How to negotiate a job offer - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - Alumni Career Management

How to negotiate a job offer – and why you should

How to negotiate a job offer - UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School - Alumni Career ManagementCongratulations! You got the job!

But what happens when said job offer doesn’t come with the compensation, benefits or title you were expecting? Don’t worry, don’t get your feelings hurt and certainly don’t turn down the offer—it’s time to start negotiating.

Negotiation is an expected component of the recruiting and hiring process –and not just for executives, says Elizabeth Wallencheck, director of alumni career management.

Feeling timid about negotiating your offer? Fear not! These tips and strategies will help you navigate the process.


Do not accept a job offer right away – no matter what.
Respond to the hiring manager and thank them for the offer, but make it clear that you need a bit of time to think it over. Be sure to provide the date you will get back to them. If they need an answer sooner, they will let you know.

Shift your mindset.
Many people perceive negotiation as contentious and, as such, worry that it will upset the employer and cause them to rescind the offer. That’s enough to give anyone – even the most seasoned executive – a serious case of anxiety.

But when it comes to the hiring process, negotiation is simply about identifying the gaps between the offer you received and the offer you want and communicating that information with your prospective employer.

If that doesn’t ease your fears, consider this: employers expect middle-level employees and above to negotiate. And just like any business deal, companies do not extend their best offer right off the bat. While it’s possible that the company will not want to play ball, it’s extremely rare. The more likely worst-case scenario is that the company will say they cannot meet your request, but the original offer still stands.

Bottom line: if you don’t negotiate, you are leaving money and/or benefits on the table.

Do your research.
Gather comparable market data on salary and benefits for similar roles at other companies. Make sure you understand every aspect of the offer that’s been presented. If you are unsure about anything, contact the hiring manager and ask for clarification before starting negotiations or accepting the offer.

Understand what is – and is not – negotiable.
Nearly every aspect of a job offer is potentially negotiable – salary, bonuses, commission, vacation time, work schedule/arrangements, start date, severance and even job title. But certain benefits – such as insurance coverage and 401K plans – are usually non-negotiable. Because these benefits are provided by third-party vendors, the hiring company often has little-to-no control over the available offerings. It’s still important to review and be prepared to discuss these benefits, though. In some cases, there may be some room for negotiation or the employer may offer an alternative solution to meet your request.

Know the process.

  • Do not approach the topic of negotiation until an official offer has been extended. Never attempt to negotiate during the interview process.
  • When you’re ready to negotiate, contact the hiring manager. Pro-tip: don’t use the term ‘negotiate.’ Use ‘discuss’ instead.
  • Start with a compliment. Highlight the appealing aspects of the offer, such as an excellent healthcare plan. Leading with the positives shows you’re genuinely interested in joining the company, which will lead the hiring manager to seriously consider your concessions.
  • After discussing the positives, address the aspects of the offer that fall short of your expectations.
  • Always start with salary – but do not give an exact number. Doing so not only caps your value, but guarantees that the employer will not offer you so much as a dollar over that amount. Instead, use broad ranges to discuss salary – for example, “from the mid-120s to the upper 130s” or “in the 70s or 80s.”

By Emily Brice

We're here to help.

Our Alumni Career Management team offers resources to support your professional success – from online career advice and access to webinars, job postings and networking tools to personalized, no-cost coaching services.