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Advice / Job Search / Job Offer

Stop! Don't Try to Negotiate Your Offer Over Email

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Congrats! That job offer’s shiny and exciting, and you earned it. Pat yourself on the back for a job well done, and then take a deep breath because it’s time to…drum roll, please…negotiate!

Even though you’re 99% certain you’re going to accept the offer, you’re not about to do it without negotiating. That’s just common sense. But do you know there’s a right way to negotiate and a wrong way?

Jennifer Fink, a Muse Career Coach who works with clients often on this very thing, understands that “most people want to go for the safety of writing it in email,” but insists that it’s not only not the best route, it’s, in fact, “a bad idea.” If your goal is to make the requests (increase in salary, guaranteed flex time, additional vacation days) feel like they’re a part of an open dialogue between you and the employer—not a list of demands—email defeats the purpose.

Thus, even if the employer extends the offer letter through email (and they should, though ideally, this’ll follow a phone call), you want to be sure to initiate a phone conversation before accepting or putting anything in writing. Negotiation should be done offline.

Fink explains that it’s likely to be a short conversation. “One or both parties may need to take the information learned in the call to craft and propose a modified offer,” she says. But, let’s take a step back. Before the call, you’ll want to send a straightforward, short-and-sweet email that simply “conveys enthusiasm for the job and asks for an appropriate time to discuss a few details:

Hi [Name],

I’m excited about the offer and was wondering if you have some time this week to discuss a few questions I have?

I look forward to speaking with you.


[Your Name]

With that out of the way, you can prepare for the call. Plan for 30 minutes, Fink advises though you’ll probably only need 10-20. Make sure you have access to a quiet place to speak and limit all distractions. Fink says it can be “beneficial to set up your space to boost your confidence.

Have your notes in front of you in case you get flustered during the call to refer back to. Is there a picture of someone that puts you at ease? Do you have some notes from your colleagues or friends that convey how awesome you are? Sometimes having these in your line of sight as the call approaches and during the call can ease your nerves.”

While it’s impossible to write out an example conversation (especially considering that it’s highly dependent on a person’s interests and concerns), here’s a little peak at what you might expect.

You: “Thanks for making the time to speak with me today. I’m thrilled for the opportunity to join X company and have enjoyed getting to know everyone so far. I would like to discuss a few details of this offer with you; is now a good time to do that?”

Hiring Manager: “Yes, what would you like to discuss?”

You: “I’d like to discuss the salary included in the offer. In researching this type of role, in the San Francisco area, and for someone with my experience and education level, I was anticipating an offer closer to $130k. What kind of flexibility is there in getting closer to that number?”

[Note: Be careful not to over-ask here, but if you do, this article explains how to recover.]

Hiring Manager: “I understand your concerns here. Unfortunately, all of our graduating hires start at the same range so it will not be possible to increase that amount.”

You: “OK, thanks for sharing, I can understand that limitation. Let me share with you that my concern here is my ability to cover my cost of moving to the west coast, while paying back substantial student debt. Could we discuss opportunities for relocation or tuition reimbursement?”

Hiring Manager: “I do believe we have programs available for both of those, but I’ll have to discuss with my HR team and get back with you on that. What else would you like to discuss?”

At this point, if there’s anything else you want to address, you can do so. Or, you can thank the hiring manager and end the call with the understanding that they’ll get back to you when they have an answer to your requests. Keep in mind that as “you’re conducting a negotiation you should leverage what you learn to make trade-offs,” recommends Fink.

It’s an important conversation, and you want to do everything in your power to have it go as smoothly as possible. Preparation’s key, and doesn’t just include knowing what your compensation package should look like (hint: it’s more than just your salary), but also being armed with responses to these four lines that are bound to catch you off guard.

The more you know, right?

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