Salary Negotiation

How Do I Choose Between Two Job Offers? |  SIphotography | SIphotography

You’ve slogged through a competitive interview process at multiple companies and you’re ready for the job offers to start rolling in. Even better, you’ve been told you’re a finalist with two employers. Company A (we’ll call them Beam Me Up, Inc.) is a start-up developing the first teleportation machine, while Company B (We Make Flying Cars, Inc.) makes the most popular flying cars in the world. Great choices, right? It’s a great situation to have – how should you handle the multiple companies vying for your talents, and how do you decide which is the right for you? 

Consider the following scenarios: 

Scenario 1 – You receive an offer from the Beam Me Up, Inc., which is clearly your first choice. Many people use a situation like this to see if they can wrangle a better deal by pitting the two offers against each other. Think carefully before engaging this approach – the outcome of such negotiations can be unpredictable and might even work against you if it feeds a perception that you’re trying to incite a bidding war. If the offer comes up short of your expectations, you’re certainly well within your rights to try to sweeten the deal, and taking a collaborative approach with the person who extended the offer (something like, “I’d love to see if we can get to yes, I’d love to work with you!”) can help. If, on the other hand, the offer fell squarely within your expectations, it could very well be in your best interest to accept the offer outright and end your interviews with We Make Flying Cars, Inc. Start off on a positive note.

Scenario 2 – You receive an offer from We Make Flying Cars, Inc. (your second choice). But you really, REALLY want an offer from Beam Me Up, Inc. (your clear first choice). This is a delicate dance. You don’t want to settle too early on a company that, while perhaps great in its own right, is still your runner-up. Here are some steps you can take to move the process along.

Step 1: Align your expectations with We Make Flying Cars, Inc. who extended the job offer, to see if you can buy some additional time. You need to this in as collaborative and professional a manner as possible; keep it simple, thankful, and reasonable. Reach out to Human Resources and say, “Thank you very much for your offer. I do have some other factors to consider. May I have a little extra time to talk to my family and make a decision?” Then gauge the situation carefully. They may or may not be willing to extend your deadline, so proceed accordingly. Missing a hard deadline could result in a withdrawn offer.

Step 2: Reach out to the Human Resources department of Beam Me Up, Inc. to see if you can give the process a nudge. Be direct and honest. For example, “I just wanted to let you know that I received an offer from another company, but Beam Me Up is still my first choice. I believe the work you’re doing is more challenging and rewarding, and that I am an ideal cultural fit. Were the company to make an offer in the range we discussed, I would happily accept it. I look forward to hearing from you, and thank you!” The wheels of corporate bureaucracy move slowly, but a call like this can provide the essential momentum.


3. You receive simultaneous job offers from both companies and you have no clear preference. Make no mistake, receiving two competing offers puts you in an advantageous bargaining position and certainly provides a nice ego boost. You are indeed in a prime position to lure the two employers into a bidding war.

That said, rather than risk your good fortune and potentially jeopardize your relationship with each employer by trying to sweeten the pot, it may be better to compare each offer on its own merit and make a decision accordingly. Consider the following factors:


  • The Work Itself. Which role will be the most rewarding, and will help you achieve your long-term career goals? Don’t just look at the job title, since these may mean different things at different companies. Focus on the specifics of the job description, and the specific work experience and skills you will gain. We devote most of our waking hours to work – maximize the ROI on your precious time with a fulfilling career.

  • Total Compensation. The salary figure presented by an employer is almost always the primary consideration, but compensation is much, much more than just salary. Total compensation can include medical insurance, paid time off, bonuses, 401k matches, employee discounts, car allowances, and other benefits. Run the numbers – a job that pays a high base salary but makes you pay for the bulk of your medical expenses out-of-pocket or gives you minimal vacation time may be a bad deal in disguise.

  • Company Culture. Where are you going to going to feel good heading to work every day? Which employer shares your professional values? Even if all other factors of their offers are equal, company cultures and work environments – even in the same industry – can dramatically different. And don’t forget to factor in work/life balance. Get as much information as possible.


Once you’ve worked through the details and compared the offers, proceed carefully. Beam Me Up, Inc. and We Make Flying Cars, Inc. both believe you are lucky to get an offer from them. If you try to negotiate with the companies and come across as demanding, unreasonable, or ungrateful, or if you appear to be fostering a competition, an employer may believe their offer was a mistake and consider withdrawing it – especially if they feel like they are being played off against each other. Have your salary market data ready (pay a visit to compensation site, do your homework, and be reasonable in your request. If you’re already being offered a compensation package above the market average, requests for more may not be well received; the converse is also true, where if you do your homework and discover you’re being offered below market average, you may have room to negotiate and improve your standing. But it’s still a precarious situation.

If Beam Me Up offers you $5,000 less than We Make Flying Cars, and you ask Beam Me Up to match their offer, you must be prepared to accept the revised offer if they meet your request. A back-and-forth between yourself and both companies will only engender ill will and may result in no offers to choose from. Keep in mind that how you handle the negotiation will be a reflection of your integrity.

Philip Roufail contributed to this article.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, career coaching services, and outplacement services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at, or via the website,

The Joys of Salary Negotiation |  mokee81 | mokee81


After you've sent a resume to a company, somebody in human resources will call you up to screen you for fit. They will invariably ask you what you will are looking for in terms of salary.

This is where it gets tricky. It's a game of chicken – salary discussions, especially at the beginning of the process, are especially difficult because the first party to give away their position loses their leverage to negotiate.

Your goal here is not necessarily aligned to the company's goal in terms of compensation. Assuming the position is a good match for both parties, here's where your interests diverge.

Your goal: To get the best salary offer you can.

The company's goal: To get the best candidate into the position in the most cost-effective manner possible. Less money is better.

The actual figure you agree upon is the reality.

Before getting into negotiation strategy, let's discuss a few facts about how corporate salaries are determined (by the way, this is a simplification, so I'm certain the compensation professionals out will have information to add):

  1. Companies - especially larger ones - usually have salary bands in which employees need to fit. For a particular position, there is an assigned salary range. For example, the company may have determined that they are willing to pay between $15 and $20 per hour for an administrative assistant. They don't want to have too large of a salary discrepancy between several individuals doing the same type of job, but they also want a bit of wiggle room to offer more money if necessary for the right candidate.
  2. Salaries are usually driven by market data. A company will subscribe to (and often provide information for) compensation studies tracking what the market will pay for a particular job. This data take into consideration several factors - skill sets, nature of the market, geography, and what competitors are willing to pay.
  3. A company selectes a compensation philosophy. This goes back to the market data described above. After looking at the data, executives make a decision about their compensation philosophy as to how it relates to their own company. A company looking to aggressively hire high-performing talent or that competes in a fast-changing market like technology tends to extend offers at the higher end of the range. Other companies may look to hire at the general market salaries, tending toward the average.
  4. Companies often have less flexibility on salaries for recent graduates and entry-level hires. This applies to your newly minted MBA just as much as it does to your nephew who recently received their bachelor's degree. Companies often have a concrete salary structure for these recent grads, with adjustments up and down for work location and the ranking for the school from which they graduated. In other words, a graduate with an Ivy league degree can often fetch more than the local state school.
  5. There's a lot more to consider in the offer than just salary. Benefits matter. A lot. Companies often pay a great deal of money to provide a competitive benefits package. You know that health insurance the company's offering? Not every employer subsidizes the same amount to cover that, often leaving you - the employee - to pay a larger share of your premiums or co-pays.  There are other benefits, too - dental insurance, life insurance, disability insurance, tuition reimbursement, vacation time, holidays, company car, 401(k) matches and so on - into which companies can pay dearly. A richer benefits package leaving more take-home money in the employee's pocket may give an employer a real incentive to offer a lower base salary, while still enabling an employee to make ends meet.
  6. Variable compensation matters, too. I'm referring to bonuses, profit sharing, commissions, and long-term incentives. Not every job offers an incentive beyond the base salary. A bonus is real money, and a company's philosophy may direct them to offer a lower base salary in exchange for a desirable bonus target.

Here are some considerations when negotiating salary:

  • It's to your advantage to avoid giving a specific expected salary figure – until it's essential.  It's not always possible to hold off on showing your hand. A recruiter may push you to give a specific number to ensure that you fit within their salary structure. But if you can hold off without coming across as confrontation, it's worth trying. The best scenario is to see if the job itself is a good marriage before locking down a specific number. You'll keep your leverage.
  • Sometimes ignorance can work in your favor. This isn't always true, but in certain cases it absolutely can. If you're a recent graduate (or been at the same company for a very long time) and an employer is asking you what you are looking for in terms of salary, it's okay to say, "I don't have a specific figure in mind, I am looking for a compensation package that is in line for a recent graduate with an MBA from my university." A similar approach also works well if you know you've been underpaid against the market, you can say something like, "I'm looking for a salary that is in line with my experience and education."
  • The employer may push hard to find out your salary expectations. In which case, you may wish to consider taking a slightly different approach with your answer - "In my current position I have been earning $x, I am looking for a salary that will take into consideration the accomplishments and experiences I gained in my present role." You're not telling the employer that you're asking for a specific figure - you're giving an idea of where you've been.
  • Sometimes it doesn't matter what you want. See #4 above - the company may pay everyone the same salary for a certain job. In which case, you have the option of taking or leaving the offer.
  • Ask about the benefits. A rich benefits package has real cash value. Consider all the non-salary components of the offer as part of the total compensation.
  • A sign-on bonus may make up any difference. The company may really want to get you on board, but their salary bands (or some other reason) may prevent them from offering a higher salary. Or perhaps you are walking away from a bonus at your current job. A sign-on bonus might help close the gap during that first year.
  • Be sincere in your negotiations. Tell the corporate recruiter that you really want to make this work and that company x is clearly your first choice (assuming this is true). Perhaps you are willing to meet somewhere in the middle of what was offered and what you asked for. The more you can make the recruiter feel that this is a partnership designed to meet a common goal, the better.
  • The choice is ultimately yours. You don't have to accept the job at the salary offered just because the company offers you the position. If you've negotiated in good faith, then you should be able to walk away from an offer with no hard feelings. Which leads me to one last point...
  • Avoid getting into the negotiations for counter-offers with your current employer. It's not recommended - find out why here.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at, or via the website,

I Just Got a Job Offer! What Do All The Words in this Letter Mean?

Sign it! Sign it! / (Grinvalds)

Sign it! Sign it! / (Grinvalds)

Congratulations! After five weeks and multiple rounds of interviews, the company decided to extend you a written job offer!

The recruiter emails you the offer and... holy cow, this thing is long. The letter has to be at least two pages long and filled with business speak. What do I make of all this? And why did the company feel the need to send me their own version of War and Peace?

Believe it or not, that lengthy letter you're holding in your hands is a well thought out document, that – if well written – details most of the things about compensation, terms, and conditions, and the other effluvia you need to consider prior to accepting a job offer.

Let's go through the components of a typical offer letter. But first, there are two important items I'd like to mention:

I am not an attorney, nor do I presume to give legal advice. This is a general guide to reading a job offer; if you have serious questions or concerns about the wording of an offer, I advise you to find appropriate legal counsel. But that's not me.

This article details what you will typically find in an offer. There are as many variations to offer letters as there are companies extending employment, so how much or how little documentation a company chooses to include in the letter can vary wildly - from the verbal offer to a lengthy contract.

Let's talk about the components of an offer:

  1. Salary: How much the company pays you to do your job. This will usually be presented as an annualized figure., such as $35,000 per year, and broken down into per-pay-period amount, such as $1,346 per bi-weekly. The reason for this is that unless you sign a serious contract (like a Major League Baseball player or head coach in the NCAA) your pay is not guaranteed. Your job is likely at-will, meaning that once you stop working, so does payroll. This will often tell you if or when you will be eligible for the merit increase (i.e. raise) based upon your performance appraisal and the regular salary review cycle. Some companies don't give regular raises - be warned.
  2. Incentive Compensation: Many companies give out bonuses to employees in certain jobs if they, the company, and or their business unit meet some combination of performance goals. This is usually presented as a percentage of salary, such as "12% of eligible earnings." Keep in mind, this is just a target; companies often give more or less (or none) depending upon how that performance turns out. Often, the letter will state that you will have to be employed on a certain date and have worked a certain period (like the previous full year) to collect this. Terms will often be detailed in the offer letter.
  3. Long-Term Incentive: Higher-level folks, like executives, often get offers for stock options and the like. It's usually detailed in here.
  4. Sign-on Bonus: If company really wants you to join, they may throw some extra cash at you to help influence your decision. They'll detail the amount they're offering you - and they'll detail how they'll claw back a portion of the bonus or the entire amount in case you leave before a certain time (like 1 or 2 years of employment) – companies often include this language to encourage employee retention. My advice: If you're not sure you're going to love the job, put the money in escrow so that you can hand it back when you leave.
  5. Relocation Assistance: Moving the old homestead from Texas to California for the job? The company may offer you relocation assistance in the form of mover services or a cash allocation so that you can handle the move itself. The specifics of the actual relocation itself usually reside in a separate policy document, so ask for this if they offer you a relocation package. Again, the company may try to claw back a portion or all of your relocation expenses if you leave the company too soon, and these costs can really add up to major cash.
  6. Tuition Reimbursement: Your new employer may pay some or all of the tuition for you to get that degree you've wanted to pursue. There are two catches. First, the degree usually has to be something that will add to the company's benefit in your current role (in other words, if you work in Accounting, they'll more likely approve tuition for an MBA than for a Theater Arts Degree). Second, clawbacks in case you leave usually apply.
  7. Health & Wellness Benefits: This explains the benefits you will typically qualify for - such as health insurance, long- and short-term disability insurance, life insurance, dental insurance, etc., and when you're eligible to get these benefits. The letter will usually tell you when and how you qualify, but won't get into the nitty–gritty of what your benefits cost you (your premiums and copays) and what's covered. You'll need the benefits brochures - ask for them.
  8. Vacation, Holidays, Sick Time: Also known as PTO (paid time off). Here you'll find out how you accrue days off, and how many you can accrue. Each company's paid time off policy works differently, so read this carefully; some companies offer separate vacation days and sick days, and others will lump these all into a time bank where you draw it down regardless of why you're missing work. Incidentally, if you have vacation time already scheduled to take place after you start, this is a good time to mention this to the recruiter, so that you can get the time approved, even if you haven't accrued the time.
  9. Other Perks, Benefits, and Tools: Company phone, company car, discounts on corporate product, travel benefits, whatever, this will all be outlined in the offer letter.
  10. Terms of Employment: The company will likely insert verbiage about your employment being "at-will" (in other words, you can quit or be fired at any time), or perhaps contractual terms. Either way, the company usually include a note about their right to change terms and conditions (on benefits, policies, or many other things) in the future.
  11. "Employment is Contingent Upon"...: This is where the company details that the offer letter is only good if you pass the drug test and background check. Fail one or both of those, and the offer is null and void.
  12. Place For You To Sign: Yep. The offer letter is a contract. The company wants you to sign the letter and send it back to make sure that everybody is on the same page and agrees to the terms. Keep a copy.

What may NOT be in the letter: Employers may have you sign a plethora of other documents once you walk through the door. These could include Non-competition Agreements (which restrict you from working for a competitor within a certain period of time), Nondisclosure Agreements (saying you won't share their secrets), Conflict of Interest Disclosures (preventing you from investing in or doing business for any organization in direct conflict with your employer's interests) and many more covenants. Companies have been known to terminate employees who refuse to sign such documents, so ask your questions up front.

Don't hesitate to ask the HR representative who extended you the offer if you have questions about its contents. It's better to know and to understand what you are getting yourself into.

Scott Singer is the President and Founder of Insider Career Strategies Resume Writing & Career Coaching, a firm dedicated to guiding job seekers and companies through the job search and hiring process. Insider Career Strategies provides resume writing, LinkedIn profile development, and career coaching services, including a free resume review. You can email Scott Singer at, or via the website,