Once a year, I have the pleasure of being a guest lecturer for an ethics and social leadership class at a local university. The class participants include master's students in nursing and healthcare informatics.

My topic is always the same: I am asked to demystify human resources. This year, the students' questions focused on the following: negotiating an offer, dealing with bureaucracy, performance reviews and terminations.

Negotiating an offer

You've been offered the job, but at a salary much lower than you expected, what do you do? Most people take what they are offered either because they need the job or because the competition getting it was so tough, they do not want to risk the offer being rescinded. This is a mistake.

Regardless of the situation, it rarely hurts to ask for more. The important thing is that you understand the situation, make a reasonable request, and know what you will do with the answer.

Positions normally have a salary range, dictated either by the union or by the compensation structure of the organization. The range exists to incorporate the various skills and experiences of the people filling the position.

Often, there is a subrange within the range called the hiring range. Usually the bottom half of the range is the target amount for bringing on new candidates. For the most part, these ranges exist to facilitate budgeting and ensure equitable pay practices.

So when you are offered the job, someone has gone through the exercise of figuring out either what they have the budget to pay, what you are worth based on your skills and experiences, or some combination of both.

While you cannot change the budget, you can convey that your skills and experiences may warrant a higher offer. Most hiring managers and recruiters expect a counter offer. And most are prepared to swiftly respond with some canned phrase like "this is the best we can do" or "based on your skills and experiences this is what we pay."

So before you give them that opportunity, get your ducks in a row. When they offer you the job, thank them and ask when you need to get back to them by. Normally recruiters and hiring managers do not expect a response that minute; try to buy yourself a day.

That will give you enough time to really digest their offer and check in with your trusted advisors and Google as to how reasonable it is. It also gives you time to craft and practice a thoughtful response.

You will want to craft a response that matches the tone of the process so far and includes:

  • your appreciation of the offer
  • a reiteration of your interest in working there
  • a recap of your skills
  • an inquiry to a higher, specific rate

For example, if the process has been very structured you might response with: "Thank you, the position and organization are exactly what I am seeking, I believe my skills in x and y will help the department, however, I was a little surprised with the rate. Based on my years of x and my depth of knowledge of y, I had expected an offer closer to $a."

In other words, cut to the chase. If the process has been a little more drawn out or the hiring manager has been less than direct, then craft a less direct response. Either way, use your research to come up with a specific and reasonable counter.

Note that whatever you come up with there will likely be one of three responses: no, we can’t; yes; or I will have to check with my manager. If it is no or yes, be ready with your response because there is no reason to protract the conversation. If it is the third, odds are, you will get something in the middle of what you are asking for and what they offered. Be prepared to respond thankfully to that, reiterating why they made the right choice.

In short, don't leave money on the table. You will feel better asking whether you get the higher amount or not.

Check in with us next time when we review dealing with bureaucracy.