Many of us will get an opportunity with a reputable company with good long term prospects, but with a salary on the lower end of the scale that you were expecting. You do not have to accept an offer at face value - many employers expect a negotiation - so they will not be surprised if you push back after the offer.
Saying that, it is important not to negotiate just for the sake of it - especially if it is already good for your location and your level of skills and experience. If you cannot justify your reasoning, it may damage your credibility. In the same way, if the salary was made clear at the beginning as non-negotiable, it will reflect badly on you if you now decide to push back.
When deciding whether to negotiate, it is important to consider the whole offer and hold your professionalism throughout. If you make a good case, and they have room for movement, you could find yourself in a much better position. It is key to know how to approach the situation, and preparation, strategy and confidence are fundamental to successful negotiations.
So, let’s look at how to secure the best job offer that you can.
The Full Package
While the salary is an important factor, it is important to consider the total package - this includes; bonuses, pension, health insurance, and work-life balance considerations such as annual leave, the commute time or remote working arrangements, and the flexibility of work hours.
There are many factors to consider when evaluating an opportunity. Is it worth taking a hit on the salary or benefits in exchange for working for a company with a good reputation, job security or long-term career prospects? This is worth deliberating.
Your Market Value
You need to know your market value before any negotiations. To do that you should research the average for your position - talk to colleagues, look at relevant job adverts, and realise how strong the employment market is. By all means stress the skills and experience you can bring to a new employer, but remain objective - never bring personal need into it as it will look desperate and weaken your stance.
Your Bargaining Position
Your bargaining position is what you will settle for if you cannot get exactly what you want, and it is something you should be clear about in your own mind before entering any negotiations. Your position will be stronger if you are in employment compared to being out of work for a while. You will also have more leverage if you are considering other offers, especially if those terms are more favourable.
Be clear in your mind about why you want the job and which items on your ‘wish list’ you are willing to compromise on, if the employer can meet you halfway.
Practice Style and Strategy
You can practice your delivery style with a friend if you are nervous about negotiating. Ask for feedback. Are you being reasonable? Are you communicating politely? Rehearse until you feel comfortable and have a list of prompts ready in case you forget any of your key points.
If there are aspects of the offer that you are unhappy about, rank them in order of importance. This list will give you a starting point for your negotiating strategy. Prepare to tackle the key items on your list at the same time, rather than one at a time. That sort of back-and-forth strategy will test the goodwill you have garnered to date.
Be Professional and Polite
Open the negotiations by stating how pleased you are to receive the job offer, even if it falls short of your expectations. Be clear about what you want without demanding as you do not want to undermine your position or relationship. You could end up working alongside the negotiating party so remember to try to obtain a ‘win-win’ for all sides.
It may be easier to negotiate over email but it is preferable to do so in person or over the phone. It reduces miscommunication, builds rapport and limits too much back and forth.
It is important to remember that a smaller firm might not be able to offer the kind of salary or benefits that larger firms can. Similarly, a bigger organisation may be tied to restrictive pay bands. If the gap between your expectations and the offer is too wide, negotiations will stall. Regardless of the reasoning, know when to walk away if you are not going to accept the offer and move on to the next opportunity. Leave discussions on a positive note, as you never know when your paths might cross again.
If you do not negotiate when an offer is below your expectations, you may end up resentful and frustrated in the short term. In the long term, you could earn less over your career. But, if you do negotiate a much better deal you may be under greater scrutiny - especially if you are paid more than the rest of your team - with higher expectations from more senior personnel.