From time to time, we all experience fear in our lives. Our hearts flutter when we hear strange noises at night. Our adrenaline surges after a near traffic collision. Our stomachs lurch when our children get into trouble at school.

For many, negotiating a job offer can be just as frightening.

You’re not alone. Most practitioners dislike and avoid negotiating, for a few reasons:

  • Fear of losing the job offer
  • Lack of confidence
  • Lack of negotiating experience

If you suffer from one or more of these inhibitions, it’s time to let go.
Truth be told, most employers (84%, in fact) actually expect employees to negotiate their compensation packages before accepting the job. It’s part of the game, and it’s in your best interest to play it.

Negotiating is both an art and science. With practice, you’ll become better at it and more relaxed. You’ll develop confidence, become effectively assertive and discover the satisfaction of getting exactly what you want— and what you deserve.

1. Determine your worth

  • Salary – Before you go in for your interview, do your homework. Find out what the average salary is for neonatal nurse practitioners in your geographic area and network with others in the industry. It’s good to come to the negotiating table with a set range in mind. Also, remember we are discussing offer negotiations and not just salary negotiations. There is more to an offer package that just salary.
  • Benefits – The amount you’ll earn is important, but so are the benefits included with your offer, especially if you are the one providing the benefits for your household.  This is especially important if you’re fielding multiple offers; there can be quite a disparity between offers if you factor in both benefits and salary into the total compensation package. Consider the value of perks such as health insurance (coverage and premiums), 401(k) matches, bonuses, vacation time, personal time, staff discounts and continuing education reimbursement. Sometimes the offer with the lowest compensation ends up being the best offer. So, compare wisely.

2. Seize the silence

After doing your homework be prepared with two numbers in your mind: what you’d “like” and what you’ll “take”. What is your bottom line…or walk away number? By being prepared ahead of time with these numbers you have the mental framework in which to negotiate but keep this information to yourself unless or until you absolutely need to disclose them.

Why? Because whoever mentions a salary figure first is at a disadvantage. And if you’re like most people this question typically raises two fears: citing a figure which is too low (leaving $$ on the table) or too high (and pricing yourself out of consideration for the job).

Instead, try this response:“although money is important it’s not the only reason I am interested in this opportunity. I need to learn more about the opportunity, growth potential, team environment as well as the location. I’m sure though, if I am the selected candidate, you’ll provide me with your best and final possible offer”.

If you’re asked how much you are currently earning, you can ask why that information is necessary for generating an offer and communicate, “I would hope that my offer would be predicated on my worth to your organization rather than what I am currently earning.” Or explain that, while salary is important, you are more interested in the challenges and growth opportunities that come with the job.

Yes, this odd tap dance can provoke anxiety. But remember, your potential employer is also uncomfortable with the silence and ambiguity. In fact, this discomfort may just force the hiring manager to spill the beans and provide additional compensation information you may not have otherwise gleaned.

When you become comfortable with occasional bouts of awkward silence, you develop a powerful negotiation skill. So practice “safe silence” whenever necessary and gain the upper hand during these critical conversations.

3. Negotiate your offer

So here you are: you’ve made it through a slew of interviews, leapfrogged past the other candidates, and made the best impression of all. Congratulations, you just received your job offer!

Management offers you a compensation package that is lower than expected. Fear not. This is not the end of the world; it’s the beginning of a healthy dialogue.

And it’s time to negotiate.

Remember, If you’ve made it to the offer stage, you know the employer wants you just as much as you want them. And if you’re ever going to have any bargaining leverage, this is the time.

Keep it friendly

Respond enthusiastically and positively about the job— it’s just the perfect fit for you, with the responsibilities you’ve always wanted.

You can do all this, while kindly and professionally making it clear that the financial offer is not acceptable. One of the pitfalls we’ve heard about form candidates negotiating on their own is they play hard-to-get, thinking if they do so they’ll get a higher offer. Oftentimes this is received as a turn-off and sadly, those who play hard-to-get oftentimes do not get got!

Present compelling counterarguments

Bring up the research. As a first step, ask for time to review the entire package. Then, when you return, explain that while you are excited about the job,  the offer seems rather low. Explain that, according to your research, the offer falls below average. Don’t back off from your stance and, remember, don’t give into the silence. Wait for the employer to compose a reply.

Come to conversation armed with hard data about market rates for comparable position, based on salary sites such as:

  • Bring in the math. If the employer isn’t influenced by stats, then you can try basing your argument upon merit. You could point out that pay should reflect more than just experience and skills, but also education and proven patient outcomes. You could even dive deeper and point to quantifiable results you have achieved that have increased revenues at your current job. Or, even, implemented processes that have decreased costs.
  • Think beyond money. If it turns out that the employer isn’t willing—or doesn’t have the budget—to negotiate salary, you might be able to increase the total value of the job by negotiating enhanced benefits. Your compensation package is about more than just money. It’s about holiday and vacation time, flex time, health care, life insurance, bonuses, company-paid training, and much more. These perks don’t necessarily change the bottom line for management. So don’t be afraid—ask for what you want.

Applying for a new position is tough work. It’s a full-time job, really. You have to search, research, polish your resume, practice your interviewing skills and, then, of course, act as your own agent when negotiating salary and benefits. But when all is said and done, you’ll know you did the best possible job you could have done and accept the offer knowing you did not leave any money on the negotiating table. Congratulations!

You can actually mitigate some of this anxiety by partnering with a firm that specializes in neonatal nurse recruitment. Working with a recruiter takes a lot of the pressure off, particularly when it comes to the compensation package.

Your recruiter will fight for you to get the best offer possible, while you remain far away from the bargaining table. This way you avoid being associated with any terse or tense moments. On your first day, your employers will see a fresh and eager face, rather than a tough and ruthless negotiator. A much better way to begin fostering long-term relationships!

And that’s a good thing.