Guest blogger Teresa Fuller (MBA ’17) recently landed a sales management role at Here, she shares her tips and recommendations for approaching new hire comp negotiations. 

The job-hunting process is no one’s favorite pastime. By the time you finally receive an offer letter in cold, hard print, all you want to do is ink it and pop the champagne. You succeeded on this grueling search journey, so you might want to simply accept and celebrate. But you may be leaving money and benefits on the table. It takes discipline and confidence to negotiate a job offer. I am in sales and negotiate contracts for a living, and I’m happy to share my perspective on how to succeed at what feels like a tricky process.

Why Is It so Hard to Negotiate Your Own Contract?

A key point to remember is that your employer also just went through the same grueling process, but on the other side. They had to screen dozens of candidates, winnow the field, coordinate multiple interview rounds, spend hours away from their usual responsibilities, and ultimately achieve consensus on you being their top choice. So both sides of this negotiation are motivated to achieve the same outcome, a signed contract, and the discussions can be productive and perhaps even pleasant.

Depending on your role, such as mine in sales, you may even want to negotiate just to showcase that skill. If I accept the first draft of this contract, what am I demonstrating to my employer? That I will accept any prospect’s first draft of a contract or legal redlines? I often frame my negotiations as: “I appreciate you taking the time to review these line items with me. As part of your team, you can expect me to be as thorough on behalf of this organization.” When I requested a guaranteed variable for the balance of the year, my soon-to-be new boss said: “Smart. I asked for and received the same thing, so I would expect we can honor that for you.” Was he going to offer that up if I hadn’t mentioned it? Never.

Tips of Negotiating With Your Future Boss

Strive to negotiate directly with the key decision maker and recognize this is likely your future boss. Approach the negotiation with a tone of gratitude for his or her advocacy on your behalf to resolve your requests. The easiest way to present your request is to email a quick table or spreadsheet over to your boss or HR — after giving them the verbal heads up that there are a few areas of the offer you were hoping to review together.

Contract Terms Offer Requested Revision
Title VP of Sales SVP of Sales
Vacation 4 Weeks 8 Weeks

Especially if your current company offers the benefits you are requesting from the new company, and you’re simply seeking a match, then presenting it clearly makes your boss’ job easier when securing approvals on your behalf. Unlike business negotiations, your mutual goals mean there’s good reason to be transparent in your ask. But like business negotiations, you may want to aim a bit higher than where you want to land. You can expect some, but not all, of your conditions to be met. Understand how you prioritize your list and make sure to communicate which areas are important and which are acceptable trade-offs.

You’ll want to carefully consider which elements of the comp package you want to negotiate. The most common items are base salary, bonus and equity. Review the comprehensive ACS Comp & Benefits Checklist and be sure to focus on and prioritize a reasonable number of items that are most important to you.

Other Tips

  • Don’t negotiate on fixed policies (e.g., how the company accrues vacation).
  • Understand when certain benefits begin (e.g., your start date may impact when health care coverage is initiated).
  • Don’t go back and forth more than twice; try to convey everything you want upfront to minimize back and forth and to keep the context neutral-to-positive.
  • Frame your requests in ways that demonstrate your consideration for the business over your personal For example, saying “I believe so strongly in the potential of this company, I really want the opportunity to be invested in an ownership position from the outset” is more appropriate than “I want more shares to use the money from an exit to pay for my kid’s college tuition.”
  • Don’t frame any item as a non-negotiable. Even if you have multiple offers on the table, this is not a constructive position to take. You may ultimately turn down their offer if you can’t get to your desired outcome, but it’s more constructive to explain your position and priorities in a dialog first and give them every chance to meet your demands.

The most leverage you’ll ever have in negotiating your work terms is before you start the new job. It’s when you have HR and your manager’s undivided attention. Change requests like these, once you’re on the inside, will become subject to yearly evaluation periods, company politics and peers who may be going after the same promotion as you. Now is your best chance to level up, so do it. Your future self will thank you.

Negotiating During the Pandemic

Have you been furloughed or laid off due to the change in your business landscape related to the COVID-19 pandemic? Did you just receive a much-needed job offer? Have confidence; it is still appropriate to negotiate. From a hiring teams’ perspective, now is a great time to secure top talent on the market for no other reason than the economy and pandemic. They know you are worth it, and they want you just as much as you want them. If you have questions or need assistance, please contact Alumni Career Services to schedule an appointment with a coach.