Ask the Headhunter: How to negotiate a job offer by saying ‘yes’

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Photo by J.A. Bracchi via Getty Images.

Start out by saying yes. This tells them the main question is already resolved — you want the job. All that remains is working out the terms, advises NewsHour’s jobs guru Nick Corcodilos. Photo by J.A. Bracchi via Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: In your book “Fearless Job Hunting Book 9, Be The Master of Job Offers,” you suggest how to decline an offer when you have two job offers — so as not to burn bridges. I’ve got a different problem. I should decline a job offer, but I don’t want to!

If all the other terms are to your liking, your question to yourself should be, what would make me want to accept the offer?

While I have not received an offer yet, it became clear after the final interview last week that this department is not flexible about working hours. The job is in the middle of Boston, and it would increase my commute time. I am not willing to do that for this position. I want the offer, but can I be honest about the commute time as the reason I would decline?

Nick Corcodilos: Yes, I’d be frank about your reason if they make an offer, and the commute is the issue. But if you want to do this in a way that doesn’t end the discussion, there’s a way to finesse it.

I like to take an affirmative approach when I say no. Your question to yourself should not be, should I decline because of the commute? If all the other terms are to your liking, your question to yourself should be what would make me want to accept the offer?

Then you phrase your response to the offer like this.

How to Say It: 

I’d like to accept your offer. The job is what I want, and the company and the people are where I want to work. But I’d like to work on the terms with you if you’re amenable to it.

Note that you’re not actually accepting the offer. You’re just starting a negotiation by saying you’d like to take it. Keep in mind that negotiations aren’t just about money! There are lots of terms you can negotiate.

READ MORE: The huge mistake almost everyone makes when they ask for a higher job offer

Pause and let them respond. They’ll ask you, “What terms?”

How to Say It: 

The only issue that would cause me a real problem is the commute. Let’s face it — commuting around Boston is a real challenge. The traffic is horrible. But I can deal with it if you could make an accommodation on the work hours. I’ll of course work at least x hours per day — if you could be flexible about the working hours. I want to make sure I’d be delivering the value and work you need from me — I don’t expect you to compromise on that. But can we discuss the work schedule?

Note that you’re asking for a discussion. You’re not laying down a demand. No matter how they respond, you will have given an affirmative response and a request for a reasonable accommodation. If they blow it at that point, it’s on them.

The power of this approach lies in the fact that you start out by saying “yes.”

The power of this approach lies in the fact that you start out by saying “yes.” (This is what most of the negotiating methods I discuss in “Be The Master of Job Offers” are about: saying yes that means maybe — if you’ll work with me on the terms.) This tells them the main question is already resolved — you want the job. All that remains is working out the terms, which you’ve indicated you’re happy to discuss, after you’ve notified them that the commute is the issue.

Try it. The worst that will happen is they’ll say no — but they won’t forget that you said yes. Often, when an employer says no after you’ve indicated you want the job, they come back with another alternative.

I wish you the best with this.

These two articles may be helpful when you’re negotiating: “Don’t let employers always call the shots” and “The Bad-Business Job Offer: Negotiating not allowed!

Dear Readers: How do you negotiate when you want a job, but the terms are not to your liking? What would you do in this case?


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2016 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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