Job Offer Negotiation
Once you’ve been offered a position, the next step is to determine whether you'll accept the employer’s offer, decline it, or make a counteroffer, also known as negotiation.
The employer has a budget that may or may not lend itself to flexibility, but you won’t know if you don’t ask, and once you’ve accepted the position, it will likely be some time before you can make changes. If you are negotiating the terms of your potential employment, here are some key points to consider:
- Make sure the full details of the offer are clear. The employer should provide you with all details of the full offer, including salary and any benefits that may be included such as insurance (medical, dental, life, disability), paid time off, retirement funds, etc. You should never mention money first. Let the potential employer present the offer.
- Research your field. To know if an offer is excellent, fair, or subpar, you need to know the standard pay range for the position you’re applying for and the salaries of people with similar jobs at other companies in the region (Salary.com is one helpful online resource for comparative salary data). Keep in mind the cost of living in the area of the offer; a great offer in a low cost-of-living area may not be a good offer in a high cost-of-living area.
- Know your needs. For your own reference (i.e., not to share with your potential employer), put together a personal budget to determine how much money you want to live comfortably and how much you need—the bottom line that you can’t live without. You should ask for as high as is reasonably possible and be flexible to negotiate as low as is reasonably possible. If the employer cannot meet your bottom-line need, you should not take the job.
- Consider all factors. Don’t be blinded by salary alone. An offer with a higher salary but no benefits may ultimately not be as good as an offer with a lower salary that comes with an array of benefits. If the total offer package contains more than just a salary, be sure to take each of its components into consideration and evaluate the impact on your bottom line. Beyond benefits linked to monetary values such as insurance, paid time off, or retirement funds, you may also wish to consider factors without an immediate monetary value such as experience, exposure, and connections, among others. As you do, look for examples to back up any claims an employer may make toward non-monetary benefits; for instance, if the employer suggests that the position comes with “exposure,” look for examples of those who have harnessed that exposure to the benefit of their careers. If those examples prove hard to find, you may need to temper your expectations in this area.
- Base your negotiations on your skills and experience. The employer is not interested in your personal finances, your fiscal responsibilities, or the lifestyle you aim to support. While it's important for you to be mindful of all of these in negotiations, your interactions with the employer should remain focused on the value of the high-quality work you will bring to the table. Keep showing them how you can meet their needs.
- Keep it friendly and professional. Remember, if the negotiation works out the way you want it to, you'll be working with this organization, so you don’t want to get off on the wrong foot. You should by all means stand up for what you think you're worth, but don’t do so in an overly aggressive way. Realize that the employer may have other qualified candidates who also want the position you have been offered, so it’s imperative to continue making a good impression throughout the course of negotiations.
- Don't rush it. Any reputable organization will not demand an immediate answer on a job offer. Once each side has made their case and a final offer is on the table, ask if you can get back to them in a day or two. Use that time to talk with people you trust, especially those who know the industry or field, and consult an advisor in the Berklee Career Center.
- Don’t give without getting in return. If the employer asks you to concede certain terms in the negotiation process, only do so if you are receiving a valuable concession from the employer to balance it out. Otherwise, you'll be starting out your employment on unfair footing.
- Don’t be afraid to walk away. Both you and the potential employer have invested significant time and energy in the job interview process, which should encourage both sides to come to a mutually agreeable solution resulting in your employment. However, sometimes that is just not possible. In such cases, you must be willing to decline an unacceptable offer and move on.
- Ask for it in writing—politely. Most professional employers should volunteer to send you the job offer in writing, but if they don’t, know that it is standard to request a written offer once you and the employer have reached an agreement. This will help ensure that there are no points of miscommunication that will result in problems later on, so it's in the best interest of both you and your potential employer.
If you accept the job offer, ask the employer for resources they use to get employees up to speed quickly (office manual, software, online resources, etc.).
If you don’t accept the job offer, suggest a friend or colleague that may be an appropriate referral for the opportunity (assuming you would recommend the employer to a friend), and thank the employer for their time and consideration, both verbally and with a letter. You want to leave a positive impression, especially since you never know what the future may hold; you may end up working for or with this organization at some later time.