I’m going to be talking with a manager who just made me a job offer. I’m going to say yes, but I’m inclined to ask, “Can you do any better?” I want to know how far to push it since my research on salary surveys indicates this is a rather good offer in my industry. Of course, I don’t want them to withdraw the offer, but it seems like I shouldn’t just say yes. I’d appreciate your insight.
Why is it that when people get a good deal, they feel obligated to try and get an even better one? Maybe it’s because all those books about negotiating teach us that only the weak and meek take the first offer; that we can and should squeeze out a few more bucks. “Real negotiators know how to get more!”
Bunk. It isn’t about clever negotiating tactics. It’s about being able to answer the question, “What makes you worth more?”
Are you worth more?
Yes, I’m the same guy that recently advised you to demand bigger salaries. Only you can determine whether you’re worth more. But you have allowed that you already have “a rather good offer.” It’s fair to guess you elicited such a good offer because you performed well in your interviews. Is there something you left out that would support a request for even more salary?
If you posture for more money when you don’t have a leg to stand on, you will fall over. And that’s the crux of this. Unless you can show the employer why — exactly — you are worth more, then don’t ask.
What about the salary surveys?
“But wait — the salary surveys say I’m worth more! I’ll show them the salary surveys!”
Bunk again. Some “career experts” will tell you to use the survey data to support your salary request. What they don’t tell you is that the surveys describe a population of people who have similar titles and credentials. They don’t describe you.
Go ahead — try and tell an employer you’re worth what everyone else gets paid. It will earn you a blank stare, because any smart employer has evaluated you and decided what you are worth. “We don’t hire statistics. What are you going to do for me that’s worth more than I’m offering?”
That’s a tough question, and this is where people usually fall down flat. They think this is a matter of aggregate salary statistics when it’s a matter of one person’s value — yours.
Or, as you’ve admitted, “it seems like I shouldn’t just say yes.” Negotiating experts sell a lot of books marketing the idea that we can, and should, always negotiate! Every offer deserves a counter-offer, and only they can teach you how to make it.
If you can offer a compelling answer to the question Can you demonstrate additional value? then you should go for it. I suspect that if you could, we’d have no question to discuss and you’d already have a higher job offer. But don’t do it only because it seems like you should.
But, seriously, what about the salary surveys?
The experts go further in advocating salary surveys. They claim that employers use the same surveys to establish their budgets and salary scales. So, if the employers use the surveys, you should, too.
Again, I say bunk. If an employer relied on the surveys to produce your offer, what more is there to talk about? Are you going to argue that this survey is better than that survey? Can you crawl out of one salary pigeonhole into another?
It’s not uncommon for a company to withdraw a good offer when the candidate asks for more without being able to rationally justify the request. That’s why you’re so nervous about asking for more.
What’s it worth?
Don’t feel bad. You’re just trying to be as assertive as the next person. But set aside the conventional wisdom and use your own common sense. If you definitely want the job and the offer is a good one, then don’t jeopardize it.
Here’s why. The better the offer is to begin with, the less you’ll be able to goose it up. In other words, you’re not likely to get more than a few extra bucks. Is it worth the impact on the employer’s attitude about you? Is the difference between one salary survey and another going to make a compelling case for you?
I’m not saying job candidates should not negotiate the best deal they can get. But we’re talking about an offer you believe is good to begin with. Part of my aim is to debunk the myths of job hunting, and this is one of them. Not every situation requires negotiating. And negotiating when there’s little or nothing to gain reveals a petty person.
But how can you ask for more anyway?
So okay, I’ve got that off my chest. I’m not trying to beat you up. You asked a valid question and you clearly recognize the pitfalls. What can you do?
First, judge the employer. Will they be offended if you try to squeeze out the last buck? (Some might actually be impressed, but not many.) Second, estimate the tradeoff. Will it affect how you’ll be perceived once you’re on the job? Finally, are you willing to lose the offer altogether if they balk?
Here’s how to ask for more with — I believe — the least risk. You could try to finesse this by first accepting the offer, then explaining that your salary objective is a bit higher. You must be able to give them a specific (and very reasonable) number, and a good justification for it. But be very clear about your intent.
How to Say It
“I’m excited about coming to work for you, and I accept your offer. That said, I’d like to ask if you’d be willing to consider a higher salary. My objective is $X. If you can come closer to that, it would mean a lot to me. If you can’t, I still accept enthusiastically. I want to work on your team.”
You are making a clear commitment to accept the offer as-is, but you’re politely asking if they could make it better.
If this seems like a bit of a stretch, well, it is. But you asked, and this is the best, most prudent and honest approach I know.
If you’re looking for a negotiating secret, here it is. Companies rarely boost an already good offer by much. I’m more inclined to negotiate up a big difference than I am to gild the lily. So it’s up to you — use your judgment. If you can get more money, great. But remember that prudence and good will may be worth a lot more in the long run than a few more dollars now. Congratulations on getting a good offer for a job you want!
Would you negotiate a good offer for a few extra dollars? When you ask for more, do you typically rely on salary surveys? Has an offer ever been withdrawn when you tried to negotiate? What’s your personal rule about negotiating job offers?