Offer Negotiation-The Balancing Act

You will have more interviews than job offers, and if that is not the case, than you should be writing this article! A measure of our character is how we handle disappointment. When you receive a rejection, thank them for their time, ask for feedback, and wish them the best. 

Let us talk strategy for when you do get the job offer. You will likely interact with the people in this negotiation off and on during your employment with the organization. So, how you start this relationship is important. Be respectful and polite, gracious, and appreciative. Think about the most difficult, self-serving, ungrateful, greedy person you know. Recruiters talk to those people regularly-do not be that person. Be the person they cannot wait to go to lunch with and welcome at orientation.

Elements of the offer and potential negotiation include salary, title, start date, sign-on bonus, relocation expenses, vacation/time off, pre-planned vacation, hours/schedule, and work location.

Salary is usually the biggest negotiation lever but wait until you hear their full offer and see the benefits package in writing. Decide which 1–2 levers you want to pull, what is a deal-breaker, and what is just a nice to have. For most companies, there is room to negotiate salary unless you are already at the top end of their scale, in which case you leave that alone and go to the next lever. As we mentioned earlier, do not do a bait and switch. If you provided a salary range on the application or in an interview, you cannot suddenly change your minimum and expect a lunch invitation in week one. Be honorable and stick to your original range.

Vacation time or Paid Time off (PTO) used to be more flexible, but we see that as a more standard/fixed policy these days except for senior leadership roles. One of the tricks you can use is to ask for the full year’s allotment in year one, even if you are starting mid-year. That might be as far as you can take PTO. Ask good questions about holidays and whether there is a waiting period before the holidays will be paid. Most candidates can negotiate time off (with or without pay) for pre-scheduled vacation plans if they are disclosed up front.

Job title is sometimes an “easy give” for companies to add Manager or Director to a title.

Start dates are tricky. Most employers needed you to start yesterday but understand that you should give at least two weeks’ notice to your current employer. Some companies are flexible on start dates, where some larger employers have pre-set orientation dates on which all new hires must start. You may be able to choose between a couple of possible new hire orientation dates.

If there are few elements of the offer to negotiate, and particularly if the salary cannot move much, you might consider asking for a sign-on bonus. In our experience, requests are more compelling when you can articulate that you are walking away from a bonus with your current company. If you typically earn $20,000 a year in bonuses and are leaving in July, you might successfully argue that you are walking away from $10,000 in earned revenue and ask for a $10,000 sign-on bonus. This is highly effective when you are being recruited away from the current company and about 25% effective when you were actively searching.

Relocation benefits and bonuses vary greatly. Large companies typically have defined processes, vendors, and pre-set reimbursement allotments for relocation, which limits your ability to ask for more but also ensures that most of the bases are covered. For smaller employers or those who do not do many relocations, you can probably ask for different combinations of perks and reimbursements. We have seen savvy negotiators combine sign-on bonus and relocation benefits and bargain them as a package deal. Pro Tip: Consultant a tax accountant about which combination of the two will be most advantageous to you financially as they carry different tax implications.

Hours and schedules are inflexible for some professionals like healthcare, help desk, law enforcement, and more. For many of us, however, there is at least an opportunity to negotiate flexible hours, shorter lunch, etc. Unless this is a necessity for your personal life, other employment, or childcare, wait until you have negotiated other aspects of the offer then ask what the typical schedule is and go from there.

If you require remote work, that has hopefully come up in earlier discussions. If not, this is the time to discuss any workplace accommodation you need to do your job successfully. Our advice is to generally get started with the organization and learn the ropes, make a good impression, and then ask for occasional remote work. Each organization is different, and remote work is becoming more common, so it is easier to discuss and achieve than in previous decades.

Again, decide which elements of the offer are most important to you to and negotiate and focus on those. You deserve at least three days to consider the final written offer.

At DETS, we have a worksheet and video to help you think through this in greater detail. Contact us at