In my work with clients who are moving into their second/third/fourth jobs and who have several years of relevant work experience under their belts, I am often asked if negotiating an offer is permissible. I believe it is not only permissible, many employers expect some sort of negotiations from experienced hires and can be shocked when this does not happen***.
Let’s consider why negotiating an offer is a good idea for the employer and employee:
How Have You Hired Talent in The Past?
If you have been on the other side of the interview table in the past and have extended an offer to an experienced candidate, you may know where I am going with this thought. When you extend an offer, you rarely make your first offer your best offer. Face facts, every employer is trying to get the best talent for as little as possible. If you have not had experience in an employment hiring capacity, how about customer sales or client negotiations? Rarely will you make your first offer your best offer to a customer or client. Knowing this, why not come back to the hiring employer and suggest some alterations to their offer.
Not Negotiating Could Hurt Your Image
What? How would accepting a first offer hurt your image with your future managers? If your new role will require negotiating with vendors, clients, suppliers, customers, hiring talent, etc. – senior management may see your lack of your own personal job offer negotiations as a red flag. If you won’t negotiate for yourself, will you avoid negotiating a better deal for the company with suppliers? Are you always going to pay top dollar when buying a product from a vendor? This is your one time where you and your employer are on opposite sides of the negotiation table, show them you can perform well as this is how you will conduct your business for their benefit in the future.
This is Your One/Best Shot:
Your future raises and bonuses will often be based upon the starting salary number. Consider the difference between a $90K and $100K starting salary. It take 3.5 years of 3% raises to get the $90K person up to the $100K mark. With some firms, bonuses are also based upon one’s salary. A 20% year-end performance bonus using the previously mentioned salary numbers results in a $20K bonus versus an $18K check. While this may not seem like much at first, but $2000 is an extra vacation, a solid pay down on any debt, a down payment for a car, etc. And remember, your co-worker (who is making the $100K salary) is getting this EXTRA money for doing the SAME work as you – who is making $90K. How is the prospect of negotiating looking now?
Set the Tone For a Respectful Work Environment
Every employee wants to feel valued and each employer wants engaged employees. By expressing your wishes during the negotiation process, you identify items that will make you be more engaged at work. The employer better understands what you value and how to motivate you in the future.
Negotiations should not only be about you and your needs. When you approach the conversation, suggest win-win proposals or non-salary focused needs. Employers tend to be more open to having the negotiation conversation if it is not just about money. Why not ask to be grandfathered into your vacation allowance from your old firm instead of starting at the lowest level? Will the new employer waive the one year 401k vesting or waiting period? How about suggesting a review at six months, instead of a year, with agreed upon metrics that would allow for a promotion or salary bump? This tactic puts the onus on you to perform quickly at the new employer…and what employer would not want to hire a very motivated employee?
Negotiating is a common practice for experienced hires and should not be intimidating for either party. I have found that negotiations are a good insight into how a company treats its employees. If the firm gets bent out of shape when you propose reasonable suggestions to their offer…this could be a red flag about how your ideas or you may be treated in the future. If a firm is willing to work with you on the offer suggestions so that both sides leave the table satisfied, this could be a sign of a healthier work environment.
***Each job offer scenario is unique and individuals may find that negotiating is not in their best interest. For example, if one is beginning in a new field and does not bring any relevant experience to the employer, negotiations will be limited or non-existent. In 2009-2010, due to the recession, many employers took a “Take it or Leave it” mentality because the talent pool was deep. Be sure to take your unique situation into account when reading and considering advice being shared with a broad audience.