Finally, the hours of prospecting, submitting resumes, attending networking events, developing new relationships and attending job fairs have paid off. A company has made you an offer. Now what? With hiring activity picking up, many job seekers face a new challenge: nailing down a decent compensation package. • Historically, hiring managers and executives have said that everything is negotiable — but what about today? Many organizations have cut salaries, 401(k) matches, company perks and paid overtime. • In this environment, you may feel lucky just to get a job offer. But you also want to be paid fairly. So how do you cut a good deal? Follow these guidelines:
• Lay the foundations early for negotiating.
• During the interview process, remain open when salary is discussed. The goal is to show flexibility. Look like you'd walk without an extra and you're out; demonstrate that you'd settle for a dollar too low and that is a dollar you may never get back.
• Don't come across as desperate.
• Don't be shy about explaining what value you bring to the table. How much did you save your last company? How much revenue did you generate?
• If more than one company is interested in you, let them both know you may be off the market soon — especially if they are competitors. Employers hate the sting of losing a great candidate to a competitor.
Organize your thoughts
Before you decide to negotiate, ask yourself these questions:
"Is there a strong backup candidate, and do I risk the offer being withdrawn?" This is easy information to get if you're working with a recruiter. On your own, it can be challenging. Some employers will tip their hand and say something like, "Well it was a very tough choice but we have decided to make you the offer."
"Do I fully understand the career path progression?" Top-tier candidates want room to grow and take that next step in their career once they show value for an extended period. Is a few dollars or more vacation time worth the risk of losing out on an opportunity to take the next step?
"Will I truly enjoy the work and the people that I will be working with?" Company culture and how you are treated by your employer matters. If the staff has an established history and the boss has been with the organization awhile, it shows that employees like working there.
"Is the business model solid and the company growing or stable?" A higher offer is no good if the company can't make good on it.
"If I receive what I feel is fair market value, could I come in with a bull's-eye on my back?" A job candidate for a supplier to Honda played hardball and negotiated an above-market salary. A few months into the job, he sensed resentment and animosity. He offered to take a pay cut to save his job but it was too late — the decision had been made and he was let go.
If the pay offer is low
Have a good response to a lowball offer.
• Ask for more. You need to put the question to the company — specifically, to the person who made the offer. "Is this your organization's best and most competitive offer?"
• If the answer is yes, make sure you have reviewed the offer in detail. Go over the health benefits package. (Ask for one if it's not provided.) Get a clear understating of the vacation schedule. If a bonus is offered, what is it based on? What percentage was paid out last year? Money isn't everything — there are other areas employers may be flexible on. For instance, some employers offer flex time; others offer company stock at a discount. See if a work/life balance is valued by the organization. Would they be open to a 30-60-90 review with a merit increase?
• Most employers don't like the back and forth of negotiation. Take your time and come up with a realistic counteroffer.
• Talk openly with family members and explain that cuts in the family budget may happen for the short term.
• There is no law saying you have to stay at your new organization for the rest of your career. Just the other day a candidate who was a backup to the person that landed the job called me. He said XYZ Company wants to interview him again because the other person left for a better opportunity. This is going to happen often to the organizations that make lowball offers to niche talent.
Jay Hofmeister is the co-founder of the Resume Bay, a professional resume-writing and career-coaching service. For more information, go to www.theresumebay.com. Also, check out his radio show "The Job Prospector" at www.webtalkradio.net.