How To Negotiate A Job Offer
Getting a job offer is no easy task. Assuming that you’re selective about the kind of work you do, the first order of business is to find a company with a job opening that suits you. Once that feat is accomplished, you have to write a resume—preferably one that’s tailored to the position—and after the resume is finished, you have to write a cover letter to accompany it.
If you’re fortunate enough to secure an interview, you still face an uphill battle, competing with a handful of qualified candidates vying for the same position. If you happen to be the candidate chosen to receive the job offer, that’s when the fun starts. What fun, you ask?
Making Sure You Don’t Blow the Deal
And the easiest way to blow the deal is to handle the job offer yourself. So let’s take a look at the…
3 Reasons You Shouldn’t Negotiate Your Own Job Offer
1. Not enough experience negotiating your own job offers. 2. It’s personal. You don’t want to negotiate personal things. 3. You don’t want to start off the new relationship with hard feelings.
Now we’ll tackle these one by one.
Not Enough Experience…
A trusted headhunter is often quite good at negotiating deals and coming up with a win/win situation. I’ve seen some great HR people, but I can count on one hand the times I’ve seen hiring managers or candidates who were good at negotiating deals. This is not a knock on someone’s ability; it’s simply a matter of common sense. How many offers have you negotiated?
Let’s assume that you’ve worked for six different companies, and let’s get crazy and assume that you have turned down an offer at another company for each one you accepted. That means you have negotiated 12 offers. Twelve! That’s not many.
Most hiring managers haven’t done many more. But an active headhunter, or a busy HR person, might do 30–50 per year.
What Does That Mean?
It means that there’s a much stronger chance of closing the deal if you let the professionals do the negotiating. A competent headhunter or an experienced HR person has picked up tricks and ways to do things that a person with less experience might not even know about.
Side Note: I know what some of you are thinking. Yes, I really do. You’re thinking, I negotiate everything. I can haggle the price of a new car. I can find the best deal on a hotel room. I bought my last TV at 30% below the going rate.
I understand that, but this is different. Why? Because this is about you. And when it’s about you, egos get in the way of common sense. What do I mean by that? I mean that it’s time to move to reason number two…
You don’t want to negotiate personal things, because emotions get in the way. Candidates tend to make everything about themselves. Most of the candidates I’ve seen who negotiate their own offers, cite reasons like the following when asking for more money, or other allowances.
I’ll be paying a lot more for the new mortgage.
I can’t afford this move because of the cost of private schools.
My spouse will be out of work while we make the transition.
Remember, the company doesn’t care what your problems are. You have to bring it back to what you can do for them. You need to show them that what you bring to the table is worth what they have to pay to get you on board.
There’s a reason why the saying, “never talk about religion or politics,” has been around so long. It’s because people feel strongly about those topics, and debates tend to grow heated. I have news for you—people feel even stronger about themselves. Whenever emotions are elevated, there is little room for common sense.
From the candidate side, here’s how many people (not all, but many) look at it. You get the offer, which is lower than you expected. Your first reaction, I don’t care who you are, is disappointment. If you let your emotions run with that, it can turn into, Is that all they think I’m worth?
And while you’re thinking that, you forget that your potential boss might be thinking the exact opposite.
Don’t Start Off the New Relationship With Hard Feelings.
Many candidates forget to look at things objectively. They don’t realize that the company has compression problems or internal equity situations. They don’t put themselves in the manager’s position and imagine how he/she might be thinking.
How am I going to pay the new person, X amount, when everyone else is at Y?
Hiring managers often think it’s all about them and don’t empathize with the candidate, even though, at one time, they were in the same situation. (In fact, I’ve had numerous hiring managers be in that exact situation, with me negotiating for them.) I’ve actually had hiring managers say these exact words to me during negotiations.
“All she wants is money. I’m not buying her. If she doesn’t want to work here, we’ll find somebody else.”
The manager doesn’t stop to put themselves in the candidate’s position or think like they’re thinking.
How am I going to pay $800 a month more in mortgage on that small increase in salary, and especially when my spouse will be out of work for months while he/she finds a new position?
The result is that even if a deal is made, the relationship starts off rocky, instead of a win-win feeling.
What Can You Do About It?
You have several options.
- Headhunter: If you’re dealing with a headhunter—and you feel confident in his/her abilities to negotiate—that should be your first choice. A trusted headhunter is often quite good at negotiating deals and coming up with a win/win situation. The caveat is the qualifier in that first sentence. Do you feel confident in their abilities? If you don’t, forget that option.
- HR rep: If you aren’t represented by a headhunter, or you don’t feel comfortable using them for salary negotiations, then by all means, deal with the human resources representative instead of with your potential new boss. HR knows how much flexibility they have in every area—salary, bonus, stock, relocation. Another huge benefit is that most HR people will try harder to understand you, and they won’t be offended during the negotiations.
- Hiring Manager: As a last resort, deal with the hiring manager. I know this sounds as if I’m knocking the “hiring manager” option, but it’s because this is where I’ve seen negotiations fall apart most often. Not all hiring managers are bad negotiators, and not all of them become offended during negotiations, but…some do. And you don’t want to find yourself in that situation. If this is the only choice you have, follow a few…
- Don’t draw lines in the sand.
- Don’t make demands if you aren’t prepared to walk away from the offer in the event they aren’t met.
- Don’t use the word if during negotiations. As in, if you give me ‘this’ I’ll take the offer. Phrasing it that way, is like telling them, ’if you don’t give me ‘that’ I won’t.
How to do it…
Instead of demanding, or telling the company why you can’t accept their offer…
- Restate your interest in the company, the job, and the challenge.
- Restate your confidence in your ability to do the job, and your eagerness to get started.
- Remind them that you’ve done this before and are eager to tackle it again.
- Tell them that you’re confident of being able to work out a deal, and phrase it in a non-demanding way, and express flexibility. “Let’s see if we can’t get this taken care of. You know what I’m looking for in terms of salary and relocation, and I understand you have concerns. What’s standing in the way of us reaching agreement?”
If they come back with a firm stance on salary, or on any specific term, tell them you’re flexible and ask where they have flexibility.
This is not a post to teach you about negotiating—that would take a whole book. I wrote this post for one reason only, to tell you why you shouldn’t negotiate your own job offer. In future posts we’ll cover how to handle the negotiations by yourself, and we’ll get into a lot more detail on how to negotiate.