So, you made it through the interview process and have been given the keys to the kingdom – the coveted job offer. Congratulations! After the initial rush of being “chosen”, however, you quickly realize that the salary isn’t quite what you wanted. What should you do? As with most things, a little preparation can go a long way. Start by determining your “needs” vs. your “wants”. It is important to know the difference between what you need to make and what you want to make. You certainly wouldn’t want to take a job that doesn’t cover your budget, it wouldn’t meet your needs! But, be realistic in your wants – the sky is not the limit when it comes to salary and you may price yourself out of a great opportunity. Do some research to determine what similar positions would pay. Make sure you aren’t comparing apples to oranges though – chose similar positions, locations and industries when doing your market research.
If you decide that you want to try to negotiate for a higher salary, be sure to chose your words carefully; you don’t want to offend the employer and end the process before it has begun. It is better to say “That is a very generous offer but I was looking for $X, is the salary negotiable?” than to say “You’re kidding, right? I deserve $X”. Determine your “bottom line” salary before you try to negotiate the offer so you know if the salary is going to be a deal breaker. If the salary isn’t negotiable, but meets your needs, look at the other terms and conditions of employment to see if you can make a ‘good’ offer even better.
Benefits, paid time off (“PTO”), culture, and opportunity for advancement are all key elements of a job offer.
- Benefits typically are not negotiable, for various legal reasons we won’t discuss, but COBRA coverage may be an option. COBRA allows you to stay on your current group plan after you’ve left employment but requires you to pay up to 102% of the cost. It doesn’t hurt to ask if your new company will cover or split the COBRA costs until you meet the eligibility period for your new plan.
- PTO is probably the most negotiated element of the job offer. It traditionally includes: vacation, sick, personal and bereavement time. The new company is offering you 10 days of PTO but you were hoping for 15, it doesn’t hurt to ask for more. Also ask about paid holidays, which may or may not be part of your PTO bank. Keep work-life balance in perspective when you are evaluating PTO days.
- Culture is also important when deciding if the job offer is worth accepting. You cannot change the culture so make sure it’s a good fit before you say “yes”. If you enjoy flexible hours, a relaxed dress code and an informal environment, don’t say yes to a job that has a strict schedule , requires you to wear a suit and enforces rigid work rules.
- Realistically, this isn’t going to be the last job in your career so make sure to consider the opportunities for advancement – does the company offer training, is there tuition assistance, will you be able to gain new experiences. If the answer is yes, that may tip the balance in favor of accepting the offer.
Don’t let a salary that isn’t exactly what you were hoping for derail a good opportunity – it’s not all about the Benjamins. If the salary meets your needs but not your desires, look at other ways to sweeten the deal!