Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham: "Show the employer how meeting your request is in his or her interest insofar as you will feel well-rewarded and more loyal."
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What should you do once you receive a job offer?

When you receive an offer, you should first and foremost thank the employer and genuinely express your interest in the position. This will lay the groundwork for a positive discussion if you pursue the position and decide to negotiate. Even if you know that you will accept the position, ask for time to consider the offer to make an informed decision. This request is customary, it gives you bargaining room and allows you time to think clearly.

Keep your options open and continue to interview at other companies until you have all the information needed to make a final decision. However, once an offer has been accepted, all scheduled interviews must be cancelled.

What are the steps for negotiating salaries?

If you decide to negotiate compensation, you must be prepared. Be sure to research salaries at similar organisations, in the same job function, and in the same industry and geographic location. Your career service centre and employment reports (available on most MBA schools’ websites) would be good places to start your salary research. Before your conversation, think about the alternative salary you want the employer to consider — effective negotiation is not an “either/or” discussion.

Always keep in mind what the employer wants. Show the employer how meeting your request is in his or her interest insofar as you will feel well-rewarded and more loyal. Reinforce your interest in the company’s goals, the skills and experience you offer, and your desire to be part of their team.

What should I say when negotiating my ideal salary?

It is important to remain upbeat, positive and excited about the opportunity throughout the conversation. Recruiters want to bring in people who genuinely want to work for the company. Here is example of what to say:

“Thank you for this offer. I am excited about the opportunity. I enjoyed meeting everyone and would be able to make an immediate contribution. I bring with me x number years of experience in the industry and, given my relevant experience, my ability to make an immediate impact and industry averages, I would like to request x.”

How can I persuade the employer to reconsider my requested salary?

You can try to negotiate other parts of the compensation package, like signing bonus, vacation, relocation package and start date.

You can also try to negotiate a six-month performance appraisal (as opposed to the typical annual appraisals) and, if you meet certain goals, get an increase in six months as opposed to a year.

If you have another offer, especially with a company in the same industry, or you know of peers who have received higher offers with a similar company, you may be able to use that information as leverage. Companies like to offer competitive salaries to their peers. I have seen a couple of instances where companies increased the starting salary in order to stay competitive.

Above all, do not present alternatives, such as the threat that you will go elsewhere, unless you are ready to follow through with it.

What are the other benefits that can be negotiated beyond salary?

In some cases, it might be easier to negotiate other areas beyond salary when discussing an offer with the employer. For example, it may be easier to ask for an additional week of vacation than an extra $5,000. Or it may be easier to obtain a higher signing bonus than a higher base salary. Other areas that may be open to negotiation include relocation expenses, travel/parking costs, flexibility in starting date and training opportunities.

At this stage, do not negotiate working hours such as flexitime. It helps to perform successfully on the job for a period of time before exploring this option.

You should have a good idea of the work culture as you would have met some of the employees, perhaps through informational interviews, and visited the company. In most cases, you would likely not have stayed in the recruiting process if the company was not a good cultural fit.

How do you know which job offer is the best fit?

When deciding the most suitable offer, accept the position that excites you the most. This will be where the work itself is compelling, where a long-term opportunity is greatest and where the environment is the best “fit” for you. Compensation should only be part of what you consider. You will excel in the environment that adheres well with your personality, skills and priorities. When you excel, money often follows.

It is important to think about whether the company, job, location, salary and benefits meet your needs. Also, analyse whether you are able to build a rapport with your hiring manager and employees.

How should you politely decline an offer?

Display a positive and professional approach in your correspondence, and be careful not to burn bridges. Express appreciation for the opportunity and briefly explain that you have accepted another offer.

If appropriate, offer to connect them to other qualified people in your network. You never know when you may want an offer in the future, and staying in contact will help develop your professional network.

Cynthia Saunders-Cheatham is executive director of the career management centre, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University in the US.

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