Negotiating for the Best Job Offer: Survey Says DO IT!

IT professionals who negotiate for a better salary and benefits package during their job search almost always get a better deal, according to CIO.com research.

You've just been offered your dream job with your dream employer, and the salary looks good, too. Should you just sign the employment contract—or is there more negotiating to do?

According to new research from CIO.com, you absolutely should negotiate for a better deal. Don't be shy! Most IT professionals surveyed by CIO.com give the prospective employer a counter offer. Our research shows that job seekers do well by asking for more, too; most of them find that employers will meet them at least part way, if not give them everything they ask for.

Almost everybody—94 percent of respondents—typically negotiates when considering a job offer; only 6 percent say they typically accept the first compensation package offered. When people didn't negotiate, usually it was because they were satisfied with the initial offer, or because they didn't feel they had a choice. "I was badly in need of a job at that point in time, so I did not negotiate for any benefit," wrote one respondent.

But there's at least two ways to ask for more: You can be very specific, identifying exactly what you need before you sign that employment agreement, or you can vaguely ask for more ("Can you do a little better than that?"). Fifty-nine percent of survey respondents say that in a typical situation, they outline specific requirements, while 35 percent negotiate without specifying exact requirements.

Being specific in job negotiations pays off. Nine out of ten respondents (92 percent) who outlined their specific requirements said the prospective employer met their requirements at least partway, and they accepted the job. When the negotiation was vague, 83 percent said the company met the requirements at least partway, which was good enough for the respondents, who accepted these offers.

The higher you are on the job ladder, the more successful you'll be in your salary negotiations. You're also more likely to know what you want. Respondents in more senior IT management positions tend to be specific in setting job requirements and to have those requirements met. Sixty-eight percent of IT executives typically outline their specific requirements, compared to 53 percent of IT managers and 48 percent of IT staff. Nearly all IT executives (93 percent) report their offers were met at least partway, compared with 89 percent of IT managers and 78 percent of IT professionals/staff. IT executives are also more likely to have their requirements met than lower-level respondents.

What's typically on the table? Unsurprisingly, money is at the top of the list. Salary (83 percent) is the most common item for which respondents negotiated in their last job offer. Bonuses (56 percent) and extra vacation or time off (48 percent) are also frequently cited. (See table for more.) Men are significantly more likely than women to negotiate stock options (26 percent vs. 13 percent), while women are more likely to negotiate flex-time (36 percent vs. 23 percent).

"Typical" behavior covers a lot of ground, so we also asked about the last job search. Almost 9 out of 10 (87 percent) successfully negotiated during their last job offer before they signed their job contract. Fifty nine percent of respondents say their prospective employer met them at least partway, and they subsequently accepted the offer while 28 percent say their requirements were met. Only 8 percent agreed to the offer after the prospective employer held its ground, and 5 percent chose to walk away after their prospective employer stood firm or only met them partway.

Gender is not a factor in the salary negotiation process. Nearly all (94 percent) female respondents typically negotiate, compared to 93 percent of male respondents. Women were slightly more likely than men to leave negotiations open-ended (38 percent vs. 33 percent), but the difference is not statistically significant.

However, women should probably be more demanding in setting those specific job requirements because the women responding to the CIO.com survey earn less than their male counterparts. Female respondents, on average, earn $149K annually compared to male respondents, who pocket $160K. Three quarters of male respondents earn over $100K annually, compared to 62 percent of the women.

On the other hand, the job seeker's age does matter. The older you are, the more likely you are to ask for more. Plus, employers are less likely to bend for younger people. Nearly one in five (18 percent) of 18- to 34-year-olds agreed to the last job offer after their employer stood firm with the offer.

Even if those statistics are reassuring, you may have butterflies in your tummy about actually saying, "Here's what I need." You aren't alone. One in five lack confidence in their ability to successfully negotiate a better package. (For advice on negotiating skills, see the accompanying blog entry, Got a Job Offer? Great. Here's How to Negotiate for More, where you're encouraged to add your own questions and ask for advice, too.)

Although most respondents (92 percent) believe compensation negotiations are necessary to get the package they're worth, 24 percent believe that applicants who attempt to negotiate their compensation package are perceived negatively by employers.

Survey findings are based on 315 responses from a broad range of industries and with a wide variation in company size. Nearly three quarters (74 percent) of respondents were men and 23 percent were women (3 percent declined to answer). The average respondent is 43 and earns an annual salary of $158,100.

Top Ten Items Negotiated In the Last Job Offer

What can you ask for during job negotiations? These are the most common requirements cited in the CIO.com survey.

Benefit Percentage Asked For
Salary 83%
Bonuses 56%
Vacation/Time off (paid or unpaid) 48%
Relocation expenses 28%
Flex time (e.g., telecommuting, condensed work week) 27%
Education & training 24%
Stock options 24%
Healthcare (medical, dental, vision) 20%
Perks (e.g., free parking, golf membership, company car) 18%
Severance package 12%

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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