#AskAsh – 003 – How to Confidently Enter a Job Offer Negotiation?

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In this article I answer one engineer’s questions regarding how to squash his nerves with a job offer negotiation.  His question specifically asks about salary negotiation. However, as you’ll read in tip #6 below, it is better to focus on the whole package, and consider other aspects of the offer that might be more important to you. 





Hi Ash,


I will graduate next May with a degree in biomedical engineering. I’ve just started my job search but am already getting nervous about negotiating my salary.  It almost makes me not want to negotiate at all.  

If the offer is good, should I still try to get more?  And if so, how should I go about it? I’m a little overwhelmed just thinking about it.


Tim P.  

Portland, OR





Hi there, Tim!  


As a former engineering hiring manager, I have been on both sides of the negotiating table when it comes to salary.  


Can I let you in on a little secret??


The thing that most people won’t tell you  but that you should know is that sometimes the hiring manager is just as nervous about the negotiation process as the candidates are.  The difference is that in most cases the hiring manager has a team of folks (HR, recruiter, their management) providing input and guidance on how to approach the discussion, and whether or not to concede to the counteroffer that the candidate is proposing.  


But don’t fret! I have compiled my best guidance for you below.  Read to the end because I have also prepared a printer-friendly Job Offer Negotiation Script to help you practice for the big discussion!


Here are my best tips on how to negotiate a salary:


1) Know Your Worth

Make sure that you know your worth in the job market.  Cross reference salary information from online sources (glassdoor.com, payscale.com, etc), HR friends, and colleagues to have a general understanding of what the going rate is for someone with your experience and background.


Knowing your worth in the market is essential for negotiating salary because it allows you to be confident when asking for more if you are given a lowball offer.  

PLUS  Are you underpaid? 4 Resources to determine YOUR worth in the market!

2) Show Your Value

Starting from the very beginning of the hiring process, make sure that you are demonstrating your value to your potential organization.  Through your resume, cover letter, interviews, and follow-up emails you are setting the stage for negotiations. Show what you will bring to the organization every step of the way!  


Employers will be willing to offer near the top of the pay range if they believe you will provide a high return on their investment.


3) Know Your BATNA

Don’t know what a BATNA is?  That’s OK.  I didn’t either until my first negotiating course in graduate school.  


BATNA stands for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.  Basically, think to yourself – if I walk away from this job offer what is my next best option.  


If you are already in a high-paying stable job, your BATNA is pretty good, so you may be willing to be a little riskier in asking for what you want in a negotiation.  If your BATNA is no job at all, then you will likely be a little more willing to accept the offer with little negotiation.


4) Be Reasonable

Most employers have a salary range that they have to work with for a given role. Being extreme in your requests will be a turn-off for your potential employer.  Most companies will make a low, but reasonable, starting offer, expecting that you will ask for more.  While it is often best to at least try to negotiate a higher salary, making a request that is well beyond your value in the market (see #1) probably won’t help your cause.


So put that research to good use and make sure whatever you counter with is within the realm of possibility.  


5) Don’t Take it Personally

Try not to allow emotions to creep in while negotiating.  Easier said than done, I know.


If the organization has made you an offer, they already think you are the best candidate.  But it is in their best interest to negotiate an offer on the low end of their salary range.  It is in your best interest to negotiate it higher.  Don’t read more into it than that.


6) Think Big Picture

Salary is not everything.  Think about the entire compensation package and job offer when deciding what to negotiate.  


What is most important to you?  Is it really more money?  Or would you prefer more time off?  Or are you willing to forego for a higher merit-based bonus pay-out, because you know you are going to rock your job? Would you consider asking for more in terms of paid-time off or a flexible schedule if enhancing the salary is not an option.


Knowing what is a priority for you and what you are willing to give up in negotiating the salary is vital to coming out feeling like a winner.


7) Practice

I know.  This seems a little weird at first.  But don’t send me to the asylum just yet.  


How can you practice a conversation that has not happened yet?


Well, the best way to be prepared is to think through some possible scenarios. And then think through how best to respond in each scenario.  No you cannot anticipate how the discussion will go 100%, but thinking it through ahead of time really helps.  


While I am getting better, improvising just does not come easily to me.  Often, after a conversation with someone, I think “Dag nab it!  I should have told him ……” or “Why didn’t I say….?”  


So for me, the more I can anticipate and practice an important conversation, the more confidently I will speak.  


To make it super easy on you, I’ve created this Job Offer Negotiation Script to help you navigate the discussion and practice.  



No, it is not completely fool-proof.  But practicing with this script will help you speak confidently during the discussion to minimize the feeling of overwhelm.  


It can be nerve-wracking.  But if you utilize these tips and practice the heck out of the discussion with this script you will be much more confident AND successful!


Best luck on your job search and offer negotiation!


Obsessed with engineering impact,


P.S. – As always, this advice is for this person’s specific circumstances based on the information provided to me.  While it is solid general guidance for everyone, please use caution and sound judgement in applying it to your situation.

P.P.S. – Don’t forget to download this Job Offer Negotiation Script to help you navigate the discussion and practice.