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The Art of Negotiation

Updated: Jul 12, 2021

Congratulations, you’ve nailed the interview and have a verbal offer!

A starting salary has been presented to you, either via phone or email, now what do you do?

A talent acquisition specialist once told me that it can never hurt to negotiate a bit, she recommends it to every candidate she works with. If you’ve reached the point in the interview process where the company has laid an offer in front of you, that means they want to bring you on board.

The only way you can screw this up now would be if you try to negotiate something wild. The key to negotiating, once an offer has been made, is to ask for something reasonable. And this doesn’t have to be only a salary increase. There are other modes of compensation you can try to negotiate.

Here are 2 examples from my own personal experience:

  1. When I landed my first job after graduate school at an executive search firm in New York City, I was told that my base salary was non-negotiable; all entering Associates made the same amount. However, I was able to negotiate a signing bonus which paid for my new (IKEA) furniture and moving costs, such as broker’s fee and first/last month’s rent.

  2. When I was signing on to my job as a Clinical Trial Project Manager, I initially asked for a higher base salary than the department was able to give me. I settled for a lower salary than what I desired, in exchange for the department to cover the costs of Project Management courses and the exam fees for the PMP exam, plus time off work to study for the exam. In addition to saving on my salary, the department got the knowledge I gained as well - and I got the PMP certification, which I likely would not have paid for out of pocket.

Negotiation is a process by which we consciously attempt to resolve existing or potential conflicts. It can be applied to your everyday projects in addition to job/salary negotiations.

Successful negotiators view conflict as normal and constructive.

There are 4 stages of negotiation:

  1. Rapport: establish communication

  2. Exploration: examine issues

  3. Bargaining: reach agreement

  4. Closure & agreement: ensure understanding

Let’s break these down further:

  1. Rapport: establish communication

    1. Introduce or reacquaint yourself, if necessary

    2. Reduce any anxiety or tension, if necessary - try an icebreaker.

      1. “Oh the weather is finally warming up here in Minnesota!”

      2. “How about that big college football team win last night?”

      3. ”My dog just passed all of her training bootcamp classes this weekend!”

    3. The point of this step is to start communication and set a positive vibe, so that each party is comfortable with each other

    4. No politics!

  2. Exploration: examine issues

    1. During the exploration stage, you will exchange information on each party’s needs, values, and goals. You will discuss the primary and secondary issues for each party and the “range of conflict” will be revealed.

    2. Be sure to ask for and provide the necessary information for your situation.

    3. Be an active listener - pay attention, ask questions, paraphrase/summarize, reflect your feelings and show empathy

    4. Articulate your position without aggression

      1. “According to Glassdoor, the average starting salary for this role at other companies similar to yours is $75,000. The salary I had in mind was $72,000 or above.”

      2. “Because we’re a small start-up company, the most we can offer you is $60,000”

  3. Bargaining: reach agreement

    1. Next, you’ll settle the disagreement and resolve the conflict

    2. If you have any influence in the area, now is when you should use it to persuade the other party and when giving and asking for concessions

    3. The key here is to view the other party as a problem solver, not as an obstacle; bargaining should be a collaborative process; stalemates should be viewed as opportunities for problem solving, not as opportunities to get tougher.

    4. Develop multiple options for mutual gain

      1. “If you really cannot move above $60,000 salary, I would like to keep all of the credit card and airline points I earn on business expenses and travel, with the airline of my choice.”

    5. Assess each option against each party’s objective

      1. “I really cannot go above $60,000. Another option is to give you a work phone and laptop so you may work remotely a couple days a week which may help reduce babysitting and daycare costs at home.”

    6. Select the option that best satisfies each party’s objective

      1. “No, my kids like the socialization that comes with daycare and I don’t want to worry about taking care of them while I’m working anyway. What stock options are available to me?”

      2. “You’ll be able to purchase 0.2% equity at 50% off the regular price; then, you’ll earn an increasing amount of options over the next 5 years. Don’t forget we also have fantastic health coverage and 401k matching in our benefits package!”

      3. “What about 0.3% equity at 60% discount?”

      4. “We can do that.”

      5. “Great! I’ll need to take a day to think this over. In the meantime, can you please send the updated contract to me via email?”

  4. Closure & agreement: ensure understanding

    1. Think of this final stage as the “Conclusions” section of your thesis; you’re going to make sure everybody understands the specifics of the agreement - be explicit.

    2. Summarize the conclusions which were reached

    3. Write it down (if a job offer, they will send you the contract)

    4. Avoid implicit agreements.

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