Negotiating a job offer makes most candidates nervous, uncomfortable, and most of all intimidated. Unemployed candidates are especially anxious when entertaining an offer and feel that they should not negotiate the terms even though they should not be. The best time to maximize your earning potential therefore the offer stage is not the time to be afraid to ask for what you are worth.

According to a survey by Harris Interactive, despite the fact that 45 percent of employers are willing to negotiate compensation for initial job offers, 49 percent of candidates accept the first offer given to them. There needs to be a balance when entertaining a job offer.

It is important to be assertive at the time of the offer because you are negotiating with people that you will ultimately work. However, the negotiation process is one that needs to be handled with grace and class.

As an executive search firm, we negotiate job offers on behalf of our clients every day. Taking from this experience, the first thing you need to know is that you do not have to respond to the offer right away. In fact, you should not. Instead, when you receive a job offer you should genuinely thank the employer, express your desire to work with them, and tell them that you will review the terms of the offer and get back to them within 48 hours.

During your review process, it is important to follow these steps before entering into the negotiation process:for how to negotiate job offers to get the best possible package.

Step 1 – Research the Market and the Organization

Negotiating is only effective when you approach it with relevant data. Research the industry and average salary and bonus for someone in your position. Then do some research into the organization and try to determine if their pay is generally below average, average or above average. Depending on how much leverage you feel that you have, will determine if you want to negotiate for a compensation at the top of the range or if you should aim somewhere around the average.

 Step 2 – Know What Salary You Want and What You Are Willing to Accept

Once you know what the industry average salary is and what the organization has paid in the past, you need to determine what compensation you realistically want to achieve in your job offer negotiations. Once this is determined, you also need to be prepared for the employer to counter or even refuse to negotiate. If this occurs, you need to know what compensation you are willing to accept. This is your bottom line and the number at which you will respectfully the offer if the employer does not agree.

Step 3 – Look at the Items Within the Offer Beyond Salary

Some companies will not negotiate salary. However, salary is not the only aspect that can be negotiated. You can gain a huge amount of financial and personal benefit from opening the negotiation up to include items such as vacation days, flexibility to work from home, relocation expenses, benefits, and education reimbursement.

Step 4 – Create a Proposed Counteroffer

Negotiations are best conducted as a conversation either in person or on the phone. However, it is also important to have a written proposal. The proposal should include a brief explanation of why you are worth what you are asking for as well as a list of the terms you are proposing. This document can be provided either in person or via email following your phone conversation. It is important that your proposal is comprehensive.

Step 5 – Demonstrate Confidence

Confidence is the mot important thing you can wear in a negotiation. You should go into the negotiation feeling good about being worth everything you are asking for as you may be called upon to defend it. Be prepared to explain your rationale, whether it is your qualifications or industry standards.

Remember compromise is the hallmark of all negotiations. There will most likely be tradeoffs, but that is expected. Just believe in your talent and negotiate in good faith. In the end, no agreement is final until you receive it in writing, so review the offer carefully before accepting it.