The tenets that trigger successful job offer negotiations are no different from the principles that underlie all other negotiations, with two important distinctions.
POWER. In job offer negotiations, the employer often has the advantage. Just how much varies from one situation to the next, with the main factor often hinging on who stands to lose the most if you decide to reject the offer. It’s important to remember that you’re dealing with perceptions. You may think that the company will be the loser if it lets you slip through the cracks; but the person you’re negotiating with may feel otherwise.
RELATIONSHIPS. Unlike a negotiation you might have with a retailer or someone whose house you’re thinking of buying, the person you’re bargaining with is probably someone (your future boss, very likely) with whom you’ll spend a lot of time with after negotiations end. Playing hardball may help in the short-term, but could strain a relationship that is clearly significant.
Focus on these concepts as you contemplate the following for successful job offer negotiating:
- Know what you want. Prior to any discussion, make sure you’re clear about two things: what you want to come away with after the negotiations; and what you are willing to accept. Reach high, as you don’t usually get what you don’t ask for. Balance this with consideration of your expectations aligned with the situation and whether the person you’re negotiating with has authority to give you what you want.
- Be realistic regarding your power. Your power in any negotiation is gauged by how important it is to the person or company that you come to work there. How important you are to the company isn’t necessarily aligned with how good you are at your job. If there are candidates whose skills and experience are comparable to yours, your importance weakens, and so does your power. If your skills are in demand, your perceived worth – and power, strengthens.
- Do your due diligence. The greatest weapon in your arsenal is information. It enables you to bargain for what you want. Find out as much as you can about what people in positions similar to the position for which you’re applying earn and what terms other employees have negotiated. You’re more apt to get this sort information from a former employee than from a current employee. It’s also a good idea to find out how long and hard the company has worked to find the right fit. The more eager they are to fill this position, the stronger your negotiation stance.
- Your mindset. Approach the negotiation with the attitude that you and the other person are two people on the same side working toward the same objective. Focus on their need and how you add value. Be flexible; be prepared for compromise on issues not deal-breakers. Be gracious, even if you do not get exactly what you want. We’re back to to the relationship piece!