Everyone hopes for the perfect offer – the great job in a wonderful company with super pay and benefits. Less than half of all candidates negotiate for changes in the offer.  If you want to ask for change(s), here’s how.

Ideally you created a decision checklist early in your job search that covers all your goals and what trade-offs you will make. And as a part of deciding what you want – and what you will accept – include pay and maybe even benefits parameters. If you have not done this, do it now before you have an offer to review.

Understand your value

Do your homework about both external market trends and pay data for your work and about the value you can demonstrate to an employer. This ensures you will have a realistic range to offer when you are asked about pay expectations.
Biggest mistakes here are pay expectations which really exceed market, and telling an employer one pay range in the interview process and then saying that an offer in that range is unacceptably low. Check out PayScale.com, Salary.com and Glassdoor.com to gather general salary and market data. Network with others in your profession and your professional association and ask them for salary information and trends to be sure you know the local market and current numbers.

Know what you want

If the job and the organization are right, then it is worth trying to improve the pay or some other aspect of the offer.
The most common and most serious mistake here is if the job and organization are not a good match for your career goals or success needs, more pay and/or benefits won’t make it the right opportunity.

Be realistic

Once you have an offer, you can accept it as is, reject it, or decide it is close enough to your desires to be worth negotiating. Many, but not all, employers will do some negotiating. You should be trying to learn whether each target employer does this as a part of your research.

  • Understand: you can improve your chances of getting closer to what you want by asking for 1-2 critical changes, not for a long list.

Be aware that some aspects of an offer cannot be changed. The terms of medical insurance and retirement plans for example. Base pay, incentives, stock/options, vacation, telecommuting options, and relocation expenses are often negotiated.

If you are asking to change a lot of the offer, ask yourself if this is really a good match to your needs. An employer is going to wonder about your interest in the company and position if you ask for too many changes. And some will withdraw an offer.

Create your change request

Sit down and write out the 1-3 changes you want and why. Then rank them. Here is an easy format.
The most critical change I want is this:

  • Current offer is:
  • Difference between what I want and current offer is:
  • Supporting business reasons for this change:
  • Options I would also consider, if needed are:

Next think about what you will settle for.

  • Will you walk away if the organization refuses to negotiate or is the original offer acceptable?
  • If you can only get your highest priority change made – will that be enough?
  • If you cannot get a change to your highest priority but can get a second issue resolved – will that be enough?

Call the hiring manager

Once you have thought through each aspect above,  you are ready to call the hiring manager and talk about what you love about the organization and the job and what your concerns are with the offer. Do this quickly after you receive the offer. You want to convey your commitment and enthusiasm. And you want the hiring manager to see you as reasonable but confident in your value.

Be willing to offer the alternatives you created if needed – i.e. if you cannot get more pay immediately can you get a 3 month review or be included in a bonus program? Be positive about working with the hiring manager and remind her that you will make immediate contributions.

Biggest mistake here is asking for more time to consider the offer, once they have made changes in response to your request. It is smart to ask for the changes to be confirmed in writing, but accept them as soon as you receive them.

There you have it:

  • Know your value
  • Know the external marketplace
  • Go for the 1-2 most important changes only, and
  • Have good reasons to help the hiring manager justify making the changes.

Be positive and keep your eye on the important things: The right job in the right organization for you, with the compensation package that makes sense to both sides = win-win.