Winning the Job: Negotiation


It is exciting to receive an offer from a company where you’d like to work.  Once you have heard the offer, ask if you might think about it.  Do your homework to discover what the job is worth, know what items you may want to negotiate and prioritize your list.  Negotiation should be done face to face with your potential boss, if possible, or, if not, with an executive search professional or human resources professional.  The key is to know what is reasonable and what you might be able to attain.

Here is an outline, with sample script, of the negotiating process:

  • When the offer is made
    • Tell recruiter how excited you are about the possibility of working for the company, boss and team
    • Let the recruiter (or boss) explain the offer
    • Do not cut him/her off-take notes if necessary
    • Tell the recruiter you’d like to think about it-agree on when you’ll talk again
  • Prioritization
    • Check the list below
    • Make, and prioritize, the list
    • Be prepared to be flexible-you probably won’t get everything you want
    • Some items on the list will not be negotiable
    • Success will depend upon how well you handle the negotiation and how much the company wants you
  • Negotiating
    • Possible topics of negotiation
      • Position & Title
        • Reporting Relationship
        • Exact level-Example-On the Executive Council
      • Compensation/Financial
        • Base salary, bonus and stock
        • Sign on bonus
        • Sales commissions
        • Pension benefits
        • Equity to equalize cash/bonus/stock in past company
        • Auto allowance
        • Club memberships
        • Graduate reimbursement
        • Expense accounts/company credit card
        • Salary continuation agreement if you mutually agree to part
      • Health Benefits
        • Comprehensive medical plan
        • Eyesight, dental and prescription
        • Life insurance
        • Health club membership
        • Wellness programs
      • Personal
        • Vacation-number of weeks
        • Vacations previously planned
        • Child care services
        • Financial, tax or legal counseling
        • Career transition if you agree to part
      • Relocation-
        • Moving expenses
        • Transportation to and from company
        • Agreement as to when you will move
        • Temporary housing on location if the move has not taken place
        • Sale-realty commissions at both ends
        • Sell options-straight realtor marketing, accelerated price reduction on schedule (80% company/20% you), corporate buyout
        • Spousal career transition counseling
        • International
          • Housing in a gated community with security if necessary (primarily international)
          • Ex-pats compensation
          • Private school for children
          • Trips home per year
      • Education/Professional Development
        • Tuition reimbursement
        • Training
        • Professional development
        • Association memberships


Each company has its own guidelines for negotiating.  You may be able to discover where the company is willing to negotiate and where it cannot or will not by talking with a friend who works for the company or previously worked for the company.  Some companies, for example, will give a sign-on bonus while others will not.  Or a company might be willing to buy your home if a move is required while another company wants nothing to do with owning real estate.

If you are unable to discover where a company will negotiate ahead of time, then do not be concerned.  You will find out soon enough when you place your topics of concern on the table.

The importance of knowing what you want cannot be overstated.  You have to be prepared.  Remember to start by telling the recruiter how excited you are and how you believe you will be able to help the company achieve its goals.  Hopefully, there will be discussion around how you can be helpful and how excited the company is about you.

Then, suppose that the conversation with your prospective boss proceeds as follows:


CANDIDATE:  There are three issues I’d like to discuss.

INTERVIEWER:  What are they?

CANDIDATE:  Base salary, bonus and vacation.

INTERVIEWER:  Let’s talk about the base salary first.

CANDIDATE:  My concern is that I have not had an increase in over a year.

INTERVIEWER:  What did you have in mind?

CANDIDATE:  I was hoping for approximately 10-15% more.

INTERVIEWER:  What about bonus?

CANDIDATE:  Previously, I had a maximum 40% bonus.

INTERVIEWER:  Did you receive the maximum each year?

CANDIDATE:  No, I didn’t, but I received close to it.

INTERVIEWER:  What is the issue with vacation?

CANDIDATE:  I have had four weeks vacation and two weeks seems restrictive.

INTERVIEWER:  Are these all of the issues?

CANDIDATE:  Yes, they are.

Note:  That’s it.  You’ve put the topics on the table.  You cannot add another one at a later time.

When the negotiation concludes, be prepared to give the recruiter time to consider the issues you have raised.  It might take a few conversations before you reach agreement.


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