Reader Question: Can I negotiate my offer during the COVID Pandemic?

So, we like to think that no one is hiring right now, or the only people hiring are Amazon, Grubhub, hospitals, etc. The reality is, even in the worse economy, a lot of stuff still needs to happen.

Many organizations are finding out they can still get a bunch of their work done with folks at home, and collaborating in new ways, and the learning curve is steep, but everyone is working together to figure it out.

I had a call this past week from a soon to be college graduate, dual major, Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering from a great school, so it makes sense he already has an offer. He had some questions for me. He was excited, of course, and understood that he was the exception right now, not the rule. With historic unemployment, companies are still going to want him!

One of the questions he had was where and how do you negotiate during a crisis situation like this. The company that offered him the job, was also laying employees off! Not the best environment to play hardball negotiator! Plus, his school had stopped all career fairs, etc. So, he didn’t have a traditional route many college students would have in normal times to connect with some other employers.

Can I, and should I, negotiate my offer during this COVID crisis? 

My answer:

You can negotiate anytime you feel you need to, but having the political savviness to understand the situation and current timing might work for you best long term if you don’t right now.

That being said, here’s how I would negotiate right now! First, you have to play this very coy. You, and the person making the offer, both know the dire straights going on right now, especially when employees are being laid off, but they’re making you an offer.

There are two things I might try if you feel like you can play this very soft. First, you still have a semester left of school, you could politely ask if they have any kind of tuition assistance and would they be willing to help you out during this last semester? The other ask could be for a signing bonus, to be paid upon start, which is later in the year, but good to negotiate now.

There is little risk they will pull the offer because you are trying to negotiate, and if you play it right you will come out looking fine, no matter the outcome. The other option is to just wait until your actual start date in December and then ask for a sign-on bonus at that point, or as you get close to starting, make the call and say something like, “Hey, I’ve got some friends who have accepted at other companies and they are all getting some sort of sign-on bonus, is this something I can get as well?”

You will learn a few things in this process:

  1. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, but timing can be everything in terms of when you ask.
  2. You are the only person managing your career. If you wait for a company to do it, you’ll miss out on a lot. Manage your own career.
  3. The job offer is contingent on them actually needing you when it comes time for you to start. It’s not a guarantee the employer will need you, so you don’t need to act like you’re signing a guaranteed contract. Things can and will happen between now and December.
  4. Know your value. Just because it sucks for everyone else, doesn’t mean it sucks for you.

What do you think? Should you negotiate in trying times?

 

2 thoughts on “Reader Question: Can I negotiate my offer during the COVID Pandemic?

  1. I see this differently. I’m not sure I would risk grating nerves any further. Everyone is on high stress levels. When an applicant tries to negotiate an offer with me, even if I’ve expected it, it still irks me inside. However, I know this is the game, so I have either built room to negotiate or I haven’t and I will tell them so.
    But – with a new grad, unless they are hot as all that, (in which case their total compensation better reflect that), I’m really irked by someone asking for more.

    In this gentleman’s position, I would accept the offer with a statement that due to unprecedented times and uncertainty, he would like the ability to review his compensation and development package after 6-months of hire. This way, they have time to see if he really is all that. Then, show them everything you’ve got! Like your life depended on it! Then research where salaries, bonuses and development stand and put it out there then. Just my 2 cents!

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