Negotiating a Job Offer: A Few Things You Probably Didn’t Think About
By Rich Miller
True or False? Salary negotiations begin the minute you receive your offer. The answer is false.
So, when does the negotiation process begin? It actually begins when you put your first words on your resume. Prove your value. The higher value you can show, the higher the initial offer. You need to show your value through the entire interview process. Having quantifiable accomplishments on your resume helps determine your worth which increases your chance of getting the offer and increasing what the company will pay you.
What you can negotiate depends on the level of the position for which you are interviewing.
Negotiation for entry level positions will be limited. Salary is one area of possible negotiation for an entry level candidate. Some companies will pay more depending on the degree you have, e.g. an engineering degree versus a business degree.
Base salary is the most often negotiated item. Do your research up front. There are many sites like salary.com and LinkedinSalary that can provide ranges. Local/regional companies may have different ranges than national/international companies. Know your value in the market. If you are working with a recruiter, ask for input. He/she may know the salary range. But, remember the recruiter works for the company and gets paid only after the placement. That means you may be pushed to accept an offer that is lower than you want, so they can get paid.
One of the questions you may be asked early in the interview process is “what salary are you looking for”? From your research, you know a salary range. You respond “my research shows that the range for this position is $XXX”. You then ask “how does that fit into your range?” Now you know the company’s range.
Some cities/states have banned asking for current salary/history. Before you interview check to see if that question is banned. https://www.businessinsider.com/places-where-salary-question.
Don’t forget about taxes, cost of living, work hours, etc.
Other items open to negotiation include; bonus, stock/options, vacation, title, responsibilities, timing of next raise, next promotion, future raise and/or bonus, start date, hours of work, relocation package, a bridge loan or one-time payment to offset the difference in housing cost, commute package instead of relocation, temporary living, working from home, additional life insurance, mileage and/or a car.
One thing many people do not consider is the tax consequences. Check to see what items are considered taxable income. Add those items up and ask for a tax gross-up. Remember that a gross-up is taxable. If you don’t consider this, you may be facing a huge income tax surprise in April.
Remember, your base salary is in the bank, bonuses may not be. Know the bonus factors, how much is based on things you can control. Most importantly, how often has it been paid in the past. A big bonus potential means nothing if it has never been paid. Look at net dollars. The cost of health insurance varies greatly among employers. A larger base salary may easily be offset/overtaken by insurance costs.
Look at the entire compensation package and not just the base salary. If you have more than one offer, do a side by side of all the benefits and the cost of the benefits, especially the health insurance. There is a wide variation in the company paid portion. Some employers only pay for the employee. Dependents are on you. What is the deductible, out of pocket and co-pay. Your cost for health insurance can easily make a $5-10,000 salary difference disappear.
You need to decide what is important for you. Narrow your list and focus on those items. Be flexible and be prepared to move off sticking points. Say things like “I had 5 week’s vacation at my last employer, and this company offers only two. Would it be possible to consider more vacation time for me?”
Know your strength
Your negotiating strength depends in large part on the situation. Do you have a rare, hard to find skill set? Has the company been looking for a long time and you are the only candidate? Are you one of many? Does the company have two or three backup candidates? Do you have other offers? Having another offer(s) can make you more attractive to a company. Sometimes you can delay the offer you want so that you may get another, or more, offer(s). Or, after getting the offer, you can ask “may I have x time to decide, I have another offer(s) coming “soon” and I want to make sure I make the right decision.” If the company urgently needs to have someone start, or the new hire must be in the next orientation, this probably won’t work. One of the worst things that can happen is getting an offer that is not your first choice and needing to commit before you get the one you really want.
Be prepared to walk if the company doesn’t meet your requirements. But, if you desperately need this position, you have no other offers, you have been on the market a long time, etc., your options may be limited.
Make sure you clarify and get the offer in writing. Many times we hear things differently that what is said. Seeing it in writing may highlight any misunderstandings. Once you accept the offer and especially after you start your new position, your options will be limited, at best.
Don’t bluff. Telling the prospective employer you have another offer(s) to get more money, etc. is dangerous. They may not accept your counter offer and move on to the next candidate.
Don’t push too hard, even if you have an advantage. You may sour the relationship from the beginning. You may have gotten everything, but your working relationship may be tainted and your work environment uncomfortable.
To use one example from my past as a Vice President of Human Resources, I was overseeing an acquisition. There were some key players that we wanted to transition. This was a new market for us and a salesman was one we wanted to keep. Because of his market knowledge and customer relationships, he knew he was valuable and we would want to keep him. Initially, he asked for some things like not relocating to our location, reasonable. He again asked for more and again, reluctantly we agreed. A third time he asked for even more. I knew he was asking for too much and tried to talk him out of it, but he insisted. When I presented his demand to the President, he was silent for a moment, then said “GIVE IT TO HIM.” At that moment, the President decided he was going to accelerate his knowledge of the territory, the customers, etc. The salesman’s transition was ephemeral.
One caveat about counter-offers
An offer from a company may be legally binding. If you counter, it is considered a new offer and the company is no longer liable for their offer. The company can choose to not accept your offer. You cannot go back and say that you now want to accept the company’s offer. Sometimes, there are a few offers/counteroffers. At any time during the process, the company can choose to not accept your last offer (counter offer). Be careful you do not push the company too far.
The key to negotiation is knowledge and preparation. I’ve tried to give a good overview about a few things to think about, but if you get stumped give me a call and let’s talk about your particular scenario!
RICH MILLER, B.S., J.D., LL.M. Award winning career coach. I have assisted thousands of professionals in launching a new career, not just finding a job. Ten+ years career coaching and 20+ years HR and Adjunct Professor. Published in print and internet; Guest speaker & radio talk show guest. EXPERTISE: Career Assessment; Resume development; Job Search Techniques; Interviewing; Offer negotiation. For more information, including contact information, click here.