The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Want a Job? Just Say No.

Be honest now!

If someone offered you an awesome new job at an up-and-coming company, with a significant increase in salary, with generous stock options and with free mini-donuts in the break room, what would be your reaction? If you’re like most people in this hardscrabble economy, you would probably say “yes, yes, a thousand times, yes,” and immediately start sobbing uncontrollably, as you clung to the legs of your future employer. You would refuse to let go until your ID badge is pinned on and your parking place assigned.

Well, that’s not what Matthew DeLuca would do. Mr. DeLuca, the author of “Perfect Phrases for Negotiating Salary and Job Offers: Hundreds of Ready-to-Use Phrases to Help You Get the Best Possible Salary, Perks, or Promotion,” believes that the last thing you want to say to a job offer is “yes.”

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As he explained to Dona DeZube, a careers expert at Monster Worldwide, the proper response to the miracle of a job offer is to pepper your potential employer with a quantity of questions, all designed to “make sure you get all you deserve.”

Sound risky? Not to DeLuca.

“The person on the other side of the desk is evaluating you,” says the negotiation maven. “This is going to show you’re astute in dealing with the outside world.”

It’s also going to show you’re an absolute pain-in-the-neck to work with, but I guess that’s OK. After all, it is true.

So, what questions should you ask upon receiving a job offer? The first question is “Thanks — is this a firm job offer?” Now, this response may strike you as risky, since it seems to suggest that the person who is hiring you is either delusional or lacks the authority necessary to make an offer. Still, I like that question. Not because it makes any sense to doubt anything that even smells like an job offer, but because it’s a more sober restating of the first question that I would blubber out — “Are you serious? You’re really hiring a goofball doofus like me?”

“Is this negotiable?” is another question DeLuca suggests you ask. Go for it if you want, but don’t be surprised if you get an answer like, “Good point! Come to think of it, we definitely could hire a bozo like you for a lot less money. Let’s cut that offer by 25 percent and make us both happy.”

Once you have come to an acceptable compensation level, it’s still not time to drop the “yes” bomb. Instead, you ask, “When would you like an answer?” According to the experts, “you’re perceived as more effective if you’re thoughtful.” You’re also perceived as being nutty as a fruitcake, but that’s OK. After all, it is true.

Note that you’re not supposed to play the “let me discuss it with my spouse” card, because “you want to appear confident and capable of making a decision on your own.” Instead, you can say, “let me discuss it with my pet hamster.” This shows you can talk to rodents, which should make it easier for you to relate to upper management.

“Will I get the offer in writing?” is a good question to ask, because it’s a whole lot better than saying, “Do you really expect me to take the word of a slime-bucket HR lackey?” DeLuca also suggests that you ask, “Will there be a sign-on bonus?” If you can do it with a straight face, I say, go for it. But don’t be offended if the interviewer breaks into hysterical laughter.

“May I please have a job description?” is another recommended question, but I can’t endorse it. Your future employer may foolishly believe that you should know what job you are applying for. Similarly, I wouldn’t ask, “What is the start date?” for fear the answer will be, “How about June 2, 2035?”

But what do I know? According to author DeLuca, utilizing these negotiating techniques will prove your worth. “You want them to know they’re smart to offer you the job, but you’re not going to come cheap.”

And if you actually do come cheap, and if you don’t get the answers you want, switch to my technique of clinging to the hiring manager’s legs and soaking their slacks in tears of joy. It may not be good negotiating, but it does show that you’re desperate and are willing to suffer any indignity to get a job. It’s embarrassing, but that’s OK. After all, it is true.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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