So you made it through the interview process, and your old boss just sent you an email saying someone from your new potential employer called them for a reference. Soon you expect you’ll be getting a call from them to extend you an offer! Here’s what to do, as long as we’re on the same page for what’s transpired thus far, so let’s start with some of my assumptions before we get into handling the verbal offer.
Assumption #1 – You want the job.
No, not the job at a particular salary, i.e., if they’ll give you a big fat raise, but that you REALLY want the job itself because it’s a career step that matters to you. If you’re in it for the $ AND the opportunity, continue reading. If you’re in it just for the $, well, this negotiation tactic is probably not best suited for you.
Assumption #2 – You haven’t brought up benefits.
Or that you haven’t discussed them in enough detail to make a final decision. If you have already seen detailed benefits including all your relevant costs, you’ll have to wait for my next article, because that’s step 2 in this process.
Assumption #3 – You’ve given them a salary range at some point in the process.
Though hopefully, you tried to dodge it at least once—and I assume that you’re satisfied, but not thrilled, with the bottom # of your range.
Assumption #4 – They will be verbally extending you an offer over the phone in this scenario, and that they’ll be including the salary figure when they discuss it.
This seems to be the most common practice, but some companies, especially larger ones with lots of corporate processes, have a practice to not tell you until you receive it. If that’s not the case, you’ll also have to wait for my next article, which will assume you have ALL the info you need to make a decision and it’s time to finalize a counter.
The first thing to do is to recognize that you have some leverage. You are in a position of strength. Regardless of how desperately you want the job or how competitive the process was, you won, so don’t go talking yourself out of some reasonable negotiation in fear of losing it. Everything I’ll recommend should not lose you an offer at the type of company you want to work for. If it does, then good riddance, they are being unreasonable and you should not work for an organization like that anyway.
So they call, tell you you’ve been selected, and then hopefully tell you the salary.
We’ll start from there, when it’s finally your turn to talk. If they ask immediately whether you accept, simply tell them that you’re happy to get the offer, but you’d like to review the entire offer before making your final decision. Your goal overall now on this call is to gently sow doubt in the mind of the individual making the offer. The individual extending you the offer doesn’t want to mess up and lose a good candidate—nay, the best candidate—who they’ve now selected.
Smile, smile, smile. You might be nervous, but you can hear a smile across the world and at this point, you’re just showing positivity and asking questions. So smile, and then follow these steps for handling a verbal offer.
Step 1 – Thank them & express your enthusiasm for “the offer.”
Do not yet express excitement about working at the company or taking the job or joining the team, or anything else that communicates a foregone conclusion, simply that you’re happy to receive “the offer.” We’ll pour that sugar on once this thing is locked up at a number you deserve, and they’ll have no doubt about your enthusiasm and excitement.
Step 2 – (SMILE – just a reminder) Ask about benefit detail.
I haven’t had a chance to see the benefit costs, will you be sending the benefit details with costs along with the offer?
Step 3 – Identify any areas you are sure your benefits are better than theirs if you do know them.
If you are not sure your benefits will be stronger, do not bring it up at this time. One example of a benefit that is commonly less at a new job is PTO because your tenure at your current role probably means you’re at 3-4 or more weeks, so ask something like this:
I currently have 4 weeks of PTO, will I be getting 4 weeks if I work at [your company]?
Note that it says “if” I work there. Subtle, gentle indications that it’s not a done deal. It’s important at this point to remain kind, but distant. Don’t make your acceptance a foregone conclusion. If they’ve taken it this far, you don’t risk losing the offer by asking questions. In fact, one young lady I coached said that the recruiter extending the offer complimented her on the fact she asked the questions she did.
Step 4 – If they’ve made a low offer.
Are you smiling? (SMILE) If they’ve made you an offer on the lower half of the range you gave them, or even at the bottom end–which is very common—address the fact that it’s on the low half by saying something like this:
I thought the interview went very well and that the team and I would really work well together–in particular, I thought the team found my [extra skill that came up in the interview] was going to be of real help to them—so I’m surprised that the salary you’re offering isn’t on the higher end of my range. Is there any flexibility on the salary?
DON’T SPEAK. After you ask that question do not say another word and make sure they are the next ones to speak. Many people tend to babble on after asking this question. DO NOT talk yourself or them out of it. Simply ask the question and button it. Even if there’s an uncomfortable silence, don’t be the first one to speak next! Someone else I coached once told me they added 4% right then just by asking this question. If they’re starting on the bottom end of your range—or even if they’re not—they’re probably already planning on giving you a couple thousand if you ask for it to make you feel like you got a win, so that’s the “gimmee $2k”. Do not, DO NOT, use more words after the questions in this article. Zip it to win it!
a. If the negotiator says yes and gives you a new higher offer, thank them and ask if the new salary will be on the offer you’re receiving?
b. If the negotiator says yes and doesn’t give you a new number, ask them how much more they would be willing to offer, then ask if they will be sending you that new offer? (If they need to get back to you, we’re going down a rabbit hole I can’t address in this article in detail, but my quick recommendation would go something like:
(SMILE) I’m glad to hear there’s some flexibility in the salary you’ll be offering. Thank you. Would you like to call me back when you know the new offer? Great! I’ll await your call. Thanks again!
c. If the negotiator says no: (DON’T SMILE) I’m really sorry to hear that, but would still like to review the offer in detail before making a final decision.
Step 5 – Tell them when you can review it and schedule a follow-up call where they call you.
This would sound like:
I’ll have a chance to review your offer tonight. Can we schedule a call to answer any questions I might have tomorrow at 9am? Great! Do you want to just call this same number then?
Every word of my recommendations in this article is deliberate, so do your best to get it as close as I have it and DON’T OVERTALK with more words than are necessary. Short and sweet. Be smiley with lots of questions! You’re always reviewing “their offer” to make it clear it’s “just an offer” and not the endpoint. You ask them if they want to call you, but you really do want them to call you. It’s a power thing, don’t overthink it, it just helps to have them doing the follow-up, but it’s polite to ask if they want to.
Step 6 – Thank them for their interest and close the call.
Close the call with something like this:
Thank you again for your offer to join the team. I am very happy to hear from you and look forward to working with you on this. Do you need anything further from me to send your offer? Great, talk to you tomorrow at 9. Have a great night [day/afternoon/morning]!
HANG UP. The thank-you part is obvious, but try to use these words like “your offer” and “so happy to hear from you” NOT “so happy to get the offer” OR “excited to join the team.” Even if you are, save that language for later. You want the negotiator concerned that you might not take the offer. You won’t lose it by asking a few reasonable questions for a career decision. Also, the control of the call and hanging up first is another silly little power thing, but if you’ve kindly asked if they need anything and the answer is no, it’s time to hang up and you don’t want to linger in case you give away more info. Less words. And try these ones. And don’t forget to SMILE!
I’ll address the call at 9am in my next post.
Author of 6 Steps to Handling the Verbal Offer, Mark Tyrrell is the Managing Partner and a founder of Right Resources and has recruited professionals in the DC/Baltimore area since 2004. He graduated from Villanova University with a Bachelors in Business Administration and started his career as an ERP consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting. He has staffed positions for some of the most respected companies in Baltimore, including Constellation, Computer Sciences Corporation, Black & Decker, and Edaptive Systems. He lives near Baltimore with his wife and two beautiful children and is humbly grateful for all the opportunities God has provided, including this company.