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Home » Career Resource Articles » Is That Your Best Offer?

Is That Your Best Offer?

Expert Suggestions on Preparation for Computer Based CAT-09

Is That Your Best Offer?
How to Negotiate a Higher Salary and More Perks

Part - I


You've jumped through all the hoops. You've developed a great r�sum�, identified a promising job opportunity, performed well in rounds of interviews, and now the call has finally come: They want you.

But wait - the most challenging part of your job search is still to come. It's time to negotiate your compensation and working conditions.

If you're in a strong position - lots of offers, outstanding technical skills, little competition - negotiating may be a matter of naming your price. Even so, strategy is important. You want your manager and coworkers to be glad to have you, not resentful of your demands.

Besides, few of us are this fortunate. The typical candidate really wants the job, is terrified of losing it by being too aggressive, and doesn't negotiate effectively - if at all.

Whether this is your first job offer or your tenth, you'll do yourself a favor by honing your negotiation skills. Whatever the firm's initial offer is, it can often be improved - in many cases dramatically - through savvy negotiating. And once you're on the job, it'll be difficult to get the same boost, even with stellar performance.

If you've become the clear top candidate for a position, you obviously have more bargaining power than if you appear a little better than the next-best candidate. By the time you get to the bargaining table, a lot of your negotiating has already been accomplished - for better or worse.

Already at that point? Don't worry. Maybe you can improve your salary five or 20 percent. Maybe you can negotiate an early review with a raise for strong performance. And then there are bonuses, increased commission, stock options, educational benefits, extra vacation days, and a flexible schedule. These and a host of other factors could mean the difference between job satisfaction and early discontent.

The Bottom Line

Your time is one of your most valuable possessions. And when you take a job, you are giving up most of your waking hours to help others achieve their objectives. Isn't it worth investing a little time up front to make sure you're compensated at your full value?

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Practice the techniques described in this Insider, do the research to back up your requests, and you can negotiate an excellent compensation package - not just a salary, but your other must-haves as well, and even a few nice-to-have items.

If you do this well, your employer will also be pleased with the agreement - and even more impressed with you. Note that the principles here also apply to negotiating a raise, winning a coveted job assignment, reaching agreements with coworkers, and many other situations on and off the job.

Eleven Principals of Negotiating Strategy

How do you build your bargaining power? Let these 11 principals guide you.

  1. Bargaining power is key.
  2. Your bargaining power reflects the company's experiences with you.
  3. The earlier you enter the hiring process, the more influence you can exert.
  4. Taking on a short-term project can dramatically improve your bargaining power.
  5. Know the market and develop alternative job offers.
  6. Establish your priorities, and evaluate offers accordingly.
  7. Be aware of what the employer can offer.
  8. Assess your power position realistically.
  9. Never be the first to name a salary.
  10. Always negotiate with the decision maker.
  11. Try to create situations that benefit you and the company.


1. Bargaining power is key.

Bargaining power is what you have if there's an oil field on fire and you're the only outfit able to be on the scene smothering the flames tomorrow. Bargaining power is what you have if you wrote the year's hottest-selling business title, and now every company wants you as a speaker. You can name your price, because you're the one who can do the job.

If you can transform yourself from a qualified candidate into the candidate, you won't have much need for fancy negotiating tactics when it comes time to agree on terms. You can probably upgrade your job title. You may be entrusted with a wider range of responsibilities - which means richer experiences and more opportunities. You may be able to report to a higher-level supervisor and have greater decision-making power. All this translates to a higher salary, access to more perks, and speedier career development.

If, on the other hand, the employer sees you as equal to the other candidates, your efforts to significantly improve a job offer will inspire a second look at your competitors. Making the company feel like it needs you, specifically, will serve you better than deploying every negotiating trick in the book from a position of weakness.

2. Your bargaining power reflects the company's experiences with you.

Bargaining power is the sum of all the impressions you've made. A referral from a respected source is a great first deposit in your power bank. More than one adds to your account. Enthusiastic references contribute still more. An impressive first interview, in which you articulate your strengths, show that you know what it takes to do the job, and share some insights based on your own research, can be a big power boost.

If your follow-up to that first meeting demonstrates more work on your part, you get a second interview and more power. When your meetings with your potential colleagues go well, you raise your stock a bit more. Perhaps you can tackle a short-term assignment (for pay, if there is substantial work involved), and show off your talents. Now they really want you!

By the time you are in what's generally recognized as the negotiation process, you're dealing from a position of maximum strength.

3. The earlier you enter the hiring process, the more influence you can exert.

A company rarely decides to seek out a new employee on the spur of the moment. Unless it's simply a matter of replacing an employee who's moved on, such decisions typically follow a three-stage process:

Stage One: A problem or need is identified. There's too much work to be done by the existing staff, a problem with quality or customer satisfaction, or a need to develop new business.

Stage Two: Solutions are considered. Should several employees' jobs be redefined so that their talents are put to better use? Should an existing staff member be moved to a new position? (If so, that person's old position will have to be filled.) Should a new employee be hired to fill the position? Or should most of the work be outsourced?

Stage Three: The job is defined. The company decides to create a new position. The next questions are: Where will the money come from? Who will the person report to? What will the job description include?

Only after all three stages are completed does the company go to the market-advertise the position, post it on the Internet, hire a recruiter to find the right person. If you enter the game at this stage, you're likely to face a fair amount of competition, which means diminished bargaining power.

Getting considered early usually means entering the discussions informally. If your first contact with the company is through an informational meeting (perhaps set up through one of your networking sources), you can talk about your background and interests without the pressure of an interview situation, get feedback on any research you've done, and learn about the industry and the business from an insider.

In the process, you may see a need or problem at the company that has not yet been defined (entering at stage one), or find out about one whose solution has not yet been settled (entering at stage two).

You'll be able to follow up on the information meeting with a letter or e-mail describing the additional thinking or research you've done (based on the insider perspective you've gained), which sets you up for another meeting. Once you're in the discussion loop and have established your credibility, you're in a prime position to land a position that's tailored for you.

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