15 Tips for Negotiating Job Terms


By Roberto Cardenas

A good deal of entertainment industry folk will be nailing down new jobs in the near future, as we come out of this pandemic-enforced hiatus. Not all of us have agents to do the heavy lifting of negotiating terms. For those of you that are on your own, here are some tips, coming from our team members with experience on both sides of the table.

Understand the person across the table. Do your research to know the personality you are dealing with, what matters to him, and the most successful tone to set for the discussion.

Know what is common. Research terms for similar employees at the company for perspective, then go with terms at the TOP of that range. Employers will either say “yes” or negotiate down…they will never negotiate up. 

Focus on your future, not your past. It is expected that you will periodically get a bump in salary, title and terms of employment as your experience and knowledge grow. So, play your hand based on your value at this next job, not what you made before.

Make it clear you are “in” if the terms are right. No one wants to bend or go to bat for someone that seems like there is a possibility that they won’t take the job when they get what they asked for. Communicate not only your desired terms, but your excitement to take the position when you get them.

Do not make demands. No one wants to be told what to do. Instead of demanding things, ask questions. Instead of “I need…” or “You will have to give me…”, try “Are you able to…?”

Wait for an answer vs. filling the uncomfortable void with unnecessary talk. You need to hear your counterpart speak to understand where the obstacles lay, where he is flexible, and how he feels he can get you closest to what you want. A few uncomfortable moments may also pressure your counterpart into trying to better his offer. If he too plays the “your turn to talk” game, you can counter by asking questions vs. continuing to plead your case. Information is power. Overdoing it seems desperate or pushy.

Give them the “why.” Each one of your asks should come with your logical reason for its request (why do you personally need it?…anything but lamenting your financial woes, please). Additionally, each ask should be followed by how the company will benefit from giving it to you. Be confident in your value and know what they need, so you can relate your terms to added value they will reap.

Understand their constraints & flexible areas. Usually, when a prospective employer can’t fulfill a request, there is a reason. It’s best to know those reasons, so you can potentially help them problem-solve around the obstacle or know when you can’t push any farther. Don’t be afraid to ask “why?”

Remember that terms go beyond salary. There are plenty of ways to sweeten your deal other than cold hard cash. Responsibilities, title, location, travel, flexibility in work hours, remote work, preferred parking, opportunities for growth & promotion, perks (childcare, health/fitness, paid vacation), continued education, face time with industry influencers, etc. Quality of life and career advancement opportunities can help you balance shortcomings in salary.

Work on the package simultaneously, not linearly. Bring up all of your needs at one time, so your potential employer doesn’t feel like you keep throwing hurdles at him once he solves a new problem. Also, prioritize your requests so you know what really matters to you and on what hills you are willing to die as you negotiate the package.

Practice your pitch. It may feel silly but practice your pitch (the terms you want and the “why” as discussed above) in the mirror or with a friend, colleague or family member. The more you say it, though, the more natural and confident you will be when you do it for real. 

Prepare for the tough questions. Google “tough interview questions” and start answering them out loud. If they pop up in your interview, you want to be prepared. The best way to formulate a solid answer is to look for intent of the question - What value are they looking for? What problem are they looking to solve? Then, look for a transparent, confident (but not too braggadocious) answer that shows them you have what they need.

Leave your emotions at the door. It’s about you…but it’s not about you. It’s business, not personal. That is, unless you walk into the negotiation room with a chip on your shoulder, an arrogant attitude, over-emotional responses or a generally unlikable demeaner. Stay cool. Be gracious for the opportunity. Give good vibes. And, be the easy-going, level-headed employee that they want to hire.

Take time to evaluate an offer. Even the most rushed interview process can leave you time to review an offer before taking or leaving it.  Even if you get everything you want, it’s always a good idea to say a heartfelt “thank you” and ask for a beat before signing on the dotted line. And, in the cases when you don’t get all you asked for, it will allow you to process what matters, which “yes’s” will balance which “no’s”, and what your best next step may be.

Things change…Always leave the door open to coming back to the negotiating table. If all of your wishes don’t come true, but you want (or need) to take the job anyway, a solid move is to request a discussion in a specified timeframe, during which you can revisit a term or two. Sometimes the obstacle that was in your way initially gets moved with time, and sometimes a little time on the job can drive your value home with the higher ups and increase their desire to keep you happy and on their team. 

Now, go get ‘em, Tiger!


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