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Negotiating an Offer

Many things happen when you get an offer. Primarily the ball is in your court for the first time. Prior to this the company has called the shots. But now you have convinced them that you are the best person for the job and is giving you an offer. You will never again have the leverage to negotiate your compensation and benefits.
The Cardinal Rule of Negotiating is: “The person who speaks first loses.” If you have not handled salary correctly during the interview process then you may have already lost. If you have handled it right then the company which has made the offer may have lost already and delivered an acceptable offer or is about to lose when you suggest a better compensation and benefits package.
Cardinal Rule of Negotiating
“He or she who speaks first loses.”
What can be negotiated? Almost anything, especially at senior management levels. For instance:
Advancement opportunities
Employment contract
Severance agreement
Salary and/or salary grade
Bonuses and first year guaranteed minimum
Working conditions: office location, etc.
Early vacation eligibility or extra vacation
Flexible work schedule
Additional moving expenses
Starting date

Example of poor negotiating

One executive was very concerned that she duplicate her previous salary which she considered quite generous. When the company was coming close to an offer and asked what salary she needed, she said that she wanted to duplicate her previous salary and mentioned the number. She was offered the job and was quite pleased. Several months later she was in charge of preparing the next year’s budget and learned that everyone else at her level in the company was earning a base salary 40% higher. LESSON He/she who speaks first loses.
Most people have a very poor estimation of their ability to negotiate a better offer. However, you can assume that, if you accept the initial offer, you have left something on the table.
Do not accept a salary that is too big
Most people think that no salary offer is too big. But let’s consider some of the pitfalls of accepting a salary that is considered to be high for a given responsibility.
Could it be that this company is offering such a high salary because they have a bad reputation and have been trying to fill this job for ten months? If you do not know why they are offering a high salary, it is may be that you have not yet found the termites in the woodwork that are keeping others from accepting the job.
If you accept the offer and your salary is too high for the marketplace, how can you move easily to another company later should you want or need to move? Most companies do not like to bring someone on board at a lower salary than they had been making, usually because they feel the person will continue to look until they find something better. So accepting a high salary now could put you in a severe bind later.
If your salary is high for your level within a company it becomes more difficult to move to a different part of the company.
Another danger – if your company should have cutbacks, will you be targeted because your salary is very high and you can be replaced by someone making less? This has happened in many companies.

Do not accept a salary that is too small

Accepting a salary which is low for the responsibility has its own problems. Your motivation and attitude may be affected negatively. Your level of responsibility, as perceived by others, will not be a great as you would like – therefore it will be harder to get the choice promotions or move to another company later.
The key is to be paid fairly, not too high and not too low.

Turning an offer down

Be firm. If you say you would like to accept it but the (salary? pick one) isn’t right, you are just setting yourself up to get a better offer and take the chance on developing hard feelings before all is said and done. Never enter into negotiations unless you are ready to accept a better package.
Accepting an offer
After many weeks or months of hard work you have negotiated an acceptable offer. What do you do now?
Most people react with a sigh of relief and begin the end-of-search celebration. But don’t. Perhaps the most important and most sophisticated phase of the search has just begun – if you do it right.
When you receive an offer, you can assume that the best thing to do is not accept the offer on the spot. Many people do accept on the spot but it is hardly ever necessary. Typically managers can be more flexible and offers more open to negotiation the higher in the organization the position is located. But even at a junior level, an offer perhaps should not be accepted on the spot. You need time to consider your next step.
You may want to stall so you can use this offer to extract offers from other companies. How can you stall?
First take “possession” of the offer, “Thank you for giving me the offer.”
Then explain why you are not accepting on the spot, “I have a few questions first.” “I would like to take (a few days – a week – ?) to discuss the offer with (my family), to consider its provisions and to be sure all my questions are answered.”
At a minimum, there will questions to be asked. Remember the questions that you did not ask during the interview process because you were focusing on questions about the company’s needs rather than your own? That is what helped sell them on you. You have proven to the company “What you can do for them.” Now it is their turn to show you “What they can do for you.” Do you understand, as well as you should, the job responsibilities, the pay and benefits, opportunities for the future, the stability and growth of the company, etc.?
Next, take a look at your list of what you wanted in a job and the things you wanted to avoid (Chapter 2, Exercise 4). How does this offer stack up with what you have on your list? Are there any major problems? Would you have considered this job to be a good opportunity if it had come along before you lost your last job? Are you sure that the job is one in which you are interested and one you have the skill to handle?

Multiplying offers

For those who enjoy negotiating, have a strong stomach for suspense and can play their cards close to the vest – there is a way to make the negotiating stage of the job search extremely interesting.
When you receive an acceptable offer, you can use the first offer to draw out other offers. How can you make something like that happen? There are two reasons.
One is that when you get the first offer and let other interested parties know you have an offer, you immediately become a more desirable candidate.
The other reason is that when you call Company B and tell them that you have an offer and want to know what they are going to do, they will sometimes speed up their decision making. Coupled with the reason above, you can expect a higher than normal chance of getting additional offers.
Do not use this process carelessly. Do not bluff. This process can backfire on you severely if you do not start this procedure with an acceptable offer in hand.
If you are among the relatively few who make this process work and find yourself with two or three acceptable offers, you have an enviable but very difficult decision to make. The great advantage is that your decision will more than likely be more objective since you have a real choice.

Getting an offer in writing

The prudent person will ask for the offer in writing. However, others say that they would not want to work with a person unless they trusted that person enough to have a handshake agreement. You decide. There are many reasons for getting an offer in writing including helping memories about a severance agreement should the relationship sour over time. Some believe that it is more important to get an offer in writing and in some cases a formal employment contract if you are leaving one employer for another. A similar condition would exist in accepting an offer for a job which does not start for a period of time during which you will be expected to shut down your job search.

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St. Gerard Majella

Career Development Series
The Benefits of Using a Recruiting Firm in Your Job Search
When: February 20, 7:15-8:30pm
Where: St Gerard Majella
Catholic Church Building 2005,
Parish Meeting Room 224
1971 Dougherty Ferry Rd
St.Louis, MO 63122
Please join us at our next Career Development Workshop, where Craig Lavelle will discuss the benefits of using a recruiting firm in your job search.  He will also provide key insights into:
  1. Job interview preparation
  2. How to avoid 7 interview mistakes
  3. Likeability factors and interest level in a job search
  4. Sample behavioral questions.
Craig is Vice President, Permanent Placement Services at Robert Half Finance & Accounting, a division of Robert Half International (RHI), the world's largest specialized staffing firm.  The specialized staffing divisions of RHI place professionals in accounting and finance; technology; office administration; law; and the creative, marketing and design fields. Craig has been with Robert Half for 15 years.  He is an experienced recruiter and business consultant whose primary focus is helping both candidates and clients achieve their respective career goals and organizational recruiting needs.  Prior to joining RHI, Craig received his Bachelor’s Degree from Saint Louis University and spent 20 years in various accounting roles, including the President and CEO of Gimbel Vision in Calgary Alberta Canada. We hope you will join us so we can continue to help and support each other!  If you have questions, please contact us at  There is never any cost for our service.

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