are not the first to ask for more.

1) Be honest about your current compensation, include ALL benefits (bonuses, overtime, 401k match, PTO, work from home days, etc). Don’t let your current salary stop you from asking for more. It’s why you’re looking for a new job!

**note: in some states it is illegal for companies to ask candidates what their current compensation is. Know your rights!

2) Let the hirer make the first move. (old trick: whoever names a figure first, will lose) Have them give you the offer. Then you ask for all the details. Have your questions ready. Understand the salary, bonus, and overtime offered (if possible). Know if the 401k matches and what the profit sharing options are. Can they send you all the healthcare details: what the plan is (including your copay and out of pocket max), how much it will cost to cover yourself and family. Find out how much PTO you will receive (both vacation and sick time), and a list of the company holidays.

3) With a clear picture of the total package, go to work on devising a plan. Compare the offer, as a whole, to what you are receiving now. For example, if it pays $2,000/year over your current income, but you lose a week of PTO, what’s that week worth to you? Factor in your negotiation. Prioritise what’s important to you, and how far you are able to lean in that area.

4) Make your case through e-mail or phone. I found sometimes e-mail can be more productive. Everything can be clearly laid out, allowing the employer time to mull it over, and not feel pressured to give a quick answer.

Examples 1: The offer is lower than your current salary, but it includes a yearly bonus that would put you over you current rate.

If the bonus is based on performance but almost guaranteed, be cautious! A bonus is never guaranteed, and can be withheld at any time. Accepting a lower salary with a verbal promise of a bonus is a bad idea. Instead, explain how excited you are about the prospect of a performance bonus because you’ll do a great job, but you really need them to match your current salary to be able to make this move. You may be willing to decrease your bonus to increase your salary, but that’s a hail mary if there is pushback, don’t start with that. Have fallback counter offers in your head.

Example 2: The offer is higher than your current salary, but the cost of health insurance for your family would be higher.

Calculate how much more it would cost you in health insurance premiums. Go to the table with this important number; it’s additional cost you’ll incur by working for this company. Ask for your salary to be raised to compensate. Having numbers like this prepared, you’ll be a much stronger negotiator, able to land that sweet job with pay you’d like.

Happy negotiating!

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