Negotiating the best offer


I rarely hear someone say, “I love to negotiate” or “I excel at negotiating.” Even with experienced leaders including ones who negotiate deals at work, admit they could do better when it comes to their job offer. Whether it’s just a relief to receive the offer or concern that they may offend their future employer, many people leave a good chunk of money on the table. 

According to the 2019 Job Seeker Nation report from Jobvite, only 60% of job seekers felt at least somewhat comfortable negotiating. For those who negotiated, 83% received higher pay (34% reported 11% or higher). So it’s worthwhile to hone your negotiation skills and get the best offer possible. 

Know your market value

Here’s the good news: most good companies pay at or above market rate. They pride themselves on hiring the best talent and want to be competitive when it comes to compensation. Here’s the even better news: there are free tools that help you understand the market value based on your role, years of experience and skills. 

Two tools I recommend are PayScale and Glassdoor Salary Calculator. You can add the company where your offer is from or your current salary, bonus and RSUs. PayScale gives you the median and range for your role in the market. Glassdoor lets you know how much you are below or above the average market value. If you happen to be above the average, remember it doesn’t take into account all of the factors including the impact you make. 

It starts with screens

Negotiation starts with the very first call, usually with the recruiter. A common mistake is to not prepare for the dreaded question, “What are your salary expectations?” It’s critical to have a solid number(s) because your negotiation starts at whatever number you provide. Since you know what the market value is, you can say the number or range with confidence. 

Also, more and more states are prohibiting pay history questions in order to end pay discrimination. Even if you’re asked “What are you currently making,” you can still answer with “My salary requirements are…” or “I’m looking for…”

 Practice saying the number and range aloud: “My salary requirements are…” or “Based on my experience and expertise, I’m looking for…” If you’re comfortable with it, they will be too. This is especially important if your current salary is under market value. You need to say it with confidence. 

Here’s a technique that’s worked for many of our clients. Before you give them a number, answer their question with a question: “What is the budget for this role?” or “What is the range for this role?” I’m pleasantly surprised by how many recruiters share this information.

Once you say your number or range, be completely silent. Wait for their response.

Prepare responses based on the number they share. If it matches or is higher than yours, then say something like “That’s within my range,” or “That’s a good starting point.” If it’s lower, but pretty close to your number you can say something like “It’s more important to you that you find the right role and company, so I have some flexibility.” If the number is way too low, then ask “Is there an opportunity to come in at a higher level based on experience?” or “Is there any wiggle room?” If the answer is no, then let it go and reinforce how much you love the company. It’s better to wait for the right opportunity. 

How you present yourself throughout the process matters. The more prepared you are with your elevator pitch, story and interview answers, the more you’ll be able to be your authentic self. This makes you even more attractive and when you get an unanimous “hire” from the hiring committee, you’ll be in a great position when it comes to negotiating your offer. 

Getting the verbal offer

Getting an offer is incredibly exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. So I’m sharing a few tips that will help you respond in a gracious way and buy you some time to think. 

  • The first thing is to take a deep breath before saying anything.
  • Then show your gratitude, excitement and humility. Thank them for the offer, say that you’re honored and share why you’re excited. 
  • Take notes throughout the call, but also ask them to send the #s via email. 
  • Ask a few questions that you’ve already prepared, but not a laundry list. You can ask more when you get to the counteroffer. 
  • Ask for a reasonable amount of time to get back to them. This is something you should determine before the call. If you know you want this job, then just ask for a day and you can send your counter later that evening or the next morning. If you’re on the fence, ask for a few days. 
  • End the call by thanking them again for this opportunity and for all the help and support they gave you. It’s also a good time to reinforce your belief that you can make a big impact in this role. 

No matter what your decision is, do not give an answer on this call. Even if you know this is not the right opportunity, you still want to show them that you’ve given it serious consideration and can give a thoughtful response the next day. 

If you know you’re going to accept, do not say yes. You can say something like you’re incredibly excited about the opportunity and/or team, but that’s it. 

Almost every client we’ve worked with has significantly upgraded their offer. So don’t commit to anything on the spot. You need time and space to think about what you want to ask for. 

Making the counteroffer 

As one of our advisors, Chris who is an executive recruiter at a Fortune 500 company says: you need to A.S.K. to G.E.T. And ALWAYS ask for more — base salary, equity or even vacation days.

Chris says she can only give more when someone asks for more. Many recruiters have a Plan A offer on the low end and a Plan B offer that has the maximum amount. And they lead with Plan A — so that’s what you’re getting with the verbal offer. 

Remember, this is the singular moment where your negotiation position is the strongest. You want to seize this opportunity. The market rate accelerates faster than your salary. So even if you’re asking for something above market rate, you will thank yourself later when you’ve been in the job for a few years! 

We find that a lot of our clients, especially those who have had a long tenure at places, are below market value. So this is your opportunity to give yourself a promotion based on data that supports your market value. 

If you have a lot of questions about the offer including benefits, try to batch them all together. Send via email and ask the recruiter if they can meet with you so you can get through all of them in one call. 

Send your counteroffer via email. Start with your gratitude and excitement. List your requests with a sentence or two with your reasoning. End by showing your excitement and reinforce your perfect alignment with the role. 

When it comes to compensation, you want to go reasonably high. If you think the offer is low, then ask for something like 15% – 20% more. If you think the offer is good or even more than what you expected, ask for something like 5% – 10% more. They’re not going to rescind when you ask for a reasonable amount. They’re excited about you and want you to join. So they’ll meet your request or reach a number that you both feel good about. 

By applying these strategies, you will be able to create an amazing offer that you deserve! 

Are you looking for help in your job search to land a job that you’ll love and thrive in? 

If so, then watch our video and book a session with one of our job strategists. We’re excited to learn about your career goals and share insights.