HOW TO NEGOTIATE A JOB OFFER (over the phone or by email)
Photo by Mimi Thian
Studies show that barely a third of new hires choose to negotiate their job offers. Fear, lack of self-worth and anxiety over potentially losing the job offer all contribute to a new hire’s decision not to negotiate. Surprisingly, though, unawareness is the biggest factor when it comes to negotiating. Many people just don’t know that they can negotiate and instead just accept the first offer presented.
This does not need to be you.
You stand to make what could be hundreds of thousands more dollars over the course of your career once you learn to harness the power of negotiation. At a base level, you must know that you are worth your own advocacy. Recruiters, hiring managers and employers may want you, but they are also looking out for their company’s bottom line and best interest. It is up to you to look out for your own.
5 Reasons Why You Should Negotiate Job Offers
To get started, it is first important to understand why negotiating your new job offer matters.
- You May be Getting Lowballed
Odds are the first offer presented by your new employer will be lower than you should be receiving. As so many people just accept the first offer, it serves the company to present the lowest offer they think they can get away with. If you’re an awesome candidate, but you don’t know that you should be negotiating, you’ll take what’s offered and it’s a win-win for them.
- Negotiation is Expected
While many people don’t negotiate, it’s always somewhere in the mind of the employer that you could negotiate. Therefore, it is in their best interest to offer you a low number as a jumping off point for talks. They’re probably willing to pay more, but by starting out on the low end of the spectrum they give themselves the biggest room for growth, making them look generous when they boost the offer during negotiations.
- Self-Advocacy Reads as Self-Confidence
Begin as you mean to go on. If you show up with confidence, knowledge about the market, yourself and what is fair in terms of salary and benefits, you will look that much more appealing as a candidate. The more valuable you appear, the more a company will offer to be able to get you on their team.
- Negotiation Shows that You are Prepared
Doing your homework on the role you’re up for goes a long way. If you show that you have carefully considered how well you can fulfill the hirer’s needs and therefore how much you deserve to be compensated you reveal yourself as someone to be taken seriously and respected.
- Why Not?
The simple truth is that there is no harm in negotiating, but you can cause yourself a lot of harm by not negotiating. If you accept a salary and benefits package that is far below the needs of the role and your own worth, it will most likely lead to higher levels of stress. Though you may not get everything you ask for, you’ll never know what you could get until you ask for it.
How to negitiate a job offer
The exact how-to of any negotiation will vary from role to role, company to company, but there are a few “rules” that can be followed in nearly every situation. Taking these into account along with developing your ability to be patient and flexible will serve you well as you approach conversations with your hirer.
1. Be Likeable
It’s so simple, but it has to be said: people want who they like. You stand to get more of what you want if you are warm and inviting than if you are cold and militant. Stand up for yourself and know what you want but be kind about it.
2. Help Them Understand Your Worth
Now that they like you, they need to understand why you deserve what you are asking for. Provide them with examples of your background to support your requests. Create a powerful – and honest – a narrative of your performance and abilities. This will help your hirers see more clearly how valuable you will be for them once they have you on board and will help you get what you want without coming across as arrogant during negotiations.
3. Show Them They Can Get You
No use in playing so hard to get that your potential employer starts to think you’re out of their reach. Make it clear that you want to work with them – you’re just looking for the deal that will make both of you the happiest. If you leverage interest from other companies in your talks, make sure you include what could be done on their part that would make you forget all other offers and choose them.
4. Understand Who You’re Talking to (and Their Constraints)
Tailor your communication to suit the person you are talking to. Know as much about them, their limitations and their needs and speak to those. Your questions and statements must change depending on whether you’re talking to a recruiter, HR manager or your potential new boss. Play smart and include their perspective and position in your decision of how to approach the conversation.
5. Be Ready for Hard Questions
They will come. The number one rule here is this: Do not lie. You don’t have to reveal your entire life story, but misleading or false answers to tough questions can be seen a lot more clearly than you realize. You will look like you lack integrity, which immediately reduces the hirer’s desire for you. Choose instead to be prepared. Think of the toughest questions you might be asked – the ones that give you the anxiety to think of answering – and answer them for yourself before your meeting. Already knowing the answer to a difficult question saves you and the person sitting across from you a lot of stress.
6. Negotiate Vacation Days and Other Benefits
A big mistake some make when looking at their job offer is to look only at the salary offered. Salary is not the only thing on the table. Health packages, vacation days, 401k and other benefits must be considered when negotiating your job offer. Look at the whole package being offered and mindfully decide what will bring you satisfaction in the long run. Perhaps you can take a slightly lower salary than you initially wanted if the benefits make up for it.
What to do when negotiating salary
In any salary-specific negotiation there are a few things you should definitely do – and a few you should definitely not do. Keep these in mind when entering into salary negotiations in order to put yourself in the best position to get the dollar figure you desire.
1. Choose a Number in the Upper Range
If you’ve done your research, you should have a salary range in mind that signifies your market value. Ask for a figure that is in the top part of that range, not the middle or the lower end. Display that you believe yourself worthy of top pay and give yourself room to move your number down a bit during negotiations.
2. Present an EXACT Number
Specific numbers are more well received than vague round numbers. If you know you want something near $80,000, choose a figure like $79,750. Studies show that the more precise you are with your number, the more likely it is that your number will be accepted as it gives the impression that you’ve done enough research to know an exact figure.
3. Steer the Conversation Toward the Future, Not the Past
It is illegal in many places to ask about salary history. If the question comes up and you choose to answer it, quickly present your full salary number – including all benefits and bonuses – and move the conversation toward what number you’re presently looking for based on the growth you’ve had and will continue to have.
4. Take Time to Consider the Offer
Even if the offer is exciting and looks great, take a couple days to consider it before making a final decision or providing a counter-offer. Look at the entire package and visualize what your life would look like in the new situation. Does anything feel off or worth a second look? Time may allow you to see something in the package that needs further discussion or alteration. Practice patience and make sure you are fully satisfied before accepting any offer.
5. Don’t Talk About Personal Reasons
Keep the conversation positive and focused on what you have to offer as an employee that shows you deserve what you’re asking for. Bringing up all the personal reasons why you need a certain dollar amount (childcare, medical bills, debt, etc.) only makes you look desperate and puts you in a weak negotiating position.
6. Don’t Be Afraid of “No”
Negotiation can only really begin once someone has said “no.” Expect that your offer will be countered by your hirer and give yourself the freedom to say “no” as well. Using the power of “no” opens doorways for greater satisfaction in the long term.
7. Don’t Make Threats
The tone is so important in business negotiations, as are the words you choose. Emotions can creep up on you during tough salary or job offer conversations, so remember to breathe and keep perspective. Know what you want, know that the person sitting across from you wants to have you on board, and keep your tone friendly, light and personable. Don’t compromise what you want but be willing to work with the person you’re speaking with rather than combat them.
How to Negotiate a Job Offer over the Phone or by Email
Discussing your new job offer over the phone or by email adds a few more constraints than meeting to negotiate in person. Without being able to see the other person you lose a lot of non-verbal cues that can help you understand more clearly what your potential employer is thinking. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when entering into conversation through these channels.
Over the Phone
- Mind Your Tone and Tempo
As your face and body are quite literally out of the picture, an inviting tone lends itself to a smooth, affable conversation. Speaking a little more slowly and clearly than you would if you were in person also helps the conversation flow.
- Take Notes
A huge upside to phone conversation is that you can take as many notes as you want without anyone noticing what it is you’re writing. Take advantage of this by jotting down anything you need to remember to ask a question about later.
- Spread Out
Another perk to an over-the-phone discussion is that you can lay out in front of you all your research, documents, lists and anything else that supports you as you negotiate. Keep your papers organized though so you’re not scrambling to find the right piece of paper while trying to listen to what your hirer has to say.
- Keep Your Emotions Alive
One of the pitfalls of email communication is that it often comes across as flat, lifeless and even hard-edged. Offer up positive words about the job offer or some other upbeat statement that sets a happy, congenial tone.
- Use Empathy
Let them know you’re considerate of them by offering an understanding statement about how they might be doing in their position. Something like, “I understand that you have a lot on your plate, so I wanted to get back to you as soon as possible.” This helps them to know that you are mindful of their time and energy.
- Lay Out Your Counter Offer Clearly
Bullet point those areas you’re interested in negotiating with a proposed adjustment to their original offer. Also mention what you do agree to in their offer. Be clear, be concise and back up your counter offer with reasons why you feel you deserve what you’re asking for.
- Let Them Know It’s a Discussion
In your closing, indicate that you are open to further questions or discussion. You want them to feel like they’re talking with you rather than that you are telling them what to do.
Negotiating a job offer can be a difficult, often uncomfortable business, but it is necessary if you want to get the best deal you can for yourself. It’s normal to feel nervous or uncertain. Take a deep breath and tell yourself you’ve got this. You’ll thank yourself when your bank account grows and you’re enjoying a cocktail on a beach somewhere during one of your extra vacation days.
To get more insight into negotiation read the book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In” by Roger Fisher & Dennis Boutsikaris.