Job Hunting Advice


Know Thy Enemy

Understanding your adversary is one of the first rules of negotiation. While the person you are negotiating with is not necessarily your enemy, they are playing an adversarial role in the process, relative to your own wants and needs. You want one thing and usually they want something different and through negotiation you reach a compromise or solution.

If you know your adversary's options, then you know how flexible they can be. If they have no other options, then you are working from a position of strength. If there is something crucial that you bring to the table, then don't just give it away. Make your adversary pay for it.

Understand what you will be getting. If you are negotiating under the belief that you are going to get package A, but when you arrive on your first day on the job, you end up with package B, then you just negotiated the wrong thing. Be clear about what you are getting as part of the negotiated solution.

Understand Your Options

Not only does it help to know what options your adversary has, but you also need to know what are your own options. Do you have alternatives if this negotiation fails? Can you afford to walk out the door if your demands and requests aren't met or is this already a given and you are merely trying to get the best deal that you can? If you have other options, then you can afford to take a stronger approach. If you don't have other options, then get what you can, but don't push your adversary over any lines or present them with an ultimatum. All too many people have seen their ultimatums accepted and end up losing everything.

Leverage Your Strength

Know your own capabilities and what you are bringing to the table. Make sure that you point out your features and benefits. Differentiate yourself from everyone else. Show how you are uniquely prepared for this position and can guarantee results.

Make Compromises

The art of compromise is crucial to any negotiation. There are bad compromises and good compromises. Bad compromises are the ones that you don't want to make. Good compromises allow you to give up something that you don't care about in order to get something that you do care about. For example, suppose you are told that you will need to work over every Thanksgiving holiday. Now Thanksgiving may not mean much to you, perhaps you don't celebrate the occasion or don't really care about time off for that holiday. However, the company doesn't know that you don't care. Find something that they didn't want to give you, and make them give it to you that as part of a compromise. You might say that you will give your Thanksgiving holidays, but would like to have two additional days of vacation to be used at any time during the year other than Thanksgiving.

Ratchet for Synergy

Whenever negotiating, always focus on price first. Dollar signs are always the first thing that anyone can see. Make sure that you know what options are going into that price, how much vacation time, what benefits, what office size, what perks, etc. Once you have price nailed down, then start to work on the other features. With price fixed, do the best you can to increase the amount of vacation time offered. Then once the amount of vacation time is fixed, start negotiating on the size of your office. Then negotiate on the other intangibles, the perks that will go into your job. The idea is that if you negotiate everything as a total package, there is a maximum size that you can get that package to be. If you focus on each individual component of the package, starting with price and then moving on to everything else, then you can ratchet up each individual component. When you're finished, the sum of the parts will be bigger than the total package you could have negotiated as a whole. You will find that it's a synergistic situation, where 2 = 2, but 1 + 1 = 3!


Silence is golden, and in negotiations, it can be priceless. You will often be negotiating against someone that likes to talk. In a conversation, a period of silence can be unnerving and uncomfortable for both sides. Rather than always trying to have something to say or have an immediate answer, wait a few moments. Let your adversary hang in suspense, unsure of what will be your response. They will wonder what you are thinking and what is your reaction. In order to break the silence, your adversary might say something, anything, just to maintain the conversation. That may prove their undoing, as in their eagerness to speak, they give away some of the strength of their position, offering concessions or compromises before you even say anything.

Stay Vague

Every piece of information is a card that you can play. Don't show all of your cards at once, because your adversary will know how good your hand is and you won't have much to work with in the negotiation. If asked for something, don't be specific and give up all of the details. Make them give up something for everything you give up. If you are being offered a salary and are asked if it's the best offer you've gotten, and it isn't, then do not give the exact amount that is the difference. Simply say there is a difference, perhaps even a significant difference, and let them fumble around in the dark guessing at what amount they need to counteroffer. Often they may fumble around and counteroffer a much better figure that you needed or were looking for.

Get it in Writing

Let's face it; in today's world of fast and loose promises, you don't have much unless you have it in writing. Any offer that you receive must be in writing. Don't do anything drastic, such as quit your former job, unless you have something in writing. A written offer demonstrates a level of commitment that will hold up in court. Make sure you get that level of commitment. Don't leave home without it in writing.

Buy Time

Pressure is an ever-present aspect of negotiation. Picture the used car salesman making you an offer out on the car lot, "This deal is only good until you walk off the lot. If you walk off this lot, then it'll be twice as much tomorrow. I can't hold this offer forever. You need to buy now."

An offer good today will usually be good tomorrow. Don't fall prey to your emotions and a high-pressure sales technique. Buy yourself some time. Whenever you get an offer, even if it sounds better than your wildest dreams, say that you need to think about it. Never immediately agree. If pressured to answer now, say you'll give an answer by the end of the day, week, tomorrow, or anything as long as you don't give the answer right then.

Never Gloat

Everyone likes to think that they're getting a good deal. When you're made an offer, if you immediately jump up and down and yell, "This is incredible, I never thought I'd get offered this much," then you are sabotaging your future. You may have gotten the job, but during your next five performance reviews, your boss is going to remember the incredible deal that you shouted about and you won't be getting many promotions or bonuses any time soon. You always want your adversary to think that they came out the winner.

Even if you got 99% of what you wanted, point to the 1% and say, "Whew, you really drove a hard bargain that time. You're going to have to go easy on me at my first performance review." That makes your adversary feel as though they were a great negotiator and didn't get "had". Never forget the role psychology plays. Don't gloat over your victories. Pump up your adversary and make them feel good about the decision and solution. Make them think they got everything they wanted and are in your debt or owe you one. You'll be glad you did when they don't negotiate as tough the next time. If you do gloat, they'll be out for blood the next time you meet on the negotiating table, eager to get back whatever they originally gave up.

Last Updated: 05/23/2014

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