Offer Negotiation: the Chips are Down

Now its time to negotiate an offer, the sweat starts to pour, butterflies twitter in the stomach, and that’s just the hiring manager.

Once an offer is on the table, the pressure is at the max due to a time limit and the ramifications of a life effecting decision.

If you have a plan and process in place, the offer stage can be a painless and positive experience. Without them, not so much…..

First point, make sure you do not pre-negotiate your offer during the interview stage. If the company asks you how much you are looking for, whatever amount you answer will be your offer, no matter how badly they want to hire you. If you give them a number too high, it may preclude you from the process, even though you would want to enter into a reasonable negotiation once you realize that you like the opportunity. Too low and you are leaving money on the table. The best answer is my current salary is X and ” I hope you will make me your best offer”. Do not give a target number at this early stage.

Keep in mind that how you handle the offer stage and negotiation is the first decision you will make as an employee of the company. If you are indecisive, and difficult it may color the new managers opinion and change your first assignment from a potential team lead to a member of the team.

As I mentioned here to begin a negotiation, you must first know where you want to work. You will also need a stake in the ground, which is the reasonable amount of compensation at which you would accept the job. Not wow wouldn’t it be great if I got an FU offer. If the stake in the ground is $100k and the maximum offer is $99K, are you willing to walk away from the opportunity that you want with no second thoughts. Saying “the salary is not high enough” is not negotiating. A stake in the ground will give you a point to negotiate from and allow you to negotiate up from that point if possible.

Before you begin, you must be certain that you want the position at the company. Entering into a negotiation with offers and counter offers implies that you will accept the terms once both parties agree. It is bad form and un-professional to negotiate an acceptable package and then not accept the position. To be clear, this method will maximize the outcome with respect to compensation, while minimizing stress and pressure, but you must want the job and be ready to accept negotiated offer.

Let’s begin. First of all some basic negotiation tactics that will serve you well. Silence is your friend. The first person to speak after a term has been presented will usually be the one to compromise.

Say no at least three times and be silent after each.

Don’t be the one to start the negotiation. Let the company start with their offer. Then you will know if they are above or below your stake in the ground and can negotiate accordingly.

Once a company has decided you would be a valuable employee and are the number one choice for their position, the other value you have in the negotiation is your acceptance of the offer. This is the negotiation point that will maximize the offer and get the extra “gravy” to top off getting the position you want at a great company. Your acceptance is what you possess, to offer to negotiate up to the final number. For example; if your stake in the ground is $100K and the offer is $102K, say ” if you can hit $105K, I will accept your verbal offer pending receipt of an acceptable written offer. My start date will be xx/xx/xx.” If the manager needs approval of the VP, they can take it to them with confidence knowing they will get an acceptance, rather than hoping it will be enough, in which case they may just chose to wait and see if you take $102K.

That is the process that has proved to be effective in my experience. Not as easy to execute as to understand, but knowing how you are going to approach the offer negotiation will certainly make it less painful.

Remember, if both parties want the deal to go down and both sides are reasonable, the offer stage will proceed smoothly.


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