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Nancy's 9 Tips and Truths for Negotiating Your Job Offer

Thoughts of negotiating any deal creates jitters in the best of us!  It's right up there with public speaking and fear of snakes!  As with so many things that cause a case of anxiety, though, knowing more is key.
Understanding what negotiation is and how to go about it will allay the fear and calm the jitters.

Negotiation is simply a skill, and skills can be learned and practiced.  The more practice we do, the better we get!  While negotiating may not ever rank among your top 10 favorite things to do, you may find that with knowledge and practice you become pretty proficient and find yourself emerging from such discussions with more of what you want from a deal.

If you would like to try your hand, here are some tips and truth to get you started on the right foot!

1.  Negotiation begins the moment you say hello.
The information you choose to reveal about your experience and accomplishments begins the negotiation.  Since this is the information initially exchanged in your resume and marketing materials, and your initial phone screens and interview, that means that the negotiation begins with your first contact with a firm - as you say hello!

The initial comments you make and information you reveal about your experience and accomplishments place you at a compensation level in the interviewer’s mind --  right off the bat!  It also indicates the level of responsibility you could assume in their firm.  Be cautious about revealing too much too soon.  It may lower your compensation or benefits, or eliminate you as a viable candidate.

2.  He or she who speaks first loses. 
Over the years, as I have conducted interviews, I have watched candidates talk themselves right out of the job by speaking before they knew what to choose to say!
  • Don't assume you know the other party's needs.  
  • Don't assume you know what to say. 
  • And don't start speaking too soon. 
  • Allow the interviewer or your network contact to tell you about the organization and its requirements and needs overall, and about the job's specific needs and requirements.   
  • Then you can match your comments to their needs; and poignant you can select relevant experiences and accomplishments to share.
3.  EVERYTHING is negotiable.  
At the beginning of a negotiation, everything is up for grabs!  Salary is the first thing to come to mind, but it's just the tip of the iceberg.  You can negotiate anything from work schedules to vacation benefits to starting dates to resources to memberships to bonuses.  The list is just about endless.

Give careful consideration to what it will take for you to be a happy and productive worker in the organization for which you are interviewing, and what will make the employer happy with your performance.  (Please refer to my article What Items Can You Negotiate For?  Here's a List)

4.  EVERYTHING is fair game!
When you receive your initial offer, you are in the most powerful position you are likely ever to be with the hiring firm.  They want you and are willing to pay for the privilege!  It's your time to push the envelope -- within the realm of reason.

Determine what you need to do the job, and to be happy doing the job.  Be courageous but be cautious and within the realm of reason.  For example, don't like sitting in an interior cubicle from 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m..   Now, it's not reasonable for a mid-level manager to ask for the corner office; but what about negotiating for a small office with windows, or an exterior isle cubicle where daylight can be seen?  Or, fly constantly to customers?  It may not be reasonable to argue for first class seating, but what about negotiating for business class on all your 5+ hour and overseas flights?

Being reasonable when you push the envelop and demonstrating how your request equates to superior job performance can get you more of what you want.

5.  Know your own bottom line - that line you draw in the sand which you can not cross.
It has always been surprising to me the number of job seekers who have no real idea what their cost of living truly is.  If you don't know the amount of money you need to run your household, and your life style, you don't know how much salary is enough or not enough for you to consider a position.

Ask yourself the tough question: What is the lowest I can go in salary and compensation package before I will have to walk away?  Sort through your “wants” and “needs” - 2 different things entirely.  You may be surprised!
What is the lowest I can go before I will have to walk away?

6.  Know at what point you will walk away. 
This is a critical bit of knowledge to possess, and there is power in knowing it.  There is something powerful about a person who knows what they will and will not accept.  It exudes competence and confidence.  Please note that this DOES NOT MEAN cocky or arrogant.  It just means that having done your homework, you know your value to an organization and seek to work at that standard.

Knowing there are conditions and things you will not accept helps you negotiate more keenly as you discuss, ask questions, and make requests.  Not every job is the right one for you, even if it appeared so initially; negotiation helps you sift through information to make the determination if this is the right job for you.  Much as you want a job, you don't want a bad job, or a bad fit that will not work out.  Negotiation helps you know when an opportunity is just not for you.   And know too that another, better one will come along.

7.  Prepare.  Learn about negotiation.
We generally fear that which we do not understand, and that is often the case with negotiation.  Learn how to listen and how to offer information on your own behalf. 

8.  Prepare.  Know what you are worth in the marketplace.
Research your profession, and the firm with which your are interviewing.  Learn the “going rates” for your skill set, level of experience, and amount of education.  Know your $$$-worth in the marketplace.

Know what the firm, or at least the profession, offers as a fair compensation package. Then decide, based on your qualifications, if you desire the going rate or can justify to your interviewers a compensation amount higher than the going rate.

9.  Practice, practice, practice.  Then practice some more.
Practice delivering information about your capabilities, and dry-run a discussion, i.e., negotiation about your offer.

Some folks will always shy away from negotiation.  It's not for them!  But if you would like to try your hand at negotiating that next offer, and are willing to do the preparation, you may be pleasantly surprised to find out that you are a negotiator!

For additional information on marketing yourself and your capabilities, please refer to the many articles found under the Articles tabs of the AJC–Career Strategy website.
For individual coaching for your job offer negotiation, feel free to contact us here at the AJC to schedule a consultation.  
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For additional advice on smart and strategic job searching, please refer to my many articles in the AJC--Career Strategy website.  
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