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Basic Negotiation Process

Negotiating a job offer takes a bit of patience and finesse. Here is the basic process:

  1. If the position seems right for you, conduct additional research to inform your strategy for negotiation. Estimate your fair market value and learn what may/may not be negotiable. Learn what you can about the company (e.g., current salaries, benefits, opportunities for advancement.) 
  2. Set your goals for the negotiation. 
    • Determine an acceptable salary range, rather than a specific dollar amount. The bottom number is the minimum salary that you will consider with good benefits; the top number is your aspirational salary goal.  
    • Determine your "must haves" for indirect compensation and non-financial compensation - - the total compensation package.
  3. Let them make an initial offer. Never be the first to ask about salary and benefits! Listen carefully to what is said and how it is said.
  4. After receiving an offer say, "Thank you for the offer." Think carefully before you respond. Refer back to your research notes, if necessary. 
  5. What you say next is up to you.
    • If you wish to counter the salary offer, then do so. They may or may not counter offer in return. 
    • If the offer sounds promising, ask about their total compensation package. Now is the time to get all of your questions answered!
    • Never immediately accept or reject an offer. You will need time to think critically about their offer, the job duties and the company culture. 
  6. When it seems that you have reached a verbal agreement, thank the person again for working with you. Then politely ask for the offer in writing. Tell the person that you do not want to overlook details or misunderstand any provisions. Then ask for a day or two to review the details once you receive the offer in writing. 
  7. Once you reach a decision, call. Don't text or send an email unless specifically asked to do so. Your voice can convey sincerity much better than an email. 
  8. If you decide that you cannot accept the position, remain polite and professional. Thank the person again for the offer, then decline with something like this:
    • "Upon careful consideration, I do not believe this position is a good fit with my interests and skills. I must decline your offer." 
    • "Unfortunately, salary is below what my research shows is a typical hiring range for this job title. I will not be able to accept your offer."   
  9. If you decide to accept the offer, say something like this:
    • "I am calling to accept your offer. Thank you for your willingness to work with me. I am anxious to join your team and start making contributions."
    • "I am pleased to tell you that I accept your generous offer. I am convinced that I will be able to help you achieve the goals that we discussed in the interview."
  10. Whether you accept or decline, always follow up with a formal thank you letter.


  • If you accept or reject an offer too fast, you may make a decision you regret.
  • If you are indecisive and waste time, or ask for too much, you may lose the offer. 
  • Stick with facts. Remain calm and polite. Keep your voice at an even tone.
  • Avoid emotional arguments e.g., your budget, bills, health, cost of living, lifestyle, or need to support dependents. 
  • DO NOT feel guilty about negotiating a higher salary, especially when the offer is well below your targeted range. 

Bottom line: Strive for a win-win solution. By working with the prospective employer toward a mutually-acceptable solution, you will get your relationship off to a good start!