What to Ask for and How

To find out if it makes sense to try to bump up the salary offer, determine the mean for your position, industry, and region of the country. “If you have any information about the terms and perks competitors offer, mention those to the person with whom you’re negotiating,” says Pri Shah, an associate professor of strategic management at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, who researches negotiation issues. “They would appreciate getting the information, since they may have few ways of acquiring that knowledge except through recruits.”

Bluntness is not your friend here. To set the negotiations in motion, here are a couple of good opening lines that gently but clearly suggest you’re looking for more out of the deal without making you look greedy: “I’d really like to accept the offer and get started, but maybe you could help me with a few concerns so the job will fit better with my life,” or “I just wanted to know if there are any aspects to your package that are negotiable.”

Avoid the “Oh, yeah, one more thing” style of negotiating. “If you start trickling new requests in, the employer will feel like they’re getting nickel-and-dimed,” says Shah. First, they gave you extra on the bonus, and now you’re asking for more vacation days; they gave you more vacation days, and now you’re asking for more training. Show that you’ve thought of everything by presenting all of your concerns and desires up front and together.

Sometimes in large organizations a starting pay grade automatically limits what your employer is allowed to negotiate, and any increase must wait until your first evaluation. So . . . negotiate an early evaluation! Try for six months instead of a year.

If you don’t need to relocate, you might use that to score an incentive package within your first year. Try saying, “I’m not getting any moving expenses because I already live here, but if I do X, Y, and Z in three months, perhaps the moving money could act as a bonus then.” Tie it to your performance, which is always better than trying to get something for nothing.

Keep your requests within the value system of the company. “I had a guy who was interviewing for a high-risk financial job,” says G. Richard Shell, professor of legal studies and business ethics and management at Wharton and the author of Bargaining for Advantage. “Against my advice, he chose to negotiate a reduction in the amount of bonus compensation and an increase in base salary. Trying to negotiate your way out of risk at a risk-taking firm is going to send exactly the wrong signal. The company withdrew the offer.”

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