Congratulations! Your job search has led to an interview and now you’ve gotten a job (or internship) offer. Getting an offer is exciting. But don’t be too eager to sign the offer letter and send it back right away. Thank the employer for the offer and be grateful. But take a few days to think before you respond. Here are some tips from my book Getting your First Job to help you negotiate.
How to respond to an on-the-spot offer
You may find yourself in a spot where an employer is giving you an offer in person or over the phone. It may be a great offer and you may be tempted to accept it right away. Hold on though.
I remember getting an internship offer right after my first interview. My future boss was offering me $18 an hour. That was a lot of money for a college student at the time, so when I heard the number, I was pleasantly stunned. My boss saw the look of shock in my face and said: “Okay, I’ll make it $20 an hour.” Silence is your friend. The lesson here is to hold tight for a few seconds or a minute before you answer. If you think it’s appropriate, you can even ask to think about it for a day and call or email the employer back.
Gain leverage with multiple job offers
You need more than one job offer in order to more effectively negotiate a better package. Whether you are set on working for a particular employer or could care less, you should interview with three or more employers so you can get at least two offers. Having more than an offer in hand gives you leverage. It also lowers your risk of getting no offers at all.
When you have a second offer, and assuming it’s better, you’re able to tell the first employer about it. A better offer can come in the form of higher pay or better benefits. You don’t have to give the employer name, but be truthful about the second offer. You may not even have to give offer details. Sometimes, it’s enough to just tell the first employer that the other offer is more attractive.
Research salary information
Before you start negotiating, make sure you have a good idea of the market rate for someone in the role. Do you know someone with the same job at another organization or someone at the organization? If you have a close enough relationship to ask them how much they make, then definitely ask.
PayScale is a great resource for salary data. You can look up average pay for your role and similar ones at your experience level and narrow it down to your location. Just go to www.payscale.com, click Get Free Salary Report, and choose Job Offer. Then answer a series of questions, and you get a high-level compensation report. If your offer consists of an hourly rate, PayScale will convert it to an annual salary.
Ask for other perks besides money
Even when you make the case for getting higher pay, the employer may not have the flexibility to do this. Some employers have rigid pay guidelines for each position. As you get promoted or change roles, you can move to a higher pay grade. In other cases the employer just may not have the budget to increase your offer. Instead of cash, here are some other perks you can ask for:
- Vacation time. This is often referred to as paid time off (PTO). If the organization offers two weeks standard of PTO, you can ask for an extra week or more of paid PTO instead. This can be a valuable perk if you plan on traveling or taking a medical leave. Your employer may offer additional time off for medical reasons. If you plan on taking such a leave, discuss it with them.
- Delayed start date. You may be able to ask for a deferred start date.
- Flexible schedule and telecommuting. Some jobs are able to be done from home. It may be nice to work from home one day a week or once every other week to save time on commuting. If this is something that appeals to you, you can ask for this type of flexibility.
Once you have a job offer in hand, remember these tips to ensure you’re getting the compensation package that’s right for you. For more advice and insights on negotiating a job or internship offer, take a look at Getting your First Job. The book is a great resource for entry-level job seekers in all areas related to the job search.