Step by Step Guidelines: How to Negotiate Your Job Offer

Another JobStep jobseeker got an offer today! Woohoo! To help her prepare, we sent over a few salary negotiation guidelines and figured we’d share them with the world.

Overview:

  • Salary negotiations are collaborations, not conflicts. Aim to be gracious, polite, and grateful while also being confident and persuasive.
  • Before you negotiate, figure out what your walk-away limit is. Identify the factors that are really important to you, the factors that you must absolutely have (or you’ll walk away), and the factor that are nice-to-have.
  • Think of your offer as a package. It can include many combinations of salary, equity, start date, vacation, health insurance, bonuses, relocation packages, remote work support, etc.

Before you negotiate, ask yourself a few questions: 

  • Which of the following are important to you: salary, health benefits, vacation time, sick days, tuition benefit, overtime pay, etc?
  • Are some way more important than others?
  • Of those top important ones, how do you rank? What is the worst possible offer you would accept?
  • For salary, what were you hoping to make? What is the lowest you would go?

Maybe you’d be happy to accept the role as is. That’s good to know. You should NOT mention that to your negotiation partner but you should be warm, and reiterate how excited you are by the role and how appreciative you are of the opportunity to consider it.

2 levers to help you negotiate more effectively: 

  1. You’re at your strongest if you’re willing to walk away. This only works if you’re actually willing to walk away. If you want this job and you’re willing to take the job as is, DON’T say that you’re willing to walk away.

  2. The next strongest negotiating point is by offering to speed up the timeline of when you accept an offer and/or start.

Even if you can’t speed up the timeline or walk away, increase your chances of success by doing the following:  

  • Organize and prioritize your requests
  • Make your requests very clear
  • Phrase your requests as collaboratively and conversationally as possible
  • Be as respectful and nice as possible. Demonstrate the very best of your organizational, team-work, and communication skills as you have this conversation about compensation.
  • Once you agree to a range or number, that’s it. Don’t change your mind because it breaks trust. If you’re not sure how you feel, politely ask for more time. It’s ok to say: “Thank you so much for sharing that information. Could I have a few days or a week to think about it”

6 Steps to a successful salary negotiation

1. Get a sense of the full initial offer. Ideally, ask for a written job offer with the full outline of your package that includes salary, equity, health insurance, bonuses, vacation, sick days, tuition reimbursement, start date, etc.

2. Once you have the full offer, do research to see how it compares to similar roles and companies. Some good resources are Glassdoor, Payscale, and Levels.FYI. Linkedin & Indeed also have salary estimates by region, company, and title.

3. Think through the various packages you’d be comfortable with. Maybe they won’t budge on salary but they might give you more of a bonus or equity. Or maybe they might pay for your full health insurance premiums. Maybe they won’t offer more equity, but they might offer up to 15% in salary and/or maybe they’ll offer to pay for remote work tools (monitor, chair, new laptop, standing desk, noise-canceling headphones).

4. Send an email to schedule a call and outline the topics (NOT your asks) that you want to cover. For example you might say:

Hi [Name],

Thank you so much for this offer. I am so excited about the team, the role, and the work you do. I have a few questions about the offer. Could we schedule a call to discuss? In particular, I’d like to cover salary, health insurance, equity, and performance reviews during our discussion.

I’m available at the following times. [list 2-4 times]

Please let me know what times work for you.

Many Thanks,

Name

5. On the call, reiterate your interest in the role and spend the first half of your call “gathering data” — i.e. find out what kind of flexibility they have.

6. Once you have a sense of where they might be able to budge, then you can start your reasoning for what salary will make sense given your previous experience or research you’ve done on similar roles.

Here are some example phrases you can use:

How to open the call:

“Thank you so much for the offer. I’m very excited by the role and I am a big fan of the team. I have 3 things I’d love to discuss. Can we first chat about salary?”

How to ask about flexibility: 

“That’s a little lower than I was expecting. What kind of flexibility do you have on compensation or on the package as a whole?”

OR

“I’m very excited about this role and this team. However, the starting salary would be a step back from my current position. Could you meet me at $60k on salary? “

If they say: “We might be able to make X work” or “We could make X work”, respond with: 

“Thank you for working with me on salary. I appreciate it. The next thing I’d like to talk about is Tuition benefits. What are the tuition benefits you offer? What kind of flexibility do you have there?”

If they say: “Unfortunately, we have no flexibility on this point”, respond with: 

“Thank you for letting me know. I appreciate you letting me know. The next thing I’d like to talk about is equity. Could you explain to me how the equity offered works and What kind of flexibility you have there?”

Once you complete an agenda item: say something like: 

“Thank you for sharing that information. I appreciate you being so frank and transparent on these pieces with me”

How to close the deal:

Once you’ve figured out where they stand on all of the factors that are most important to you, start with the ideal package that makes sense given what information they’ve shared with you. Only offer to accept today once you’ve got answers to all of your questions.

“I’m very excited about this role and this team. However, the starting salary would be a step back from my goals. This said, if you can make $60K work, I’ll enthusiastically accept and sign the offer today.”

OR

“I’m very excited about this role and this team. “Based on my prior experience and familiarity with the role, I believe that an additional $5K on the $55K you mentioned would be fair. If you can make $60K work, I’ll enthusiastically accept and sign the offer today. ”

OR

“I’m very excited about this team and this role. What kind of flexibility do you have on the compensation or package? [wait for answer]. I do have a number of interviews coming up that are also moving quickly. However, I would be willing to accept the offer today if it were possible to meet at [$X]”

Success!

Even if you don’t get an increase in your job offer package, getting the courage to negotiate is a huge win. You’ve shown your potential boss that you’re willing to ask hard questions and have difficult conversations. If you’ve done it well, you’ve shown that you can be collaborative, appreciative, and polite in a tough situation, which sets you up for success in your role.

Salary Negotiation Recap: 

  1. Think of your offer as an entire package: Salary, out-of-pocket premiums, health insurance coverage, tuition stipend, equity, start date.
  2. Be respectful but don’t oversay. Don’t show your cards. Know what packages are your ideal and which ones you’ll walk away from.
  3. Script out your negotiation agenda and practice the phrases you want to use.
  4. Don’t be pretentious. Don’t be curt. Don’t be brazen.
  5. Be genuine and warm and appreciative. Be collaborative.
  6. If you get the package you want, you can accept it on the phone. It’s nice to close out the negotiation!

JobStep (www.jobstep.co) is a new way to find a better job. We believe talented and hardworking people should get better jobs based on their skills & experiences — not how well they write resumes or how much time they had to apply to hundreds of jobs. So we do that part for you. We write your resumes, provide interview coaching, and find and apply to jobs you’re qualified for and want for you. We do this so well that we’re the first to guarantee jobseekers 5 interviews within 6 weeks with a money-back guarantee.