I received an offer for a job I really want from a company I really want to work for. However, the compensation is lower than I was hoping for. I’m afraid to negotiate too hard and risk losing the offer, because I will take the job even if they don’t increase the compensation. How do you negotiate when you will accept their offer, but you don’t want them to think you’re unprofessional by not trying to negotiate, but don’t want to negotiate too hard and risk losing the offer?

Wow, you are waay overthinking this — really! In this situation, the company has most of the leverage, because you are not willing to walk away from the deal. But you are still holding some good cards, because they don’t know that. Companies spend a lot of time and money trying to find the right people, so when they do, they would prefer not to have their offers declined — even if they can’t or won’t negotiate. So it is simple. Thank them for the offer. Express excitement about the opportunity but don’t commit. Tell them you were looking for compensation in a different range and ask them if they would consider improving their offer to meet your expectations. You will get one of three responses: yes, no, or more than what they originally offered but less than your ask. What they won’t do is rescind the offer, unless you make a demand, or tell them that if they don’t improve the existing offer, you will decline the job.

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