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Can You Negotiate Salary After Signing an Offer Letter?

Can You Negotiate Salary After Signing an Offer Letter?

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Maybe, while not impossible to renegotiate after signing a job offer—it just becomes exponentially more difficult.

I know it’s not the answer you were looking for, but it really depends.

A job offer is a great thing. You’ve made it through multiple interviews and beat out other qualified candidates. Negotiating a job offer is standard if you want more money or different benefits. But what happens if you’ve already signed a job offer and have doubts?

Do you go back to the table or start your new job and wait until your performance review?

It’s fairly complicated and has several factors to consider before moving forward.

Let’s take a look.

What Is a Job Offer?

A job offer letter is a formal document that outlines the terms and conditions of a job offer.

It includes information about the job duties and responsibilities, salary, benefits, as well as other details related to working at a company. A job offer can be sent by email or regular mail after an applicant has been extended a verbal job offer, but before they start working at the company.

By accepting your new position in writing (i.e., signed an employment contract), you’ve accepted the conditions of your job offer—good, bad, and ugly.

Reasons for Negotiating Salary After a Job Offer

There are a few reasons why you might want to renegotiate your salary after you have already accepted an offer.

Perhaps you received a more competitive job offer from another company after you signed the initial one. You may be more inclined to renegotiate your salary or other components of your job offer.

Another likely scenario could be that you learn others in similar role have received “richer” compensation packages. In theory, it might sound like this is a solid case to pursue asking for more, it’s actually a very slippery slope. The problem with this approach is that compensation for existing employees vary for a multitude of reasons. Some might be paid more because of their tenure, experience, or being grandfathered in from another role with high compensation.

You need to know the basics before you approach a company about changing your salary.

If you want to negotiate a higher salary after your offer has been accepted, it’s important that you know the basics before approaching the company.

Know the market rate for your position. It’s important that you have an idea of what other companies are paying for similar jobs in your area and industry. You can find this information online by searching job boards and company websites or talking with recruiters who work with similar positions at other companies.

Know what the company can afford, or is willing to pay. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget when looking at how much money is coming into an organization versus its expenses. Transparency around finances is often hard to come by although there has been a shift in pay transparency due to state laws. 

How to Negotiate Salary After Signing an Offer Letter

Negotiating a higher salary can be a difficult process, especially if you’re not sure how to go about it. One of the best ways to ensure that your negotiation is successful is by being prepared and confident in your value to the company.

If you’ve received an offer letter from an employer, but feel like they aren’t offering enough money, there are steps you can take before accepting or rejecting their offer:

Do’s

  • DO: Be prepared to walk away if necessary. This may not work for everyone because most of us need to work. However, if you’re fortunate to have multiple job offers or still employed, you’re negotiating from a place of power. Be willing to walk away if you’re able to.
  • DO: Know what market rate is for similar positions within your industry (and make sure that number isn’t inflated).
  • DO: Prioritize your asks! Hopefully at this point you don’t have too much you’re needing to renegotiate. Pick no more than two things to renegotiate. Why two? Because it will allow the company to figure out what’s doable. You likely won’t get both since you’ve signed an offer letter, but you may win one of the items listed. Note: as a the HR person on the other side of the table, I hate negotiating with candidates in piecemeal. Take a day to to evaluate your offer and address everything at once.

More Do’s:

  • DO: Validate your ask(s). I’m recommending this with some context. Never get into personal life details on why you need more in your offer—it’s not important. Ground your ask in a tangible thing (i.e. a more competitive offer).
  • DO: Be prepared for pushback and possible frustration. You signed an offer letter. The hiring manager is excited to finally have someone in the role and now there’s a possibility of it being vacant again. The recruiter will likely have questions since they thought they had you tucked in. Think about their objections and be prepared to discuss them before even reaching out.
  • Do: Understand you may just get a “no” or worse a rescinded job offer. This is why it becomes difficult. You have to really weigh the pros and cons. Is what you’re newly needing worth the risk of possibly getting a rescinded job offer? Now this doesn’t happen frequently—I’ve only done it maybe three times in my whole career for this reason. Other non-monetary components of your job offer may be easier to renegotiate (i.e. work mode, start date, work location, etc) that the monetary parts. And even that wholly depends on the urgency and intensity business need. For example, there may be a strict policy to work in the office, but more leniency on when you officially start.

You have to tread lightly on any additional asks at this point, especially when it fundamentally changes your total compensation.

Don’ts:

  • Don’t: Be afraid to ask. Although the negotiation window has all but closed, they want you to be happy to join despite the timing of your renegotiaton.
  • Don’t be greedy. This goes along with a previous point. Along with prioritizing, do not make crazy requests. If you’re going to ask for more money (which, again, should be a valid ask based on some external shift), don’t ask for an obscene increase. Be reasonable.
  • Don’t be mean, rude, pushy, or demanding. As obvious as it seems, I’ve seen candidates approach negotiations with entitlement—which is different than confidence, something we don’t mind. I promise, you’ll catch more bees with honey than vinegar in this case.

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to negotiating salary, but there are ways to figure out what is fair.

If you’ve gotten new information leaving you wondering if your offer is fair, I understand.

There’s no hard and fast rule when it comes to negotiating salary, but there are ways to figure out what is fair.

See Also
Is an Offer Letter Legally Binding

When you’re applying for a job, make sure that you do your research on the market rate for that position. Salary.com has an excellent tool called “Salary Explorer” that can help you determine what other people in similar positions are earning at their companies.

You can also ask around or even better, reach out to people at your target companies to gain insider insight. It might seem awkward at first, but trust me, you will likely find someone interested in sharing their perspective.

Another thing to consider is when thinking about pay fairness for yourself is to think about how much time went into getting those skillsets–did it take years? How much were those skills to acquire? Did it require specialized training, education, or credentialing? Also, keep track of how much more valuable those new skill sets make you as opposed to where others without them would be making less money than before.

Your leverage depends on how badly the company wants you, and whether they have other candidates whom they’re considering.

I’m sure this won’t surprise you. If you were the chosen candidate among a strong pool of candidates, your offer could be rescinded.

If there are other qualified candidates who would be happy to take your job offer, then there’s no incentive for them to give up anything in order to continue negotiating with you. Unless you something about that makes you more valuable, sought-after, or extremely unique, they could easily go to another candidate.

Timing is Key

You absolutely cannot negotiate your job offer once you’ve started your new job. There’s no way in which that will work. At that point, you are now an employee and subjected to the same limitations as the rest of the crowd. The window has closed and has been sealed. If you have any additional requests at this point, I feel confident in saying it won’t be considered.

Keep in mind that if your pay is lower than it should be, it could hurt your future opportunities.

Remember that you are a professional and should be paid accordingly. If your salary is lower than it should be, it could hurt your future opportunities. You can negotiate your salary after you have accepted a job offer, but keep in mind that companies want to keep their employees happy and will often pay more if they can.

Conclusion

So, is it worth the effort? Can you negotiate salary after signing offer letter?

Again, maybe.

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to negotiate your salary after accepting an offer. If you feel like the company isn’t paying enough and they won’t budge on their offer, then maybe it’s not worth pursuing this opportunity in the first place–but if there’s any chance at all that things could work out for both parties involved (and who doesn’t want that?), then go ahead and give it a shot.

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