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How to Negotiate a Job Offer After Being Laid Off


How to Negotiate a Job Offer After Being Laid Off

Layoffs continue to ripple across the job market and 2024 hasn’t yet offered employees much of a breather. 


There’s no sugarcoating the issue: layoffs suck. They can strike right to the core of your self-worth and ego no matter the circumstance. They’re also stressful, and make a job search exponentially more daunting than if you were exploring the idea of a new position while still gainfully employed.


But it’s not all doom and gloom — truly. With new space in your schedule comes opportunity. And oftentimes, when you change companies and positions, you have the potential to increase your income more than you would through an annual salary increase, a trend that holds true whether you change jobs voluntarily or are laid off. 


As a salary negotiation coach, I’ve worked with a number of clients navigating the job hunt following a layoff, and have witnessed many success stories of people moving onto better fitting — and better paying — gigs than they had before. But I know: It can be hard to see the bright side in the moment. To help, here are tips on how to negotiate successfully in the wake of a layoff. 


HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY NEGOTIATE FOR A NEW JOB AFTER BEING LAID OFF


STEP ONE: COLLECT DATA


If you’ve just gotten the news, request an exit interview and earnestly ask for specifics. Try to understand whether you were laid off due to factors outside of your control (budget cuts, consolidation) or if there was a performance element that played a factor. If it’s due to outside circumstances, you’ll have that peace of mind going into your job hunt. 


If you’re told that performance contributed, I challenge you to set your ego aside and take the feedback as constructive criticism then apply it to your next move. Being laid off is an opportunity to get honest with yourself about where your skillset is strongest, where there’s room for improvement, and where your interests lie. Use the feedback as data points to inform what type of role you should apply for next.


STEP TWO: CHECK YOUR PERSPECTIVE 


For many, negotiating a job offer is daunting in the best of times. But add a recent layoff to the equation, and the prospect of negotiating a job offer can feel near absurdist given the perceived power dynamic. One can almost feel the whiplash going from a grateful and ingratiating interviewee to a “demanding” offer recipient seeking more from our benevolent corporate overlords. 


But I’m here to remind you that you can still negotiate after being laid off, and that you should. Here’s why: 


There is near-zero downside to asking for more money when you’ve been offered a job. 

I have no firsthand or secondhand accounts of a job candidate’s offer being rescinded because they asked for more cash. Of course, there are probably some cases in which this has occurred, but I can confidently say that it was driven by one of the following situations: 


  • The hiring company/manager is a fundamentally terrible place/person to work for. You’ve probably dodged a bullet. If advocating for yourself leads to this outcome, then frankly, it’d be hard to grow your career in that environment anyway.


  • The job candidate was unprofessional during the course of the negotiation and the hiring company decided they just don’t want to hire that person anymore. In this case, it isn’t the request for more money that’s unprofessional, it’s the person. Don’t be this person!


So assuming your situation doesn’t fall into the first bucket — and we can avoid the second bucket — you should go for it! I could almost stop right here, because this should be enough reason to pursue a salary negotiation. However, if you need extra motivation, keep in mind that earning a salary that feels fair will increase your motivation once you’re in the job. 


Consider this: Employees who feel underpaid are 50% more likely to leave the role. If you feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick and are just waiting to jump ship, then you’re doing the hiring company a disservice by not trying to correct this injustice up front. So, be a team player and ask for the salary you believe you deserve from the start. 


STEP THREE: AVOID THESE COMMON NEGOTIATION TRAPS


If you’re currently not working, there are two primary traps to avoid when it comes to salary negotiations: 


TRAP #1: Foregoing an offer negotiation because you’re emotionally drained. 


Many of my clients talk about the emotional toll of job hunting after a lay off and wish to “just be done with it,” so when the offer comes through they may be inclined to take it right off the bat. 


First, I want to say that your mental health and well being are a top priority so I completely understand if you do this. 


However, if you want to maximize your compensation, here’s what to do: 

  • Understand the market rate for your role (generally and company specific if possible).

  • Focus on your value to the position and company – What has the hiring team/interviewees honed in on during your discussions? 

  • Acknowledge (to yourself at least) that your Plan B is likely weak and avoid wording which may be seen as ultimatum-like and rely on softer language like “I would be more comfortable with…” so that you’re not forced into a corner.


TRAP #2: Immediately answering the “what salary are you looking for?” question. 


This question often comes about during the initial interview stage with a recruiter or hiring manager. At this stage, you want to mostly avoid: 1) shutting down viable opportunities prematurely because of your wage requirements, or 2) selling yourself short because you don’t want to let the opportunity go. 


So here’s my recommendation on how to tactfully respond to that question: 


Q: “What are you looking to make?” (or some variant of that): 


RESPONSE: "I appreciate you asking. I will say it’s important for me to find the right company and role. If it’s OK, I’d like to get a bit further along in the process so I understand the role better before I answer that." 


If they continue to probe...


“Well I did see the listed compensation, but from my experience I know that it doesn’t always cover the full range of what’s included in a benefits package. Can you share with me the primary component ranges?”


If they share something and it’s reasonable enough…


“I think we’re close enough for it to continue the conversations.” (You can almost say this regardless.)


If they really won’t let it go:


“It’s difficult to give a totally accurate number, but based on my previous salary and comparable market roles, I’d be looking for total compensation somewhere around…”


The majority of the time, the conversation won’t get that far. But in case it does, be sure you start the interview process with a firm understanding of the market value of the position (both within the company and within the industry as a whole) and aim for the upper 75% of the range. 


 
My biggest piece of advice is this: Don’t let your current work status distort your view of your fair market worth. While post-layoff negotiations may feel especially difficult, they’re just as important as ever and with the right mindset and support can be accomplished. 

If you’re dreading the idea of an upcoming salary negotiation and could use an extra hand, let’s find time to chat. I can also help if you’re between jobs and know that now is a good time to shift industries. In this case, the goal is for you to understand — and then advocate for — your fair market worth in that new field.



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