Job negotiations are like hurricanes – they happen quickly, are intense and can cause damage that takes years to repair. Having worked with many job seekers and Fortune 50 corporations, I’ve negotiated thousands of job offers over more than a decade in the recruiting industry. The insights that I’ve learned come from both sides of the negotiation table.

Know Thyself

Before your first conversation with a potential employer, sit down without any devices in front of you and take out some good old fashioned paper and a pencil. Ask yourself, “What is most important to me in my next position?” I’ve learned over the years that every candidate answers this question differently.

I remember fondly a candidate I worked with from Beijing on an Oral Care role that would not leave the country without his elderly father because it was most important to him that his father be relocated as well. That candidate went on to lead Oral Care US for one of our clients and was able to negotiate the move and care of his elderly father into the offer.

Sure, compensation is a big topic but I’ve find that not far behind are opportunity for advancement, exposure to new and exciting work and timing. Physically penning your priorities makes them tangible. Now you have defined clear goals and the best scenario end point for your negotiation.

Know The Package

Before you attend an onsite, in-person interview day reach out to the prospective employer’s Human Resources Team or your recruiter and ask for the full details regarding the compensation package, benefits and extras that would be attached to the position you are interviewing for. This will prepare you for any meetings that you may have during that interview day with Human Resources.

Nobody likes surprises and it is better to get this out of the way before any assumptions are made. Clearly understand the foundation of the compensation package by using all resources available to you before you step foot through the door for your interview. The employer likely already has a snapshot of your current compensation package and you should have the same information from them.

The information you gather will not be used to start negotiations at this point. This is information will be utilized for research and to prepare you for your interview.

If you do have questions on benefits, relocation packages, bonus structure you can ask the appropriate HR contact or your Recruiter to gain clarity. However, proceed with caution; you don’t want to furnish numbers or targets for your negotiation at this point.

Know Where to Start

In most cases, negotiating a job offer starts when an offer is extended. At this point, the employer puts the ball in your court.

Once you have an offer in hand, thank the team and let them know that you would like to review all the information and get back to them with any questions that may arise. Carefully review the offer at this point.

Does the offer align with your goals / targets? If so – you are the 1%. It is far more common that this is just a starting point for negotiations. Analyze the offer and identify areas for flexibility, PTO, bonus structure, sign-on bonus, base salary etc.

Once you hone in on one or two of these factors, compose a counter offer. Strong counteroffers are composed, thoughtful and clear. You want to first extend appreciation for the offer and highlight a component of the offer that you resonated with you. Then thoughtfully express that you are only asking for what is fair / reasonable.

Lastly, clearly outline the areas that you would like to request a counter. You want to be coherent when putting numbers to the request. The goal of your counter offer should be to throw the ball back in their court with your goals clearly articulated.

Practice Patience

During this time things can get stalled depending on the size of the organization that you are countering your offer with. Be patient and know that considerations are being escalated and approvals are being sought out sometimes between different departments.

These processes can take time—sometimes two weeks to turn around depending on internal equity issues that may come into play. Once the employer comes back with their response they are usually at a point in which there is little flexibility left. It would be in your best interest to take time and try to accept the offer they present you with.

Make Peace

Make peace with the reality that this final counter may be just the offer that you end up accepting. You want to walk away from your previous role and head into your first day feeling good about your current compensation package overall.

If you can’t make peace with the offer or if the offer doesn’t make sense for you and your family, you can make one final attempt to meet your potential employer halfway. Countering once is routine, countering twice is not as common, and countering a third time is uncommon to say the least.

You’ll need to find balance and approach each of these situations differently, and seek advice from a solid recruiter or trusted mentor. Their input is invaluable during these final negotiation stages.

My hope is that with these tips you can navigate the “hurricane” of negotiating your next job offer!