How to negotiate a job offer

Congratulations, you have received a job offer! Maybe you get caught up in the moment and want to scream “Yes!” wholeheartedly and accept the offer. Resist that urge, however, and put on your gaming face—even if the fit feels perfect. Why? In many cases, you can ask for more money or perks when you close the deal.

“While the thought of negotiation may seem difficult, it is normal and expected,” said Brandon Bramley, founder of The Salary Negotiator, a Seattle-based firm that coaches professionals through the job opportunity negotiation process. “You have influence once you’ve been chosen as the right candidate.”

Accounting is a sought-after skill, so any pay package needs to reflect the specialization you bring with you. “We work with sensitive and complex data to understand the financial status of individuals, firms and corporations so they can make important financial decisions,” said Mark Stewart, accountant at Step By Step Business, a resource for entrepreneurs. “You can negotiate a job offer if you feel it doesn’t compare to the value you will be offering.”

If the thought of asking for more makes you nervous, here’s a game plan to follow:

time it right Wait until you have a permanent job offer, said John Ricco, CPA (inactive), co-founder of Manhattan-based Atlantic Group, a recruitment and temping firm that places accountants and finance professionals. “There’s no point in negotiating the terms of a job you’ve only interviewed for, as it will give your potential employer the wrong impression,” he said.

In fact, Bramley warned, trying to negotiate too early could “detract from the interview and cause you to miss out on a potential offer.”

Please investigate. To know what’s fair, gather compensation data to understand the role’s salary range and understand what peers at other companies are making, Bramley said. “Companies differ drastically in their compensation structures and benefits,” he said. “It’s worth scouring the market to find out what this role should earn.”

You can ask trusted mentors or peers for advice. Additionally, “individuals can leverage multiple online resources such as Payscale, Glassdoor, and,” Bramley said. Keep in mind that while these websites are useful, the information is submitted anonymously so there are no guarantees that it is correct. Also, “they offer compensation that is stated by current or former employees, so pay may differ from what is [companies] offer new employees,” he emphasized.

In particular, research the employer and its pay structure, Stewart said. “That way you would know what salary range your experience fits into,” he said.

Understand the whole offer. Don’t get stuck on the salary number. Instead, understand the whole package, including paid time off, retirement plans, health care, bonuses, and other benefits that can be very valuable. For example, if an employer pays the entire health insurance premium, it could add thousands of dollars to your net pay each year. (Several online tools can help you figure this out easily.) “Understand and look at total compensation,” Bramley said. “This is important because it allows you to calculate true annual earnings and compare compensation between companies.”

sell yourself Justification is key, said Mark Herschberg of New York City, author of The Career Toolkit: Essential Skills for Success No One Taught You. “Just saying ‘I want x more dollars’ isn’t helpful. You want more, the company wants to give less,” he said. “Give a reason why you are making this money. Now the company needs to address the rationale and you can see if you’re on the same page on this.”

Treat the negotiation like you’re asking for an investment, “that’s what your potential employer should think about, too,” Ricco said. “An employee is hired to bring financial value to the company, so they want to be confident that you are delivering a significant return on their investment in you,” he explained. Present a clear vision of what you bring and the financial impact you can have.

Confidently list your accomplishments and how you can help the employer meet their goals faster or produce better than expected results, and be ready to answer follow-up questions, Stewart said. When arguing, avoid words like “maybe” or “I think” “because they make you look insecure about your skills, expertise and worth,” he added.

Stay strong. According to Bramley, he was able to negotiate higher compensation for his clients almost 95% of the time. But if the employer doesn’t increase their offer, don’t be afraid to move on, he said. “Interviews can be difficult and time-consuming, but just because you get a job offer doesn’t mean you have to take it and that it will be your only chance.”

Negotiating is a key skill that you can use again and again as you climb the corporate ladder. “Everyone has to learn to negotiate and that will help them throughout their career,” Herschberg said.

Dawn Wotapka is a freelance writer based in Georgia. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Courtney Vien at [email protected]

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