It is a considerable achievement to have run a successful job search and to have received a job offer but your task does not end just yet. The relief of getting an offer, particularly if you have had a long job search, can mean you will be tempted to jump at the opportunity. It's important to think carefully during this step and realise that prior to accepting the offer, you are in a position of strength.
In today's market, given that the average employee will most likely change jobs approximately every five years, and that more people are accepting interim contract or consulting opportunities, you may find yourself using negotiation skills, on quite a regular basis.
If you are not represented by a recruitment consultant who would ideally be negotiating on your behalf, remember that negotiation is an accepted business practice. There are times when you are genuinely happy with an offer and accept without much discussion. When you are not completely satisfied, it is better to discuss any unresolved issues before accepting the job. Once you are inside the organisation, your bargaining power becomes far more limited.
In many cases, you will be negotiating with someone who may be your future manager or colleague, so you want to create a congenial climate. Keep in mind that this is the beginning of a long-term business relationship, so it's important to keep the interaction positive, up-beat and ‘win-win’, overall.
Once you have received the offer in writing, let the employer know that you're happy to have received an offer but request time to evaluate as well. You may need time to respond because:
The package is complex and you require time to study and understand it.
The salary is lower than you expected and you need to decide how to deal with the situation.
You want to discuss the offer with your family, network contacts and others.
It takes time to plan and execute a successful negotiation.
You need to move from the elated feelings aroused by getting the offer to the level-headedness required to negotiate.
Negotiating takes time and the timing of each event is critical. The company may give you a specific date when they want an answer, or they may tell you to take all the time you need. Be sensitive to their requirements and try to adjust your decision-making schedule accordingly.
You must be well prepared and have done your research before entering negotiations. This will greatly increase your chances of success. Some key questions to ask yourself are:
Do you want this job?
Does it fit well with your ideal work preference?
Do you have any unresolved questions about the job description or title?
Do you have any concerns about the personalities involved?
How does this fit in with your overall career direction?
Is money more important to you than quality of life issues or vice versa?
Is the package in line with what you had hoped for?
Is it in line with the market rate for the job and responsibilities?
What are the issues on which you want to negotiate?
Which ones are critical and which ones would I be prepared to let go?
A few points to remember:
Keep the atmosphere congenial.
Go for the ‘win-win’ scenario; both parties need to win some concessions.
Evaluate how much the company wants and needs you.
Put all of the points on the table at the same time.
Do not make an impromptu decision during a negotiation.
Negotiate in person, if possible, and set the agenda starting with the most important item.
De-personalise your questions, for example: “Would the company be willing to …?” “Could the company consider …?”
Have a contingency plan – try and bring forward pay review dates.
Decide whether you are really prepared to turn down the offer.
Should you decide to accept the offer, make sure all amendments to the original offer discussed during your negotiation are specified in writing. If it appears that you are not going to reach an agreement or accept the job from a company you have negotiated with extensively, be sure to sign off on a pleasant note.
If the lack of agreement was over some condition of employment, such as salary, it is not uncommon for a company to come back several months later with an offer of a higher salary. It could happen that, six months from now, they will remember you favourably when an even better opportunity arises.
You should also send thank you letters to companies that made offers that you declined. Make sure you compliment the company, but do not necessarily give them details about the offer you finally accept.
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