AARP columnist Bob Skladany recommends you study any offers closely, without a sense of desperation. Look at your employment status (contract or regular employee), pay, health benefits, secondary benefits (disability and/or life insurance), paid time off, retirement savings plans, work schedule and potential for growth. Ask for this information in writing, even though it isn't required of employers.
If you like the job, Skladany believes you should take it. If you have concerns, speak to the employer or recruiter while taking care not to ask too much. If the salary appears too low, first ask if the employer will entertain a counterproposal and then request a minimum of a 10 percent bump due to your expertise or experience. The employer has the right to say no, leaving you with the uncomfortable decision of whether to take it or leave it, he says. The key is to try for an improved contract that is "meaningful."
Negotiating for higher hourly wages is possible in the skilled trades, personal services, administrative and clerical areas, he says, but basic benefits are unlikely to be changed. You can ask for flexibility in scheduling and more training. For professional, salaried positions the opportunity for a higher salary, deferred compensation, incentive pay, stock options and other benefits is much higher. When vying for these jobs insist on a written employment agreement. Senior professional and upper management jobs offer the greatest negotiating opportunity on every aspect of employment.