Negotiating a job offer is never easy. It can feel awkward, incite insecurities, and make you rethink your future plans. However, one thing to remember is that both parties are seeking a best case employment scenario. Hence, if you negotiate well, and sensibly, there are ways both employee and employer can be satisfied.
Deepak Malhotra of the Harvard Business Review is a professor teaching exactly how to do this. He set out a list of rules and advice for how to come out on top when negotiating a job offer.
Being likeable sells
Negotiating a job offer won’t go far if your attitude is poor. If you were on the other side of the table, you wouldn’t make an effort for someone you don’t want on your team. It seems obvious, but people forget how much a small faux pas may cost you at the negotiating table. Be unfailingly polite. Be open, and don’t nit-pick at small details.
Make yourself seem worth it
You could be the most genial person in the room, but if you aren’t worth what you’re offering, you’re unlikely to get it. Use your gift of the gab. Explain why you need more than what you’re getting. Having a reason, like changing your schedule for your kids, or your special skills in computing, can take the edge off a big request.
Nobody likes a time waster. If the company thinks you’re just leveraging them for a better offer somewhere else, they’re not going to be happy campers. While it may work in your favour to seem like you’re in high demand, overplaying this card could lead employers to decide you’re not worth the effort.
Try to relate to your negotiator
Even if corporations are considered people, you’re negotiating with real ones. Flesh and blood with thoughts and feelings are sitting across the negotiating table. Try to understand where they are coming from when they are saying no. What are they concerned about? Remember that they will be working with you.
Be reasonable about their boundaries
Even if after all this, the negotiator is still saying ‘no,’ understand that it may not be their fault. Oftentimes even if they love you and your work, they have someone above them with the final say.
Be ready for difficult questions
Negotiating is just like a job interview. Employers want to know they’re getting what they’re paying for, so they may pepper you with difficult questions. Prepare your responses so you aren’t overly defensive. Additionally, your answers could show where your weaknesses lie, so consider what they be trying to expose with the question.
Think about the motives rather than the words
A negotiator could easily say one thing, and mean something completely different. A question about your job search could be interest, but it could also be trying to gauge whether you’re attainable. Think about intent before answering so you know what you may be accidentally revealing.
Negotiate for the whole package
The age old saying “money doesn’t buy happiness,” runs mostly true. There are so many more things that will make you want to go to work than the number on your pay check at the end of the day. Perhaps you’d prefer more flexible hours, or the ability to travel. On this note, don’t try and go through one item at a time – this isn’t a business meeting with an agenda. Work out which benefits are most important to you, and explain why you want them.
Balance your timing
Possibly the most difficult part of negotiating multiple offers is timing. If you want to be able to compare offers, you can’t have one coming in weeks before another. Hit the brakes on negotiations with one employer, and accelerate on another if you have to. This way, you will be able to consider your options together without having to rush into a decision because time is running out.
Try to avoid ultimatums
Nobody likes being backed into a corner. When this happens, employers could feel angry or betrayed, especially if they have already made concessions. Alternately, if you’re given an ultimatum, try to ignore it. Ultimatums are hard to come back from, so if you can push it under the table, nobody has to go back on their word later.
Nobody’s trying to vilify you
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you” doesn’t ring true here. If you’ve gotten this far, they want you. So stay calm. If they don’t want to negotiate on an issue, understand that they may have their reasons. And if right now you’re not getting what you want, remember that your negotiation doesn’t finish when you get the job. In a month or six they may be in a better position to give you what you want, and you just have to ask.
Even if you do everything right from start to finish, you may still not win in the job offer negotiating game. It happens. Remember, it may not be the negotiation that’s the problem. It could be the job. The ins and outs of an offer are important, but not as much as career satisfaction. So keep looking. The job for you is out there, and you have the skills to get it.