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Navigating the Offer: A Guide to Smart Negotiation

November 9, 2023

Congratulations, you’ve received a job offer! Now comes the critical step of negotiating to ensure your offer aligns with your expectations and worth.

In this post, we’ll address what to keep in mind before you start negotiating, some negotiating tactics, questions to ask, and questions not to ask.

What to know before you negotiate:

Before you start to negotiate a job offer, there are a few main forms of compensation you should be aware of. These include:  

  • Base Compensation (this is often your salary)
  • Stock Options (common in the case of startups)
  • Sign-on Bonus
  • Other bonuses, for example, performance bonuses (more on this in a bit!)

Before you start to negotiate, make sure you understand all the compensation types presented in your offer. You may find that you’re happy with your offer and it meets your expectations if you consider all the additional forms of compensation that come in addition to your base, as well as the bonus structure.

How to negotiate an offer:

If you want to negotiate an offer, consider the following tips when beginning your negotiation:

Don’t rush. Take your time in considering the offer, and don’t feel like you need to send off an email right away. It’s definitely in your best interest to be prompt when responding to your offer - but if you rush into sending a reply you may regret it later.

Be confident, not confrontational. Avoid using phrases that sound confrontational or demanding. Even if your offer is much lower than expected - don’t spend time dwelling on your disappointment, or express frustration.

Do your research. You’ve likely already done this, but always research salary ranges in advance. You want to understand how professionals are paid in your. Non-salary compensation - like stock options and equity - are especially important here. If your offer is with a startup, you’ll need to keep in mind that your total compensation comes in these other forms.

Highlight your value. Emphasize your achievements and skills and how these align with company goals if you want higher compensation. Remember, in order to find the appropriate offer amount, recruiters take into account years of experience, role scope, education, and how successful they think a candidate will be in the new role. When asking for higher compensation, highlight what you’ll bring to your new company and connect this to how you’ll help the company reach their goals. Think of specific responsibilities that came up during your interview, and highlight how your specific skills will help the company more so than other candidates.

Want some good resources for negotiation? Check out this cheat sheet from Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss, and how LinkedIn’s Head of Recruiting approaches salary negotiations, from the perspective of a recruiter.

Questions to ask before accepting an offer:

If you’re still unclear about certain aspects of your offer - definitely ask some questions about this! Some questions we often see candidates ask include:

Details on bonuses if this is part of your offer. For example, you may want to ask - are bonuses in a third category of compensations or are they lumped in with stock options or base? What percentage of base salary are bonuses?

Confirming the rest of your benefits. What benefits are offered in addition to healthcare, retirement plans, or other perks? Throughout the interview process, it’s likely that you’ve covered the basics of benefits - but if there’s other benefits that need explanation, asking during the negotiation stage is a great time.

Confirm your start date. It may seem obvious, but you want to make sure that your start date works for all parties involved

Confirm any obligations you have within the first couple months of starting your new role. Do you have a can’t-miss trip coming out, or another period of time when you’ll be unavailable? It may be worth a mention when accepting the offer vs. a week or two after you’ve started - and people are expecting you to be available in future months.

Questions NOT to ask before accepting an offer:

While it’s rare for an offer to be revoked during the negotiation process, there are definitely some questions that are best avoided, such as:

Negative or overly critical questions. Don't inquire about past employee conflicts, controversies, or negative press - unless you can frame this constructively. For example, if the company was recently acquired and the acquisition received some negative press, it’s okay to ask if the acquisition will impact you  if you believe there’s a chance it might. Remember, there’s always a way to positively frame questions so they don’t come across as critical - just that you’re genuinely curious!

Questions that have already been answered. This may seem obvious, but avoid asking questions that are clearly addressed in the job offer, employment contract, the company’s website, or accompanying documents - especially in front of the hiring manager. This may indicate a lack of attention to detail, and that you’re not spending time seriously reviewing their offer.

Overly personal questions. Avoid asking overly personal questions, like about coverage for specific medical conditions, needing a leave of absence, or. If you review your company’s medical benefits before you accept a role (which they should be able to provide details on) it’s likely you won’t ever need to ask the company these questions!

Questions about severance or exiting a company. It’s understandable that layoffs are top of mind for many people, especially with the amount of press coverage they receive. But i you’re seriously concerned about your ability to effectively complete the tasks of your new job - decline the role.

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