Negotiating MBA Job Offers: Dos & Don’ts

NINE TIPS FOR NEGOTIATING OVER JOB OFFERS:

1. Don’t rush to a decision. When you receive an offer, express your interest in the position and ask for time to consider the offer.  Even if you know you will accept, it gives you bargaining room and provides time to make an informed decision.

2. Even if you are satisfied with the offer, consider negotiating.  This request is customary. If done correctly, you have little to lose, and you may end up with a more lucrative package.

3. Get it in writing. When mulling over a full-time offer, ask the employer to have the written offer and benefits package delivered to you before you make a decision.

4. “Either/or” discussions are not effective negotiation tactics. If you do decide to negotiate the compensation, you must be prepared. Research salaries at similar firms, in the same job function, in the same location and within the same industry. Prior to negotiations, think about the alternative salary you want the employer to consider.

5. Show your worth. Reinforce your interest in the company’s goals, the skills and experience you offer, and your desire to be part of their team. Above all, do not present alternatives, such as the threat that you will go elsewhere, unless you are ready to follow through with them.

6. Understand the constraints.  Employers often negotiate salaries for full-time offers.  But, employers may be less willing to negotiate if they hire a large number of MBAs for the same job titles, since they often prefer to bring in everyone at the same salary level.   Internship offers are usually less negotiable.

7.  Negotiate beyond salary.  Consider benefits, vacation, bonuses, relocation packages, and other perks.  Sometimes, companies are more willing to increase the signing bonuses than the base salary.

8.  Accept the position that excites you most. This will be where the work itself is compelling, where a long-term opportunity is greatest and where the environment is the best “fit” for you.

9. Don’t burn bridges. If you decide to decline an offer, display a positive and professional approach in your correspondence. You never know when you may want an offer in the future, and staying in contact will help develop your professional network.

NEGOTIATING RULES ACCORDING TO HBS PROF DEEPAK MALHOTRA

Harvard’s Malhotra, writing in the Harvard Business Review last year, listed “15 Rules for Negotiating a Job Offer.” Among them:

• If asking for more money than is on offer, explain why you’re worth more than others they may have hired for that price.

• Prepare for hard questions – such as whether the company you’re talking to is your top choice, whether you have other offers, or whether you’d accept an offer made the next day – so you don’t fumble, evade, or stray from the truth.

• Understand the role of the person you’re talking to. If it’s an HR person, it may be fine to ask lots of questions about the details of an offer, but if it’s the person who would be your boss, such questions may annoy them.

• Go beyond money and focus on the whole deal: duties, location, travel, work-hours flexibility, opportunities for advancement, education, and negotiate all of them simultaneously.

• Don’t haggle for haggling’s sake. An MBA student with a recent negotiating class under his or her belt can go “bargaining berserk the first chance they get,” Malhotra writes. “Fighting to get just a bit more can rub people the wrong way.”

• If you want to choose among several jobs, it’s best to have all the offers arrive close together. You can slow down the process with one employer, and speed it up with another – as an offer-delaying tactic, Malhotra suggests asking for a later second- or third-round interview.

• Don’t make ultimatums, and if the other side does, pretend they didn’t – they may not be wedded to that hard line.

• Delays in receiving an offer letter, or hold-ups over a negotiating point, are common, and not in themselves cause for alarm. Be actively patient: stay in touch, and perhaps ask if you can do anything to help the process move forward.

MORE TIPS, FROM A KELLOGG EVENT

Also last year, a number of job-offer negotiating tips came out of Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, from a panel of four Kellogg professors with negotiations expertise. Kellogg MBA student Pooja Prasad blogged on the school’s website about takeaways from the talk, which was presented by the Kellogg Women’s Business Association. Here’s what Prasad took away:

• Always try to have another offer for leverage: “If you don’t, you’re not negotiating. You’re begging,” Prasad writes.

• Don’t ever ask, “Is this negotiable” – the answer will almost certainly be, “No.”

• Create a planning document with a personal scoring system to assign value to the various elements of the offer, and don’t focus only on salary.

• Think from the employer’s perspective. “Frame the conversation in a way that conveys the factors that are most important to the employer, i.e. long-term commitment to the firm, willingness to relocate, travel or work on different projects or teams, etc.,” Prasad writes.

• Always negotiate by phone or in person, using email only to schedule discussions.

• Ask for more time than you think you need to decide on an offer, to avoid having to rush into a decision; only ask for an extension once.

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