Almost nobody likes negotiating salaries – not HR people, not hiring managers, and certainly not job seekers. The process can be uncomfortable, time-consuming, heart-breaking, and very costly if not handled well. In our many years of search experience, we have found that the best strategy is for all parties involved is to say what you mean, mean what you say, and back up your words with your actions.
Before you begin looking for a new position, it is a good idea to do some research into how tight the job market is in your field, what other people with comparable experience in your industry are making, and cost of living factors if you are considering relocating to a new city. This research will not only give you a good idea of what a fair offer will be, but can be accomplished with ease using the internet. A relationship with a recruiter experienced in your area may also prove valuable as they are continually updated on current salaries, benefits, relocation allowances, and the like. Once you have this information, you have to decide on three realistic numbers: the dollar amount that you would absolutely turn down, the amount that will make you satisfied, and the amount that will make you ecstatic (keeping in mind the value of benefits, bonuses, stock options, and other perks a company might offer).
You have made it through several rounds of interviews. You are excited about the opportunity and the company is excited about you. An offer is made. If their offer meets your "ecstatic" number, take it! Companies like to see employees who have done their homework, know a good offer when they see it, and do not make the process into an adversarial one. If the offer is not quite what you had hoped for, take some time to consider it. Determine what is acceptable and what you would like to change. List all the things on your mind and go back to the company and let them know what you desire. If the company has a rigid salary structure, you may not be able to get a bigger base, but a sign-on bonus, relocation expenses, more vacation days, or an accelerated review schedule might be attainable. Be sure any amendments to the original offer are made in writing - there is no guarantee that the person you conclude your negotiations with will still be employed there when you arrive on your first day at the new job. Negotiating an offer does not have to be a painful experience. Be honest with yourself and with your prospective employer and you will both end up with what you desire.
You announce your resignation at work and within hours you are made aware of the promotions that have been in the works for you and the big salary raise that matches or exceeds your new offer. This is called a counter offer. Think very carefully if you are considering a counter-offer. It is flattering to believe that your current company cannot get along without you, but in reality it is very expensive to replace a current employee. A counter-offer is often times a quick fix. The employer retains your services and skills but now has time to make contingencies for when you are gone. Now that your employer knows of your desire to sever the relationship, it is much easier for them to do it on their terms rather than yours. Remember why you started looking in the first place. Those concerns may well amplify once your current firm has the contingency plans in place.