7 Steps for Negotiating Your Offer of Employment

July 28, 2014 Tara Veysey

One of the best parts about working with clients in career transition is when I get the call saying “I’ve got an offer”.  This is the end game so it’s very good news and I truly share in their excitement. This excitement is often quickly followed with “What do I do now?”  Euphoria is replaced with – “I’ve forgotten everything about negotiating an offer. Can you help me?”

My golden rule in negotiating your new offer is this - you never want your negotiations to cause your future employer to question why they presented you with an offer in the first place. This is not a union negotiation!  I have seen organizations rescind offers due to the way that  candidates conducted their employment negotiations. Remember, both parties want to feel good during this process so it’s very important that the manner in which you negotiate comes across as positive and professional and reinforces the employer’s decision to present you with an offer.

Before you begin negotiating, have a heart-to-heart conversation with yourself to confirm that you do in fact want to work in this organization. Ask yourself questions such as:

  • Can I do the work? Will I enjoy it?
  • Is the work challenging? Does it align with my values?
  • Is there sufficient creativity involved?
  • Is there leadership potential?
  • Does the job offer a sufficient degree of independence?

If you can’t answer yes to most of these preliminary questions then the role may not be for you.  However, if you can answer yes to these questions , then enter into your employment negotiations in good faith. In other words, if your potential employer was willing to give you everything you would like, would you accept the offer?  Be honest with yourself.

Let`s assume you are confident and would like to move forward. You haven`t accepted the offer as of yet because you can`t go back and negotiate once you have.Here are 7 steps for ensuring your negotiations go smoothly once you have received an offer:

1. Let the organization know that you:

  • are delighted to receive its offer;
  • need some time to review everything because this is a big decision;
  • will get back to them at a certain point in the future – typically not longer than 3 business days or they will start to question your desire to join; and
  • are very excited by the prospect of joining the company.

This strategy buys you some time but also gives the organization what it  needs to hear - a positive emotional response from you about joining the company.

2. Identify all the things that you like about the offer and make a list of these items. You want to think very broadly on this:

  • Type of job an d type of organization?
  • Is it your dream industry? 
  • What leader will you be reporting to?
  • What will your commute time be?
  • How will accepting this position impact your career path?
  • What are the vacation benefits?
  • Will there be professional development opportunities?
  • What are the financial aspects of the offer?

Not every component will be equally weighted so a rating and weighting scale may be helpful to quantitatively evaluate your offer.

3. Ensure you have all of the data to evaluate the offer. You only have one chance to go back to the organization to negotiate so be sure that you not only have the offer letter in writing, but other elements such as benefit and pension plan documentation.  If there is something referenced in the offer letter and you don’t have it – ask if you can review this documentation so you are evaluating as much information as you can before you begin your negotiations.  Special Note: if you are working through a search firm, let them know that you are very positive about the offer, but you don`t feel comfortable giving a verbal acceptance until you see all of the documentation.

4. Identify the items that you want to negotiate. Your list should be somewhere between 0 – 5 items. Start with the most important point in your discussions. On occasion I have worked with clients who are surprised that the first offer had everything they wanted. This was likely due to the fact that the organization really listened to them during the interview stage, but not all negotiations will be so smooth. Below are some factors to consider, although you should not negotiate on all these points. 

  • Base salary (hourly/per diem/contract rates)
  • Incentive bonus package: possibly based on company, team, or individual performance 
  • Benefits (e.g., insurance, dental, optical, extra health, company discounts)
  • Pension - contributory, otherwise 
  • Automobile - leased or allowance, parking reimbursement, gas allowance 
  • Mobile device 
  • Vacation - number of weeks; timing of when they can be taken 
  • Stock options, bonus or profit sharing 
  • Home office set-up (e.g., computer, phone, etc.)
  • Travel expenses, toll-highway reimbursement, etc. 
  • Employment relocation costs 
  • Professional association memberships 
  • Professional development fees 
  • Club memberships 
  • Tuition reimbursement 
  • Employee discounts 
  • Flexible hours or virtual office

5. Do your homework.  Prepare questions to clarify any of the above components as they are relevant to you and the role you are seeking.

6. Always approach the individual that has tabled the offer to you and start off with the positive aspects of the offer, the things that you like about the offer ( see step no. 2 above). This is to ensure that the organization is hearing why you want to join the company and that you are excited about the offer. Below is a sample script:

"I've had the opportunity to review all of the material that you have provided and I really appreciate this and what I`m most excited by is ..."

7. Next state what you are looking for – both the clarifying questions and what you want to negotiate in their offer. You might position it by saying something like “I have some questions that I was hoping you could answer for me.”


  • "Could you confirm for me when in your performance cycle that I would be eligible for a salary review?"
  • "How many vacation days would I be eligible for in year 2 or when would the vacation days increase during my tenure at your organization?"

It’s important to ask the clarifying questions first because depending on the responses you may adjust your negotiation points.

Negotiation Sample Script:

  • "I was also hoping to negotiate the following items with respect to the offer."  (i.e.: salary, vacation, and professional development.)
  • "I do look at this as a total package and so I was wondering if there was any room to move on the base salary. Ideally I would like to see it go to x."
  • "Would there be any room to move on the vacation days? In my previous role I was at x days and I was hoping to keep it at this given where I am in my career."
  • "And finally, continuous development is very important to me and I am already enrolled in this course. Because it is directly related to my position at your organization – would you be willing to cover the costs?"
  • "I understand you may need to think about these requests and I look forward to hearing back from you with a favorable response."
  • "If we are able to come to agreement on these points then I`d love to talk to you about when you would like me to start because I am very eager to join your organization."

How these negotiations evolve is the beginning of the relationship with your future employer. This stage is not just about the physical employment contract; it’s also about the psychological contract that exists between you and your future organization.

These 7 steps are intended to help you get clarity in your own mind on the employment negotiation process and set you up for success once you`ve signed your offer and started with your new company.  Best of luck in your new position!

About the Author

Tara Veysey

Tara Veysey is a Senior Consultant at Lee Hecht Harrison Knightsbridge. She is an experienced facilitator and coach in the areas of career transition and management. Tara works with executives, senior leaders, and senior-level technical individual contributors where she excels in helping individuals understand their potential, how to position themselves in the world of work, and creating action plans for success.

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