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Salary Negotiations, Part 3 - Negotiating a new job offer

Negotiating a job offer on your own can be daunting. The most important thing you can do to minimise the stress and optimise your chances of success is to have a plan and be clear from the start about your expectations. Draw upon your research about your market value. Before you go into a negotiation, know your walk-away point and the number that would make you happy. Additionally, you should be clear about your priorities; is equity vital to you, is a certain number of holidays, does a bonus motivate you?

If someone asks you your current salary and package, you don't need to answer this, but you should focus on your market worth. If asked what salary you're looking for, advise it would depend on the overall package and job, share any aspects of a package that are important to you and if pressed, make an assertive opening offer.

If presented with an offer, it will either be more than you'd be happy with, somewhere between your walk-away point and the amount you'd be happy with, or below the minimum you'd accept. If you're working with a recruiter, they will help you manage this process, but not all recruiters are confident negotiators, and if you’re not clear on their priorities, it’s harder for them to get you the best possible outcome.

What to do if you're offered more money than you expected

Always negotiate and ask for more. Make sure you let the company know you're delighted with the offer and thrilled to receive it. When you're offered more than expected, it is the one time I think it's okay to ask if the offer is negotiable and address salary and any of your priorities. If you're asked what you're looking for, round up the number. It's not always the case, but if they've offered you £62,000, there is likely £65,000 in the budget, and if they're offering you £75,000, they could have £80,000, and if they're offering £135,000, they could have £150,000 available. The worst that happens here is that you know they have made their best offer before you accept.

The amount you're offered is above your walk-away point, but not at the point you'd be happy to accept

Make sure they know you're thankful for the offer and delighted to receive it, but be prepared to be assertive. If you're working with an external recruiter, you can let them know you're a little disappointed, but I would advise against labouring this point. The reason is you want them to be motivated to work hard for you and invest time in negotiating on your behalf. I've seen times when some recruiters have not tried as hard as they don't think it will be worth the effort based on the candidate's reaction. Focus on the positives but tell the person who has presented the offer to you what you are really looking for.

Use phrases like, "I'd love to join, but I am looking at jobs around £80,000", or, "The number I'd be excited to join at is £80,000. Is there any way to reach this or get closer to that", "For me, a competitive offer would be £80,000".

Steer away for your personal reasons, such as what you need to live, and don't feel you need to defend what you're asking for. If they tell you that they can't do the number you'd be happy with, ask them, "How high can you go?". At that point, you'll know what the best outcome is for yourself. If you're not confident of their budget, you could say, "This is a bit lower than I was looking for. I was thinking closer to £80,000. Can we meet in the middle?". Importantly, if you're offered the minimum amount you'd accept, don't let the person you're negotiating with know that this is your minimum number.

Be positive; there is a good chance you'll accept this offer

You're offered less than your walk-away number

Respond saying that you're happy to receive the offer, but let people know that this doesn't work for you. You should be upfront and say that you will not accept the offer. Some useful phrases include, "I'm very excited about this company, but..." "This is my most preferred job, but" or, "I'd love to join, but I can't at that number". People should know you're motivated by the role, so it's worth the effort

Don't let people know the minimum you'd accept. The reason is that they could end up offering you more than your minimum number. The company may simply not have the budget to improve the offer, so you should be prepared to walk away. If this is your dream job, you may want to negotiate other aspects of the package, such as a bonus or equity.

Top tips

  • Don't over-talk (it's incredibly easy to do this in a stressful situation)

  • Don't make it personal

  • Don't ask, "Is this negotiable?" just negotiate

  • Whatever happens, make sure you get complete details of the package in writing and don't rush the process. It's okay to take time to consider offers, but for some companies, not too much time.

Next week, I will share my thoughts on the final preparations for salary negotiation and explain more about why job titles are important and yet another negotiation point.


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