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You’ve got an offer for a job you want – but what happens next? Our top tips explain how to handle the post-offer stages, including negotiating pay and counter offers...  

When the time comes for your next career challenge, there are always hurdles to jump after successfully completing the interview stage. For candidates who have secured an offer for a role they want, the next steps can involve some difficult conversations. Not everyone negotiates for higher pay or improved benefits, but most employers expect it.  

With the ongoing talent shortage across all industries, now is the perfect time for sought-after STEM professionals to maximise their offers. Our SThree STEM insights reveal the current market picture is one of confidence and assertiveness, in which candidates know they are a valuable resource. They feel positively about demand for their skills, according to the report, and are also “leveraging their professional value to win better salary and benefits packages in highly competitive STEM markets”.

Mastering a valuable art

Many people will already be involved in some form of negotiating in their professional lives. This subtle art is often flexed in scenarios that play out in our personal lives too. But negotiation is still a skill, particularly when it involves the tricky topic of money. According to the Harvard Business School, there are six essential elements candidates need to master to maximise the chances of successful negotiations and it pays to “invest time and energy into developing them”. The skills are: communication; emotional intelligence; planning; value creation; strategy and reflection. We explore what each of them means and how they can help candidates navigate these often-tricky waters.

Communication – articulate, listen and pause

Make it clear what you want: have a target salary in mind, as well as the least you’ll agree to, alongside any must-have versus nice-to-get benefits. Hiring managers will appreciate clarity and knowing where your boundaries lie. Remember, you’re effectively making a deal, so there must be some give and take. This means articulating your desires eloquently but also listening to the other side. Taking time out during the discussions for a well-timed pause can also go a long way – those few moments of silence give you time to digest what’s been said, where the discussion is going and can even ‘disarm’ the other side. You might see the offer improve without having to try as hard as you expect.

Emotional intelligence – reading between the lines

Defined as the ability to understand and control your own feelings, and to understand the feelings of others and react to them in a suitable way, emotional intelligence is often hailed as a vital part of negotiating. Successfully reading other people’s emotions can enable you “to more easily pick up on what they’re implying rather than explicitly stating,” says Harvard Business School – which can potentially give you more wiggle room and power, particularly when negotiations get to counter offers.

Planning – practising your pitch

Conversations about money can make many people feel a little flustered. If you have rehearsed these negotiations and are well-prepared, including clear responses to a counter offer, you will sound more confident and the hiring manager is more likely to believe in you. Walk through what you would say to potential alternative offers, alongside any common ground (aka the ‘zone of possible agreement’ or ‘bargaining zone’, whereby both parties can agree terms that overlap). This can help to avoid important parts of any deal being overlooked or reaching a point where neither side is happy.  

Value creation – expanding the pie

Value creation or the win-win negotiation is when both parties can reach solutions that benefit both candidate and employer, or at least benefit one of them without making the other side worse off. This means looking beyond pay “for new sources of value that can be brought to the table to expand the pie”, says Harvard Law School – such as holiday entitlement, flexibility and non-pecuniary benefits, rather than simply looking to grow your slice of the pie. If applicable to your contract, benefits are a valuable part of your remuneration and an important element of how an employer compensates you for work. If you can negotiate very good benefits, these might offset a final pay offer that’s lower than you want.

In terms of flexible working, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says these practices “should be the norm – and not the exception – for all UK workers”, and is even campaigning for employers and the government to make flexible working requests a day one right for all staff. Employers are increasingly understanding that flexibility is essential to securing the best candidates but, of course, these opportunities still vary between different STEM industries and roles. 

Strategy – getting on track

Every negotiation will be different, so knowing what works and what doesn’t can help. Harvard Business School recommends considering these steps: define your role; understand your value; understand the other party’s vantage point; check in with yourself during pay discussions (to help you stay on track).  Ask yourself questions such as: How badly do they need you? How you can prove what you could bring to the organisation? Are there any skills they’re missing that you’ve identified? Recent training, qualifications and achievements that can demonstrate your worth are always good to mention.

Don’t forget to familiarise yourself with market trends for the same type of role you’ve been offered within your specific sector, and find out whether the average pay is going up or down. If you can, talk to peers working in similar organisations to find out how much they are being paid for a role like yours. This helps you work out a reasonable counter offer target. But you should also build a case for a pay offer at the higher end of any pay range, according to other insight from Harvard Law School.

If you want more money or better/specific benefits than your initial offer, don’t simply outline a figure or list desired perks, using phrases like “I want… or “I feel I deserve…” Explain why you merit 15% more than the initial offer, for example, or why you need certain flexibilities. Josh Doody, author of the Fearless Salary Negotiation, suggests a good range for a counter offer is between 10% and 20% – as it pushes the company higher into the range it is willing to pay, “while not pushing too hard”. 

Reflection – honing your skills

There’s always room for improvement and reflecting on how you handled these negotiations will help you to further hone your skills. You might find certain tactics worked in your favour and others didn’t. Evaluating your performance at the table might include deciding to take a less combative approach next time round or edging your counter offer a bit higher.

Ultimately, if you can adeptly handle the offer and counter offer stages, it will make for a happier start in your new role. You will feel your worth has been valued and it will give you the right attitude for your first day on the job.

Are you looking for a new role? We can help. Get in touch with one of our consultants today.