Negotiating an Offer - The Candidate’s Perspective

By Pepper de Callier


As a candidate, negotiating an offer may reveal more about you than anything you do in the recruiting process. Negotiating sends volumes of information to others about who you really are. Think about it for a second. This is where you display—for real, not just “interview talk”—what is important to you and how you approach discussing and resolving difficult issues—just the kind of thing you will have to do with colleagues and clients. Common sense, communication skills, people skills, empathy, self-confidence, and more—these skills, skills which are vital to any executive’s “tool box”, are on display now for all to see. The manner in which you display these skills—or lack thereof—will have a significant impact on your future with your prospective employer. I have even seen people negotiate themselves out of a job that would have been a brilliant career move for them, after an offer was made. More on that later.

Here are some key things to consider when negotiating an offer:

A realistic and objective assessment of your position - why are you negotiating? Do you have unique skills? Is this a unique situation? Or, do you have a legitimate request such as being made “whole” on an anticipated bonus or salary increase? Bottom line: don’t negotiate just to be negotiating because you think it’s a wise thing to do.

People skills and empathy - remember, the person who agrees to your requests may have to defend his or her decision to someone else. Be sensitive to this and be prepared to be open-minded and flexible.

Confidence - you must truly believe that what you’re asking for is appropriate and realistic. Your body language, your voice and your eyes will reveal your true feelings and worth.

Now, some do’s and don’ts.


  • Use common sense—it’s okay to ask for more than is originally offered or for a change in the elements of an offer—just be sure that your request makes sense based upon your background and experience, the challenge and the marketplace.
  • Reiterate your interest and excitement in the job and in joining the team before you make any requests.
  • Be prepared to suggest trade-offs for key things of importance, such as instead of a lump sum payment of a sign-on bonus, allowing it to be paid quarterly, or, if the offer isn’t high enough on base salary, suggesting a recalibration of the bonus to a monthly or quarterly payout of a portion of it for the first year—flexibility is a highly valued trait. Another suggestion would be to simply ask how this gap might be closed given the resources and options that they have available. This method opens the door to getting the other person involved in solving the problem by using an approach they are comfortable with and they know will be accepted internally.
  • Assuming a recruiter is involved, use them as a sounding board. This is when a good recruiter acting as an honest broker can offer invaluable advice. Present your rationale to him or her and, based on their knowledge of the marketplace and the client, ask for their thoughts. I would even ask the recruiter to feel the company out on your request before you make it formally. This way the recruiter acts as a “lightening rod” and people are able to adjust their positions without losing face.


  • Don’t get greedy. Against my advice, a very senior candidate, who was highly desired by my corporate client and knew it, couldn’t resist asking for more just to see how much he could get. The final straw was on his third round of request revisions when he asked for a certain class of air travel and hotel accommodations whenever he went out of town. The Chairman of the Board of the company making the offer, which in effect would have doubled the compensation of the candidate’s current job and been a significant career move, immediately withdrew the offer and told me in confidence that this display of over-reaching was a sign of things to come that would spell disaster in his company’s culture.
  • Don’t be over-confident. “I couldn’t possibly accept less than X”, or, “I think I’m worth more than that” sound like lines from a bad movie and can create a powerful “after-taste” if for some reason they work. Hubris is a cancer on the body of career development—it’s a killer, and too often it’s caught too late to save the patient.
  • Don’t become unresponsive hoping to play one offer against another. This is more transparent than you think and can quickly result in an offer being withdrawn. No one likes being taken advantage of or being your second choice.

A good negotiation is an open and honest give-and-take, and, in the end, it feels right for both parties.

(Phyllis Huckabee and Case de Callier contributed to this article.)

About the Author: Pepper de Callier is one of the most respected senior executive coaches and authorities on leadership in Europe. Learn more about him at

*These are reprints from Pepper de Callier‘s newspaper column in Hospodarske noviny.

Common Sense Wisdom: Thoughts to Live By
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