How to Negotiate a New Job Offer

Negotiating a new offer may feel uncomfortable, but a little discomfort is worth it. This is your best chance to increase your salary and improve the conditions of your new job. Once you have accepted a job, you lose your leveraging power.

The best negotiators know what they want and are armed with information about what is negotiable and to what degree. Before you have your first interview, you should begin thinking about what conditions are most important to you and what you want from your new job.

Every company has different ideas about what they are willing to negotiate. Therefore, it is up to you to research specific companies prior to the interview process.

What Is Negotiable?

Salary isn’t the only negotiable on the table. Based on what you need and want, any of these items may be negotiable. Before you have an interview, look at list below and select the top two to three items most important to you. Once you’ve done this, prioritize which ones are most important to you.

  • Salary
  • Job title
  • Start date
  • Vacation/PTO
  • Reporting relationships
  • Decision-making/Level of authority
  • Relocation expenses
  • Memberships, association dues, subscriptions
  • Signing bonus, bonuses
  • Laptop, mobile phone, home office technology
  • Auto (car, mileage)
  • Flex-time/job share schedule
  • Training/re-certification costs
  • Remote or virtual work
  • Severance provisions
  • Terms of contractual relationship
  • Budget management, access to resources
  • Stock options

Research Before the Interview

Technically, it is best to begin researching salary ranges before you apply so you provide the appropriate salary requirements on the application. Once you’ve been invited for an interview, conduct more thorough research on the company’s benefits and culture to see how likely you are to get what you are looking for. Research salary information using PayScale, but don’t stop there. The most helpful information usually comes from current or past employees. Ask employees if they were able to negotiate and what types of things they have seen other employees negotiate.

Research During the Interview

Remember, throughout the interview process, your goal is to determine whether you are interested in working for this company and for this manager. It is up to you to ask questions during the process. It is always best to talk “off-the-record” with current or past employees to learn what items tend to get negotiated.

Salary is usually the first thing you should start negotiating. How close the hiring manager comes to meeting your salary requirements may determine how hard you try to negotiate other items. For example, if the company is not willing or able to increase the salary offered, you can attempt to gain more benefits that equal the value of the higher salary.

When Do I Start Negotiating?

Do not attempt to ask for more money or any items on your list before you have received an offer. It may result in your elimination as a candidate. You can’t officially start negotiating until you have an offer. An offer is either a verbal or written statement that sounds something like “we are prepared to extend an offer…” and then salary details will usually be revealed. Once you have received an offer, show your enthusiasm for the job and ask how long you have to evaluate the offer. Remember, this is a major decision and you need time to think about it, even if you know you want the job. Arrange for a date and time to meet or talk on the phone to provide your answer.

Prepare to Negotiate

Once you have the offer, you hold some power. The company wants you on their team. They’ve invested time in whittling down the candidate pool and selecting you. But don’t let this go to your head. Be willing to compromise. Prioritize your list of negotiable items and write down what is acceptable and what would not be acceptable. For example, if you want 14 days of paid time off (PTO), would walk away from the offer if you couldn’t negotiate this? If you would settle for 10 days, that would be your bottom line. It helps to think about this prior to negotiating so you’re not caught by surprise. Using your list of top priorities will help you continue negotiating the most important elements so you can evaluate the entire offer. Based on the negotiated terms, it is up to you to decide whether to accept the job or not.

Negotiate Your Offer

When you meet to discuss the offer, remember to show your interest and enthusiasm. If you don’t seem like you want the job, the employer is less likely to be interested in you. Begin negotiating salary first. If you can win this, you should be willing to make compromises on other items you wanted negotiated. If you do not get the salary you are looking for, you can push harder for the other items you are interested in.

More Negotiating Tips to Keep in Mind:

  • Don’t make demands, but ask questions instead. To make the exchange feel like a win-win solution and to honor your potential new manager’s authority, form your requests as a question. For example, if asking for a higher salary, form your question like: “Based on my specific skills in [state technical skills], I was expecting a higher starting salary. What can we do to increase this number?”
  • Negotiate with the right parties. Know who has the ultimate authority to make negotiations. It isn’t necessarily HR.
  • Be prepared to walk away. If the offer doesn’t meet your expectations in areas important to you, you may be better off declining the offer. You may be bitter or resentful if you accept less.
  • Keep quiet and always wait for an answer. There’s an old saying, she who talks first loses. When you propose your salary number or your item to negotiate and your desired terms, do not talk. Wait for the response.
  • Focus on what’s in it for them. Never make this solely about your needs and wants. Explain how they will benefit from hiring you.
  • Leave your emotions outside. This is a business transaction. Do not let your pride, fear, uncertainty, or any other emotion impact what you say or do.
  • Be confident in your value. Remember, the company is lucky to get you and your skills. They’ve invested a lot in this process and they do not want to start over unless they have to. Remind them of the problems you will solve.
  • Use your research information. If you know the company has made exceptions in vacation policy, use it to your advantage (without naming names).
  • Smile. You have to be positive and likeable. It also reflects how you handle stress on the job!
  • Get it in writing. When all is said and done, be sure you get the agreed terms in writing before you start.