Congratulations, you’ve landed a great new job! As excited as you are to formally accept the position and get started, take a pause anyway. This may indeed be a terrific opportunity, but you want to start with the best possible compensation package. Once you accept the company’s offer, you lose leverage in any attempt to improve your salary or benefits. So be bold – negotiate the details before you say yes.

Feeling iffy about that? You shouldn’t. The process of filling a position is a two-way street. As much as you want the job, the company wants to find exactly the right person. They picked you, and that means they want you . Yes, they made you an offer, but chances are good they will be willing to up the ante a bit – if you ask.

Besides, negotiating your way to acceptance shows that you’re a savvy business person. You may need sharp negotiating skills in your job, so you’re reinforcing the company’s good decision to choose you.

Tell them you’re very pleased to have been selected, but you would like a little time to consider their offer. (This makes you look good in two other ways as well – you’re demonstrating that you do not make rash decisions, plus you avoid looking desperate to accept this position, something that would weaken your bargaining power.)

Don’t Dicker Just Because You Can

That wastes your time and the company’s, too. And you’ll look petty or greedy instead of shrewd. Likewise, don’t argue about every little detail. Pick one or a couple of items that matter most to you, and put them on the table for negotiation. If you’re hoping to increase the offered starting salary, experts recommend you tackle that first and come to an agreement before moving on to discuss potential changes to benefits or other perks.

Why is this the best strategy? Often, there are different factors that affect salary and benefits. For example, large organizations typically have formalized pay structures with ranges and caps for each position, so the HR person or your new boss won’t have the authority to exceed that amount.

When it comes to benefits and perks, companies often have more wiggle room. If you want to make more than one change, let your counterpart know all of them upfront. That way they immediately see what you have in mind. Bringing up issues one at a time feels like an unrelenting assault on their offer. Will it never end? Is there any part of it you did like? Prioritize your requested changes, too, so the other person doesn’t just cherry-pick your list and refuse to change the one thing you wanted most.


Be Nice, Not Adversarial

You both want the same outcome here – you, happily ensconced in your position with a compensation package your new employer happy and comfortable as well. Think of negotiations as a friendly exploration of options. Whether you’re dealing with the person who will be your direct supervisor or a staffer in the HR department (or both), you want to build positive personal relationships right from the start. And the more they like you, the more likely they are to go to bat in support of your counteroffer.

Nonetheless, keep in mind that the company wants to avoid overspending – even on a great catch like you – so they’re going to be careful. It will be easier for them to agree to something like flexible work scheduling that doesn’t have a direct cost.

Tips for Successful Negotiating

Don’t go first. Get the company’s representative to make an initial offer, so there is something concrete to discuss. Remember that, legally, you no longer have to divulge current or past salary information. Once you get that offer, be sure you understand it clearly. Benefits, in particular, vary widely from one company to another, and you may incur out-of-pocket costs for some of the benefits you want to use, such as insurance.

Consider the whole enchilada . Of course, you want the highest possible salary, but no amount of money can make up for a problematic working environment or other factors that detract from the job itself or your happiness. Think about the commute, professional development opportunities, the amount of time off available (and for what), and so on.

You can’t change corporate culture, but you can negotiate everything from free parking or use of public transportation to tuition reimbursement, free gym membership, continuing education, professional association dues, or more vacation. Maybe even your job title.

Explain why you are asking for each change. You deserve a higher starting salary because you have special knowledge or experience that makes you especially valuable to the company. Or you’ve researched positions like this and found that similar companies are actually paying 10% more than your offer. You want to work earlier-than-usual hours or work from home some days to match your young kids’ school schedule. Knowing you have a real reason for the request makes it more powerful.

Be flexible. If the company can’t agree to a 10% salary increase right now, ask if they can do part of it now. Or ask if you can revisit the issue in six months. (This option can be applied to any request, not only monetary compensation. It can be a nice alternative because things change. The company might be in a stronger financial position or have different priorities, or there may be more employees in your department to cover the office when you’re working from home.)

Know when to stop negotiating. Prolonged back-and-forth becomes tiresome and frustrating instead of productive, and you have to recognize that you may not get all you want. That’s why you initially picked the most important details to discuss. If you succeed in getting one or a couple of these, you have improved your starting position. It’s a very nice overall package, so accept that as a job well done.

The Bottom Line

Who knows? Maybe the offer you receive for your dream job will be a dream in itself. Perfect as is. On the other hand, if there is something about the offer you feel could be improved, you now know that you can – and should – negotiate those details before you accept the offer. And you know how to do that successfully. Good job!

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