Editor’s Note: This article marks the first in a series from Jeff Lundwall, a founder and managing partner of Mercury Group LLC, a retained executive search firm focused on the media, marketing and advertising industry. In this series, Lundwall will answer your questions — big and small — pertaining to getting the most out of a job and career. Please send questions to email@example.com.
Q: I’m about to receive a job offer. I have discussed my salary requirements briefly with the hiring manager but was never told what the actual offer would be. How do I ensure the offer I’m presented with is the offer I will accept?
A: This is a tough question. Many people (even seasoned pros) get squeamish about money when it comes to a new employer. They don’t want to leave any money on the table but also don’t want to price themselves out of an opportunity they are interested in taking.
The good news is that you already took the first step by having a conversation with the hiring manager about your expectations. Now is the time you should go back and ask the hiring manager what the offer will be before you receive it so that you can be in agreement before they put something in writing. Explain to him or her that you want to make sure that your expectations are in line with the company’s offer.
If you are not able to have that conversation, you should expect to negotiate with them. If the company does not want to move on the salary, ask for “intangibles” such as vacation time, transportation benefits, flexible work schedule or anything else that does not hit a hard bottom line. Regardless, you should have an idea of what your “bottom line” number is so that you can feel confident about walking away if it is not met.
Whether or not you have the opportunity to negotiate, remember not to take the conversation personally (or make it personal). If you are dissatisfied with the offer, you should still be gracious and appreciate that the company has taken the first step to bring you on its team. Often times the hiring manager is not the one who sets the budget so s/he might have to go back to the CFO (or someone more senior) to get approval. The best thing you can do is help your new hiring manager make a case for why you are the right hire and worth the extra time/money/consideration.
While these conversations can be difficult, they are important because your ability to negotiate once you join the company is dramatically reduced. The deal you sign up for is the one you should plan on living with for a while, until you can show that you have contributed significantly to the company and are ready to take on more responsibility.