Negotiating a job offer …

"I've actually got a job-offer in my hand for a position that I'm really pleased to have. However, the terms differ from what was advertised and subsequently discussed during interviews and phone conversations. What should I do?"

Paul D was concerned, even though the differences weren't that major. Starting a new job that you were very keen to do, do you really want to feel shafted before you even set foot in the place? Equally, do you want to blow what you saw as a major opportunity for yourself? What do you do?

The good news was that the scope of Paul's job remained as he expected. However, pay was pegged slightly below the advertised range, set for a 3 month revision up to the bottom of that range, subject to performance. Other variations were slight but, taken together with the pay issue, concerning.

Why would they do that?

The first step is to try and see behind the employer's reasoning for positioning the offer at that level. You certainly shouldn't feel afraid to ring up and ask for that reasoning, if it's not obvious to you.

The offer might be low because, whilst you showed the best potential, you had the least experience of all the candidates interviewed. The implication is that you're a bit of a gamble and they're giving you an opportunity to show what you can do, so there's a price to pay.

The trouble with this argument is that an employer would NEVER offer a job to someone they thought couldn't do it, so why cut the pay and potentially create bad feeling?

There is a counter-argument to say that the employer might have to invest more time, money and resources getting you up to speed, so it would be appropriate for you to recognise the fact and make a small gesture (accepting slightly lower pay at the start to offset some extra cost, for example) to show your commitment and determination to succeed.

Fair enough argument. If it is the real argument, it would be sensible for the employer to sell that well as they deliver the offer. Otherwise, coldly sending in an offer carrying sub-optimal news could unsurprisingly leave the candidate feeling cold!

In such a case, it would be nice if the employer were then willing to make the 3 month bump bigger than to the very bottom level. They could perhaps layout a progressive programme of pay increments, over say the next 12 months, linking effort, ability and performance to recognition and pay.

These arguments and counter-arguments all point to a need to understand the employer's position, before doing anything or making any decisions and certainly before trying to negotiate.

Where's the middle ground?

When you get an offer, to help you get the best for yourself, here's a 10 step process to try and steer your way successfully through the last minefield. It's called the Middle-Ground Process. You may have to adapt some of it to your own circumstances.

  1. Accept the fact that you have an offer means that you are most definitely the number one choice. Also accept that you're now, briefly, in control of the situation, at least to some extent.
  2. Recognise that, even with an offer, you may not be at the end of the selection process! The reference check is probably still to come as is possibly a medical.
  3. BE AWARE—Some applicants may still be kept in the game, in case things go wrong with you. #SCARY
  4. Carefully read through the terms of your offer to make sure they match your expectations and the original brief.
  5. Looking at the offer, use your own feelings as the best guide. If you’re happy with it, even if it varies from expectations, go with it.
  6. If your offer is pitched at the bottom end of the originally suggested range, understand whether that can be justified or not. If in doubt, ASK! (How and why the organisation might have varied keys point of their offer can tell you a lot about their management style, culture and likely working environment.)
  7. If you choose to query / negotiate something in the offer: be clear what you want; decide beforehand what you'll settle for; use logical arguments; offer a justification; and make sure not to burn your bridges in the process.
  8. Avoid direct confrontation. Threats and blackmail on your part are almost always losing strategies, as is stamping your foot petulantly whilst vigorously demanding what you want.
  9. Let your referees know they may be contacted. Remind them what job you’re after. Load a few bullets for them by letting them know your 3 main plus points.
  10. Consciously refrain from online posting about the status of your application and negotiation, offers can be withdrawn! #EvenMoreScary

I hope this process helps keep you on track at what can be an unexpectedly difficult time and does help you find that middle ground. I'll leave you to read up on negotiation techniques, but if you need any pointers, please feel free to get in touch and ask me any questions via email or on Twitter or on Linkedin.

Good luck, I hope you find a way through that you're happy with.

Key words: job offer, negotiation, Middle-Ground Process