I am always thrilled when a candidate I am interviewing tries to negotiate on the job offer. That tells me they know what they are worth and that they are good enough at what they do that they can afford to walk away from an offer they do not like. At the end of the day I am looking for smart people who get stuff done, and I want them to be happy if they come work for me. Smart people negotiate the job offer.
You can negotiate on anything really, but there are a few things I would stay away from attempting to negotiate on. Asking to forgo parts of the process like background checks and reference checks are guaranteed to raise some eyebrows, and in my case, red flags. However, everything from the salary, bonuses, vacation time, and even the equipment you are given when you start are fair play.
While it is a tough market in the tech world at the moment, many tech companies are posting salary ranges on their job postings. This is a new trend to comply with new laws and it puts you the candidate at a huge advantage when it comes to negotiating. You can ask for the max and negotiate from there every time.
Of course, when push comes to shove you might feel the stakes are too high negotiating on an offer you have in hand. This is especially so if you have never negotiated on an offer before. The best way to get good at something is to practice. I recommend finding a low stakes scenario to practice your negotiating skills. My personal place to practice my negotiating skills is moving and estate sales. Try this the next time you have a free weekend. Stop by the ATM and get some cash. Better yet go in your bank and get a mix of small denominations between from $1 to $20. Don’t take more than $100. Find a couple of garage sales and look for some stuff you might like to have but could easily get elsewhere. One thought is to go looking for things that you want to buy and donate to a local charity. To do that you will need to get the best possible deal to maximize your charitable contribution, right? Once you have found a couple of things find the person handling the money and haggle like a merchant at a Turkish bazaar.
A couple of things will happen right away. The first thing that will happen is that the decision maker will be revealed. The decision maker, well, they make the decision. They are the one you are negotiating with. The next thing that will happen is they will either accept, reject, or most likely counter your offer. If you are doing things right they will have a reason to counter because your initial offer was too low for them. This will show you their price sensitivity. Now it is time to haggle. Go low again, or ask for an additional item to be included in the price. Feel free to ask if there is anything they will throw in to make it worth your while. Once you are satisfied make the deal and pay for the goods. In the end you will be happy because you will feel like you got a good deal. The decision maker will be happy because they will also feel like they got a good deal. This is a win-win situation, but extra valuable for you in the form of an opportunity to get better at negotiating. Afterwards take some time to reflect on what you could do better next time and keep practicing. The next time you negotiate on a job offer you will feel much more confident in your ability to negotiate. You will be happy because you will feel like you got what you wanted and your new employer will be happy because they just got a new employee who is smart and gets stuff done.