Just as you shouldn't reject an offer too quickly, take time to think about accepting a job, too. Accepting a reasonable offer right away can be a mistake. Germann and Arnold list the following considerations that many people ignore in the rush to accept or reject a job offer:
• Is the job description (duties, responsibilities, and authority) clear?
• What is the employer's attitude toward advancement?
• Who will you be working with?
If you don't have a straight answer yet for these questions, don't make a move you could regret. Instead, keep plugging away until the picture comes into clear focus.
Also, discussing the offer with others before saying yes is often wise. Here is one way to delay until you can give the offer some thought: "Thank you for the offer. The position is very much what I wanted in many ways, and I am delighted at your interest. This decision is an important one for me, and I would like some time to consider your offer."
Ask for 24 hours to consider your decision and, when calling back, consider negotiating for something reasonable. A bit more money, every other Tuesday afternoon off, or some other benefit would be nice if you can get it easily. However, if you want the job, do not jeopardize obtaining it with unreasonable demands. If your request causes a problem, make it very clear that you want the job anyway.
They Offer, You Want It-Now It's Time to Negotiate!
The employer you've spent the past two weeks wooing has opened the bidding with a lukewarm figure-one that would certainly pay your bills and yet is somewhat below what you feel you are worth. But exactly how should you ask for more? You aren't a professional athlete with a savvy manager to wheel and deal the details, and isn't the time limit on this opportunity short?
Tip: Always heed the advice Tom Jackson dishes out in Interview Express: Negotiations should never be angry or emotional, no matter how much pressure there is on either side. Assert your value so that the employer will view you as a highly worthwhile addition rather than as someone who is overpriced.
Knowing Your Price
At this stage of the game you're in tune with industry standards and local pay ranges and have correctly "encouraged" the interviewer to name the opening dollar figure. But there's one final ingredient you must have squared away before you make a counteroffer: How much cash and fringe benefits will it take to make you accept the position?
Michael Schatzki, owner of the New Jersey-based Negotiation Dynamics, recommends that you know your worst case or Least Acceptable Settlement (LAS) and your best possible result or Maximum Supportable Position (MSP). You come up with these numbers through your research on the industry and a serious study of your personal financial position. Plan to start the bidding at your MSP, but should the offer fail to rise above your LAS, continue job hunting.
Playing the Negotiation Game
As Job and Career Building points out, the first number the interviewer mentions is rarely the highest possible salary offer. But in the spirit of the negotiating game, you can't blurt that out to the person on the other side of the table. So when that initial salary figure is mentioned, your first reaction must be silence. According to authors Richard Germann and Peter Arnold, your silence signals two things:
1. You are carefully considering the offer.
2. You are not satisfied with it.
Words at this moment weaken your position because they require the interviewer to defend his or her offer. In fact, Haldane Associates has discovered that in more than 50 percent of all situations where silence is used, the interviewers cough up a higher figure without further discussion!
However, when a better offer isn't immediately forthcoming, one of two things will happen: The interviewer will either explain the offer or ask for your reaction. In the first instance, the Job and Career Building authors recommend you listen politely but continue your thoughtful silence as long as necessary. In the latter case, indicate that you are enthusiastic about the job, but the offer is on the modest side. Then suggest continuing the discussion at another meeting-the following day, if possible.
Unfortunately many job candidates interpret this tactic as "playing hard to get." Haldane Associates scoffs at this label, and so should you. In fact, this consulting firm has interviewed a number of employers who have stated that employees who handle themselves well during their salary negotiations were treated with greater respect and given more opportunities to advance within the organization.