Offer Negotiation

Before an Offer

Do not talk about salary requirements before the company has given you an offer. If you’re asked what salary you’re looking to make, politely state that you would like to discuss salary only when you’ve received an offer. There’s no point in revealing a number at this point in the process – if you lowball your requirement to get the job, you’ll be upset later on for not being paid competitively, and if you highball the offer, the company may not be interested. As a result, wait until you’ve gotten an offer; that’s when you have leverage. The company will have spent considerable resources to extend you an offer, and will want to make sure to acquire you, so they’ll be willing to pay more at that point.

Interviewer: “So, how much are you looking for in terms of salary?”
You: “I’d like to make sure that I fit your company’s needs before we discuss compensation.”

Interviewer: “Can you just give me an estimated range?”
You: “I am confident we can come to a mutually satisfying compensation agreement after I receive an offer.”

Likewise, some companies will ask your salary history, sometimes in the pretense that it will assist in determining your offered salary. Although this sounds like a reasonable request, they very assuredly know what the market rate is, and you should politely decline to answer that question. In fact, the company should offer what they feel your value is worth – different companies have different needs, so the compensation amount should also be different. There is absolutely no reason for them to know, and offering the information can only hurt you. If your previous salary was too high, they’ll wonder why you’re applying to a lower salary position. If your previous salary was too low, they’ll give you a lower offer than you deserve. There’s truly to way to win except by not revealing the information.

Each company should make their own decision about how much you are worth to them, instead of depending on their competitors to determine your worth. If they push hard, you can counter by asking what the salary range for the position you’re applying for is. If they don’t relent, you can always say that you’re not allowed to discuss compensation at your previous employer because of the non-disclosure policy there. Every company protects its intellectual property with a non-disclosure agreement and salary information can always be interpreted to be part of the sensitive and proprietary company information that should not be revealed. Even if someone else from your past company has disclosed that information, you can always state that just because someone else revealed that information doesn’t mean that the policy isn’t in place, and that as a person of your word, you intend to honor that policy.

Interviewer: “How much did you earn at your previous job?”
You: “Since this is a different company with different needs, my previous compensation should not be based on another position.”

Interviewer: “But it will help to determine what your salary is.”
You: “I only want to work for companies with management teams that can accurately assess and competitively compensate their employees, so I hope you don’t require a competitor’s decision to make an offer.”

Interviewer: “I really need that information.”
You: “Unfortunately, I am not able to give that information because it is against my previous employer’s non-disclosure agreement.”

This will actually make you more competitive against other applicants. It shows that you are confident in your skills, you’ve done your research about market rates, and you know your worth. Plus, nobody wants to hire a rug they can step on, and if they do want that type of person, you probably don’t want to work there.

After an Offer

If you’ve received a job offer, congratulations! You might be very tempted to jump on the first offer you get, but it’s a good idea to wait especially if you have other interviews schedule. Although the interviewing process isn’t usually enjoyable, a little pain now can potentially mean a lot of financial gain down the road, so hang in there. The game is not over yet; you've made it to the bonus round!

Always spend at least a day to decide whether or not you want to accept an offer. If you are pressured to take it on the spot, seriously consider whether you want to work for a company that behaves in that fashion. Choosing a career is a big decision - you should spend some time thinking about it.

You should always strive to get multiple offers. There's nothing like having a choice; it increases your confidence and bargaining position. People want what others desire - employers are no different. By having multiple offers on the table, you increase your value substantially. However, don't string along an employer. There is usually an offer deadline, which ranges from 1 week to 1 month, by which time you have to choose to accept the offer or have it withdrawn. This date is semi-negotiable, so don’t be afraid to ask for more time if you need it. Larger companies generally give more time; you should not expect more than one month, so timing all of your interviews is important to ensure that you get multiple offers within their expiration.

Use the deadline of another offer to help speed along the process at other organizations you’re applying to – let them know that you have a competitive offer that expires soon after your interview, and request a hiring decision before that expiration date. You’ll usually get a faster response if the company is interested in you. Be sure to politely decline to reveal which companies are making offers to you. Do feel free to reveal the amounts you’re offered if they’re above what you’re being offered somewhere else.

To make sure you're getting a fair deal, you'll want to do market research to determine reasonable salary ranges for your position, experience, and location. Also, keep in mind that salary is not the only form of compensation; perks such as signing/relocation bonus, health insurance, vacation time, stock options, retirement plans, parking/transportation subsidies, free food, etc. all add up, so keep those in account. Even if you can’t get an increase in salary, you will almost always be able to obtain more perks. If you are happy with your offer after doing the research, that is fantastic! Accept your offer and best of luck in your career!

However, if you feel that the compensation is inadequate, it is always worth negotiating. Even if you are pleased with the offer, it doesn't hurt to try, assuming your request is reasonable. The trick is to figure out what you're looking for first: additional salary?

Interviewer: “How does the compensation look?”
You: “Although I’m very interested in working for the company, unfortunately the offer I’ve received isn’t competitive with the others I’ve gotten. If you could do ______ and ______, that would make your offer much more attractive.”

Don't worry about the company rescinding its offer if you try to negotiate; they have already expressed their desire to employ you, and they have no incentive to dismiss someone they screened so carefully just for asking for a little bit more.

The following is a list of compensation elements that you should take into account:

  • Salary
  • Bonus
  • Revenue share
  • Insurance (health, dental, vision, life)
  • Retirement (401k)
  • Stock
  • Vacation time
  • Parking / transportation subsidy (subway/bus pass)
  • Free food / drinks
  • Tuition reimbursement

Click here for a complete negotiation system that contains word for word scripts you can use to conquer your fears and get the raise that you deserve.

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