You’ve Just Gotten a Job Offer...

Do not say yes until you've read this article.

Posted Sep 30, 2018

pxhere, Public Domain
pxhere, Public Domain
Source: pxhere, Public Domain

It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: a job offer, a good one. It’s tempting to just say yes, maybe gently asking for a bump in the salary. I suggest you first read this article.

Sure, sometimes negotiating accomplishes nothing or even results in the offer being withdrawn but following this article’s advice offers great potential benefit with little risk.

Try to get another employer’s offer

Tell any other potential employers and your network that you’ve just received a job offer but are open to other possibilities. Knowing that you’re in demand may motivate another employer to quickly make you an offer. If not, you’ve lost nothing by trying.

If that does yield another offer, even if it’s not better than the first one, you've gained leverage in negotiating: “I’ve just received another offer (or have one well into the pipeline.) I need to know your best offer.” Or “For me to say yes to you, I’ll need X dollars, Y title, the right to work at home two days a week, and a job description tweaked so I spend more time doing X and less time doing Y.” That may sound too aggressive, but in recent years, my clients have, on average, gotten a better deal by making an offer that's on the high side of fair rather than following the conventional advice to try to get the employer to make the offer. Too often, that offer is a lowball, from which it’s hard to make much progress.

Assess your fair-market value. A method’s viability will depend on the job and situation, but one or more of these might help you assess your fair-market value:

  • Salary sites like Salary.com, Glassdoor.com, and Payscale.com. Those are most useful when you've been offered a commonly held job.
  • Asking a person(s) who works at your prospective place of employment.
  • A salary survey conducted by your field’s professional association, for example, the American Psychological Association.

List the results and adjust based on the job description, your qualifications, and how well-capitalized the organization likely is: You can expect to get paid more by Google than by a nascent nonprofit.

Identify your musts and wants

Salary bumps are often inconsequential. Even if you get an extra 25 percent over what was offered (rare), that’s taxed at your top rate, which in most major metropolitan areas means you only keep half. So, for a job offering $80,000 and you manage to wrangle 100K, you’re only keeping 10K a year or $800 a month, not life-changing. So, sure, ask for that extra 10 or 20 percent if your fair-market value even marginally justifies it, but it’s rarely worth pushing hard on salary. Doing that can result in the offer being pulled because unlike some of the negotiation items below, the employer gets nothing in exchange.

Accelerated compensation review. Sometimes, even if you can’t budge the employer on salary, you can get an accelerated salary review, for example, in three months rather than the standard one year.

Beware stock options. They’re seductive, especially in startups. They can evoke visions of the company going public and you getting millions. Alas, for every start-up employee turned zillionaire there are thousands of employees with stock options worth zippo.

Working at home for part of the week. That’s becoming more important because commutes are getting ever longer and, in today’s open workspaces, it’s hard to think. So getting permission to work part-time at home can greatly benefit you. It also benefits the employer because it frees up desk or office space. But think twice about asking to work remotely all the time—Out of sight tends to be out-of-mind, and you lose the opportunity to build relationships with boss and coworkers. That can keep you from getting plum assignments and promotions, and makes it easier for them to fire you because they have only a minimal relationship with you.

Deviations from standard benefits. Most mid- to large employers have a fixed benefits package but occasionally there’s play. For example, if your spouse has healthcare benefits that cover you, you may be able to get the employer to apply what it would have spent on your healthcare to a contribution to your 401k. Vacation days and severance may also be negotiable. But don’t push too hard on those lest the employer think you’re too concerned with vacation or with getting fired.

Training budget. This is a low-risk item to negotiate because the employer’s spend yields a better-trained employee. Even if you're offered a training budget, you may want to try to negotiate a bigger one, for example, paying for some expensive certification, an MBA, or that conference in Hawaii.

Better-tailored job description. Sometimes, a job description is cast in stone, other times in wet cement. Before it dries, might you want it changed to accentuate your strengths and skirt your weaknesses? That’s another negotiation item that would benefit both you and the employer.

Reporting. Sometimes, you can get to report to a person you’d prefer: someone more influential,  higher up, or who you’ve heard is great to work for.

Job title. A more prestigious job title can enhance your mobility and influence within the organization and elsewhere. It also feels good.

In the negotiation

Not every negotiation can be win-win. Sometimes, you need to be tough and adversarial, other times conciliatory. The default is to be soft on the person, harder on the terms but that will vary with how strong you believe your negotiating position is: how much they seem to want you, how good you’d be as an employee, how viable you’d be in the job market, and whether you sense the employer would respond better to niceness or toughness. Even if you want to play hardball, keep reasonableness as your guiding principle. Otherwise, the job offer might be pulled when, even on less-than-ideal terms, you’d take it.

Don’t rush. Not every negotiation can be settled in one meeting. Sure, aim for that so you don’t appear high-maintenance and thus risk having the offer pulled or getting off to a bad start with your boss. But if you sense you’re at an impasse or that you or your negotiating opponent is getting overheated, you might say that you want to take a break and that you'll get back to them. If you’d been reasonable, that could scare the employer into agreeing to your requests/demands on the spot or after a cooling-off period. It certainly avoids your appearing desperate.

The takeaway

Of course, it takes confidence and moxie to pull all this off. After all, the employer probably has much more experience negotiating than you do. But even if you get partway there, you’ll have done better than do most job seekers and you’ll feel better about yourself for not having been taken advantage of.

I read this aloud on YouTube.