“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”
~ Ralph Marston
Client Kevin Asks: I got an offer letter from the company I really want to work for. It’s a pretty low offer. Do I just take what I can get and hope to work my way up once I’m there, or is there a way to negotiate for more right up front?
Coach Joel Answers: Most companies expect you to negotiate once an offer has been made, as I discuss in Get Paid What You’re Worth. It’s not whether you negotiate that’s important—it’s HOW you negotiate that matters. Begin by thanking the hiring manager for the offer. He or she wants to hear how much you’re interested in joining the company and being part of the team. Companies want candidates that want to work for them. Reiterate the skills and experience that you bring to the table and how your past experience will add value to their company. Your goal is to develop a win-win situation for the two of you. If your negotiations are sincere, thoughtful, professional, and respectful, you’re far more likely to have a successful outcome.
Don’t be cocky in your approach, and above all, don’t lie or exaggerate about other offers. You may be the best candidate for the job, but rarely will you be the only candidate in today’s market. If you come off as arrogant or over-confident, your potential employer will likely select the next best candidate. Don’t try to play one employer’s offer against another. This makes it seem like the only thing you’re concerned with is money. Money should not be your primary concern if you’re choosing between two positions. If it’s only about money, the hiring manager will know that, if you get another offer, you’ll be likely to leave their company on a financial whim.
Remember, salary isn’t the only thing you can negotiate. There are many other benefits that a hiring manager may have more flexibility to offer. Vacation time is one of the most common perks people negotiate. Wouldn’t getting three weeks of vacation instead of two mean a higher quality of personal life for you? Stock options, bonuses, compensation package, commission, holiday days, telecommuting benefits, even the amount the employer contributes to your health insurance—these can all be negotiated. Sometimes perks and intangibles are more important than the net amount on your paycheck because they contribute to a higher quality of work and personal life.
What if there’s no give at all on your potential employer’s part? If you’ve presented a good, solid business case for why you should get a certain compensation package, and the answer is “No,” you need ask yourself these questions: Are you unemployed and desperate for a job? Do you see a huge opportunity to advance in this company? Would you really enjoy the job itself? Are there other benefits that make the job attractive? Can you meet your current financial obligations with the offer as is? If so, then you may want to accept the position. However, it may be that this simply isn’t the right opportunity for you.
Keep looking. Your perfect job is out there.
If you are preparing for a salary negotiation in the near future, write down all the aspects of the job as well as the benefits and compensations that are important to you. Make two lists: “have to have” and “nice to have.” This will help you know when to stay and when to say “Thanks, but no thanks.”