8 Steps to Negotiating a Job Offer Successfully

Retired Colonel John Buckley
Retired Army Col. John Buckley offers hard-earned advice for the military transition. (Courtesy photo)

At one point in my transition, I'd interviewed for a job and felt confident I would receive an offer. Naturally, I considered how I would react.

My first thought was to stare at the offer sheet, pretending to analyze the details before responding with prepared ultimatums. Or perhaps I'd accept the offer immediately to show the company I was a team player.

I concluded that I had no earthly idea what I was doing; in the military, we never had to negotiate our salary or compensation package.

Sure, I'd haggled with a few car dealers, some craftsmen at local markets, even my kids on occasion. I'd also participated in complex negotiations with military and community leaders in Bosnia and Iraq.

As I began to reflect on these experiences, I realized some important lessons. These helped me to organize my thoughts, assess my situation and outline a strategy.

With any negotiation, preparation is key. Fortunately, I realized I had already done a lot of this prep work long before I was invited to an interview -- in my self-assessment. But I also identified a few knowledge gaps; I realized I'd not put pen to paper on things such as left and right limiting stakes regarding salary, acceptable compensation, location and required travel.

The truth is, companies will expect you to negotiate their offer, but they have an established salary range that they will not violate. With preparation, you can better assess any offer against your needs and personal value. This will help you find a "win-win" scenario where you and the company are satisfied -- the ultimate objective of the negotiation process.

8 Steps to Negotiating a Job Offer Successfully

Before the interview:

  • Evaluate yourself, your needs and your current situation.
  • Evaluate the company, its location and your willingness to travel.

During the interview:

  • Ask questions to help you better understand the role requirements and duties. This will help you to assess the value you will create for the company, the biggest determining factor in offer negotiations.
  • Waiting for a job offer can be a stressful period. Put yourself at ease by asking the recruiter about the company's selection timeline.

Reviewing the offer:

  • Once you've secured an offer, ask for time to review and consider it; 2-3 days is not unreasonable.
  • Salary is not the only thing to consider; review the entire deal, including benefits. Sometimes benefits are easier than salary to negotiate.

During the negotiation:

  • Be reasonable, knowledgeable, flexible and enthusiastic.
  • Avoid ultimatums unless you will refuse the offer if the company does not meet your particular demand(s).

Get more tips on each of these steps in Koch Industries' Transition Guide.

John C. Buckley, II, colonel, U.S. Army (Ret), is a veteran, career coach and mentor, author and an expert in the field of military-to-civilian career transition. He currently assists Koch companies to develop and implement military recruiting and retention programs.

Prior to civilian life, he commanded infantry soldiers in combat and peacekeeping operations and directed two of the Army's most prestigious schools. He teaches transition courses, gives seminar presentations, writes about the military-to-private sector career transition and continues to counsel current and former military personnel.

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