You received a job offer. Congratulations! Yet you still have some important steps to take to bring your job search to a conclusion. There are two basic approaches to job offer negotiation:
- Acceptable job offer negotiation: where you would still accept the offer if nothing changes.
- Unacceptable job offer negotiation: where you would not accept the job offer if nothing changes.
These two approaches are fundamentally different. In the first approach, you actually accept the job offer, then ask for additional concessions, which you may or may not get. In the second approach, you will ask for the concessions before accepting and make it clear how the fundamentals of the offer need to change to make it acceptable. If you get the concession(s), you accept and if not, you do not accept.
Note that with the first approach you are not putting your job offer at risk. But with the second approach, you would be putting your offer at risk, since if it cannot change, you would not accept it anyway.
However, here is the really important point that most people miss when the offer arrives: you can ask questions after the job offer is extended and before you accept that are technically not negotiation at all. This may be a subtle point, so let me illustrate.
Before you accept the job offer, you may want to let them know that you are considering it, but you have a few questions. These questions are free and are not negotiations, since you’re not requesting anything, you are simply asking questions to clarify the offer. These questions are vitally important to deciding whether or not to actually negotiate these points. Following is an example:
“Thank you for the offer and I am strongly considering it. I do have a question: Given the distance of my commute, would there ever be an opportunity for me to work from home a few days a week?”
That question does not invalidate your offer and is technically not actual negotiation. When you make a request for a concession tied to the offer, that is negotiation. Here is how that point would look with acceptable job offer negotiation (which should be done with your future boss, not HR):
“Thank you very much for the offer. I would like to accept the offer and look forward to starting with you! I would like to request that, at some point in the future, you would be willing to consider giving me the flexibility to work from home a few days a week. Would that be possible?”
And here is how it looks from an unacceptable job offer negotiation view:
“Thank you for the offer. However, at this time I am not yet ready to accept the offer. But I would be willing to accept the offer if you are willing to allow me to work from home a few days a week. Would you be willing to include that as part of the offer? If yes, I will accept it today.”
There are subtle differences in the two approaches, since you’re essentially asking for the same concession. But in the second approach, you are effectively putting the job offer at risk. The employer could pull the offer based on the request and you no longer have a job offer in hand. In the first approach, you have already accepted the job offer, you are just appealing to your new boss with a request, which may or may not be granted. You have to decide how much risk you are willing to take in your negotiations. The second approach is a stronger negotiating stance to get what you are seeking, but it also puts the job offer at risk.
That all said, you should start with simple questions. These cost you nothing and are what you should be doing between offer extension and offer acceptance. The question by itself may solve your issue and you don’t have to negotiate it at all. But either way, it will guide you to how to handle eventual offer acceptance and negotiation.
For more information on job offer negotiation, please visit the Job Offer Negotiation resources at CollegeGrad.com.