conference room

You’ve done the legwork, know the company inside and out, and have polished your resume until it gleams. You got the interview, and now they’re on the phone, offering you the job. What do you say? How do you ask about the salary? If it’s not what you were hoping for, how do you get a better deal? Let’s talk about the options and opportunities.

Be Enthusiastic

No matter what they offer, start with enthusiasm. After all, this is your potential future employer; saying “That’s it?” isn’t going to start negotiations on the right foot. Practice saying “Thank you for the offer. I’m so glad to hear all of this; could you please send me the details so that I can look them over?”

If you’re applying for a management level position or higher, many people expect you to negotiate over your salary, so it’s unlikely they’ll be surprised that you want to see everything written out. This avoids miscommunications and confusion. Depending on your preferences, ask to see things in email, and then schedule a follow-up meeting or phone call to discuss the offer in more detail.

Take Time to Think

If you’re lucky enough to be applying for a new job while you’re currently working, then you can afford to take a day or so to look over the compensation package and decide what works for you, and what items don’t work as well. Consider talking to friends in the industry and making notes on what the company is offering you so that you know what items you’d like to discuss in more detail.

Use the Offer to Ask About Benefits

In general, interview experts advise against asking about compensation or benefits details during your interview. Once the company has made an offer, this is your opportunity to go into details about the company’s benefits. Ask about all the things that matter to you – flex time, telecommuting policies, and transportation benefits are a few that come up often. Whatever you need to know, now is the time to ask.

It’s a good idea to have done your research on job forums and through industry friends; know what people at your level are making in terms of benefits at other companies. If the new job is offering you something better than any other company, or is dramatically low-balling you, it’s good to know that going in.

Know Going In What You Will Give Up, And What You Won’t

Maybe that telecommuting benefit doesn’t mean much to you, but you’d give a lot to have a daycare benefit. Maybe you’d be willing to take a salary cut in exchange for the company paying for a higher tier of health insurance. Or perhaps you don’t need the PTO that’s being offered, but you do need a more flexible work situation.

When you know what you can give up, you’ll have an easier time getting what you do want.

Leverage Other Offers

If you have other offers on the table, don’t be afraid to let the new company know. Whether these offers are your current job trying to keep you, or another company making an offer for new employment, be willing to say that other people want you. “I’ll need to think about this and compare it to the other offers I’ve received,” is a great way to open that door and see if the person you’re speaking to is interested in hearing what they’re competing against.

There will be times in your career when you say this, and the hiring manager says, flat out, that they can’t compete with other offers. If that happens to you, it’s up to you to decide if this opportunity is worth taking a smaller compensation package. If you’d be working on your perfect project or with the boss of your dreams, it might be worthwhile.

Consider Contracting One Project On A Trial Basis

If the company seems to be on the fence about you value, one option is to offer to do a single project on a contract basis. They can see what you have to offer while you get paid for the high quality work that you can do. The benefit of this is that once you have your foot in the door, it’ll be a lot more work for them to get you back out, and you have a much better position from which to negotiate.

It can feel intimidating to start by negotiating a salary, but at the highest level of business, it’s expected that you will come back with an offer or considerations of your own. By knowing what you need and what you can give up, you’ll have a better chance of coming out of negotiations with what you need.