Respond to an offer immediately, if only to ask for more time
If you get an offer letter while waiting to hear about other opportunities you may like better, what do you do? It’s OK to ask for some time. But not too much.
You definitely want to respond to the offer promptly. For this, there is no such thing as “too soon.” Let them know you are eager and grateful, and that you care, but you’re not ready to pull the trigger just yet. Explain why (for example, having several things to consider; wanting to talk it over with someone; considering other offers in play) and ask for a little time to decide.
It’s absolutely okay to do this—but you must commit to a specific timeframe within which you will get back to them with your answer. Don’t just say, “I’ll let you know in a while”, or, “I need to talk to my career coach first,” or “Can I have more time?” That’s unclear! 😀
Instead, let the them know you are excited, have a few things to think through, and will respond by Tuesday, or within 48 hours—something clear like that. If it’s at all in your control, keep it to within 48 hours.
The only way it’s okay to have an unclear timeline is if you’re waiting on something that is naturally taking long time, and directly impacts your ability to accept the offer: for example, if your spouse’s job might relocate you both to another country. Don’t drag it out, just let them know, “We won’t know until X happens.”
And if you’re wanting more options because you’ve applied to many places, know when to stop seeking options and when to seize concrete opportunities
. Don’t make them wait more than a week. Even if they put up with it, you burn some social capital and start your new job with your boss wondering why you were so hesitant. Be quick if you can.
How Your Obsession with Options is Blinding You to Opportunities
Options don’t change the world or the holder of them. Actions do.
Get clear on the one thing you value most
If you’ve ever been on the market for a house or apartment, you know you will never get every single item on your wish list.
A good REALTOR will tell you to make your wish list, and then pick the absolute number one biggest priority. The one thing you simply will not compromise on. You may think there are several no-compromise items, but there rarely are. You think big yard, screened in porch, and 3 bedrooms are must-haves. Until you see that 2 bedroom with a swimming pool in a neighborhood you love. 😉
It’s like that with jobs. There’s lots of stuff you value, and you’ll get lots of it, but almost never all of it. It’s unrealistic to try, and will only hurt your chances.
The good news is, things you believe are dealbreakers now are probably just rough ideas based on your current experience and limited knowledge. Especially early in your career, the things you think really matter (like what industry you work in or your title) really don’t, and things you might not have considered turn out to be awesome (like tools you learn and people you work with).
So go ahead and make your list:
- Role type
- Advancement opportunities
Of course, stay realistic based on the company’s way of doing business. If, for example, you absolutely want to work from home, but the entire company is based in-office, it might just not be in the cards.
All the stuff you want that is reasonably in range for your skill level. But force yourself to pick only ONE thing that would be absolutely non-negotiable—the one thing so important that, even if your absolute dream job didn’t have it, you’d still walk away. And be flexible on the rest.
Make that the lead in your negotiation. Don’t fret over a bunch of smaller little things. Nail the one big thing.
Find your “happy price”
This one is hard. It takes a lot of self awareness and self honesty.
Don’t think about compensation in terms of numbers that impress others, or amounts you’ve heard your friends make. Think about the price at which you would be happy to go to work every day
. Aim for that.
You don’t want to say “yes” to a certain pay rate, and then be unhappy about it every day you go to work. That’s not good for you, and an unhappy employee is not good for the company.
For a job you really love that has all kinds of other benefits, it might be a surprisingly low price. I’ve met people who love their work so much they’d seriously consider doing it for free, if the company couldn’t pay them anymore.
Other jobs aren’t so inherently enjoyable. Some jobs you would never work unless they paid a lot more than your other options. I know people who don’t love what they do at all, but they make better money than anywhere else—and they’re happy that way.
Really think through what starting salary would be enough for you to be happy you said yes. Don’t inflate it for ego, and don’t deflate it for fear or doubt. Be honest about your “happy price.” Make that the fulcrum of your negotiation. You’ll come off more genuinely and will be more likely to get paid what you’d like.
Oh, and “price” doesn’t just mean money wages. It can mean any mix of compensation, benefits, equity, and other elements of the job—including the future upside.
Be clear and direct with your ask
Once you get an offer you’re excited about but want to ask for a little more, the ball is in your court. Make a clear counter.
Don’t reply with vagaries like “Is there any way you could pay me more?” or “Can you be more flexible?” That puts all the work back on them to figure out what you want and what to do. Too much work for them—they’ll just go with someone else.
Don’t just throw a big bag of, “Can you give me something more?” Decide what you want, and make it clear.
Something clear and direct like this:
“Great, thank you! I’m really excited about this role. I had a salary range in mind of $50k and your offer is $40k. Could you do $45k, with the goal to hit $50k by the end of the year if my performance is above expectations?”
That’s clear, easy for them to respond to, and shows you’re playing fair. Pick the item(s) you care most about and ask for them. Schedule, benefits, pay, role, whatever it is, give a clear counter they can say “yes” or “no” to.
Invest in your future success
Robert Downey Jr. famously negotiated
a percent of the Marvel movie profits instead of taking a larger up front payment. (You can be Iron Man too
, even beyond negotiations!)
A great way to get more is to make it contingent on your ongoing performance, like the example above. “Could we start at $45k, with the goal to hit $50 by the end of the year if my performance deserves it?”
Take the initial offer, but counter with a caveat that you will get a pay increase in 6 months if you hit certain goals. Get the hiring manager to agree to a certain time frame for compensation review, or specific criteria for bonuses or pay raises.
This is easier for them to say “yes” to than an immediate pay bump. Companies are taking a risk by hiring you
, and if you are willing to make the up-front risk lower in exchange for potentially higher upside on your end, it can be a win-win. And we always want win-wins. 😊
You can be more aggressive negotiating your future, assuming you prove to be a fit, than when you’re an unknown new hire. Use that to your advantage.
You can also negotiate role and trajectory in this way. You can accept a role that might not be as challenging, or lacks the long-term growth, if it’s what they need now—but try to get your new boss to agree to move you into a new role within a year, or allow you to spend 20% of your time in the marketing department as long as your customer success duties are fulfilled.
You can request job shadowing of roles you are interested in, or to be able to attend department meetings for a department you hope to transfer to. Not only does this improve your experience at the company, it also shows you’re a curious, motivated person.
These kinds of concessions are often easier for your potential employer to say “yes” to, more valuable to you in the long run, and a great way to impress the hiring manager with your eagerness to learn and grow.