a professional negotiating a job offer
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A Newbie's Guide to Negotiating a Job Offer

Ask The Expert

By Barbara Mitchell

Q: I think I'm about to get a job offer, but I don't know how to respond. Should I negotiate? If so, can you provide some newbie advice?

A: Yes, you should definitely negotiate—it is expected that any job candidate will negotiate, so you're right to start planning a strategy.

Before you get the offer, you need to do some research. Check out websites such as Salary.com or Glassdoor, which have lots of information on current pay rates and median salaries. This valuable data will help you as you put your negotiating strategy together.

Keep in mind that, even though these websites have reliable data, you can't be sure your prospective employer will offer you that same salary—they may offer more or less, but at least you will have a number in mind. If they offer a low salary, consider asking for an early salary review based on performance. Some organizations will also offer a signing bonus rather than a higher starting salary, and if that works for you, take it.

Look carefully at their benefits package, too—what will it cost you and what will it cover? If the costs are lower than what you're currently paying or if they offer benefits you currently don't have access to, both scenarios equal more dollars in your pocket each month and year.

When you get the offer and start the negotiating process, try to be as confident, relaxed, polite, and respectful as possible.

What's the commute like? If you'll save time or money on commuting, again, that can offset a lower salary. And even if you don't save money, you may have more quality time to spend with your family, which may tip the balance for you.

Will the new organization allow you to have a flexible work schedule or work from home a day or two a week? Flexibility is a hot commodity in today's workplace, so, again, this benefit can make up for a lower salary if work-life balance is important to you.

While you wait for the offer, come up with a possible script and practice it to gain confidence. You may not get to say everything you prepared in the order in which you prepared it, but rehearsing will give you courage. Enlist a family member or friend to role-play with you to get more comfortable. When you get the offer and start the negotiating process, try to be as confident, relaxed, polite, and respectful as possible.

In the end, you may not get anything you ask for, and if that's the case, know your bottom line. Make the decision that's right for you—you don't want to start a job feeling undervalued. However, you also don't want to negotiate yourself out of a job or have your future employer think you are out to bleed them dry. Good luck.

Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you'd like her to answer in "Ask the Expert"? Send it to [email protected]

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