Talking Money: Job Offer Negotiations Part 1

Job Search

In my previous post (Talking Money: It’s All About the Benjamins!), we discussed general principles for compensation, when to anticipate that such discussions could crop up, and ways for handling typical questions such as “What are your compensation expectations?” That information will provide you tools for handling money discussions during most of the job interview process. Now, let’s assume you are fortunate enough to be selected as the candidate of choice and are told you will be provided a job offer. Don’t celebrate just yet … you still must close the deal!

One way to close the deal is simply to accept whatever offer has been provided. There are some cases in which I would recommend this to a client. Those situations are as follows:

1. You are in an economic position where this income will save you and, otherwise, you may be in economic peril now or shortly. Remember: You are not married to this job and you can continue to look for something better.

2. There was a great deal of competition for the job (especially published/posted ones), you know they have interviewed several other qualified candidates, they have not given strong indications that they have fallen head over heels in love with you, and the compensation package seems reasonable. Remember: They have similarly qualified substitutes for you.

3. You are generally happy with the company, the boss, and the compensation package. Remember: If you fail to close this, you may be looking for quite a while longer before you get another offer.

4. You are afraid to negotiate and do not want to take any risks. Remember: If you handle negotiations poorly, you might cause them to withdraw their offer.

It’s important in your negotiating strategy to note whether your job offer is a verbal or written one. A verbal offer is more tentative, whereas a written offer places the employer in the position of having gone through approval processes and made a commitment to you. My general recommendation is to avoid making hard commitments regarding accepting a verbal offer and defer any tougher negotiations until you have a written offer in hand. This improves your negotiating position.

So, how might you avoid making a commitment to the employer when they are making you a verbal offer such as “Nancy, I am happy to let you know we can offer you a starting salary of $120,000 with a performance bonus of up to $30,000 annually. If that will work for you, I will ask Jim to get an offer out to you.”

With some wording similar to the preceding (some are much more pointed), the employer seeks to close off negotiations by gaining your verbal agreement. If you have thought about the four previous reasons for not negotiating and have decided to accept the offer, then agree and move on.

But what if you want to negotiate? Then, your objective is to provide them whatever level of comfort you can without fully committing. Handled correctly, you may stand to gain $10,000, $25,000, or far more in annual income …. handled poorly, the verbal offer may be withdrawn. Establishing yourself as a confident, effective negotiator can also provide positive positioning of your personal brand!

There are many ways for you to respond to a verbal offer when you want to negotiate. Here is one generic example:

“Janice, I’m flattered that you are making me this offer (assumes the positive, that they will follow through). I would love to work for you and I am confident, now that I fully understand your needs, that I could excel in this role. Please email me the offer with the associated benefits information, give me two or three days to review it, and I will get back to you with a positive response.”

During offer negotiations, your career and income are literally “on the line.” As I note in Chapter 14 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), “The best time to establish unemotional criteria for accepting an employer job offer is today – well before you find yourself emotionally involved in evaluating a job offer.”

Perhaps now you can see why I would suggest that you always enlist a coach or trusted mentor in developing your negotiating strategy. In my next post, we will examine how to evaluate a written job offer for suitability.


Richard Kirby is an executive career consultant, speaker on career strategies, and author of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!). Richard Kirby’s earlier experience includes managing engineering, human resources, marketing and sales teams for employers that ranged from a Fortune 100 to a VC-funded entrepreneurial startup. For the past 11 years at Executive Impact, Richard has helped hundreds of executives and professionals successfully navigate today’s transformed 21st century job market and achieve better employment for themselves. Richard’s expertise includes career assessments and goal setting, personal marketing/branding, resume enhancement, strategic networking and job interviewing, and “contrarian” job search methodologies. He is a Board Certified Coach (in career coaching) and a Certified Management Consultant (recognized by the ISO).