When the job market is poor, job hunters have a choice when they receive an offer from a new employer– take it or leave it. After all, employers have many extremely capable people to choose from and feel little need to negotiate.
As I write this in late May 2011, the job market has been improving and people are starting to receive offers for several firms to choose from. When conditions are like this, you have an opportunity to negotiate salary (or have a recruiter negotiate it for you) and improve your offer.
Here are a few tactics, tips and reminders to take into account when you negotiate.
1. The most important work you do starts at the beginning of your search when you decide what is important to you in your next job or organization. If you don’t do it at the beginning, it will be harder to make a decision when you receive a job offer.
2. Know what the job market is for your skills and experience. It does not mean that you deserve the highest salary in the range. It may just mean that you belong within the range. After all, you may have 5 years of experience working at a no name company. The leading firm in your space may devalue the experience because you have not performed the function at a competitor . . . and rightly so.
3. Negotiating begins as soon as you submit a resume. A good looking resume that presents information in a way that gets people excited before they meet you makes firms want to pay you more than if they need to “fall in love” later.
4. Almost anything is negotiable if it relates to the job. Benefits aren’t . . . except at smaller firms. After all, a company can be sued if they give better vacation policies to one class of individuals vs. another. They are not going to take out a particular group insurance policy just for you. Job responsibilities often are negotiable. Salary often can be negotiated.
5. Do not give ultimatums when negotiating salary. They will walk away from the offer. You will also “poison the well” for your future dealings not just with the company involved but with the individual people at that company and the places they go to work for in the future. After all, Hiring Manager A may change jobs and go to work for Company X in two years. If you apply for a job at X, they may remember how rude you were and poison the well there for you.
6. Recruiters may present themselves as your ally and they are up to a point. They want the repeat business that the corporate client offers and function as their ally to a greater degree. You need to be clear with yourself what an acceptable offer is and what isn’t and relay it to the recruiter AND be prepared to turn one down, if necessary.
7. The easiest way to negotiate a higher offer is to ask, “Can you do a touch better?” They will be negotiating against themselves and generally make a higher offer and all you’ve had to do is ask them.
8. The first offer they make can often be improved. Even for a junior position, once you have a job offer they will often increase the offer rather than try to begin their interview process again.
9. Before going to your final interview, try to find out how many people you are competing with for the job. Recruiters are trained to say, “It’s between you and another person” or “You and two other people.” Find out from the employer.
10. Get the offer in writing before you quit your job. It is impossible to prove that an offer was even made unless you have a job offer in writing or as a PDF in an email.
There are many many more things to take into account and many tactics to consider when going into a negotiation. These ten are a starting point.