Negotiating a Job Offer? Here’s How to Get the Salary, Benefits and Perks You Want

You should always try to negotiate the initial employment offer, as companies often expect you to come back with additional asks.

After weeks of filling out applications, sitting for interviews, and submitting your work samples and personal references, you’ve secured a coveted job offer.

And while there is considerably less stress and anxiety that comes with reading over your offer letter than any other part of the job-seeking process, there is still one final question before accepting your new position: Can you negotiate your job offer for better terms?

Negotiating your salary, benefits and other terms of employment can seem uncomfortable and confusing, so we consulted with two experts — Solange Charas and Doug Bender — who are both faculty members from USC Bovard College’s online MS in Human Resource Management program.

Below, they’ve outline when you should negotiate, what you should be negotiating for and how to properly handle the discussions.

Should You Try to Negotiate When You Get a Job Offer?

The first question everyone has during the job offer process is, “Should I negotiate?”

Absolutely, confirmed Charas and Bender. You should always try to negotiate the initial employment offer, and companies often expect you to come back with additional asks.

“Consistent research has shown that women in particular don’t negotiate [as much as men], not just on job offers, but also on promotions …  For that reason alone, I think it’s well worth considering negotiating if you’re a woman because there’s a clear disparity that continues between men and women as it relates to job offers and promotions,” Bender added.

In today’s job market and rebounding economy, it’s also likely you can land a better deal for yourself. There is a slew of open roles, and millions of workers have quit their positions in a trend nicknamed “The Great Resignation.” Companies are well aware they need to compile compelling offers to attract and retain top-tier candidates.

“Just changing organizations will buy you a 15 percent higher salary on average, and that’s one of the reasons that people are changing jobs. Companies are offering them more money because they need talent. The basic law of supply and demand applies here … Salaries are going up, and salary budgets are increasing at a rate faster than they have in the last two decades. There’s pressure on organizations to offer more money to get the talent, which means there’s pressure on the talent to move from their current companies to chase those dollars. So, when you receive a job offer, you always negotiate it,” Charas confirmed.

Tips on How to Negotiate a Job Offer Like a Pro

Now that you’re confident in your ability to negotiate, there are a few tips to keep in mind while submitting your counteroffer.

Be polite and respectful. First off, make sure you’re using the correct tone and language throughout the negotiation period.

“The one major don’t, of course, is to be disrespectful of what actually is being put there in front of you as an offer. Everything is a bit of a dance, right? It may be their best offer, after all, although almost all offers are made with some wiggle room. Don’t disrespect whatever is on the table. Do be open to having a respectful conversation about what the possibilities may or may not be,” Bender explained.

Identify your ideal range from the company’s anchor amount. During the interview process, ask about the salary range or check out sites like Glassdoor to get a sense of what the company may offer you. That can help you determine what salary you would expect for the position.

And once you receive the initial offer, you can move up from there.

“Negotiations always start with an anchor, and you don’t want to anchor either too low or too high. You don’t want to price yourself out of the job, but you also don’t want to sell yourself too short. To avoid that, ask the negotiator what their number is, and let them anchor,” Charas advised.

Do research and use examples to explain why your counteroffer is reasonable. When you counter with your own offer, provide justification for why you deserve it. Maybe you want them to understand why you’re worth the salary bump, so you reiterate what you can bring to the table and outline everything you’ve accomplished in previous roles.

You can also research the average salary for the role and use that number to help bolster why you’re asking for more. After all, they don’t want to lose you to a better company.

Make it clear you want the role. With all that being said, you don’t want to seem more trouble than you’re worth — companies don’t want to spend time and resources negotiating with you just to learn you don’t actually want the job.

Restate your interest in the position and explain how serious you are about this job offer. It helps if you can point to another offer you’re considering, for example, but make it clear they’re your top choice.

Don’t negotiate against yourself. If you submit a counteroffer and don’t immediately receive a response from the company, remember to keep calm and wait it out.

“One of the big things is to never negotiate against yourself. Which means if I said, ‘Well, I want 50,’ and then they don’t answer you right away. Then you say, ‘OK, I’ll take 48.’ Just wait … Once you establish your level, you wait for a counteroffer. Either the counteroffer will come, or it won’t,” Charas said.

You can negotiate for more later on. You may not get the job package you want right away, and that’s OK. If that happens, put in a request later on during your time with the company, as you prove your worth.

“Time is the negotiator’s friend. You don’t have to have everything on day one. You don’t have to have the base salary that you want today. Instead, you can say, ‘I’ll accept a lower base salary today, but would you be willing to up my base salary to this level in six months with certain performance standards?’ That way, you can get the money you want, and the company is assured they are getting your best,” Charas explained.

It’s Not All About the Salary

While most job offer negotiations revolve around salary, it’s not the only consideration on the table. This is your chance to determine which perks and benefits are important to you and whether you can acquire them. For many people, those additional terms are worth more than a bigger paycheck. 

“Both job seekers and organizations have to be sensitive to the total offering that they are presenting in terms of the value package, the rewards package, not just compensation and benefits. Job seekers often are looking for career advancement. How soon can you expect a promotion? What is the training and the development investment offered? Is remote work an option?” Charas explained. “There are a lot of questions other than just, what will I be paid now?”

When it comes to examining the package and determining which employment terms to negotiate, Bender explained there are three important factors to consider aside from money.

“First off, look at the benefits. Depending upon where you are in life, certain things can be critically important for you,” Bender said.

For example, you may be the primary caregiver to a family member or loved one, and so you would like more time off or a flexible work schedule. If you have young children who are in preschool or early elementary school, you might want remote work options or flexible working hours on certain days.

“Secondly, are there career opportunities and career development [options]? Think about what those opportunities could potentially pose for you in terms of building out your complete brand,” Bender explained. “Thirdly, it’s really important, this whole notion or idea of affiliation and belonging. Recent research suggests individuals are joining organizations because there’s something about the company that really resonates with them, whether it’s the purpose of the organization or its ability to be community-minded in some way, shape, form or fashion, or allow you to bring your entire self to the job. So that needs to be carefully considered before you accept, too.”

If you determine what you need from the position is actually different than a higher base salary, try negotiating the offer to include some of those terms in your contract.

At the end of the day, you and the hiring company want the same thing: For you to accept the job and be happy with its employment package. It’s very likely you can secure everything you want from the role if you ask respectfully and the request includes reasonable terms you can justify.

Learn more about the online MS in Human Resource Management program at USC Bovard College today.