Easing the Fear and Anxiety of Negotiating Your Job Offer

Posted by Nancy Gober

negotiationSuccess . . . you have a job offer!

You’ve worked hard. You crafted your marketing materials; you networked your way into some good interviews; you interviewed well. You made a strong case that you are a candidate who can provide benefit to the hiring organization.

You sold it.

They bought it.

You have a job offer.

The hard part is behind you . . . right? Well, not entirely. Why? Because now you are faced with the successful job seeker’s classic dilemma: Should you, or shouldn’t you, negotiate your job offer?

In other words, do you accept the offer you’ve been given? Or, do you try to improve it and get more of what you want?  Should you negotiate?

Negotiating Your Offer

The thought of negotiating a deal can create jitters in the best of us! It’s right up there with public speaking and fear of snakes.

As with other high-stress job search activities, such as networking and interviewing, the prospect of negotiating a job offer can cause high anxiety. But, why do job seekers fear this key job search activity, often resulting in refraining from negotiating the offer they’ve been given? Largely out of fear of the unknown. These concerns and fears include:

  1. They are unfamiliar with the process and don’t understand what’s to be gained from negotiating with a prospective employer.
  2. They don’t understand how employers determine a potential salary, and what’s at stake in lost potential compensation due to choosing not to negotiate.
  3. They don’t understand just how much an employer has invested in the offer, and them as the chosen candidate, by the time the employer gets around to making an offer.
  4. And, not understanding Fear # 3 above, they fear the employer will rescind the offer – an unlikely outcome.

However, as with so many anxiety-producing things in life, a little knowledge can go a long way to easing the discomfort. Understanding what negotiation is, how to go about it, and What’s-In-It-For-You can help allay fear and calm the jitters.

Negotiation . . . A Working Definition

Negotiation, like networking or an Elevator Speech, is one of those terms that everyone uses when talking about job searching, and “sort-of knows what it is,” but can be hard pressed to  apply or define. Here is a definition:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

NEGOTIATE  > verb  – to confer with another so as to arrive at the settlement of some matter

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Yet, no one would say that negotiation is a simple exercise. However, viewing negotiation as a conference, or conversation, to discuss and agree to mutually acceptable terms can help a lot to calm the nerves and get you through it. It can help you discuss your job offer with your future employer to improve its terms.

Negotiation Is Just a Conversation

A negotiation is, after all, just a conversation. It’s as simple, and as complex, as that. Negotiation is just a part of life. We negotiate every day, whether we realize it or not. We are negotiating when we discuss:

  • A personal issue – discussing with your spouse if you will watch sports or gardening TV show.
  • A community issue – discussing with your neighborhood homeowners’ association whether you should re-pave the roads or hold off.
  • An on-the-job issue – discussing whether you can take an extra week of vacation and still complete the report.
  • OR . . . A job offer – discussing with your prospective employer their and your needs for the work to be done and compensation to be offered.

It’s All Negotiation

Whenever two parties sit down to discuss a topic in order to come to some agreement, it’s a negotiation. Whether it’s who will take out the garbage or which movie we should see, it’s a negotiation.  People just don’t think of it that way, so they don’t fear the discussion or conversation. However, as the topic changes to one with greater seriousness, consequences, and magnitude, it seems that the degree of apprehension increases. And in people’s mind, so does the difficulty. Since career decisions, including job offers, fall into this category, apprehension increases and so does fear of the discussion.

If you choose to negotiate, you have a lot to gain. If you choose not to negotiate, you have a lot to lose. When you don’t negotiate on your own behalf when seeking a job, chances are good that you leave dollars and benefits lying on the table that could have been yours.

It’s your choice. Many job seekers I have known over the years shy away from negotiating their job offer and just accept the offer they’ve been given. So, it may be encouraging to know that like networking, interviewing, writing a good cover letter that sells the benefits of hiring you, or writing a Thank You letter to close the sale, negotiating is a skill –  a learned skill. And, as with any skill, the more you practice, the better you get. So, while negotiating may not ever rank among your top 10 favorite things to do, you may find that with knowledge and practice, you can become a proficient negotiator and emerge from negotiation conferences or conversations with more of what you want from future deals.

The long and short of it is that negotiation is still just a conversation . . . a conversation in which two (or more at times) parties have different wants and needs, yet enough shared commonalities, to make it reasonable to sit down and have a conversation. The goal is to arrive at a workable solution, or compromise, that is acceptable to both parties: a Win-Win-Solution.

The Key to Successful Negotiation

A Win-Win-Solution is always the goal of a sincere and well-intentioned negotiation. The Win-Win is derived from both parties discussing their own wants and needs and arriving at an agreement of what is fair for both parties. The goal is for each party to come away from the negotiation satisfied that they got as much of their own needs and wants satisfied as possible without doing harm to the other party(ies). The more satisfied both parties are with the outcome, the better and longer lasting the solution will be for them and for everyone involved.

The key to successful negotiation is that the more satisfied both parties are with the solution, the better off each will think they are.  No one gets everything they want, but each gets enough to feel they got a good deal.

Translating this outcome into job seeking terms means just this: If both the employer and the new employee think that this new relationship will meet many, if not most, of their wants and needs, and are satisfied with the outcome of the discussion, the higher the probability that it will be a long tenure and a good working relationship. The happier both the employer and employee are with the outcome, the more productive the association will be. Both look forward to a future of working together. And, that’s a Win-Win!

Are They Glad They Negotiated?

Over the years, I have asked the question below of those job seekers I worked with who chose to negotiate their job offers:

Question: “Are you glad you negotiated?”

Answer: “Yes.” The overwhelming response is “YES!”

Virtually all say “Yes.”  Most clients say that even if they experienced nervousness and anxiety beforehand, they are glad that they faced their fear and negotiated their offer. They listed these benefits to doing so:

  • Benefit 1: They found that they emerged from that final part of the interview process with more in the way of dollars and / or benefits than they would have had they not negotiated. In some cases lots more; in others a little more; and in some cases the promise of “more” to be re-opened for negotiation at a specified time in the future.
  • Benefit 2: They came away from the negotiation with a better understanding of each other and a higher respect level for each other. Not a bad way to start off a new relationship!

Their bottom line is that they got more by trying their hand at negotiating their offer.

I also asked this question looking to the future:

Question: Would you negotiate in the future? In other words, would you negotiate your next job offer?

Answer: “Yes, absolutely.”

It’s a Choice

Some folks will always shy away from negotiation, particularly if they equate negotiating with arguing, volatile arguing at that. And that is a respectable choice. However, negotiation does not have to be like that. If thought of and conducted as a conversation aimed at achieving a “Win-Win” solution, it’s not only a choice, but a good choice.

Best of luck in your job search.

Next time: Negotiation Begins the Moment You Say Hello

Nancy GoberNancy Gober is a career strategist who has helped thousands of job seekers find employment. She’s also been a popular resume reviewer at our Cleared Job Fairs. You may reach Nancy via email at [email protected]. Follow Nancy on Twitter @AfterJobClub.


  • Nancy Gober

    Nancy Gober is a career strategist who has helped thousands of job seekers find employment, and the author of “Jobs Are Not Found Sitting at the Computer.” You may reach Nancy via email at [email protected].

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This entry was posted on Monday, February 26, 2018 9:16 am

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