Tip #26: Use Email with Great Care | 28 Days of Salary Negotiation

Email can be a great tool or a horrific liability when it comes to salary negotiation. 

It's great when you use it to carefully, thoughtfully, tactfully, and dispassionately present your case. It can also be the reason a negotiation crumbles, because people are reading subtext or emotionally charged commentary where it may (or may not) exist.

When negotiating over email, heed all of the other tips in this series in mind, times 10. For example, if you need to spend a lot of time preparing for a conversation so you don't get hung up in your emotions and take things personally during a face-to-face conversation; then you REALLY need to make sure that the same threads aren't making their way into your written exchanges. The same is true with practicing your conversations; please be sure a few trusted people see your negotiation emails before they are sent, and that those people are willing to give you honest and candid feedback. 

Consider the following snippet from a salary negotiation email exchange: 

Thank you very much for the offer - the total compensation package is very generous and attractive. Is there flexibility regarding salary? Right now, the most important issue for me is month-to-month salary, so it would be helpful to discuss this aspect of the compensation package further.  

While this is only part of the communication sent to the hiring manager, these opening sentences communicate some very important messages: 

  1. An appreciation for receiving an offer for the company.

  2. Recognition that compensation and salary are two different things.

  3. An indication that, despite the overall compensation being attractive, the salary is less than desired.

  4. Clear communication about what the job seeker's priorities are (in this case, month-to-month salary).

  5. A tone of genuine inquiry and a desire for further discussion.

Because we were communicating in an email setting, it was doubly important to police the tone of the message and ensure that the message did not come across in an off-putting or offensive way.

When using the email setting, always remember, SHORT IS BETTER. You don't have to start explaining everything in an email. When you get into explaining, you run the risk of getting emotionally charged in your writing. Keep it brief - more brief than you might expect. Use the email to clearly articulate your requests and then open the invitation for a conversation. 

Here's the remainder of the email exchange above. Note the tone, level of detail, and continued emphasis on keeping the conversation going. 

As proposed, the gap between my target salary and this offer is 28 percent. I've had some discussions with my spouse, and we determined that with a 20 percent increase to the proposed salary, I can accept the position immediately. If it's not possible to increase the salary offered by 20 percent, perhaps we could discuss other aspects of the compensation package.

I'm very much looking forward to talking about this further, and am excited about the prospect of finalizing this agreement and joining your team.

This message opened the door to a negotiation on the entire compensation package. This is where you want to land - being firm and clear, yet open and flexible, with your written language.

What experience do you have with negotiations over email?