As a reputable Recruiting and Staffing agency in the Tech and Digital space, we are constantly helping clients and candidates navigate and negotiate job offers. Interestingly, according to HRD, 73% of U.S. employers anticipate a salary negotiation on an initial job offer, but only 45% of candidates even broach the topic. Is the company offering exactly what you expected or as a candidate, maybe you didn’t know how to (or that you can) negotiate?
There’s actually an art to negotiating. Some feel uncomfortable asking for a higher salary, more comprehensive benefits or anything not specified in the offer, but remember the company is expecting you will. You’re likely leaving money, benefits and perks on the table if you remain silent.
We’ve put together our top recommendations for getting over that hump when you’re evaluating and negotiating a job offer.
Tip #1: Understand the Job Offer
This sounds basic, but you’d be surprised how many candidates sign on the dotted line without reading the entire job offer, including the fine print, or asking questions. First and foremost, ensure the roles and responsibilities are clear. If not, ask questions and document responses in case anything needs to be adjusted in the contract.
You also want to make sure the position and job offer align with your career goals and aspirations. SHRM reports that nearly 90% of candidates abandon the hiring process “due to at least one mismatch in employee value proposition preferences [like] compensation and benefits, but also things like flexibility in working hours, career pathing, skills development, team diversity and management style.” Determine what’s important to you, and if it’s not in the offer, negotiate or walk.
Tip #2: Determine if You Fit in Their Culture
Whether you work remotely or physically in the company office, you will likely be collaborating with others for hours on end on a daily basis. It sure helps when you all get along. This sentiment goes beyond simply liking your coworkers. It begins with company culture.
Company culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that define the overall working environment within an organization. It encompasses the company’s mission, vision, and core principles, as well as the norms and expectations that shape how employees interact and work together. Companies with a strong culture find employees are 72% more engaged than those in companies without one. It’s a big deal and worth investigating before you jump on board.
Tip #3: Understand Growth Opportunities
Did you know that lack of growth opportunities is among the top reasons employees quit their jobs? In fact, in the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Work in America workforce survey, 91% of respondents said growth opportunities are important to them.
No one wants to be stuck. Make sure you understand the level at which you’re starting with the company and the growth plan for that role. Whether you’re looking for vertical or horizontal growth, you need to see the plan in writing so there are no misunderstandings later.
Tip #4: Evaluate the Compensation Package
Compensation is often not just what’s on your paycheck. There are often several components of an offer you should consider:
Base salary refers to the fixed amount of money that you will earn on a regular basis, typically expressed as an annual figure. It is the amount the employer agrees to pay you for your work, excluding any additional compensation such as bonuses or commissions. The base salary serves as the foundation for your total compensation package and is usually paid in regular intervals, such as monthly or bi-weekly.
Does your base salary match up with your compensation progression as your career evolves? Does it at least meet market standards for the role? Agencies like Zilker Partners have a front-row seat to industry trends and base salaries, so leverage their knowledge to be certain.
Bonus Structure (if applicable)
A bonus structure refers to the specific arrangement or plan put in place by the company to provide additional compensation based on certain performance criteria or predetermined goals. It is a way for companies to incentivize and reward employees for their contributions and achievements beyond their regular salary. Bonus structures can vary widely depending on the industry, company size, and individual job roles.
The offer should be clear in defining the bonus structure and what it’s based on. Key components bonuses are based on are individual performance, company performance, and organizational performance. By which of these will you be incentivized? Get it in writing if it’s not already.
Stock Options and Long-Term Incentives (LTI) (if applicable)
Stock options are a type of financial instrument that companies offer to employees as a form of compensation. Not all companies extend them, but if they do, they give you the right to purchase a certain number of company shares at a predetermined price, known as the strike price, within a specified period of time. You can benefit from the company’s future growth and increase in stock value.
Long-term incentives are a component of a compensation package that is designed to reward employees for their long-term commitment and performance. These incentives are typically offered in the form of stock options, restricted stock units (RSUs), or performance-based bonuses that vest over a period of time, often several years. By offering these incentives, employers aim to motivate employees to stay with the company and contribute to its long-term success.
If you’re fortunate enough to have this option included in your compensation package, be sure you understand the equity, vesting schedule and other key variables. There is often fine print and dependencies involved.
Company benefits range by employer and can also differ based on your level in the company and your role. The following are the most common you should confirm:
- Health, dental, and vision benefits
- 401(k) plan and matching
- Personal time off (PTO) and vacation policy
- Company holidays
- Remote, hybrid or in-office expectations
- Other unique perks such as gym memberships, childcare, catered lunches, etc.
Curious as to which benefits employees say matter most? According to People Keep, health benefits, wellness benefits, flexible work schedules, retirement benefits, PTO, professional development, and education benefits are all cited as highly valued.
Key Points in Navigating the Job Negotiation Process
Now that you know what to look for in your job offer, it’s time to sharpen your negotiation skills. This is your chance to present your case as to why you deserve more, whether it be salary, benefits, or growth opportunities. Once you sign the contract, you’re bound to it for at least a year typically. The more you can get upfront, the better your starting position. Here are our best recommendations for negotiating your job offer:
- Make sure you were upfront in the beginning on salary expectations. If the expectation isn’t met in the offer, you can reference that you were transparent upfront.
- Be assertive while still being open-minded and collaborative. You don’t want to come across as abrasive or condescending, but you also have to protect your compensation goals and objectives.
- Be clear and concise in identifying the gaps in the offer letter and presenting counter points. Make sure you can justify any asks. This may include detailing previous experience, unique skills, current compensation, or any value you bring to the table.
- If you have counteroffers, be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each offer. Don’t just consider compensation but what is best for your career and progression. It’s helpful to ask yourself, “In five years, where would I gain more experience and be more marketable for my next career move? In addition, if you do have other offers, let those companies know. It often speeds up the process and demands a more compelling offer if they understand you have options.
Finding a job is only half the battle. Getting the salary, benefits, growth opportunities, cultural fit and perks you want are the other half and often takes some massaging. If the offer isn’t what you hoped for, put together your case and be confident in negotiating an offer that better aligns. You may not get everything you want, but if you negotiate it right, you’re likely to get close. Just remember they want you. They spend a lot of time and money recruiting candidates, and if they’ve offered you a position, it’s cheaper and faster for them to negotiate with you than to let you go and start the recruiting process over again. You don’t want to be greedy, but you also don’t want to leave money and other important aspects on the table. There is a middle ground where both you and the company walk away feeling good.