In the June 18, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter worries about asking for more money:

My dream position with my dream company has just come through! The offer is good — a bit lower than I would have liked, but very good. My question is this: Do I even bother haggling over a couple thousand dollars?

I read somewhere that you should always go through at least one round of salary negotiations and that the employer actually expects it. I think I have a very good chance of getting what I ask for (especially because it’s such a small amount), but I don’t want to risk coming off as ungracious or rude.

Truly, if they don’t budge an inch, I’m still taking the job. Is it worth negotiating, or should I just accept?

Nick’s Reply

you_are_hiredI believe in enjoying happiness and not worrying whether other people think you’ve been given enough of it. Who cares what others say about “one round of salary negotiations?” If you’re happy with the offer, accept it and thank the company.

Some companies make their offer, and that’s it — they won’t budge. This company might be willing to negotiate, but you must consider what happens if they don’t. If they balk at the extra two grand, then you’re going to look weak coming back and saying, “Well, okay, then I’ll take what you offered anyway.” It says something about your request: You couldn’t justify it. And what does that say about your credibility? Remember: You’re going to work with these people. How you handle negotiations can affect how they will view you — and treat you — once you’re on board.

If the extra money really means a lot to you, then go for it. Here’s an example of how I might approach it:

How to Say It

“I believe I’m worth $2,000 more than you’re offering. But please don’t misunderstand. This is not a large difference, and I have already decided I want this job. To show you my good faith, I’ll accept your offer as is. But I’d like to respectfully ask you to consider raising it by $2,000. There are three reasons why I believe I’m worth it… But either way, I’m ready to start work in two weeks.”

It’s your judgment call. If you try this, you’d better be ready to prove your added value. By making a commitment to the company first, you establish a level of credibility that goes beyond any negotiating position.

(Some people have a hard time thinking and talking about what salary they’re looking for. This may help: How to decide how much you want. You can’t negotiate or interview effectively unless you have an objective.)

Remember that the ultimate goal of negotiating a job is not to get every last dollar you can. It’s to set the groundwork for the best possible work relationship — which is not limited to money — for the long term. That’s why it might be better to accept an offer that you’re clearly pretty happy with, and plan for how you could get that extra couple thousand as part of your first raise when you have your first review.

Congratulations on winning a good offer for a job you really want. I hope all goes well!

An expanded version of this Q&A appears in

Fearless Job Hunting | Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers

Be ready to deal with:
 Rescinded offers, non-competes, salary surveys, counter-offers, vacation time,
Bait-and-switch, oral vs. written offers, requests for old pay stubs

Post your comments!

Do you rely on a resume to get you in the door? Does it work? What do you think makes a hiring manager invite you for an interview?

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  1. Don’t haggle — negotiate. Make sure you thank them for their offer and express your enthusiasm for the role. Simply ask them if that is their best offer. Don’t be pushy or contentious. If they won’t budge on salary, find out what else is negotiable (bonuses, vacation days, stock options, initial performance review, etc.) Too many job seekers are afraid to negotiate at all. Depending on your field, it could be seen as a weakness if you don’t attempt to negotiate. As Nick explained, be prepared to justify asking for a better offer.

  2. I don’t think it is a big deal or cause to lose the job offer if you politely ask if the company would consider a $1 more per hour. Yes that’s all you’re asking for, a buck an hour. A typical 40 hour week X 50 weeks (because you usually have a total 2 weeks off a year for various holidays or vacation) X 40 hours a week = 2000 hours worked a year. When presented this way, it seems petty not to grant a lousy buck more an hour or $2000 more per year. All they can say is NO and then you let them know that will be your goal to earn another buck an hour by the first review. It’s a win/win. Your perspective would be where you could get that buck an hour as Charles suggested in bonuses, vacation days, stock options, initial performance review, etc.

  3. Congrats on getting your dream job! All good advice here. Building on Charles’ comment, I would recommend writing out a list of every possible benefit/perk of the job and ranking a) how important they are to you, b) how happy you are with them in this specific situation, and c) whether it’s negotiable. For example, salary is likely to be negotiable, vacation might, and health insurance probably isn’t. This exercise will give you a much better idea of what you want to negotiate on. (There’s also a trick where you ask for your second-highest priority first, give them a chance to say no, and then say, “Well, at least give me [highest priority].”)

    Also, be creative. If they won’t give you the salary now, ask if you can have a review in three months. Or ask if they can provide other perks (for example, paying your cellphone bill).

    I don’t think you need to negotiate just for the sake of negotiating. But I do think it’s the perfect time to assess what’s important to you, and make the case that it’s worthwhile for a company to make you happy. And the period between the moment you get an offer and the moment you accept it is when you have the maximum leverage to ask.

  4. It cuts both ways. Do you want to start off negotiating what is really about $20-25/week after taxes etc. Or, do you want your acceptance to be all about how excited you are to be joining XYZ Company?
    If it’s the difference between $13/hr and $14/hr negotiate. If it’s the difference between $96K and $98K forget it. If the company is as good as you think it is the money will come.

  5. Yeah, I agree with Peter and disagree with Philip. If we’re talking a salary job, it’s probably silly to start talking in hourly terms… especially since many salary gigs expect more than 40 hours a week.

    If you’re satisfied with the offer, take it! It shows that you’re working in good faith, which is a priceless trait in an employee.

    And Peter is totally right; if the company would look petty for refusing $1 an hour, then you’ll probably look petty for trying to nickel-and-dime your employer. Congrats on the new job!

  6. If you do decide to ask for a higher salary, don’t ask for exactly what you’re looking for. Ask for more (again, make sure you can justify it). This leaves some room for negotiation, increases the chances of you getting what you want, and potentially leaves the employer feeling they saved some money if they make a 2nd offer for less than what you’re asking.

  7. fussing about a couple of thousand off the ideal is fussing about ego. You’ve said it’s your ideal job & that has value. If your dream job, I’m going to assume that you’re going to hit the ground with your mojo running and your love of it is going to translate into winning performance. You’ll get the few thousand back and then some. Consider it an investment.
    Never heard of the “must negotiate” rule, and as Nick said in some cultures they weigh and balance & the offer is the offer. in those environments negotiation is haggling and a turn off. And you find this out by trying to negotiate. not worth it. join up and perform.

  8. I would submit that an employer that perceives an attempt to negotiate as fussing or haggling is not an employer you’ll want to do business with. Any employer that expects all candidates to accept their first offer with no questions asked is out-of-touch. If they don’t want to negotiate then they should state clearly when the offer is made that it is firm and non-negotiable.

  9. I once accepted an offer with the agreement to increase my salary after 90 days of successful performance. I was and they did!

  10. @The point isn’t about money. anyone is free to attempt to negotiate with any company. The person’s question was should he? is it worth it?
    This is a situation where the person has found his dream job, with a dream company and just about nailed the pay he wanted, off by a few thousand dollars. Whatever transpired prior, seemingly he convinced them not only could he do the job, but would love doing it, and love doing it for them.
    The crux of any negotiation is Why?. You negotiate for meaningful reasons, where real value (to you) is on the table. You negotiate over being 10% undervalued not a couple of %. that is haggling (his words and he’s right).
    A key element of the art & craft of negotiation is 1st and foremost..if you should. 2nd you’re going to have to offer up a good reason for engaging.
    In this scenario you have to put yourself in the shoes of the hiring manager…not the company..the hiring manager a person. You’re going to come back and haggle over a couple of thousand dollars? really? Why? If you do you’re saying something about yourself I may not have been aware of….your judgement, adaptability and more important what you might be like to work with. Imagine trying to explain why you want 3K more? If I think you’re negotiating just to negotiate, or worse it’s to stroke your ego…you’re clearly wasting my time & I’m going to be underwhelmed. It isn’t over until it’s over with an offer letter sent and accepted.
    There’s a nice saying that comes to mind “Better is the enemy of done” In my view coming back & nit picking over a few thousand $ off on a great job where content should trump $ anyway, breaks this rule and I wouldn’t be surprised if that offer letter never would go out, or if out take the bloom off the rose of your arrival…not worth it

  11. Congrats on the job offer. For a few thousand I would not even negotiate, you may receive that back if they are moving you, etc. If you are talking about 10K or more and you are worth it, go for it. But be prepared to been seen as a person that wants more and more, especially if they know this is your dream job.

    I do like Nick’s reply and did something very similar, and received same as JC. I wish all companies were as good at keeping their word. I too asked and then discovered when the time came those that made the promises, even in writing, did not have the authority to make such commitments. Lavished with praise, but not the funds. Many will say quit, but not in this economy and family to support. Plus I sought out this company knowing that it will be around even when times get rough.

  12. Excellent post, Nick. And this does cut both ways–the letter writer may come across as petty if he tries to negotiate for another dollar per hour, but so does the employer come across as petty (if he’s “the one”, has the skills and experience you require, and you like him, then why would you stiff him over a dollar an hour?).

    Nick is right–you do have to do your homework, and make your case as to why you’re worth it (just because I want it doesn’t fly). But you should also be prepared to have the job offer revoked should the employer be a non-negotiating kind of employer. That happened to me about 15 years ago. I researched the company and the job, had the education and experience, and had two excellent interviews. The hiring manager offered me the job, and when we met again to discuss salary and I started negotiations, the offer was immediately revoked and I was shown the door. Two years later I met one of the people who had interviewed me, and he told me something that I didn’t know at the time–that this company didn’t believe in negotiating with women employees over salaries–he said that the hiring manager was very “old school” and while he would hire qualified females, he thought they shouldn’t be paid as much as men because they weren’t the breadwinners but only working for pin money, and he got offended by any woman who tried to negotiate for a higher salary (and most did because his offers were low for the job, experience, and location). That is something that none of my research turned up at the time, and ever since then, I’ve proceeded with great caution. But on the other hand, I’m not married and don’t work for pin money. I don’t have a husband’s income to rely upon (and even if I did, there’s no guarantee of anything–a husband can get fired, his job can be outsourced, he can be laid off, he can get run over by a bus or he can run off with a 16 year old). Salary is important, but if I were negotiating for a dollar an hour more, I’d think twice–are the benefits good/excellent? does the employer offer health insurance (that doesn’t require my contribution to be half of my weekly paycheck)? is there vacation time, sick time, personal time, paid holidays? what about the commute, parking (at my current job, there is no charge to staff to park….at my last job, parking cost over $230.00 per year, and my brother said that in his previous job, he paid $250.00 per month just for parking)? If the benefits are good, I’d take them over the extra dollar per hour….and consider myself to be ahead.

  13. Good points everyone. My thoughts are that if you feel that you’re worth more money, then it is your right to try to negotiate a high salary with your prospective employer, but you should be aware that your prospective employer may take offense and withdraw the offer of employment. There are no hard and fast rules here–and the challenge lies in figuring out which employers are like supermarkets (you pay the price as marked on the items) and which ones are like car dealerships (you negotiate). Most employers won’t come right out and say which one they are, and if you want the job, an attempt to negotiate could backfire on you.

  14. What worries me is when a job applicant asks for more money but can’t explain why – except that employers expect you to do it.