Jim Grant's Blog

Help for Job Seekers – It's all about the process!

Negotiating Chips

It is not uncommon these days for job seekers to get low-ball offers from employers. There are a lot of people unemployed these days and some employers have the pick of the litter and think it is in their best interest to pay as little as they can. When that happens, a job seeker needs to do his best to negotiate a higher salary. However, despite capable negotiating tactics, it can’t always be done.  So, what’s a job seeker supposed to do then?

There isn’t a good book on general negotiating out there that doesn’t talk about one of the approaches to reaching agreement with the other party being to bring other elements (chips) into the negotiating process. The concept is if you can’t get what you want on one element (chip), then perhaps you can get more on another element (chip) and, thus, offset what you feel you are coming up short on.

When it comes to negotiating a job offer, the focus is usually on salary. If this becomes the element (chip) where the hiring manager and you can’t reach agreement, then it’s time for you to bring in other elements (chips). What are these elements (chips)? I’ve provided a list below.

You should consider each of those elements (chips) as negotiable, until you find out otherwise.

Don’t wait until the interview in which the job offer comes before you start thinking about those other elements (chips). Review the list now, figure out which 2 or 3 items on the list are important to you, and describe pretty specifically (at least in your mind) what do you want in regard to that element (chip).

Two of the categories of the elements (chips) warrant some amplification. (1) Use “Time” as a means of getting what you want. If you can’t get it now, perhaps you can get it later. (2) The “job” may be negotiable. The way to get more money may be to offer to take on more responsibility. You may be surprised to find how many times a hiring manager modifies a job description in order to land the candidate that he/she wants.

Here is the list of potential compensation elements (chips). There may be others that are more important to you.


  • Base Salary
  • Commission Rates
  • Conditions and Levels of Bonuses
  • Stock Options
  • Signing Bonus
  • Amount of next salary Increase
  • Cost of Living Adjustment
  • Profit Sharing
  • Favorable Deductibles for Insurance Coverage
  • Deferred Salary


  • Vacation / Time Off
  • A formal, recurring Salary Review
  • Relocation expenses
  • Health care
  • Company matching savings / retirement / 401K plans
  • Company car, Computers, cell phones, etc.
  • Memberships (Country clubs / trade associations)
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Special office arrangements
  • Retirement Program
  • Retirement medical coverage

Timing of Events

  • Start Date
  • Date of first salary review (after starting)
  • When the scope of your responsibilities increases
  • When benefits become effective

The Job

  • Job description / function / responsibilities / scope
  • Title
  • Number of people reporting to you
  • Spending authority
  • Budget responsibility
  • Reporting relationships
  • An employment contract


  • Discounts on company products
  • A job for your spouse
  • Special child care arrangements
  • Link a future compensation increase to achievement of a particular goal/objective
  • A company contribution to a charity of your choosing
  • A loan
  • Free parking

February 8, 2010 - Posted by | All, Negotiating


  1. I heard about a negotiating chip last evening – severance packages. With so many companies downsizing and our current economic conditions (which happen very quick and unexpectedly), severance packages are become a stability factor for many. After all, the average job is between two to three years. What do you think?

    Comment by Darlene Wieland | June 22, 2010 | Reply

    • Darlene, when I wrote my “Negotiating Chips” post, I was focused on what to negotiate with your next employer but, yes, negotiating with your last employer is important, too.

      Severance pay and medical benefits are arguably the two most important “chips” to negotiate with a prior employer. When it comes to severance, I think you will find that most large employers have a well-defined severance schedule that is published in their personnel manual that is available to all employers. If that is the case, it may be problematic for your last boss to offer you more severance than what is published. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. There are also other elements to severance that are important such as when does it start, how long does it last, and does it stop when you land another job. Your last boss may have more flexibility on these other elements.

      Bottom Line: Determine what you think is appropriate for your circumstances in regard to severance and speak up.

      Comment by Jim Grant | June 23, 2010 | Reply

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