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Negotiating the Job Offer

Before you say "I accept," it's important to make sure the terms of the job offer meet your expectations. If not, you may wish to negotiate and ask for a better deal. Once you receive a job offer, you must decide whether the job is right for you. You will need to evaluate factors of the job itself that were not necessarily discussed during the interview process such as salary, title, benefits, vacation pay, and severance. Now is not the time to shy away. Even though you may not get all that you request in a negotiation, agreeing on the terms of the job offer beforehand will help avoid confusion and frustration later on. It may also contribute to your overall job satisfaction and work performance in your new position.

Below are tips and questions to consider as you negotiate the job offer.

What are the employment contract terms?

First and foremost, get it in writing. You'll want to understand all the basic terms of employment including hours per week, salary, and benefits. Next, request clarification on any terms of employment that are vague. You'll want to know as much as possible about the job itself so that you can make an informed decision. Finally, show your enthusiasm and ask for a short timeline for getting back to the employer. Companies will expect you to take a little bit of time to render a decision on a job offer (although you should respond immediately with an acknowledgment of the offer).

What are my roles and responsibilities?

It is a good idea to agree on your title, role, and primary job responsibilities. For instance, you'll want to be sure the title accurately reflects the nature of the work you would be doing. In addition, you should evaluate whether your job duties match your skills, interests, and capabilities. Since you'll be spending a large portion of your time and energy in the new job, you should be interested in the type of work you'll be engaged in. Finally, it may be wise to ask how your role fits within the larger team, company, and organization. It may be important to know how your role is perceived by others both within and outside of your organization.

What are my salary and benefits?

For many, the most important aspect of a job is the amount you will be paid. At a minimum, you'll want to know your base salary and when it is payable, including holidays, vacations, and overtime. If you're not happy with the salary offered, or believe you would not be getting fair wages, consider negotiating a better salary that works for you. If so, do the research on other comparable jobs in similar fields knowing that job function, work hours, education level, prior salary history, and experience all play a key role.

In addition, determine whether bonus pay is included in your overall compensation. If so, ask how it is calculated and how it is paid. You'll want to avoid a discretionary bonus payout. Instead, get all bonus promises in writing and ask for a specific amount or percentage based on a verifiable formula.

Regarding vacation pay benefits, ask the employer 1) how much vacation time you'll receive, 2) whether unused vacation days may be carried over to the next year, and 3) whether you'll be paid for unused vacation days if you leave or are terminated.

Finally, ask about the employer's company-sponsored benefits, such as health insuranceretirement plans, and federally-mandated family and medical leave benefits, among others.

What job security or career advancement opportunities will I have?

Make sure you understand the circumstances under which the employer may or may not terminate you. You'll want to know whether it is up to the employer's discretion or based on cause, for example. You may also wish to ask for a fixed-term contract (e.g., one year), especially if the position is hard to fill or requires specialized training (which you might have). If a request for a fixed-term contract is refused, consider asking for a minimum period of employment (e.g., 90 days) before the employer may fire you.

In addition, you may wish to ask whether the company offers any career development opportunities such as mentoring, education, or other training. The more career opportunities you take advantage of, the more secure you can be with the company. Acquiring new skills might help you advance. Advancement refers to an expansion of your initial role or a promotion to a new role. Both career development and career advancement are significant and should be discussed with your potential employer.

What should happen if I am separated from the company for any reason?

Unfortunately, there are situations that may lead to either job termination or layoff. It would be wise to negotiate what would happen in the event you are terminated or leave the company. Ask the company about its severance policy and consider negotiating a severance package that works for both you and the employer. Additionally, ask about the conditions of a severance package, such as when it will be paid and whether it will apply to a resignation. You may also wish to inquire about the amount of the severance package and whether it would be paid in a lump sum or over time.

What other job factors should I consider?

You may wish to inquire about the following matters and, if appropriate, negotiate over them:

  • Location: whether you'll have a commute getting to work each day and any related travel costs.
  • Work Hours: what your expected work hours will be.
  • Relocation Expenses: whether relocation costs are offered (if applicable).
  • Fringe Benefits: whether you'll receive any extra benefits, such as free parking, gym membership discounts, backup childcare resources, or company-matching plans.
  • Job Advancement: whether pay increases are given and, if so, when and in what amount.
  • Company Goals/Vision: whether your personal goals align with those of the company.

Lastly, it is not necessary to negotiate all terms of a job offer, just those terms that you qualify for or would make the job better for you. Regardless of the type of job you seek, make sure to use the negotiation process to your advantage.

More Resources for Job Seekers

Finding a job can be tricky. It is best to be well-versed in the terms of negotiation before embarking on the negotiation process. Read FindLaw's "Wages and Benefits" section and "Employee Benefits Questions to Ask" for more information.

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