Negotiating a Job Offer

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Effectively negotiating a job offer is made easier with a few rules. Discover when you have the most power in the job search process, and learn how to negotiate an employment offer to avoid disappointment and get a great deal.

The Best Time to Negotiate a Job Offer

The ideal time for negotiation is after you have been offered the position, but before you have accepted it.

This point is the time when you have the most power in the process.

When the employer has offered you a job, but you have not accepted it yet, the employer:

  • Has decided he or she likes you
  • Thinks you are the best person for the position
  • Hopes you will accept the offer
  • Has invested a lot of time in the hiring process
  • Does not want to have to hire the candidate who was the second choice (because the second choice candidate is probably not quite as ideal as the first choice)
  • Does not want to have to go through the hiring process all over again.

When the employer is in that mindset, you have the most power in the job search process, and that is the best opportunity for negotiating a job offer.

Related Article: Salary Negotiation Tips

When to Avoid Negotiation

Avoid salary negotiations during an interview whenever possible.

If you try to get into salary negotiation during an interview, you will not be operating from your best position of power. Do not initiate salary, benefit or vacation negotiations during the interviewing process.

The interview should be used to demonstrate to the employer that you are the best candidate for the job. If you jump into salary negotiations in interviews, many employers will lose interest in you as a candidate because you may appear to be uninterested in the work itself.

At this stage, you are more easily replaced in the minds of employers because they know they have several other candidates who could be a great fit.

At the interview phase, you have not yet convinced the employer that you are worth the salary you want, so now is not the time for negotiating a job offer. When the employer offers you the job, you know you have convinced him or her that you are worth the salary you want, and that is the best time for negotiating a job offer.

Be Sure to Discuss Salary, Benefits and Vacation Time BEFORE You Accept the Offer

I once had a client who accepted a position without negotiating the job offer. He started the job without knowing how much he would get paid or whether he had benefits.

Unfortunately, when his first pay day rolled around, his pay turned out to be far less than he thought was reasonable and well below the industry standard.

There were some other issues with the employer that compounded the problem of an unfair salary, and my client eventually decided he needed to quitand look for something more reasonable.

When he resumed his job search, he didn't want to put the low paying job on his resume, because he didn't want to have to explain the situation in interviews. However, that meant he had a big gap in employment on his resume, and, in interviews, employers started to ask him why he had such a gap on his resume.

He eventually did get a great job. However, his job search was much longer and more difficult than it would have been if he had simply asked about the salary and working conditions at the first position.

A few simple and reasonable questions could have prevented him from wasting time working in conditions that were not acceptable to him.

Sometimes people are just so happy to be offered a job, or so nervous about the idea of negotiating a job offer, they end up accepting without ever knowing about pay, benefits, working conditions, etc.

Once you have been offered a job, it is absolutely crucial to ask the employer all of the relevant questions about salary, benefits, vacation and any other questions related to working conditions that are relevant to your situation.

Never accept an offer without gathering this information first.

Negotiating a job offer after you have accepted is a bit like walking onto a used car lot, telling the sales person that you love a particular car and want to buy it no matter what, and then trying to get the sales person to give you a great price on the car. It's not going to happen.

You lose a lot of power in salary negotiation once you have accepted, so it is best to get the details about salary, benefits and working conditions and ensure they are appropriate before you accept.

How to Negotiate an Employment Offer

Information is crucial at this stage of evaluating and negotiating a job offer. Once you are at the interview stage of searching for employment, you need to complete some research so you know what salary is reasonable to expect based on the work that you do, your location, your level of experience and any special expertise you may have.

You can find more information about researching salaries in the following articles: 

When negotiating a job offer, you ideally want the employer to tell you what he or she had in mind for a starting salary. If the amount s/he states is not in a range that is acceptable to you, you might decide to negotiate a bit.

Be sure to remind the employer why you are worth the salary that you are asking for, and be sure that the salary you are asking for is reasonable based on the research you have completed.

If the employer is not able to offer the salary you would like, you may try negotiating for other benefits such as an extra week of vacation time, or the flexibility to work from home on some days, that would make up for a slightly lower salary. Alternatively, you may ask the employer if your salary could be reviewed following your probation period.

Confirm the Details When Accepting an Employment Offer

Once you have agreed upon salary and other benefits and working conditions, you might ask the employer to provide a letter that lists everything you have agreed upon. Getting the information in writing can help to eliminate potential misunderstandings.

Be sure to be friendly and professional when you ask for the details in writing

If the employer doesn't provide you with an employment offer letter, you have a few options

  • You may decide to trust the employer and accept the job without a written offer.

Some employers (especially smaller ones) simply do business in a less formal way and providing job offer letters may not be part of their normal hiring process. It does not necessarily mean that the employer is not a good person to work for.

  • You may interpret the refusal as a red flag.

Sometimes a refusal to provide a written offer of employment is a signal that the company may not be a good place to work. It is not always the case, for some employers written offers of employment are just not a part of their process.

No one can tell you whether an offer and specific working conditions are right for you; you have to decide for yourself, but do be aware that refusing to put an employment offer in writing might be a sign that there are problems with the employer.

  • You might decide to write your own letter accepting the offer.

If an employer does not provide a written offer of employment, you may write your own letter that details the conditions you and the employer agreed upon. If you do write this type of letter, be absolutely professional and positive.

You may write something along the lines of: "I am thrilled to be joining the team at ABC Company and look forward to working in the role of (list your new job title) as we discussed." Then list the conditions that you agreed upon and close with a paragraph that compliments the company and highlights your happiness to have the job.

I will say that none of my clients (and I've worked with a couple thousand people) has ever, to my knowledge, written this type of acceptance letter, so this idea is more theoretical than most of the ideas on this site, but it is an option you might consider.

Declining a Job Offer

If you have multiple job offers, or if the position just does not meet your needs, and you decide to decline the job offer, ensure that you are very professional. Do not burn any bridges because that employer may turn out to become an important business partner with the company you do end up working for, or they might have a more appropriate job available in the future.

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