Turning So-So Into Win-Win

You’ve thoroughly researched the new company, you’ve survived several rounds of rigorous phone and personal interviews, and you’ve convinced your family that your career move is in their best interest as well as yours. All that remains is to receive a firm, written offer of employment for your dream job.

The delivery service arrives, and you rip open the packet, hoping against hope that the offer will be at the top of the “salary band” mentioned for the position. Job title, check. Major responsibilities, check. Start date, check. Relocation package, check. Benefits, check. Annual compensation – oh, oh. Better sit down. This is the reality check.

If you’re as human as the rest of us, your first inclination might be to storm to the phone to tell the hiring authority just where to get off. But wait a minute! Before you ruin your chances with this company and, most likely, with any company that communicates with this company, stop to reflect.

Do you really want to throw this great opportunity out the window? Has the job description changed? Has the location changed? Is this a fair offer for the position and location? Or is it just that your ego is bruised by being offered a dollar amount that is somewhat less than you had expected?

First response

If everything about the job (except the salary) still appeals, now’s the time to call major negotiating skills into play. If you’re lucky enough to have been working with a recruiter, call her immediately. She has a wealth of experience at deal making, and her participation removes the emotional charge from ensuing conversations.

Regardless of who’s doing the negotiating, the first effort will, of course, be simply to ask for more money. However, your request must be reasonable! We’re talking thousands, not tens of thousands, of dollars here.

And your request will be received in better spirit if you point out a “plus” that may not have been considered previously. For example, the fact that you are available immediately, or that you will finish that MS in three months, might be enough to convince the company to reconsider the original proposal.

If that effort doesn’t fly, request a sign-on bonus. Sign-ons are popular because they don’t impact on rigid salary bands, and several thousand extra will probably keep you whole for a year until an established bonus or merit increase program kicks in.

Other avenues

Another possibility is to tweak and tune other facets of the offer, thereby turning it into a very attractive package.

Does health insurance coverage begin after 90 days on the job? You could certainly ask the employer to pick up your COBRA during the period.
Does the company offer two weeks’ vacation after a year? Perhaps you might enjoy one of those weeks after your first six months.
Is the salary stated for a full twelve-month period? You might ask for a review after ninety days with the proviso that, if your performance has been exceptional, a small increase will be forthcoming at the time.
These are just a few examples of ways to sweeten the pot without appearing outrageously demanding. Study your own situation and come up with something creative that will be a unique benefit to you.

Of course, there’s always a possibility that, in spite of all best efforts, the original offer must stand. As noted in other columns, no company wants to under employ a professional staff member, but companies are restricted by policy and budgetary constraints.

Certainly, you should have been giving some thought to your response in case all negotiations come to naught. Whatever your decision, be prepared to communicate it to the company within a reasonable time-frame. Putting the company off for a month while you wait to see what else might turn up is not a professional negotiating tool.

If you have approached the hiring manager with a reasonable, well-thought-out counteroffer, you will probably succeed. Remember, companies try to be fair, but you must be fair too.

Whether you’re a candidate or a client, we’d love to hear from you!