The following is adapted from Ignite Your Career!
Congratulations! You’ve applied for a role, gone through the lengthy interview process, and finally, received a job offer. But wait, the journey isn’t over yet. You still need to negotiate the details.
Applicants often think negotiations are just about salary. Of course, salary is a key element, but you can negotiate many other things, such as sign-on bonus, vacation, equity amount, and start date.
Done right, negotiations should be win-win for both you and the company—you don’t want either party to feel that they “lost” as that will start the relationship on bad footing. Done poorly, a negotiation can lose goodwill and even cost you the offer.
Fortunately, it’s not difficult to handle negotiations with fairness and grace. Here’s a simple guide on how to reach a win-win deal.
Don’t Push Too Hard During Negotiations
Before getting into the negotiation process, know that job offer negotiations are delicate interactions. Pushed too hard, a company might harbor negative feelings toward you or even rescind their offer. In my experience as an executive recruiter, I’ve seen firsthand how a candidate can take themselves out of the race by negotiating too hard.
I recently worked with a company that had two candidates they loved. The company was explicit during the process about the highest base salary they could offer. The first candidate got the offer, which was exactly as was expected.
Unfortunately, they were being advised by other people whispering in their ears to negotiate. When they pushed for a higher salary, the company ended up withdrawing the offer. They made the same offer to the second candidate, who accepted on the spot.
Sometimes in negotiations, when companies say, “That’s our final offer,” it’s their final offer. They’re not trying to play games or shut down negotiation. They’re saying it because it is as much as they can pay. Push too hard, and you’ll end up in a lose-lose scenario where you don’t get the job and the company needs to find another candidate.
How to Reach a Win-Win Outcome
In terms of how and when to negotiate, I recommend going through a sequence of events that takes you from your first reaction to the offer through the finished negotiation.
First, when you receive an offer, express your excitement about the opportunity. Ask human resources, or whoever you’re speaking with, to send you all relevant information to review, including the offer letter and benefits and relocation information, so you can read through all the details. In effect, you want to make sure you understand the total offer, and benefits are very much a part of that.
Next, review everything thoroughly and come up with a list of informational questions. You’ll want to ask variations on, “What’s in it for me?” If you’ve been saving questions like this throughout the interview process, now is the time to ask them.
When you’re ready to negotiate, use what I call the “Yes…If” tactic. It gives the team hiring you the incentive to fight on your behalf. When you are ready to negotiate, start the conversation in this way: “I love your company. This role is perfect. The culture fit is great. So, I want to say yes…if you can help me with a few things.”
Finally, if the hiring manager is receptive, lay out your few asks with a strong rationale as to why you need help. This might include details such as a changed start date, a planned holiday, or an adjusted sign-on bonus or salary. Once you and the company are both satisfied with the final details of the offer, go ahead and accept it.
The goal of this process is to negotiate in a manner that makes them even more excited about you due to your analytic thought process and professional manner. Remember, don’t push too hard or you might lose the entire opportunity.
Negotiate With the Company, Not Against It
Getting a job offer is an exciting milestone in your career, so don’t derail it in the final stretch! By negotiating in the manner described above—understanding your offer, using “Yes…If,” and presenting your reasonable requests—you’re not negotiating against the company. By positioning it like this, you’re working together to achieve the same goal.
You want to be able to say yes, and they want you to be able to say yes. It is evident that you are partnering with them to come up with creative solutions that work for you both. This is what it takes to reach a win-win negotiation, and it’s your greatest chance to get a strong offer and build positive momentum.
For more advice on building a successful career, you can find Ignite Your Career! on Amazon.