Negotiating a Job Offer? 15 Rules from a Harvard Business Professor

    by Dan Lyons

    Date

    March 24, 2014 at 10:30 AM

    negotiateSo you've been through a few job interviews and now you're down to brass tacks -- you're negotiating the offer. This can be complex, tricky business, and costly, too, if you don't do it well. But complexity also creates opportunities, at least for people who have done some homework. Deepak Malhotra is a professor at Harvard Business School who teaches negotiation skills. He's put together a pretty thorough list of 15 rules to follow when you're negotiating a job offer, which I highly recommend.

    "Every situation is unique, but some strategies, tactics, and principles can help you address many of the issues people face in negotiating with employers," Malhotra writes in a must-read article in the Harvard Business Review.

    After reading the article you might also want to watch a one-hour video where Malhotra gives a presentation about how to negotiate a job offer. I'll also embed the video below.  

    Malhotra's first rule, "Don't underestimate the importance of likability," may not come as a big surprise to most normal people, but remember, Malhotra is not advising normal people, he's advising Harvard Business School students, many of whom actually do need to be told this. Heck, even after being told this rule, explicitly, many of these HBS grads will still probably fail to follow it.

    Another neat piece of advice is, "Negotiate multiple issues simultaneously, not serially." If there are four things you want, mention them all at once, and let the employer know the relative importance of each one. The thing you don't want to do is just bring up one thing, such as salary, then go back and forth on that one point, and then say, "Okay, now here's the next thing on my list." Do that, and the employer "is unlikely to remain in an understanding or generous mood," Malhotra writes.

    Other rules include: Understand the person across the table. Understand that this person has constraints in terms of what she can offer, and know what those constraints are. Consider the whole deal, not just salary. And avoid ultimatums. 

    And another favorite: "Don't negotiate just to negotiate." Apparently this is a big problem for freshly minted MBA students. They've just taken courses in negotiation, so "they go bargaining berserk the first chance they get, which is with a prospective employer," Malhotra writes. If something is important, then sure, fight for it. But don't haggle over every little thing, just to show that you can. "Fighting to get just a bit more can rub people the wrong way," Malhotra writes.

    Again, normal people will pretty much understand this instinctively. But HBS graduates? Apparently not so much.

    Here is the video of Professor Malhotra giving a presentation at Harvard Business School:

    Written by Dan Lyons

    Marketing Fellow at HubSpot. Former tech editor at Newsweek, tech columnist at Forbes, and creator of "Fake Steve Jobs."

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