Getting what you want: A few tips on salary negotiation

By Lynne Allen, associate director of alumni career development 

Salary negotiations

Congratulations! You finally have an offer in hand for a job you want! Up until this time you have been sharing your value and strengths with the company, and letting them know how you will make a contribution.

Now they want you — and this is your moment to ask for what you want.

First of all, respond to the offer with pleasure, but stay neutral (and a verbal offer is fine — you don’t need an offer letter until you have negotiated the final terms). Make sure to get all the details, including job title, base salary, bonus (if any) and how it is structured, stock options or profit sharing (if any), pension (if any), 401K match, health benefits, vacation time, paid holidays, and any other perks. Let them know you are very pleased to receive the offer, and let them know you’d like to have a few days to review it and come up with questions. Do not let the company pressure you to respond too quickly. (And by the way — never negotiate an offer for a job you don’t want, just to see what they will give you.)

At this point, you need to make sure of your negotiating position by researching the market for this position and this industry in this location. GlassdoorPayscale, and Salary.com are all good resources to support this analysis. (And do not go into an interview process in the first place without asking up front what the salary range for the position will be; you have every right to know.)

It is most important to negotiate the base salary first — this is the number on which all your bonuses and raises will be based in the future. Based on your research and your knowledge of their salary range, you can say: “I am very pleased to receive this offer and believe I will really be able to contribute and add value in this role. If you can make the base salary $X (state a dollar amount that is somewhere slightly above what you are actually willing to accept), I am ready to accept”.

Be aware once you start that your negotiation (with HR, the hiring manager, or a headhunter whomever extended the offer) that it will result in one of three outcomes: they give you what you ask for; they give you some of what you want; or they stand firm in their offer and make no effort to negotiate. In all my years of recruiting and coaching, I have rarely seen a company withdraw the offer altogether. They want to hire you, and unless you are totally unreasonable in your request, there is no reason to withdraw an offer.

Depending on the outcome, you can go for a second round of requests that might include a sign-on bonus, more vacation time, flexible work schedule, etc. A career coach can help with the finer details. Don’t hesitate to set up an appointment with one of your alumni career advisors — Lynne Allen or Laurie Sedgwick. And be sure to check out other career resources on Johnson’s Career Services website.