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Negotiating before You Accept an Offer

I just got the job offer of my dreams, except for one thing. The compensation seems very low in view of the position's responsibilities and my prior experience. I would like to ask for a better compensation package, but I'm afraid I will lose the job or start off on the wrong foot with my new employer. Should I take the offer as is or ask for what I want?

As a rule of thumb, it's never a good idea to accept an offer that doesn't excite you, unless you've just found an eviction notice in the mail. Settling for less usually leads to resentment and the desire for something better. Consequently, your agreeing to a compensation package out of sync with your expectations does neither you nor your boss any favors.

Aside from avoiding a lose-lose scenario, there are other reasons why going for the gold, before you say yes, is very important:

  • At this moment, you are the number one candidate for the position. The employer wants you and no one else. Chances are she is willing to up the ante, if your request is relatively reasonable and couched with diplomacy.

  • Future raises and benefits are typically based upon initial compensation. If you start too low, you may stay behind the curve for a long time.

  • It will take at least a year after you've been hired to rebuild your perceived value to pre-employment status. It's human nature for your manager to appreciate you more now than once you're on board.

  • Some companies expect a little dickering, especially if they are sales driven. They want to see how hard you'll push for a good deal.

  • If you decide to negotiate, here are some tips for making the process easier:

  • Research what the market is paying. It's more comfortable to ask for a package you think is reasonable. Only "The Donalds" of the world relish demanding the outrageous.

  • Start with a counter request that is 100% of what you want. If you ask for only 95%, it's unlikely you'll get more. Think about benefits and perks as well as salary, commission and bonuses. Sometimes it's easier for an employer to tender an package of enhanced vacation time, computer equipment or continuing education, which improves the overall offer without increasing your taxable income.

  • Also develop a couple of alternatives worth less than your plan A, but more than the company's initial offer. If you don't like the employer's counter proposal, suggest your plan B or C instead.

  • Listen carefully to counter offers. They may contain ideas you like just as well or better than your own.

  • If your negotiation proves fruitless, don't take the position. Otherwise, the frustrating process you've just completed represents what's ahead anytime you need more resources. You can count on a corporate scrooge being forever stingy.

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