Negotiating the Job Offer

Are you prepared to negotiate a job offer? What's wrong with neglecting to negotiate? Employees who begin jobs with less-than-optimum salaries may never catch up to the compensation and benefits they could have earned if they'd played their cards better when starting. Since pay raises and bonuses build from the base salary, it's crucial to be prepared to ask for the best compensation package possible from the start. Don't be intimidated. Too often, people approach negotiation inflating the other side's power and minimizing their own. Instead, set your sights high and be ready to stand behind your request. You can shoot for being firm but respectful, rather than downright deferential.

To succeed, job seekers need to take the lead. Here are some tips for getting started:

Steps to take before the offer
Know what you can live with. Keep a list, outlining your needs. Ask yourself the following questions, and know the answers:

- What's going to make you love your job?
- What will make you proud to come to work every day?
- What would keep you at a company?
- What do you hope to earn? What is the least amount you'd accept?
- Draw up a detailed list of what you "want to have" and "need to have."

After you have been interviewed for the position you applied for, the hiring manager calls with great news: the job is yours. Phew, the hard part is over, right? Maybe not. Determining whether to take a job offer can — and should — be a difficult decision. In a bad economy or if you're eager to get out of your current job, it can be tempting to accept any offer. But before you take on job, you need to evaluate the situation carefully.

Certainly, determining whether to accept a job is an individual decision. Regardless of where you are in your career, there are principles you can follow to ensure you make the right decision.

Shape the offer along the way
When the hiring manager or recruiter calls you with the offer, it shouldn't be the first time you discuss specifics. It is of great benefit to have a conversation about your aspirations for the job way before the point of offer. Be honest when responding to interview questions such as, "What are you looking for in your next role?" This increases the likelihood that the offer includes things on your wish list. Deciding whether or not to take a job usually isn't a simple yes or no choice, so prepare for the offer conversation as a negotiation. Rarely should you accept something at face value, even in a depressed economy. If you don't ask for anything you're missing an opportunity.

Do more in-depth research
You can find out a lot about a company before you send in your resume, but once you have the offer in hand, it's time to do more extensive research. One of biggest mistakes that people make is not finding out enough about their potential employer. Dig around for as much information as you can about the organization, the culture, and your future co-workers. There is a lot more information out there than there used to be. Find company employees on LinkedIn and see what they say about their job on Twitter, Facebook, or other media.

You also want to find out what you can about the organization's future prospects. When the economy is underperforming, you have to consider whether the company will still be around in a few years.

Research your market value. What are other people earning? Enlist fellow professionals in evaluating your worth. Often, your in-person and LinkedIn networks are more than willing to quote industry salary figures that aptly reflect the current market. The bonus here is that consulting this group can also give you insights into your counterparts' negotiating style and preferences. Also, use salary survey tools to identify what others in similar jobs earn.

Be realistic about your prospects
Unfortunately, most job searches do not follow an orderly process that lets you compare several offers at once. More likely, you'll receive your first offer when you are still interviewing with or have just sent your resume to other employers. You can't compare to fantastical, theoretical possibilities. You need to be realistic about what is likely to come down the line.

Look at the applications you have under way and reasonably assess which are likely to get to offer. Compare the offer in hand against a wish list of what you really want in any job. Sometimes good enough will have to do. Let go of the idea that there might be something perfect out there. Most people want to cross-off a majority of things on their lists however, in some cases, you may settle for fewer things if the position offers something else: a stronger resume, new skills, or access to an organization you'd like to work at in the long-term.

What if you really need the job?
In a tough job market, it's easy to overvalue an offer. You should be wary of "rose-tinted spectacles" you might wear if you are unemployed or have been searching for a long time. Instead of talking yourself into something, explore other alternatives like accepting the job for a short-term period, say six to nine months, while you look elsewhere.

If that's not possible and you really need the job, know the risks. Don’t underestimate the transaction costs of switching jobs: what it does to your family, your client relationships, and the impact it has on your network and future prospects.

You should consider that you can negotiate more than just your starting wages. Sometimes, employers' hands are tied regarding actual salary figures, but that doesn't mean you can't pursue more favourable terms about other important aspects of your package. Here are some examples:

Vacation time, flexibility, tuition reimbursement, and the date of your next salary review
- Overtime, days off, and relocation expenses
- Company car, expense accounts, bonuses, etc.
- Benefits (health, retirement, disability, stock options, education assistance)
- Relocation expenses, and reimbursement for commuting costs
- Virtually anything a company can provide an employee can be a negotiation factor.

Being creative
If you're asking for something that goes against the norm, take the time to draft a plan showing the details of your request. Employers are more likely to arrive at 'yes' answers if they have all of the particulars of your request at their fingertips.

Don't give in.
Negotiate even if there's no precedent. The very best negotiators don't shut down when they hear 'no' or face resistance. They insist on objective criteria, asking clarifying questions, and elongating the conversation rather than capitulating too soon. Realize it's okay to be the first one to ask for something; you don’t need an army of people who want the same thing as you if your rationale is compelling."

If you decide to say no
Saying no to a job offer can be complicated. You've sent in your resume, shown up for a series of interviews, and the employer likely assumes you want the job. The last thing you want is for the company to think you played them. Don't string them along. If you realise during the interview process that there is a high chance you won't accept an offer, let the hiring manager know so he/she can focus on more viable candidates, and you can get on with your search. It can be tempting to prove to yourself and others that you can get the job but it's a waste of time to do it for your ego. It is however, okay to continue in a process when you are unsure. Express your concerns and desires along the way. This will not only keep an open dialogue but could possibly shape the eventual offer.

If you do say no, remember that a lot goes into generating an offer. People have invested time and may have even gone to bat for you. Never imply that the job or the salary was to blame. Instead focus on what's not a good fit. This will keep the door open for the future. You should walk away in such a way, that if their needs change tomorrow, you can walk back in. Remember that everyone you met in the interview process is now a potential contact in your network.

Principles to Remember

- Find out as much as you can about the organization, its future prospects and what it's like to work there
- Shape the offer along the way by expressing your expectations and desires about the job
- Be reasonable about what other offers might come in

- Take a job you don't want unless you absolutely have to
- Overvalue an offer just because you feel desperate
- Imply that the job offer is not good enough when declining it
- Never burn bridges—communicate in an open and thoughtful manner.
- If you aren't prepared to walk away, don't offer ultimatums.
- Look for the common points—use them to negotiate.

This information is provided to you in cooperation with NonStop Recruitment

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