How to Negotiate a Job Offer

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Written by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Ayana Dunn, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Woman accepting a job offer

You did it! You found an opening for a great job, you got an interview, dressed for success, and aced it. Now you have a job offer. What else do you need to do, besides celebrate? Success is within sight, but you still have one step left: It’s time to negotiate. If your career goals stop when you receive a job offer, you could miss out on extra money, benefits, and more. If you’re serious about getting the best job you can, you need to learn how to negotiate a job offer.

Can I Really Negotiate When I Get a Job Offer?

Of course, you can negotiate, especially if the offer is not what you expected. If it’s below the going rate for the position in your area, you should negotiate a job offer or seriously consider other options. Don’t let the idea of asking for more scare you. Most employers expect job candidates to negotiate. In a survey of HR professionals, 9 in 10 employers are open to negotiating salary.

As a registered nurse, you have extra power to negotiate a job offer. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you’re in demand and will continue to be for the next 10 years. About half of all Americans live with at least one chronic disease, the population over 65 years old continues to live longer, and a record percentage of RNs will be eligible for retirement in the next few years.

What to Consider When Negotiating a Job Offer

Take a combination of things into account when you’re looking at negotiating a job offer:

Comparable Salary

Make sure your salary is competitive, meaning it’s in line with what others in the same job are making. Before interviewing, use an online salary website to see the pay for the position for someone who works in the same state as you do and has the same level of experience that you do. For example, an RN in New York City makes an average of $91,000, but an RN in Phoenix makes $80,000.

Your Experience and Skills

A nurse who has 10 years of experience should make more than a nurse who has three years of experience, right? Not necessarily. If a less tenured nurse has taken additional certification classes or has worked in a high-profile facility with advanced cases, they may be offered more than someone who has done the same job for 10 years.

The Entire Compensation Package

Remember, when you’re considering how to negotiate a job offer, salary is only one part of the package. Look at everything that goes into your compensation, including healthcare benefits, retirement contributions, working conditions, ability to work from home, job title, etc. Also, consider how much paid vacation time comes with the job, if it increases with tenure, and if it accrues. All of these elements go into your job offer evaluation.

Step-by-Step Process for How to Negotiate a Job Offer

Negotiating a job offer can be intimidating, especially if you ask for more money than the employer offers. Get focused by following these steps for how to negotiate a job offer

1. Do Your Homework

Before you interview for a nursing position, research what the job pays in your area. Read the job ad carefully to determine the scope of work and the company benefits. Will you be doing more work than you have in the past? Are the benefits better?

2. Avoid Answering the “What Are Your Salary Expectations?” Question

Telling an employer what salary you want before knowing as much as possible about the job doesn’t make sense. If your number is too high, it may eliminate you from the competition. If it’s too low, you could leave money on the table. If this question is on an online application, you may only be able to continue once you respond. If there is a text field, say it is “negotiable” or “fair market value.” If you must enter a figure, refer to your research and plug in the estimated salary.

You have a few choices if the hiring manager asks about salary requirements during an interview. Say you need to know more about the job and benefits before you can answer. You can flip the question and ask what the salary range is. Or you can give a salary range based on your research.

If the question is, “What is your current salary?” don’t lie. Your fib could be exposed, and it’s not ethical. If you have bonuses or other benefits, you can mention those as added items. Do not lump them all together into one number.

3. Make Lists

As you learn what the job entails, make a list of what you bring to the table. Check off everything you have that matches the requirements. Add notes where you exceed them. Include experience, credentials, skills, training, etc.Make a second list of what you would like in a job. Include salary, benefits, commuting distance, work-from-home options, bonuses, guaranteed raises, office size, and anything else that appeals to you. It doesn’t mean you’re going to ask for all these items. Daydream a little.

4. Be Professional

When it comes time to negotiate, stay calm and use a friendly business tone. Remember you are working with the company, not against them, to reach an agreement.

5. Say Thank You

Before anything else, say thank you for the offer, regardless of what it is. Express your enthusiasm for the position and the company. But don’t give an answer.

6. Take 48 Hours

Don’t accept it immediately, even if it sounds like a great offer. Instead, ask for 48 hours to decide. This lets you think it through, match up your list of what you want with what they’ve offered, and decide how to negotiate. A job offer is a starting point. Employers are used to this, so don’t be timid.

7. Make the Ask

After taking your 48 hours to think, ask if the employer is open to the items on your negotiation list. Ask for them all at once rather than dragging them out item by item. Preface your ask with the points on your list of what you bring to the table to justify your request. Practice with a peer or a friend beforehand — it could increase your comfort and confidence when making the real ask.

8. The Decision

Whether you get what you’ve asked for or not, be gracious and don’t ever close the door completely. Situations may change; the employer may decide to reconsider your asks, or another position that would better suit you could open up. Either way, write a thank-you email expressing your regret for not being able to accept the offer, or your pleasure and anticipation about joining the team!

Find Great Jobs Where You Want to Work

Knowing how to negotiate a job offer helps you feel more in control of your career. IntelyCare gets that. Start looking for great nursing jobs today to find a variety of awesome opportunities.