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Can I negotiate when I receive a job offer?

Can I negotiate when I receive a job offer?

The simple answer to this question is yes, and you absolutely should if you feel the pay isn’t right or the details need to be tweaked. You may be tempted to grab the offer without thinking twice, but remember that this job will take up a huge amount of your time and energy, so make sure that it meets your needs as well as you meeting theirs.

More than ten years ago I applied for my first publishing job. I knew it was the job for me but the pay was scandalous. They were looking for a graduate with a second language and it paid less than the temporary admin work I had been doing since leaving university. I was prepared to take a pay cut to get into the industry, but I also had to pay my bills.

When the job offer eventually came through I was elated. I had made it! But I knew I couldn’t afford to live on the salary. So I bit the bullet and asked my new boss if he would consider upping the wage to cover my travel expenses. There was a long, agonising pause. But then he calmly agreed and sent me a revised contract. It was a small victory but a necessary one, and it stood me in good stead when it came to negotiating salary increases down the line, both at that company and with subsequent employers. 

If you want to negotiate your job offer, remember the following:

  1. Have a salary target in mind and bring up the issue of pay in your interview. Find out what the going rate for this particular role is and put this to your employer. You don’t necessarily have to aim for the highest end of the scale, but make sure you are in the right ballpark. Avoid pricing yourself out of the job, but make sure you have a clear idea in mind in case your interviewer asks what sort of wage you are looking for.
  2. Work out what the lowest salary you can afford to take would be and note down your ideal salary. Then when the job offer comes through you can negotiate something in between these two points. If the salary offered is way below what you were expecting and there’s no wiggle room, you are not obliged to take the job at all. If it’s a little low and your prospective employer is open to discussion, try to bring it up to a level that suits without sounding too mercenary. A couple of extra hundred or thousand pounds a year could make a big difference. It might be that you are offered a future pay rise if you meet certain targets or make it through the probationary period. This might be a compromise you’re willing to make, but make sure you get anything agreed over the phone in writing.
  3. Check your contracted hours. Perhaps the salary is fine but you need more flexibility. If you don’t negotiate this before you start work it will be much more difficult once you are in the role. Whether you need to start a little later each day to fit in the school run or would like to work from home one day a week, make your preferences clear and ask in a calm, clear way.
  4. Read the small print. It might be that you are expected to give three months’ notice or your holiday allocation is pitiful. Read through all the details included in your job offer and contract before you make a decision. There may be a way to negotiate these details in addition to salary and working hours.
  5. Ask about added benefits. If you’re expected to travel considerable distances for work, you could ask about a company car and expense account. Or perhaps you are looking for private health insurance as part of your job offer, or have questions about bonuses. These aren’t necessarily deal breakers, but it’s important that you know exactly what’s being offered before you take the job.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate. If your new company really wants you on board they may be willing to sweeten the deal. If not, you will have to decide whether the offer is acceptable as it stands or whether you need to look for other options.