Detailed Guide to Negotiating Your Offer
The devil is in the details - some things to consider as you negotiate your offer
Negotiating is hard. You are facing down someone who has different goals than you, and you are trying to maximize your value while also preserving the relationship.
Negotiating a job offer is even harder. You are often negotiating with your future manager, or a recruiter who may share your actions with your future manager. This raises the stakes immensely, because the negotiation becomes a part of the interview process. Your choices will be judged and weighed as another data point, and they can work for you or against you.
As I discussed in my recent article, How to Negotiate Almost Anything, there are several universal principles that you can use to make the most of any negotiation.
Today, I will be discussing these principles in the context of negotiating a job offer, which can be fraught with its own unique set of pitfalls. There have been times when a candidate's actions during the negotiation have caused the company to withdraw their offer. At the same time, not negotiating at all also puts you at a disadvantage. It’s a delicate balance to strike, and for many, it doesn’t come easily.
Learning to ask for what you want means putting yourself out there, even if there is some risk, and there are strategies you can use to avoid running afoul of the process. By applying these principles, you can ensure that you get the best job offer possible without stepping on any toes.
Principles for negotiating
How you show up can make or break a job offer negotiation. Before you even begin to strategize, you have to ensure that you are coming across in a way that is honest, professional, and constructive. Here are my key rules for how to behave during this process:
Be informed. Knowledge is power. And as GI Joe said, “Knowing is half the battle.” Do your homework and make sure that you know where you stand before you go into the process.
Be truthful. I still remember a time when a candidate misled us about his process. He went on to be successful in Silicon Valley, but our team knew he lied about something important. You absolutely have to be upfront and honest throughout this process. Lying or obfuscating may give you a leg up in the short-term, but it can seriously harm your prospects in the long run, at your new role and beyond. You never know when you might meet someone again who knows about your stretching of the truth.
Be positive. Companies and managers want to be wanted. You can doubt the offer, but always show enthusiasm for the mission and role. This can be easy to forget in a high-stakes negotiation, but you have to remember to be appreciative of the opportunity, even if it doesn’t pan out in the end. Being pessimistic, negative, or demanding can damage both the negotiation itself and your relationship with your future supervisors.
Be firm. On the flipside, it’s also important to draw a line in the sand. Know your BATNA (best alternative to negotiated agreement), and know at what point you will walk away. Clarifying this ahead of time will help you avoid falling victim to the sunk cost fallacy.
Be assertive. State what you believe you are worth, and stand by it. It’s okay to be flexible about how you get there, but you should never undervalue yourself to appease a potential employer. Don’t waver, even if you’re faced with a lot of pressure. You know your value, so never sell yourself short.
Be decisive. Negotiating with a candidate who doesn’t know what they want is like negotiating with jello. Not only is it frustrating, but it also creates a lot of unnecessary back-and-forth. Nobody likes feeling jerked around, so figure out what is important to you ahead of time and be decisive with your ask.
Set the table
Having the right mindset is only the first step in a successful job offer negotiation. Winging it won’t take you far, so you’ll need to be strategic—before and during the process. This will set you up for a far better outcome than improvising ever will.