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Woman in an office setting negotiating a job offer with her potential employer.

How to Negotiate a Job Offer

If you’re on the job hunt, receiving offers marks a significant milestone. However, it’s rare for an offer to meet all your needs or expectations right away, so the search is likely not yet over. The next step is negotiation.

Negotiating job offers is a skill that can profoundly impact your career trajectory. Contrary to common misconceptions, negotiation isn’t about confrontation or taking advantage of others. Rather, it’s about ensuring that the opportunity you’re being offered aligns with your goals and needs.

To navigate this phase of the job search process effectively, consider the following actionable strategies to help you learn how to negotiate a job offer with confidence and clarity.

  1. Send a Thank You Note

As soon as you receive an offer letter, make sure you thank the hiring manager or recruiter. Then, let them know you’ll take some time to review the offer, making sure you express your excitement for the opportunity.

If a company is pressuring you to quickly accept an offer or conveys a “take it or leave it” attitude, it’s often a red flag. Despite the pressure, make sure to thoroughly review the offer letter before accepting.

  1. Review Your Self-Assessment Criteria (Or Perform One if You Haven’t Done So Already)

Before starting the job search journey, you likely evaluated and defined your strengths, values, personality traits, preferred work environment, and key motivators. If you did, revisit these factors to ensure clarity before reviewing your offer letter against those criteria.

If you didn’t define them earlier in your search process, well, there’s no time like the present! Take a moment to identify the factors that will influence your success and satisfaction in a new role. They’ll help you to determine whether you should accept the job offer you just received.

Understanding these aspects of yourself can assist in determining if a company or position is a suitable fit. It’s possible to encounter a job that doesn’t align with any of these criteria, signaling it may not be the right fit for you. And that’s okay. Recognizing this is valuable! Therefore, take the time to assess whether the offer aligns with your needs and preferences.

  1. Clarify Your Non-NegotiablesNegotiating a job offer begins with a thorough self-assessment to understand your needs and priorities. But beyond salary, consider factors like benefits, work-life balance, career growth opportunities, and company culture. Prioritize these needs based on their importance to you. Some may be negotiable, while others are non-negotiable.

Non-negotiables are aspects of the offer that you’re unwilling to compromise on, rooted in your core values or personal circumstances. These could include specific benefits, work conditions, or salary requirements necessary for you to accept the offer. 

  1. Evaluate The Job Offer Under Three Main Criteria

To review the job offer, pay attention to the following:

    1. First, identify the aspects that align with your criteria; the elements you deemed most crucial for this stage of your career.
    2. Then, take note of any parts of the job offer that you don’t understand completely or that raise questions. It’s perfectly normal for some details to remain unclear, as not everything may be outlined in the offer letter.
    3. Finally, highlight areas that require definite negotiation. These are the aspects clearly stated in the offer letter that don’t resonate with your criteria, needs, or preferences. 

As you do this, make sure you take notes or write down the criteria in a three-column table, where you classify each factor as “meets expectations,” “needs clarification,” and “to be negotiated,” or similar categories.

  1. Determine What Needs to Change and in What WayWhatever aligns with your criteria is great news! You’ve identified what matters most, and you’re content with these aspects.

For areas where questions remain, compile a list to discuss with the recruiter or hiring manager. Sometimes, a little extra information or clarification is all that’s needed. For instance, if your self-assessment indicates a preference for hybrid roles with partial remote work, such as two days a week in-office, and this isn’t explicitly stated in the offer letter, include it on your list.

Regarding the areas you’ve pinpointed as needing improvement or negotiation to better match your criteria, take time to consider what specifically needs to change and how. While salary might be the first consideration, numerous other factors could be adjusted to better align the role with your motivators, strengths, and preferred work environment. 

  1. Be As Specific as PossibleOnce you’ve identified what requires some adjustment and are clear about how to address it, review your notes meticulously to ensure specificity. For instance, if the job was advertised as hybrid but the offer letter implies only one day per week of remote work, you may need to negotiate this aspect. However, it’s crucial to be precise. Do you want two designated days for remote work? Three? Or would you prefer a flexible schedule based on hours? Perhaps you’d prefer working in the office during mornings and remotely from after lunch until five.

Being specific enables you to negotiate with clear objectives, enhancing your chances of achieving a favorable outcome.

  1. Define Your BATNAPart of this process involves considering alternative options, especially if you’ve received multiple offer letters or if you’re considering a new offer relative to your current position. One effective strategy is to evaluate your BATNA—your Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.

In essence, BATNA refers to the course of action you’d take if the current negotiations fail and no agreement is reached. Understanding your BATNA is crucial because it helps you assess the relative value of any proposed agreement. If the proposed agreement is worse than your BATNA, then it’s advisable to reject it and pursue your BATNA instead. On the other hand, if the proposed agreement is better than your BATNA, then it might be worth accepting.

  1. Compare Against Your Criteria and Not Among Offers

If you have another job offer or are contemplating remaining in your current role, it’s essential to assess how each opportunity aligns with your criteria. That is, rather than comparing one opportunity against the other, it’s more beneficial to evaluate each option individually against your predetermined criteria. Ask yourself, “How well does each option meet my needs and preferences?”

This approach ensures objectivity in decision-making. While comparing options against each other might initially seem to lead to the best decision, it could overlook aspects that hold significant importance to you. By assessing each option against your self-determined criteria, you’re less likely to overlook critical factors.

With your self-assessment information at hand, you can not only identify which option deserves more attention but also plan your negotiation strategy more thoughtfully. 

  1. Consider the Entire Package & Be FlexibleThroughout this process, avoid fixating solely on salary. Instead, assess the entirety of the compensation package, which encompasses benefits, bonuses, stock options, vacation time, and additional perks. Consider the benefits package and assess how it addresses your healthcare, retirement, and other benefit needs. And consider the merits of the role itself, in terms of how it aligns with your aspirations and how it will help you grow professionally.

Also, you need to understand the current job market landscape. Factors such as industry trends, demand for specific skills, and economic conditions can influence your decision. Assess whether it’s a favorable time to accept a role that may not fully meet your criteria or if it’s prudent to wait for a more aligned opportunity.

While asserting your value and negotiating for fair compensation is key, it’s also important to remain open to compromise. If the company is unable to meet your salary expectations, consider alternative forms of compensation or benefits that may be negotiable. This could include additional vacation time, flexible work arrangements, professional development opportunities, or performance-based bonuses. Being flexible and open to creative solutions can lead to a mutually beneficial outcome for both you and the employer.

  1. Don’t Negotiate Via Email

Negotiating job offers is best done through live conversation rather than over email. In-person, phone, or video calls allow for more nuanced communication and facilitate a collaborative atmosphere. This approach prevents negotiations from feeling like a series of back-and-forth emails leading to ultimatums.

Engaging in a live conversation enables you to gauge the employer’s reactions in real-time, clarify any misunderstandings, and build rapport. It fosters a sense of collaboration, where both parties are working together to find a mutually beneficial solution. Additionally, verbal communication allows for tone, body language, and other cues that are lost in written communication, helping you to convey your points more effectively and empathetically, and to get a more comprehensive read from the person with whom you’re having the negotiation discussion.

While email may be suitable for initial thank you notes or for scheduling meetings, negotiating the terms of a job offer is a critical step that warrants direct interaction. By having a live conversation, you can navigate the negotiation process more smoothly, ensuring that both you and the employer are on the same page and are fostering a positive relationship from the outset.

  1. Get It in Writing

Once you’ve reached an agreement, it’s crucial to ensure that the terms are clearly documented in writing. This can be done either through an offer letter or a formal employment contract. Having written documentation helps to avoid misunderstandings and ensures that both parties are clear on the agreed-upon terms, including salary, benefits, job responsibilities, and any other negotiated aspects. If any verbal agreements were made during the negotiation process, make sure they are included in the written documentation as well.

Negotiating Job Offers Do’s & Don’ts

As you begin scheduling the negotiation meeting, make sure you review the following list of do’s and don’ts.


  1. Start the conversation with gratitude and excitement for the role.
  2. Review the offer letter thoroughly and prepare your questions and negotiation points in advance.
  3. Prioritize what’s most important to you, whether it’s salary, remote work days, or other factors.
  4. Schedule a live conversation for negotiation to avoid miscommunication.
  5. Ensure all questions are answered before accepting the position; remember, you’re also evaluating the company.
  6. Approach negotiation as a collaboration for the best outcome.
  7. Identify your deal breakers beforehand.
  8. Ensure negotiated terms are documented in writing for clarity.


  1. Never accept an offer over the phone without thoroughly reviewing the written offer.
  2. Don’t negotiate over email. Email should only be used to arrange a discussion.
  3. Avoid ultimatums and foster collaboration.
  4. Don’t give up after a first “no.” A “no” to one aspect doesn’t mean rejection of everything. Explore alternative solutions.
  5. Don’t negotiate just for the sake of it. Focus on what truly matters and explore creative solutions together.
  6. Don’t sign anything until you see the discussed changes in writing.
  7. Avoid surprising your employer with new points late in negotiations. Transparency and early discussion ensure a positive outcome and relationship.

Negotiating a job offer involves several key steps to ensure a favorable outcome that aligns with your needs and priorities. It begins with a thorough self-assessment to understand your value and identify your non-negotiables. These non-negotiables should be communicated clearly to the employer, setting boundaries for the negotiation process.

Throughout the negotiation process, it’s essential to maintain a positive and respectful tone, framing the discussion as a collaborative effort. Be prepared to be flexible where possible, but also know when to stand firm on your non-negotiables.

By following these steps, you can navigate the negotiation process effectively, ensuring that the job offer you ultimately accept meets your requirements for success and satisfaction.

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