Congrats! You got the job and it’s time for negotiations. You know you have to counter the first offer—that’s just good business sense. But perhaps you’re worried about being too aggressive and possibly losing the opportunity. You shouldn't be. First, do your homework. Some companies are not willing to consider counteroffers. Maybe they have an established salary range that they’ve already maxed out for you.
If you're pressing forward, here are a few tips and strategies to help you get closer to the compensation you want.
1. Think before you write.
You’re not happy with the compensation package, and they seem open to negotiation. Do some research—find out what the average salary is for your equivalent position in that area. See what other commensurate companies are offering in the way of benefits and salary. Consider the whole package, including any relocation costs, sick days, vacation, family leave, telecommuting, etc.
2. Know your value.
Do some market research to determine what you should be making, given your skills and experience. Craft your best argument for a higher final offer. You’ll want to sell yourself with clear intel and reasons behind you for why you deserve a bump before signing. Look at local salary surveys, calculators, recruiters, colleagues, mentors, even LinkedIn groups and online research.
3. Get time on your side.
Buy yourself a couple of days “to think about the offer.” Don’t forget to emphasize your enthusiasm about the position so they don’t think you’ve lost interest. Show yourself to be thoughtful, not impulsive or anxious.
4. Don’t be greedy.
Don’t ask for more than is reasonable. If you ask for something within normal range, and you’re prepared to defend your ask, then don’t stand down and cave immediately. Let the process work as it should. And if you’re given what you ask, take it. Don’t try to then ask for even more.
5. Go for it!
Type your counter letter up in a standard business letter format. Put the employer’s information and your contact information in the header. Address the letter to your employer. Write an intro that emphasizes your interest and provides reasons why you’re excited and you think you’d be a good fit. Kill them with kindness. Then, in the body, include a short paragraph for every point of the original offer you wish to counter. Make sure to have done your homework and include appropriate reasons for why this is deserved. Then write a polite conclusion reemphasizing your keenness on the position and your respect for the company and their process. Offer, if you like, to meet in person to discuss. Sign it: “Respectfully yours.” And wait!
6. Be ready to walk away.
Don’t bluff. The last thing you want to do is put a number on the table and have them refuse to negotiate at all. If you say “I can’t work here for any less than x,” and they don’t offer you x, then you have to be prepared to turn down the opportunity. If they are being completely unreasonable (i.e. they don’t have an established salary policy and are just playing hardball for no reason), then you might want to do this anyway.
7. Be professional.
Keep it classy and keep your tone measured and professional. Back up all of your asks with good solid reasons. Say ‘no’ nicely and learn to hear ‘no’ without going ballistic. Be as assertive as you need to be without becoming aggressive. Don’t be threatening, and don’t take things personally. It’s business, and a perfectly normal process.
8. Listen more than you talk.
If your process advances to face-to-face negotiations, pay attention to their body language and yours. Be commanding, but not pugnacious. Keep your mouth shut and be strong. The person who talks first often is the one who walks away from negotiations with the lesser end of the stick. And keep personal sob stories about finances to yourself.
9. Get it in writing.
If you succeed at getting a higher offer, make sure to get it in writing before you sign anything!