Jobs: Negotiating your job offer
Between navigating what is up for discussion and knowing what isn’t, negotiating a job offer is a fine art. While there is potentially a lot to gain, you could also lose everything. These tips may come in handy when preparing to throw your hat into the ring.
By nature, good negotiation is not a game of poker or an exercise in deception, but an open discussion with the goal of beginning collaboration on the best possible footing for both parties. Such a discussion should therefore be methodically prepared and conducted if it is to be successful.
There are three things you should know before delving into this topic:
- First, dare to bargain! Your future employer is expecting you to negotiate, and is likely prepared to make reasonable concessions if your profile really interests them. They may even be impressed with your negotiating skills and see that as one more reason to hire you.
- Second, be honest and consistent! Lying, being deceptive or going back on earlier commitments may rule you out for good.
- Third, put everything in writing. Once the negotiation period is over, read the fine print of your employment contract. Before you sign, check that everything is in line with what was agreed. If you are unsure or have any questions about a clause, don’t hesitate to seek advice.
The further you get in the recruitment process, the greater the company’s interest, and the more leverage you have in the negotiations.
When and with whom should you negotiate?
Avoid negotiating during your first interview. The further you get in the recruitment process, the greater the company’s interest, and the more leverage you have in the negotiations. First attempt to negotiate with the line manager who recruits you, then with Human Resources. If possible, find out about the company’s corporate culture and try to adjust your strategy accordingly.
If you are recruited through an agency, do not attempt to negotiate with its representative, who might keep you off the shortlist. Wait until you have been introduced to the hiring company and negotiate directly with the actual decision makers!
Some people attempt to negotiate after they have been presented with an offer. Since the company will normally have turned down the other shortlisted candidates, they believe they are at an advantage. This is a dangerous game because the recruiter might deem you disloyal. In most cases, a recruiter will inform other unsuccessful candidates only once your contract has definitively been signed, not when they make you an offer.
What is negotiable?
It’s difficult to make an exhaustive list of what can be negotiated, but here are the main items to consider.
- Pay. You can negotiate your pay during your recruitment, including in regulated sectors and the civil service. Keep your demands realistic and don’t focus all your efforts on this single factor. Some benefits can more than make up for a salary that is lower than your ideal.
- Working time and hours. Are working hours fixed or variable? Are they flexible? Can you purchase holidays? Depending on your employer and the position, it may be possible to negotiate working time and hours. However, it’s best not to bring this up too early, unless this is a deal-breaker for you. A four-day workweek, telecommuting or personalised working hours can all be negotiated at some companies, especially if you’re an executive. Also find out about the company’s overtime policy.
- Professional and miscellaneous benefits. While everything is negotiable in theory, you shouldn’t ask for just anything. And conversely, since everything is up for discussion, also assume that nothing is included beyond what is required by law (minimum wage, paid leave, etc.) or what has been granted under a collective bargaining agreement. Here are some items to consider: bonuses, 13th month, meal vouchers, company car, mileage allowance, computer, phone plans, additional leave, training, clothes budget, etc. Depending on the type of contract, the industry or the associated collective bargaining agreement, many benefits may or may not be granted to you. It is important and instructive to first research the practices and customs at your new company. View all Collective Bargaining Agreements by industry on the official publication platform of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.
(…) a well-negotiated job title could prove more beneficial in the medium term than a slightly higher salary with a poorly chosen job title.
- Job title. Some job titles associated with your position carry more weight than others in the job market. For example, “development engineer” conveys more value than “developer”, or “assistant” than “secretary”. If your career plan involves cycling through multiple companies, a well-negotiated job title could prove more beneficial in the medium term than a slightly higher salary with a poorly chosen job title. So aim for the job title with the greatest possible sway in the job market.
- Probationary period. Negotiating your probationary period is important. In a standard employment contract, this item is generally disadvantageous to employees. Here as well, you should research the practices of the company before consenting to a trial period of six months, let alone a year.
- Mobility clause. This clause can force an employee to accept a change of workplace and lets the employer avoid having to amend their contract should the company relocate, for example. An employee who signs a contract with a mobility clause agrees to accept a change of workplace at the employer’s behest. However, it is possible to negotiate compensation for such a clause: reimbursement of moving expenses, or of a second rent if the employee is forced to take up another residence, and other costs associated with the relocation.
- Cooling-off period. Employers often push for a rapid signing of the employment contract. However, if the contract contains multiple clauses yet to be finalised, you may also request a brief delay in which to study the document in detail and get expert advice where necessary. Once the contract has been signed, it is much harder to amend.