The sense of accomplishment and relief a job seeker feels when they get an offer is like no other. It’s often the culmination of months of applications, interviews, take-home assignments, and crushing rejection — but it isn’t the finish line. There’s still one final step: negotiating compensation.
Negotiating a salary doesn’t come naturally to everyone. Some job seekers don’t think of it as an essential step, while others might worry that negotiation will backfire. But, to answer the most common question on this topic: no, you (probably!) will not lose your job offer by trying to negotiate a higher salary.
Negotiation is a process in which job seekers have nothing to lose and possibly much to gain, as long as they embody the three Ps: professional, prepared, and pragmatic.
Getting a truly perfect offer — a salary at the high end of the pay band, along with all the benefits and perks one could ever ask for — is exceedingly rare. However, someone lucky enough to find themselves in that situation can sign on the dotted line before their employer changes their mind.
For everyone else, negotiating is a necessary stage of the process and helps professionals start their new jobs from the best possible position. First, everyone owes it to themselves to at least ask for what they need to be happy and successful in their new role. (We seldom receive what we don’t ask for, after all). Secondly, it shows confidence, self-worth, and self-advocacy. In roles or companies where assertiveness is key, certain sales positions, for example, negotiation is often expected. A candidate who neglects to do so may have an employer second-guessing their choice.
One final reason to negotiate a job offer: it’s good practice! Negotiation is an extremely handy communication skill. Why not take an opportunity to flex and improve a skill that will help you in so many aspects of your life?
There’s a wealth of data available to help people contextualize their salaries and understand the market value of their skills, expertise, and labor. One of the most reliable is the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salary.com and Glassdoor also provide helpful analysis.
The market data alone rarely makes a convincing case. Employers are more likely to be swayed by a well-crafted argument about why a candidate’s specific personal strengths and experiences will make them more valuable. (This is where the “pragmatic” part of the three Ps comes in.) Technical skills, certifications, industry knowledge, and relevant accomplishments should be assembled into a concise argument for a higher salary.
This is where another of the three Ps — prepared — comes in. As with any big conversation in life, a role-play rehearsal with a trusted friend or colleague can build confidence and illuminate potential challenges. A friend with past experience on either side of the negotiating table makes an especially strategic practice partner.
Once an offer has been extended, negotiation can begin in a follow-up meeting with the hiring manager for the position. Negotiators should share their gratitude for the offer, state their case for a higher salary, and make a specific counterproposal. They should also stay calm and honest throughout (the third P: professional) and remember that many factors may influence an employer’s offer, including some outside of their control.
Nothing’s final until it’s in a signed contract. A written agreement is the final stage of any negotiation.
The primary purpose of negotiation is to meet all parties’ needs before entering a working relationship. That means any candidate engaging in negotiations should want the job and be communicative about their interest. Seeming more invested in negotiating than in the company or the job itself doesn’t exactly win employers over, so ultimatums and other “hardball” tactics should be left at the door.
In professional contexts, negotiating isn’t about confidently making demands and expecting them to be met. It’s about collaboratively reaching a win-win outcome. The more effectively a candidate can connect with the hiring manager and recruiter, the more successful they’ll be in negotiating. Candidates should understand what the company values and bring that understanding to the negotiating table.
The salary isn’t the be-all-end-all of compensation. Job titles, insurance benefits, perks, vacation time, stock options, learning and development opportunities, and wellness resources should also be treated as part of the negotiation. In fact, employers can often be more flexible on some of these elements. Candidates hoping to negotiate multiple components of their offer should try to address them all simultaneously rather than one at a time to keep the process moving efficiently.
Negotiating an initial job offer can seem intimidating and risky, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead, it can be an amicable, fruitful process. Follow the three Ps — professional, prepared, and pragmatic — and the worst that could happen is hearing, “We’re going to stick with the initial offer.”
Advantis Global supports tech professionals through every step of landing the best contract roles — including exclusive opportunities — from connecting to top companies to negotiating competitive pay rates and benefits. Submit your resume or apply for a job to get connected with an Advantis Global recruiter.