Negotiating a Job Offer

A recent survey by Robert Half found that only 39% of all workers negotiated a higher salary during their last job offer. The survey also found that men were more likely than women to negotiate and that employees aged 18 to 34 were also more likely to negotiate (April 2018 HR Magazine).

Salary isn’t the only piece of an offer that is negotiable. Bonus percentage, sign-on bonus amount, relocation benefits, time off, work schedule, start date, and telecommuting can also be modified.

It’s surprising to me that most people don’t try to negotiate an offer, but it also aligns with my experience. I have found over the past two decades of recruiting that very few candidates will negotiate and particularly very few women ask for more money or perks.

Recruiters expect candidates to negotiate, so if you want more money, more vacation time, etc., ask for it. The chances of an offer being rescinded just because you try to negotiate are slim. And, if an offer is rescinded due to your request, that is not an organization you’d likely want to work for anyway.

Here are some tips when negotiating an offer:

  1. Be specific. Do not make vague statements like, “I was really hoping for a higher salary.” Give the recruiter a specific range of salary. Many applications ask for desired salary upfront. If you stated one salary during this process but now want a higher salary, explain why to the recruiter. Acknowledge the difference. You may say something like, “I know that I asked for $75,000 when I completed my job application, but after hearing more about the job and its complex responsibilities, I believe $80,000 would be a more appropriate salary.” If you want a sign-on bonus, give a number. If you want one more week of vacation, specify the exact number of days.
  2. Pick up the phone and have a 1:1 discussion with the recruiter to counter. I cannot stand when candidates e-mail me a laundry list of demands after I presented the offer, but said nothing during our call. I will have direct follow-up questions to try to understand your specific needs, and this shows me you may have challenges with conflict. Own your requests and show some confidence.
  3. You can ask for whatever you want, but be prepared that the answer may be “no” to some or all of your requests.
  4. Be realistic. Just because you were at your last company for many years and had an inflated salary doesn’t mean a new employer is willing to pay you the same or more. Or, if you are entry-level and/or a recent college graduate with no relevant experience except a few 3-month long summer internships, you have very little to no bargaining power. You have virtually zero real-world experience, and you will need a lot of mentoring and training before you become productive. These are the candidates that hiring managers will rarely negotiate with. Similarly, if the job only requires three years of experience, but you have twenty years, expect to be paid like someone with only three years of experience because that will be the budget for the position.
  5. Be polite and respectful. Telling your recruiter that you are “disgusted” or “offended” by your offer will be a sure-fire way to get that offer rescinded. Your attitude during the negotiation process gives the potential employer insight into your character.
  6. Do not ask for a sign-on bonus if you are currently unemployed. The main reason sign-on bonuses are offered is when a company wants to recruit a gainfully employed highly skilled candidate. Why would a company offer a sign-on bonus to someone who isn’t working?

The next time you receive an offer, use these tips and try to negotiate. With salary raises averaging a measly 2-3 percent per year, the higher salary you start with, the more beneficial to you and your family long-term.