5 Traits Of Successful Job Offer Negotiators

A mix of confidence and perspective, job offer negotiations can be tenuous. Keep these tips in mind while maneuvering the negotiation push-and-pull.

5 Traits Of Successful Job Offer Negotiators
[Image: Flickr user Mark]

After grueling rounds of interviews and meetings with recruiters, don’t cozy up to your new desk yet–it’s time to get ready for the job-offer negotiation.


Deepak Malhotra, professor of Business Administration in the Negotiations, Organizations, and Markets unit at Harvard Business School, compiled 15 rules for entering job-offer negotiations. We’ve boiled them down to five characteristics:

1. Be Likeable

Don’t let the affability slip once you’re past the interview stage. It truly is as much about how you ask (nonverbal cues and tone) as it is what you are asking for–so hold that smile a little longer. Ease tension with a positive demeanor to avoid feeling greedy.

Being likeable and being respected aren’t mutually exclusive. Show you’re not just a friendly face but one they should take seriously: Frame your requests around the real reasons you deserve them. Everyone wants flex time and a bigger paycheck; not everyone has your specific life situation or experience to justify them.

If you don’t have a good reason, maybe that particular perk isn’t worth fighting for. Do you homework: know what the position typically pays (ignoring the unconditional gold stars friends and family give you), and never exude the biggest turnoff: Entitlement.

2. Be Accessible

No one likes playing hard to get forever. Hiring managers, especially, have more to do with their time than court candidates that are only using them for leverage elsewhere. Pushing your luck with playing the cocky, “everyone wants me” card is only effective until someone folds. Be clear and reasonable about what would make you say yes from the start.

3. Be Sympathetic

“Companies don’t negotiate; people do,” says Malhotra. Understanding the other person’s concerns helps you make better-informed asks. If you’re talking to an HR representative, it might be safer to let a flurry of questions fly. Sending a future manager 10 follow-ups a day? Chill. Plan ahead to pitch your concerns as succinctly as possible.


Sometimes, negotiation hits a wall because of policies beyond both parties, like pay caps or tight budgets. Working within their constraints–which could be, don’t forget, your future workplace–means your requests get more traction.

4. Be Prepared For Tough Questions

When you’re in the middle of negotiations, questions like, “Are we your top choice?” seem like curveballs. Prepare to answer potentially awkward questions without evading or revealing weakness. Know ahead of time what you’ll say if cornered.

But not every tough question is a trap. Sometimes the hiring manager just needs a better idea of your intentions: Whether or not you’re truly excited for the opportunity, or if they have a chance of getting you based on your other prospects. Uncomfortable questions like, “How many offers have you gotten?” seem prying, but take a moment to consider what they’re really looking to learn, and answer from there.

“Sure, I have a ton of offers!” doesn’t sound as elegant–or ring with the same truth–as “I set out to earn several options for myself, and here’s how I made it happen.”

5. Be Ready To Say Yes

Know when to stop sparring and shake hands. Bargain for what’s important to you, by all means, but don’t let your ego take over. Even if you didn’t settle on every subject, you can come back to unresolved issues once you’ve established yourself in the position. Make the next few months stellar, and maybe asking for those telecommuting Fridays won’t sound so indulgent, after all.

Closing the negotiation is just the beginning of getting the most out of a new position. You can do everything right, get all of the particulars you want, and realize later that this still isn’t the place for you. “Ultimately,” says Malhotra, “your satisfaction hinges less on getting the negotiation right and more on getting the job right.”


About the author

Freelance tech, science and culture writer. Find Sam on the Internet: @samleecole.