So, after investing much time and effort in the search, you’ve been offered a job that fits your needs and expectations. Now you’re asking yourself: In a tight local labor market where unemployment is at record lows and employers are scrambling to find talent, can I negotiate on the terms of my acceptance?

According to Twin Cities-based career counseling professionals, the short answer is “Yes, by all means.” In fact, especially with mid- to upper-level management jobs, most employers in today’s job-market reality actually expect some haggling over salary, benefits and the like, and have built that assumption into their calculations.

The career coaches’ advice is to combat your natural fear of rejection over bargaining on job acceptance terms. The prospective employer has already made an investment of time and energy into your candidacy, and so will likely be motivated to accommodate reasonable requests. And the job seeker, after all, has no greater leverage than at this point, especially given Minnesota’s persistent labor shortage.

But the experts also have a word of caution: Even in a market where it feels like the prospective employee is in the driver’s seat, making money the sole focus of your negotiations may not be a winning strategy.

Counter-offer expected

No matter how much an employer may say they want you, some either can’t or won’t budge on salary. Instead, be prepared to seek concessions on other things that may be important to you, such as increased vacation time, scheduling flexibility and other perks.

“There is usually room to negotiate job offers, and in fact, I would say that companies for the most part are now putting the first offer on the table fully expecting that a job candidate will come back with a counter-offer,” said Teresa Daly, chief executive of Minneapolis-based Navigate Forward.

Her firm works with about 300 clients a year, most of whom are executives coming out of positions with one company and seeking similar posts in another. It helps such clients figure out their next career steps, developing “professional narratives” and search strategies for them, and then guiding their progress upon entering the job market once again.

“What we usually tell our clients is to look at the entire job offer and think outside the ‘salary box’ when it comes to negotiating acceptance,” Daly said. “Other things like signing bonuses can also be in play, particularly if the candidate is being recruited away from another employer and may be leaving some benefits behind.

“And certainly, things like vacation, paid time off and other kinds of incentives can be readily negotiated, as well. A job candidate at this stage is in the very best position to make the ask — it’s when they are the most wanted.”

Beyond salary

The same general strategy about job acceptance bargaining was offered by Nancy Fraasch, a certified career management practitioner based in Maple Grove.

“Generally speaking, I would never accept an initial job offer right then and there, no matter the circumstances or the job market,” she said. “You should always take a couple of days to think about it and talk it over with your family.”

She echoed the admonition that basing an acceptance bargaining strategy solely on salary is not necessarily a good idea, since in many cases that may not ultimately be negotiable. Instead, she advised, the key may lie in isolating what else about the offer may be unappealing and working from there.

“For instance, it may be that you’d have to go back to only two weeks of paid vacation, or that you may not be able to take it over the summer,” Fraasch said. “Those kinds of things are usually negotiable.”

But, she cautioned, “you have to narrow it down to one or two things that you really want. What you don’t want to do is come back with a list of 10 things that you ‘need.’ At that point, they’ll likely rescind the job offer.”

Don Jacobson is a freelance writer based in St. Paul.