The Art of Negotiating

Caroline Levchuck

In a competitive job market, job seekers sometimes think that they're lucky to land an interview, let alone receive an actual job offer.

But it's usually smart to negotiate the terms of a job offer. The trick is knowing when to stop.

Do Your Research

Negotiating is an art -- one that needs to be practiced.

First, evaluate your negotiating skills. Are you comfortable haggling over the price of a car with the salesperson? How skilled were you at asking for raises at your last company? If you've negotiated successfully before, you may already have some decent skills.

Next, read up on negotiating for tips and tactics. Consult business magazines or head straight for the bookstore.

Also, if you're someone who always pays sticker price or who's never asked for a raise, you might want to find a friend who will role play with you to practice your job offer negotiation.

Know Your Bottom Line

Negotiating isn't necessarily about winning at all costs. It's about agreeing on terms of a job offer that will satisfy you.

Start by figuring out what salary and benefits you can and cannot live with. Perhaps you want three weeks of vacation rather than two. Maybe you need the option to telecommute occasionally. Whatever your goals are, make achieving them the priority in your negotiation.

By keeping your focus on your goals -- instead of on winning -- you'll know when it's the right time to accept a job offer.

Be Creative

Look beyond just salary when negotiating your job offer.

Trade off more traditional perks for benefits in areas where a company is often able to be more flexible, such as tuition reimbursement, flex time or an abbreviated summer work schedule.

You want to feel as though you've explored all your options. Knowing that will make you feel more comfortable ending negotiations and making a final decision about the job offer.

Don't Get Greedy

Quit while you're ahead. Really.

If you continue to negotiate for the sake of negotiating -- even after you've gotten a fair job offer -- you may end up hurting yourself. First, a company could simply end negotiations and present you with an ultimatum.

You also risk alienating your future boss. And you certainly don't want your boss to resent you before you've even started work.

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