Congratulations! You have made it all the way through the interview process, answered all of those quirky interview question and received a job offer! So, you know what you need to do now, right? Negotiate. That’s often easier said than done. Especially, if you REALLY want to take the job and the offer is good. People can often get afraid that they may risk losing the job, if they try and negotiate. But as a simple rule of thumb, you should always negotiate. And if a company would withdraw an offer just because you politely asked for something extra, do you really want to work for a company like that anyway?
What can you negotiate?
When people think of negotiating, they can get very fixated on the salary, and whilst this is part of any negotiation, its important to remember there is so much more to your job offer than your pay. You could also try and negotiate your job title, your start date or how much annual leave you have. Maybe you clicked with one person in the interview process better than another and you want to report into that person instead. Perhaps you have to relocate for the role, the company would likely know this, so perhaps you can negotiate some expenses to cover relocation costs. For very niche talent, companies will also be willing to consider sign on bonuses. For those with family commitments, maybe flexible working hours, or the ability to work from home a proportion of the time is important. Maybe additional healthcare coverage is important. The list is extensive, and you are only limited by your imagination. But you must remember, not to ask for any of this until you receive an offer.
With great power comes great responsibility
The great thing about receiving an offer is that it provides you with the power. The company have shown their hand, they want you. So, unless they are a badly run organization, they are going to do their best to accommodate any reasonable request you make. The key word here though is reasonable. You have to remember a company is likely going to have salary bands and group employee benefits. This means, there is going to be a limit as to what they can do. Especially if they are a large corporation. I once worked for a tech consulting company, that have 500,000 employees. It would be completely unworkable for everyone of those employees to have a unique and different salary and benefits package. So, if you make a load of unreasonable demands, you are going to lose the offer. Not because they are a bad company, but because you are going to come across as ridiculous.
Provide clear logic
Whatever you ask for, remember to base the decision in logic. The request has a higher chance of being accepted if it is logical. Far too many job applicants just pick a random percentage out of the air. “I need a 20% hike if I am going to move”. I am pretty sure we would all like a 20% hike, but what are you basing this number on? I have withdrawn offers to people before because their request was just completely impossible. I once had someone with 18 months experience, asking for the salary similar to the CEO because he had gained an MBA. Sure, the MBA is held in regard by some and many leaders have them, but just because you studied it, doesn’t mean you are suddenly worth as much as someone with 30 years’ experience and a proven track record of making hundreds of millions of dollars!
To benchmark the salary, there are plenty of useful tools online, but again you need to deploy common sense when looking at the numbers. Our MBA friend took an average salary of someone with an MBA, without thinking about where the average person with an MBA is in their career. Likewise, if you need some flexibility of working hours or so on, there needs to be solid logic. “I need to start at 10, as I drop the kids off at school, but I can work an hour later to compensate”, is more likely to be accepted than just stating you don’t want to start work until 10. As long as there is a logic to the request and it is reasonable, it should be accepted.
Presenting the offer
Now you need to present the request to the company. The best way to articulate a desire to negotiate is something along the lines of “I am really excited at the possibility of being able to join your firm. I think it is the right move for me. If you can provide me with xxx I can accept the role immediately. XXX is really important to me because of (enter reason here)”. This shows you are very keen on the role and you are happy to join them, while clearly explaining why you are asking for the additional requirement. It also helps frame what is really important to you. Yes, you may want some more money, but do you have a good reason as to why you should get it, beyond greed and ego?
There are going to be three different responses to this. The first, is very accommodating and they do all they can to help meet your request. They are clear and transparent and explain what they can and can’t do and the reasons why. Maybe they can’t put a 10am start in your contract as they need uniformity, but the flexible working is at the discretion of the manager, and your manager is happy to oblige informally. Maybe they can’t find that extra $5k as they are already over budget. But if they are clear and transparent it speaks well of them as a firm. The second response is a generic response from HR that they have standard policies and they can’t make exceptions. This is quite common, but it also tells you that they are a professional firm, but they are also inflexible. The final response is that they give you an ultimatum and tell you to take it or leave it by a certain date, with no additional context. Avoid a company like that at all costs.
Finally, its important to remember that if the company accommodate your request and offer you what you asked for, you have to accept it. The most unprofessional thing you can do, is then either turn it down, or even worse, go back and ask for more things. Integrity and professionalism are a two-way street and you also have to display these qualities. Do not play companies off of each other, if you want to be successful over the long term.