Negotiating for Employment

A fair amount of negotiation takes place in the workplace regarding employment. Typically the employer has the upper hand; however, your ability to sway a negotiation will help achieve the terms you deem favorable.

When should I negotiate?

For candidates actively pursuing work, negotiate when you have multiple offers. Negotiation helps confirm a range of pay will be acceptable upon entry, or can help negotiate upfront that you will perform like crazy, prove your worth, then receive desired pay after probation.

Negotiation often backfires for internal employees. If you tell your current employer that you have another job offer, they may feel pressure to counter offer, which creates ill will. The negotiating employee is often not being honest as there are undisclosed environmental issues that prompted resignation. Upon acceptance, the employee will leave within six months on average.

What is negotiable?

Any portion of the employment agreement is negotiable, including:  time off, contributions towards certain benefits, office hours, reporting structure, etc. Ideally employee handbook policies are written in general terms so that there is room for negotiation. Employers recognize real talent and years of experience, so if you have those qualities, then you’re in a good position. For example, if you can do the job description easily, but your work experience traditionally has been to report to a VP versus a director position as advertised, then ask for the VP as a condition.

What are the boundaries?

You know when you are being greedy or not. The pig gets fat and the hog gets butchered. This will likely be the character you establish going forward. Are you coming from a position of strength? How willing and how hard will you push? Be assertive and truthful; lying about having a counter offer when you don’t is discouraged.

Should I tell them I have another job offer?    

It depends on the relationship. The employer can just walk away if they have a candidate of equal value, and may have the perception that you do not really want to work for them. On the other hand, starting a relationship with open and honest communication can display transparency and confidence. By telling the employer that you really like their company and negotiate in a non-threatening manner will engender respect.

Overall, negotiating is selling a relationship. When you determine what risk you are willing to take, you have won either way because you defined success in your own terms.

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson, Tom Miller, and Nissa Jimenez, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.