“In business as in life, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate” - Chester L. Karrass
We get it. The job seeking process is long, arduous, tortuous - basically, a full-time job by itself. But once you’ve got the offer you covet, don’t be so quick to pull the trigger. According to CareerBuilder, just under half of job seekers will endeavor to negotiate their offers, often leaving salary bumps, increased performance or relocation bonus, or extra vacation on the table. MBAs in particular often feel beholden to standardized compensation packages, thinking they have no leverage to negotiate amidst the sea of other candidates.
Here are 7 strategies for MBAs to negotiate those offers, and get a raise before you even set foot in the building.
- Go for the offer first
This may seem obvious, but it’s hard to do in practice. Even if it’s not your first choice for an MBA internship or post-MBA job, go for the offer. First, make it mentally binary: either I get this job offer, or I don’t. Worry about the other stuff later (location, salary, responsibilities, which team) - when you have more leverage.
- Let them know you want them
Think about it from the recruiter’s perspective: they are often judged (or even compensated) on yield. As an MBA, your leverage proportionately decreases with perception of your attainability as a candidate. Don’t give them a reason to give you a pre-emptive “no” if they think you’re likely to walk anyway.
- Leverage other offers
Leveraging other offers can be a powerful tool, but must be used delicately. It’s important to think of how your desired firm perceives the offer you’re using as leverage. Is it a competitor? In the same industry? Is it from a firm perceived as more or less prestigious?
- Be relatable
Companies don’t negotiate, human beings do. So it’s important to be relatable when working through the negotiation process. For example, if the job requires moving to San Francisco from Chicago, that’s a cost of living difference of 50% at a salary of $100K (according to this fantastic calculator from CNN Money). As employees we often assume that HR departments understand this and factor cost-of-living into offers, but some may not. Especially with companies not hiring many MBAs (think startups, NGOs, etc.), it often helps to paint them a relatable picture of your post-MBA financial situation: paying off student loans, relocation expenses, etc.
- Pick the right communication strategy
One thing MBAs tend to undervalue - especially those of us weaned in the digital age - is the importance of in-person or phone conversation versus email. Negotiating an offer over email gives you zero control over the situation, and frankly, can signal a lack of authenticity or interest. Additionally, think about with whom you should be negotiating. Is the HR contact merely a gatekeeper to get you in the funnel, or in charge of the compensation package as well? Rule of thumb: talk to the person who wants you most. In small companies, it’s often the hiring manager or even CEO, needing to fill a hole on the team.
- Do your research
Here’s where we come in. TransparentMBA offers what no one else does: MBA-specific compensation data to empower and inform you. Some might perceive top-tier MBA students as “having it easy”, since so many companies are looking to hire the high caliber of talent. However, we also deal with our own job search woes; tactics like exploding offers and sliding-scale bonuses force us into choices often before we can gather the required information.
New to TransparentMBA? Sign up for free here and in just 5 minutes you’ll be exploring our intuitive dashboards showing compensation and satisfaction data by industry, function, and company.
- Think outside the box
Finally, think outside the salary box. While your first post-MBA salary is king (and should be, since future raises will be no doubt based on it), it’s not the only thing. Think about one-time bonuses to adjust for cost-of-living, relocation, or time spent selling a house or condo. Especially in smaller companies, negotiate your stock or option grant (use this excellent post from eShares). Or, propose an additional performance bonus based on an agreed-upon goal. This tactic works well for business development, marketing, or sales hires (especially in growth-stage firms) because the firm’s only on the hook if you perform. Plus, it shows confidence on your part.
So, MBAs - get out there and negotiate that offer, and get a raise before you even start your new gig.
For further reading, check out this great piece by Poets & Quants or this video featuring Harvard Business School’s Professor Deepak Malhotra.
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