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Getting Ready to Negotiate

When do I negotiate?

Negotiate only after a company has given you a formal offer but before you formally agree to accept the position.

Negotiate only if you are willing to commit to the position.


In order to successfully negotiate, you need to understand the areas you can negotiate and collect data that will allow you to provide evidence and justify your request. The more information you have, the better. Having concrete data, such as salaries for comparable positions and cost of living, will enable you to be realistic yet confident in your request. (Though it is often better to argue for a higher salary based on the value you add rather than external factors like cost of living.) It is also important to understand what details you may need to clarify before negotiating.

Assess Your Leverage

In negotiation, leverage is a measure of which individual has a greater ability to influence the other. Job candidates usually think that the employer has all the leverage, but this is not necessarily true. At the point that the employer has extended a job offer, the candidate has the power to accept or reject the offer. You should consider the following to help assess your leverage:

  • Time: Time is a commonly on your side as a job seeker. If the employer wants you to make a decision quickly, you have increased leverage.
  • Competition: The amount of leverage will depend on the number of qualified candidates available to the employer.
  • Need and desire: The balance of leverage in this category will shift depending on how much you need and want the position. How many other offers do you have? Is this your dream job?

Prioritize and Set Goals

Know what you want before you negotiate. In evaluating your job offer, determine the issues that are important to you and prioritize. But don’t forget to consider the issues that are important to the employer. Try to find things that may be critical to the employer but that you are willing to concede in the negotiation (e.g., start date). Remember that this process is a give and take, and it is in the interest of both parties to try come to a mutually beneficial agreement.

Plan the Conversation

After you have prioritized your needs and set some goals, map out different paths the negotiation conversation could take. What happens if they say yes to a particular request? What if they say no?

When you negotiate, try to discuss items in the order in which they are valued by you, and to not feel the need to go through the entire list if you are satisfied. If they agree to your highest priority, for example, you may end the conversation there. But if they cannot meet your request on that item, you may want to continue with your next highest priority.

Mapping out the conversation prepares you for various possibilities and lets you stay on track during what can be a stressful conversation.