Expert Tips for Negotiating a Salary and Benefits Package

Debbie.Bob Debbie Rudan and Bob Puissant June 2, 2021

You networked, prepared appropriately, aced the interview and have a job offer! Now what? First, don’t accept a verbal offer right away. Ask for the complete offer in writing and take the time you need to weigh the pros and cons before giving your final answer. Smile (you got an offer) and start prioritizing which parts of the compensation package best match your needs and matter most to you. Make sure you have a strategy in place when you respond. Keep this advice in mind as you build that strategy:

Consider the salary offered based on the pay range you mentioned in the interview. Employers expect you to push them reasonably when it comes to salary, so try to get an idea of the salary range they are offering during the interview. If they ask you what you are making at your current company, respond with “tell me what you’re offering for this position.” You can also respond by asking what has been budgeted for the position. When you get the offer in writing, remember, you are their strongest candidate; they want you for this position so ask for the salary you would like to get, based on how your experience and skills will be of value to that organization. Based on your research, you can discuss what you know and counter with “I was hoping to be closer to ___.”  This shows initiative and confidence. If there is pushback, you still have room to negotiate other elements of the compensation package. Be sure the amount you ask for is acceptable even if they come back and meet you halfway. 

You can also ask how and when raises are given, as well as the typical percent increase so you have a feel for the potential to increase your salary as you gain experience.

Understand the full compensation package. Beyond pay, there are many items you might be able to negotiate. Understand exactly what you want and would accept. Decide what matters to you and bring it up with the hiring manager, or direct supervisor if possible. Be professional, respectful, ethical and friendly. Mention all your requests at the same time (in a bullet point format) and then stop talking. Avoid that “I am the captain now” attitude. It’ll leave a bad taste and could even make the organization reconsider its offer. 

Salary plays a huge part in whether you will take a new position, but there are other parts of a job offer you can negotiate with a potential employer. We’ve come up with a list of these items.  Fill out the form below to reveal it.

Practice Your Negotiating Skills. Negotiating your compensation package takes practice. Have some mock conversations with someone you trust. Call a friend to run lines or use The Wall Street Journal’s interactive chatbot to practice your negotiating skills. It’s fun to try it. The employer already thinks you are the most desirable candidate, so use that to your advantage. Start building rapport by negotiating in a professional, fair and amicable manner. Most of all, show them excitement about joining their company. 

Handling Multiple Offers. The job market is really picking up, and if you’ve been networking and interviewing for multiple opportunities, it is likely you will get more than one offer. Here are a few things to remember when juggling multiple job offers: 

  • Buy yourself as much time as is reasonable. Once you get an offer in writing, let the company know that you are excited about the opportunity, you would like a few days to review it, and let them know you’ll get back to them in that timeframe.
  • Go back to the company you would prefer to work for and say, “I need to tell you, I have received another offer (don’t mention from whom), but I really prefer to work for your company. I’m wondering if there are any updates you can provide to me at this time.” This will help you determine if your first-choice company is willing to accelerate things for you, or if they are not going to extend an offer at this time.

If you are a strong candidate, the idea of losing you might spur them along. If not, thank them and head off in the other direction.

Wondering what can be negotiated? Here’s how to get the compensation package you deserve.

At the executive level, there’s more to accepting your new job than just saying yes to the salary offered. We have curated this list of negotiable items as a thought starter to help you discern which might be important to you. As Steve Jobs once said, “Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow know what you truly want.”  Any of the items on this list can be considered when negotiating a complete compensation package. 

Unlock Access to Our Free Negotiable Items List

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About the Authors

Debbie Rudan has served as a SE Wisconsin Group Chair (Executive Mentor) since 2019 and serves two EA groups (EA 3 and EA 5).  She has worked with all levels of business leaders and team members to improve performance and organizational effectiveness. Debbie has spent more than 20 years in talent development connecting people to jobs and getting to know leaders as individuals, exploring their goals, and coaching and guiding them toward achievement. As a coach, she works to help people find the resources needed to avoid feeling alone in their challenges and to create an environment of trust so her group members can speak freely, get ideas and develop the skills needed to achieve personal and professional success.

Bob Puissant was an engaged member of Executive Agenda for nearly 20 years prior to becoming a Group Chair (Executive Mentor) in 2018.  He presently serves two SE Wisconsin groups (EA 1 and EA 6). His career has taken him all around the country to lead companies in sales, marketing, business development, planning and organizational leadership. He has an MBA from Northwestern University’s JL Kellogg Graduate School of Management, has served on various boards and currently participates in Silicon Pastures, an angel investment organization that investigates potential investments in a variety of early-stage companies.


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