Even if you release a big sigh of relief when you get a positive result from a job interview, it's often worth taking a moment to consider your next move before you accept.
There are times when it's possible to go back to your potential employer and add a few amendments and additions to the job terms, including negotiating a better salary.
Clearly, this opportunity needs to be carefully handled. Until you sign your contract, a job offer can be withdrawn if you appear to be confrontational or if the employer believes you're showing unwarranted dissatisfaction with the employment terms laid out in the ad or interview.
It's important to keep your aims realistic, especially in the current economic climate. However, many employers build in some 'wiggle room' in salary levels when filling technical, specialist or decision-making roles. Particularly when it's hard to fill vacancy categories, such as STEM roles.
Let's explore ways to negotiate a better salary – or other improvements to your potential job package – before you 'sign on the dotted line'.
First, it's important to emphasise that whatever approach you take – and whatever reasons you give to strengthen or improve a job offer - your positive attitude and emotional intelligence must both be on display.
For example, think about the best way to communicate your suggestions and requests. Have you established a rapport with the interviewer/your future boss? In which case, an initial chat on the phone would be a more personal and responsive way to amend the terms.
Or, consider arranging a short face-to-face meeting with your potential boss or the decision-maker, to use body language skills to show warmth and appreciation. If you do arrange a virtual or physical meeting, use this opportunity to cover your entire list of points and amendments to the job package, rather than making it a long and complex process.
When you've been headhunted, then certainly a phone call or meeting, followed up by a written overview of your preferences, are appropriate negotiation methods.
If your negotiation is more tentative and involves communicating in a bit of a vacuum, then a carefully worded email or letter may be better. Make sure you address your correspondence to the decisionmaker though, rather than a person in HR who may be constrained by an existing job spec and wage framework.
It's important to start any form of communication on a positive note, especially thanking the company for its offer. The more appreciation you show, and the more empathy you express for their current situation, the more fertile the ground is for your requests.
From a warm opening, you can then move on to unambiguously and respectfully lay out your reasons to renegotiate the offer terms.
It is hard to argue with cold hard facts.
One of the strongest stand-points for post-job offer negotiations is any financial implications of you taking up the role.
For this approach to work, add up the value of the entire package, not just the annual wage. For example, are stock options, health insurance, use of a company gym or a generous retirement contribution compensating you for a lower salary than you would prefer?
Then, if the value of the offer is still a long way from ideal, prepare your case carefully.
For instance, will it lead to considerable relocation costs and a higher standard of living rate in your new destination? Will there be considerable commuting costs not covered by the package as it stands?
One of the most compelling arguments in this category is if the job offer represents a drop in your income in real terms.
"Though the salary in your job offer is above the one I currently earn, my new role will involve more hours and more travel. I am hoping you will agree to increase the salary offer, to compensate for the high investment of time I intend to contribute to supporting your business development."
The best factual argument for increasing a job offer salary though is if the level is below the accepted norm for that role! Do some research and politely point out salary averages for the post, and the minimum you feel is appropriate.
Another powerful platform for negotiation would be to point out that this job offer is one of several opportunities you're considering. These need to be authentic options though, as cynical or savvy employers won't take kindly to being 'played'!
A typical approach could be:
"This job role is very attractive to me, and I am confident I will bring important additional skills to your already excellent team. However, I must weigh that against a potential promotion in my existing employment/a second job offer I have been fortunate to receive. As your role is undoubtedly my preference, please consider increasing the salary to…………as I don't want finances to be the thing that blocks my move to your organisation."
It's not just your time that you need your new employer to recognise and reward. Know your professional worth – especially if the post is a hard-to-fill one, in technical or skill areas that are highly in demand.
If you feel the job offer doesn't fully match your level of skill and career progression, you are well within your rights to say so. This is an especially strong negotiation standpoint if the vacancy was advertised with a sliding salary scale, and you didn't get offered the upper limit.
You could even use this as an opportunity to point out attributes and experiences that may not have been fully communicated in your interview. It also involves showing confidence in your value to the organisation, without appearing boastful. (Or inflating your abilities beyond what you can deliver!)
"My management/technical abilities were greatly enhanced during projects I didn't get a chance to outline in my interview. Therefore, there are professional capabilities that may not have been taken into account when setting this salary offer."
"I would be pleased to discuss this further, but my experience and expertise warrant a higher remuneration, which will be apparent as soon as I start work for you. So, I am requesting a starting salary of..."
One potentially acceptable way to improve the terms of a job offer is to give your future employer a chance to increase your salary soon after you begin work. Though having this written into your contract is vital.
An illustration of this is:
"This salary is below what I hoped to attract in my next job, and I do feel my skills warrant better terms. However, I am happy to prove my value to your company during the three-month probationary period. After which time, I request a contractual agreement of a salary review, with the guarantee of at least a 5% increase."
Time, skills and experience are not your only bargaining tools. There are other things you can use to stretch a salary offer upwards, or generally improve the terms of a job offer.
The main one is that you will bring existing or potential customers with you! If you can show the value of the sales you will attract from day one, that is certainly a strong position for negotiating a salary increase.
Alternatively (or additionally) do you have supplier relationships that will enable your potential employer to cut costs or generally improve their supply chain in a tangible way?
One of the things of value you should never overlook is ideas. You may already have formulated innovations and improvements this organisation would benefit from significantly. Hint at these in your interview but hold the detail back as a bargaining tool for a higher salary.
Mention has already been made of opening up the negotiations with warmth and showing a positive attitude to the idea of joining this organisation. From then on, all of your communications and discussions should demonstrate honesty and integrity. Don't oversell your abilities to lever a better wage, or generally promise anything that can't deliver.
What sometimes works is providing a measured amount of 'human' reasons for asking for a better package. Such as you have a growing family to consider or the job will require you to regularly travel back to see elderly relatives.
Don't expect a sob story to work miracles though. Employers are still going to expect you to prove your value to them if they are being asked to increase their salary offer!
Whatever method of communication you use to open up discussions about your potential job package, you must put everything in writing at some point. Not just to 'seal the deal' but also to avoid confusion, errors or oversights.
Also, it can help your case if you specify what salary is acceptable to you right from the start. Rather than expressing vague dissatisfaction with an initial offer. You may want to aim a little high with your preferred package, and then accept an offer that's halfway between your stated target and the initial salary offer.
Politeness and appreciation cost nothing but can go a long way to easing the discussions along. These attributes are invaluable if you want to walk into the new job with the correct salary, but also with no lingering resentment or constant scrutiny of your worth!
"The ability to get along with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar and coffee. I pay more for that ability than any under the sun." - John D. Rockefeller.