June 5, 2012
Job-offer negotiating leverage: signs to watch for
While employment conditions in other parts of the country still seem to be a mixed bag, I've been pleased to witness a surge of hiring in the Seattle market. In fact, I've run into numerous local professionals who have landed interviews and viable offers in recent weeks, some after more than a year of being on the hunt for a new assignment.
In the spirit of these positive developments, I thought it might be useful to share some tips on negotiating for those of you wondering whether you should accept a job offer at face value or push back with a counteroffer, asking for increased compensation or other concessions.
While every job-offer negotiation scenario is unique and should be analyzed carefully, here is a general list of the signs to watch for that will suggest whether you have more or less leverage in a negotiating scenario. Ultimately, negotiating with an employer comes down to your stark assessment of "who needs whom" more and how much of a calculated risk you decide to take beyond accepting the stated terms.
Signs you might have MORE leverage:
• You've received a formal job offer (obvious, I know, but this means you've succeeded in beating all of your competitors -- and most companies, like most of us, don't want to settle for second-best)
• The company keeps trying to sell you on the benefits of working there
• The company has been responsive, courteous and accommodating throughout the process
• The job has been open for a long time, suggesting that the company might be eager to fill it
• You've been asked questions such as, "Are you currently interviewing with other companies?" or "Will you let us know if another offer materializes?"
• You've received confirmation that the company has checked your references
• The hiring manager seems excited to bring you on board so he/she can move on to other tasks
• The interviewer has let forward-thinking comments slip, such as, "When you work here ..." or "One of the first things we'll do when you come on board ..."
• You have more than one job offer in the pipeline; knowing you have a second option to fall back on will greatly increase your confidence in negotiating for what you want
Signs you might have LESS leverage:
• When discussing compensation during the interview, the company indicated that your salary requirements were a bit of a stretch
• The company waited a few days after your final interview to make you an offer, suggesting that you might be the second choice
• Despite offering you the job, the hiring manager brought up consistent concerns regarding your skills, credentials and qualifications
• The hiring process seemed disorganized and there were periods of silence between each interview, suggesting that there might be internal disagreement about the role or the preferred candidate
• The employer makes you a lowball offer or an offer with significantly different terms than had been discussed in the interview process
• The hiring team knows that you've been on the market for a long time and that you aren't likely willing to walk away from a legitimate opportunity
These signs aren't necessarily foolproof, but if you pay attention to them they can give you a sense of your leverage. From there, you can decide whether you have the confidence and momentum to push back with some type of counteroffer -- or whether it's best to just sign on the dotted line, take the position and run with it.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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