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Friday, October 15, 2010

Degrees of Salary Negotiation for Job-Seekers Who Can't Afford to Say No to Job Offers

What if you can't afford to lose this job offer? Can you still negotiate for a better salary? Sure you can, but some strategies offer more risk than others.

Broke. Flat broke. It happened to Donald Trump and to almost every millionaire you can think of. At one time or other they were broke, busted. But they did not give up negotiating. It can happen to you. It will make you feel that you have to take what's offered or risk losing the offer altogether. But, getting more money is not a matter of extremes: all or nothing at all. It has gradual increments.

There are varying degrees of negotiating depending on the strength of your negotiating position. The strongest position is to be able to walk away. You can take it or leave it. That puts 90% of the negotiating advantage in your court.

The opposite end of the spectrum is "I can't afford to say no, no matter how low the offer it, I need a job paying something!"

Obviously there is a minimum acceptable income -- bigger than zero -- that's your bottom line. So it's not true that you have to take anything they offer. We'll look at your leverage and show how you can trade your leverage in successive increments as your need for security declines.

Double Lock Down
This strategy has a 99 percent chance of non-jeopardy to the job offer it gives away the most negotiating power, but gains the most job-offer security.

I must be frank with you. This job is important to me, and if the offer you just gave me was the best you could do, I would accept it, no question. However, I would like to discuss it a bit provided that you're comfortable with that. So, just to make sure... I wouldn't jeopardize this offer by discussing it would I? (Single lock down.) [No Problem.] So, I can be sure, then, that the offer as it stands is a firm one? (Double lock down.)

Single Lock Down
This strategy offers the best combination of safety and negotiating room.

Thank you for your offer. I'm delighted to receive it. May I ask you, there are a couple items I'd like to talk about to see if they could be adjusted, but I would only want to talk about them if you're okay with it. Can we talk about a few things without jeopardizing the offer as is?

This strategy presents a blend of negotiating and job offer security.

Wow. I'm so glad to get this offer. I presume it's a firm offer, right? I mean if I talked through a few things right now and took it home to really examine it thoroughly, it would still good tomorrow morning, right? [Yes] Good, because I'm better when it comes to money if I have some quiet unpressured time so I can make sure both of us will be satisfied with it.

No Lock Down
This strategy does present a small risk of losing the offer.

I appreciate your offer, and I'm sure you put some thought into it. Likewise, I've been thinking of the work, my unique contribution, and have some ideas of my own. I appreciate your offer of $X, and I think at that level we'll need to talk through this because we're just a little bit apart at the moment. Now, talking about money can sometimes be a charged or uncomfortable conversation. That's not always true, of course, but could I ask you a favor? [Yes] Could you hang in there with me until we get to a good agreement even if it gets uncomfortable. It's important to both of us, I think, to make sure we've got a compensation we'll both be happy with.

Final Thoughts
Notice, in all of these negotiations, the employer promised, in a way to keep the offer open even if you try to negotiate it higher. You can pick the level of risk you want to take, it comes at the expense of security. But you CAN negotiate and not put the job at risk.

by Jack Chapman


  1. Hi Jack,

    Good tips. Have a question. As a hiring manager with multiple years of experience, (as I am sure you are as well), when I go through the motions of selecting and interviewing several candidates and putting them through the standard process, I will only make an offer to someone when I know this is the right person for the position at this point in time and according to the current needs of the organization. So, that said, I would naturally expect that there might be some negotiation on the part of the successful candidate. If I had a set number in mind that couldn't be moved, which in this market is very common, but still believed that this candidate is the best at this point in time, it is only fair to advise the person that there is no room for flexibility and let him/her catch their breath and digest it. But I would certainly not pull the offer off the table at the moment they start discussing it. In fact, if that happened, why would anyone even want the job where they know they are this easily dispensable after rising above the competition and proving him/herself a strong and desirable candidate. Also, we all know that the process of interviewing is very involved, costly and time consuming. So should an organization really be subjected to having to go through the same process multiple times, because the offer got pulled as a matter of principle, and invest more human and financial resources, or would it at that point settle for the second best candidate who opts not to attempt negotiation?

  2. I don't have any experience negotiating jobs, but I've been studying psychology for 3 and a half years. As soon as people make a decision between two things - even if the two choices were very close to begin with - they will immediately start convincing themselves that they made the right decision. So once "chosen", a candidate would actually be a more attractive option than before the job offer was made. So I wouldn't think that an interviewer would snatch an offer away as soon as a candidate mentioned negotiation. So tell me...does the theory match up with the way hiring managers actually think?


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