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There are several times throughout your career that you will need to negotiate an offer – an offer of employment, a counter offer to your resignation, or a promotion offer. The one thing that all of these situations have in common is that Human Resources is holding back on you.

Employment Offer: How to Ask for More

Employment offers in government and academic jobs, usually have a strictly stated pay range and there is not much negotiating room during the offer process. However, for just about every other sector, you absolutely should NOT accept the first offer HR throws your way. Instead, negotiate my friend!

  1. Remember that HR is looking out for the good of the company first. So they will absolutely try and get every employee at the lowest investment – that just makes good business sense. If you provided them a range during the interview process that you would accept, they will probably put your offer at the low-end of that range.
  2. Do not pass on the offer without asking for more. This happens all of the time and is usually delivered via email (stop that people). “I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to accept that offer – it will not meet my salary requirements to pay my bills or cover the commute.” I think you get the drift here – and the stories I’ve gotten have been hilarious. Anyway, these people threw in the towel before exploring what else could be available to them. And I have been able to secure almost every single one – but I had to counter-offer them (aka – my own original offer). That’s awkward and not nearly as efficient as simply asking for what you want.
  3. You should always ask for more, but how you do it will greatly impact your reputation at the company. For example, I offered a position to “John” for an entry-level position with a very decent base salary plus commission. He had zero experience and did not even have a desired starting salary. Following me? Well, he came back asking for more money and did it aggressively – basically said that he could get a better offer elsewhere and that he would refuse to take the offer and would rather find a new job. So… when the hiring manager asked me how the offer conversation went, I parlayed the information along (greatly toned down), and let him know that he wanted $10k more on his base salary before he would even consider the position. Can you guess what the hiring manager’s response was? He told me to rescind the offer and that he would no longer be considered a candidate. John’s pushiness came across as greedy and not excited to join our team. Not the impression you want to precede you before you start a new position.

There is not a one-size-fit all for counter offers, but based on the many successful (and unsuccessful) offers that I have been a part of, here is a good script for you to use when you have been offered a new position. Oh, and be sure to do this at least over the phone (not on email!).

Script for Negotiation

Recruiter (Bob): “Hi Jill, we are so excited to be able to extend you an offer of employment here at ABC.

Your starting base salary will be $30k with an annual bonus and partially paid benefits.”

Jill (YOU): “Bob – that’s fantastic news. I have enjoyed getting to know everyone and more about the company during the interview process and am very excited to join the ABC team. Can you tell me more about the benefits?”

Recruiter: “Sure we offer….”

Jill (YOU): “Sounds like an interesting package. I would like to take some to consider the offer as a whole. Can I get back to you within 24 hours?”

Note: Ok – so the recruiter will then do one of two things. If they say no, then run very far away from the company. If they are not willing to let you have some time to work the numbers and make a huge life decision, then there is a problem. Run far, far away and be thankful that you found out before it was too late. If they yes, then proceed.

Jill (YOU): “Thank you – I appreciate you allowing me the opportunity to fully evaluate the numbers and the package and ensure that I am making a great decision.”

Note: You have two options – you review the offer and come back the next day asking for more, or you can nudge the envelope a little here. Personally, I think it is easier to do that during this first call as you are already talking about numbers and do not have to initiate another call, but it’s a personal decision.

Jill (YOU): “Bob, $30k seems a little bit low for the position and my experience. I have been interviewing for positions that have come with a slightly higher base salary. Is there any room for negotiation here? I had been hoping for the offer to be at $37 – $40k.” THEN STOP TALKING

Note: If you are quiet, the recruiter will pick up the conversation from there. You have asked for what you wanted, and now it is up to them to seek out the details. They should not say “no” immediately – usually they should check back with the hiring manager or will have the ability to go up on the spot. If they push back with a “that’s not going to happen,” then I would ask for them to circle back with the hiring manager or know that the base salary is not open for negotiation… but other things may be, so ask.

What’s Up for Negotiation?

Literally, almost everything. I have seen people negotiate the amount the company pays towards their benefit premiums, stock award, annual bonus percentage or target, incentive program, office space, telecommute options, and so on. Your base salary is not the only thing that can be altered during the offer, but it is the best time to get the best deal.