Negotiating a job offer is no simple task, and the terms of your deal can have a lasting impact on your life, long after you sign. For many, navigating these waters presents challenges we rarely have to face on a daily basis.
Every negotiation is entirely unique, but the good news is that there are consistent best (and worst) practices that can help guide your pursuit of securing the best deal possible (For more on how to negotiate with and manage 10x-level talent, check out our upcoming book, Game Changer). Even if the negotiations in your life are few and far between, take solace in knowing that the keys to a great negotiation can be practiced and learned.
At 10x Ascend we’ve spent the past 25 years in the negotiation business, learning what works and what doesn’t. Taking some of what we’ve learned over the years, we rallied up the following 8 do’s and don’ts of job offer negotiating.
*Note – While the following list has universal utility, we see these tips being especially useful for those in the tech industry. At 10x Ascend, we’ve witnessed firsthand how the demand for quality tech talent increasingly outstrips supply. In today’s job market, expert technologists have more leverage than ever before. We hope these tips help you make the most of that leverage.
1. Do: Know Exactly What You Want
Entering a job offer negotiation without knowing exactly what you want is like starting a hike with no destination in mind. The trail could lead you any number of ways. And while some may enjoy the thrill of the unknown, you probably won’t want to leave something as important as a job offer negotiation to chance.
By starting with the end in mind, your negotiation will follow a more productive path towards a desired destination. For example, if you’ve prioritized salary as the most important part of your offer, the negotiation should focus around this aspect. Or if the ability to work remotely is a must-have, the conversation should cover this closely.
At 10x Ascend, we often reference the lifestyle calculator, a tool we built to help you evaluate what is most important to you in your job offer negotiation. People are often surprised to learn that there are as many as 24 unique factors (though not all factors may apply to all candidates in all situations) to consider when weighing what you value most. If you’re still determining your priorities, this is a great place to start.
We believe a job offer negotiation extends beyond just a salary negotiation or a benefits negotiation. When done correctly, a job offer negotiation addresses all the various elements that will be important to you in the job itself, and in life as well.
2. Don’t: Be Afraid To Ask For What You Want
Once you know exactly what you want, you’re halfway there. Part two is just as important – making sure you clearly communicate your desires and requests.
We’ve written before about the nature of conflict in negotiation. It’s nearly impossible to avoid, but it doesn’t have to be such a negative experience. You’re perfectly entitled to make requests during your job offer negotiation, even if it feels like you’re asking for a lot.
In the 25 years we’ve been in the negotiation business, we’ve rarely seen a job offer rescinded because a candidate attempted to negotiate, provided the request was made in an appropriate and respectful manner (that’s a topic for another post). At worst, an employer will decline your request and hold tight at a previous offer. So what do you really have to lose? Sixty-one percent of people don’t negotiate their offers at all, so don’t be one of those people.
3. Do: Provide A Salary Range
The topic of salaries can be one of the more awkward points in the negotiation process. For most, it’s an aspect of peak importance. But what’s the best way to approach this discussion?
The number one rule we tell our clients is to always provide a range when pressed to give a would-be employer a desired salary. By doing this, you mitigate the risk of low-balling yourself, while leaving the door open to an ongoing salary discussion throughout the entire negotiation.
For example, say your job offer includes a salary at the low end of your range. Right off the bat, you’ve just gained leverage as the employer opted not to offer a more attractive number.
To make up for the lower salary, you can attempt to negotiate better terms in other parts of the offer as a compensatory measure (i.e. more vacation time). Or, if salary is a deal breaker, you could explain that your range only dipped that low because you thought other parts of the offer would be better. Had you known that other parts of the offer were not going to be better, you would have provided a higher range!
4. Don’t: Mention A Specific Number
In continuation of the above section, the number one mistake when negotiating your salary is to provide a specific number. Unless stated otherwise, you never really know what an employer plans to offer, so always let them strike first and work from there.
By no means should you feel pressured to offer up what you’ve made in previous roles. And in fact, in some states like California and New York, it’s actually illegal for employers to ask job candidates how much they made in previous roles, though they are still welcomed to ask what you are seeking.
Furthermore, what you made in previous roles should have little bearing on what you make in your next one. You’ll likely be taking on new responsibilities, managing new people, and maybe even working in an entirely new location. All of these factors change the “going rate” for what you bring to the table.
5. Do: Be Honest In What You Bring To The Table
You’ve heard it before…honesty is the best policy. This couldn’t ring more true when negotiating a new job offer. By lying about your work ethic, abilities, or experience at any point along the process, chances are it’ll come back around to bite you.
The negotiation at hand should surround empirical evidence whenever possible. If you designed Apple’s latest iPhone, there should be evidence of your contributions. If you boast an impressive work ethic, your work history should speak for itself.
To enter a negotiation in which you’ve provided factually incorrect data is to set both parties up for future disappointment. The employer might be misled to hire someone who cannot effectively handle the job. The employee is now subject to getting fired quickly and potentially burning bridges along the way.
6. Don’t: Overshare
Not everything needs to enter the negotiation room, and while it’s important to be honest, sharing certain information is unnecessary and counterproductive to your cause. You need to learn the difference between honesty and discretion.
Take for example the fact that maybe you’re unhappy in your current work situation. Sharing this information serves little purpose in an interview or negotiation, and it actually reduces your leverage.
By telling an employer you’re unhappy, you’ve just indicated that you’re interested in exploring a new offer and motivated to leave your existing job. You’ve made yourself too available, perhaps even desperate sounding, and any halfway-decent negotiator will realize that they can probably lure you in with an offer that favors the employer.
7. Do: Ask Questions
Engaging with a potential employer is a two way street. You’re interviewing them as much as they’re interviewing you. Some compare the vetting process to dating – it only works if both parties are interested.
In order to effectively evaluate whether or not this is a good fit, ask as many questions as necessary. What is it like to work at this company? What is the culture like? What are the company’s core values? Understanding what you’re getting yourself into should be a top priority.
It can be easy to forget that you have leverage in a negotiation. As a job candidate, you’re on the outside looking in, and those on the other side act as gatekeepers. But don’t let yourself be silenced by this dynamic. You’re a free agent, and deciding where you’re going to sign requires you to ask the questions that cross your mind.
8. Don’t: Accept Without Understanding The Whole Picture
This final tip plays off our above suggestion to ask as many questions as necessary throughout the negotiation process. Beyond asking questions about the company itself, you should have a comprehensive understanding of the details in your offer, all the way down to the fine print.
Until you truly comprehend the entire deal, do not accept. There should be no question marks regarding salary, bonuses, equity, vacation time, flex time, reporting structure, remote work, so on and so forth. The last thing you want is to one day be surprised by the content of a contract you willfully (and naively) signed.
As mentioned earlier, we’ve identified 24 unique factors that should be weighed and considered in any negotiation. That’s 24 moving parts. Some may not always apply to you, but regardless, keeping track of every detail in your negotiation is no simple task. So next time you enter a job offer negotiation, be sure to stay on your toes. Or to make your life easier, you could have an expert negotiate on your behalf. However you go about it, best of luck!