Start Salary Negotiation
Whether you've just been offered your dream job or are just starting out in your chosen career, if you don't negotiate your salary you potentially aren't getting as much money as you could. The prospect of negotiation can seem intimidating, particularly if you're sitting across the table from a high-ranking executive who's just offered you a job. But ultimately, salary negotiation is about sending a message that you value yourself and your expertise, and that you aren't afraid to stand up for yourself.
Researching the Offer
- Look up salary information for similar positions. Before you develop your own range, you should have a general idea of the going rate in the industry.
- Make sure you have a full understanding of the particular job being offered, including the exact responsibilities and expectations for someone in that role. That will help you evaluate what the position is worth in other firms.
- Different companies may call similar positions by different names, so if you don't have an understanding of the full job description you won't know which other jobs compare with the one you've been offered.
- Websites such as salary.com, payscale.com, and glassdoor.com provide salary information for various industries and job titles.
- Keep in mind that location matters as well. If you live in Kenosha, Wisconsin, you can't expect to make the same salary as someone who lives and works in New York City, where competition is greater and the cost of living is much higher.
- When you go into negotiations, you'll want to focus on your market value – what other people would pay you. This implies competition and can trigger the employer to make concessions to keep you.
- Study the financial health and industry position of the company. Understanding the position of the company that's presented you with an employment offer can help you assess the value and seriousness of the offer.
- For example, if an industry-leading company offers you a salary at the low end of the range for your position and level of education and expertise, you know that you have room to maneuver for a higher rate of pay because the company can afford it.
- On the other hand, strong, well-established companies often have many applicants who want to work for them, so they don't have to pay the highest wages. In contrast, a small start-up may be willing to pay top dollar if that will entice you to ignore an offer from a more prestigious firm.
- You also should make sure you understand the company's personnel policies, because this will impact your decision on your target salary. For example, you would want to negotiate a higher starting salary with a company that only gave pay raises based on yearly performance reviews than with a company that gave raises based on quarterly performance reviews.
- Learn about the person who made the offer to you. Before you begin negotiations with anyone, find out as much as you can about them personally, including their background, interests, and preferences.
- Understanding the person you're working with can help you tailor your approach and your negotiating style. For example, if you learn that the hiring manager you'll be negotiating with is not a morning person, you probably don't want to schedule your meeting with her at 9 a.m.
- Get details about other benefits. While your salary may be important, it isn't the only part of your compensation package. Other benefits may be more valuable to you.
- Prioritize which benefits mean the most to you so you can negotiate the best possible package. For example, a signing bonus may be more important to you than a few extra dollars in each paycheck.
- Base salary is only one aspect of compensation, so be prepared to negotiate other aspects of your package as well.
- Remain open to other offers. Until you've accepted the offer, continue to send out resumés and have interviews with other companies – and don't be shy about telling the company it has competition.
- You have the most leverage in a salary negotiation if you have several legitimate offers from companies you want to work for. Whenever this happens, use the situation to your advantage to get the best possible salary and benefits package.
- Having alternatives available can be empowering and lessen the fear of rejection inherent in negotiation.
Assessing Your Position
- Quantify your education and experience. Review objectively what value and expertise you bring to the table for the company.
- Know what is standard in your field and whether you exceed that. For example, if most people working in similar positions have bachelor's degrees, but you have a master's degree, that means the company that wants to hire you should expect to pay more money for you.
- Understand your valuable skills and personality traits. While education, both in the classroom and on the job, are important, who you are and how you interact with people may be more important.
- For example, if you are good at leading teams and small groups, this is a trait a company should be willing to invest a little more money in. Similarly, if you are good at organization and efficiency, these skills potentially would be very valuable to an employer.
- Find out what distinguishes you from the field. If you can, learn as much as possible about other applicants for the position. If that information isn't available, learn about typical people who hold that position.
- It also could help to find out who holds or held similar positions in the same company before you. Find out their reputation, whether they were generally liked by management and other employees, and what their strengths and weaknesses were.
- To have confidence in yourself, it's important to know what you bring to the table that sets you apart from others – what you have that no one else does. Think of special skills or experiences that are rare in your industry.
- Decide your target salary. Using all of the information you've acquired as well as knowledge of your personal situation, arrive at an ideal amount of money you'd like to take home.
- Although you don't necessarily want to bring up your personal needs when negotiating with your employer, these concerns may factor into your decision.
- Set an acceptable salary range. Once you've found your target, set a range below that amount that represents the absolute minimum where you would be comfortable settling. Then adjust the top of your range an equivalent amount.
- Base your range on the average salary for people in your geographic area working in similar positions to the one you've been offered, who have similar education and experience.
Making Your Move
- Plan a meeting in advance, if possible. If you make the move to schedule the meeting, it shows confidence and initiative, and also puts you in control.
- Before the date of the meeting, practice speaking in front of a mirror – especially if you are someone who is prone to nervous tics or hesitation when speaking.
- If necessary, consider practicing your negotiating skills with a friend or family member who can support you and give you pointers to improve.
- Pump yourself up. Before the meeting, do whatever you need to do to build your confidence and get yourself in the zone.
- Understand that if you've just been offered a position, you have the most bargaining power. You are nothing but potential, so now is the time to show them that you mean business.
- If you need to listen to music or do some deep breathing exercises, do what makes you feel powerful and in control.
- Start the conversation. You started with control, so you want to maintain control. Speak first rather than allowing the person meeting with you to start things on uncertain footing.
- Tell your potential employer that you're really excited to get to work, and that you appreciate your offer.
- Give a specific number, not a range. Providing an exact number makes you look more confident and signals that you've done your research.
- For example, you might say "Based on my knowledge base, skill set, and performance, I was expecting an offer more like $65,271."
- Pick a number closer to the top of your range. The employer will no doubt come back with a lower number, so don't start out at the minimum you think you deserve.
- Stay positive. Rather than focusing on your own needs, focus on the company and what you can do for them.
- If the employer hedges or attempts to talk you down, stick to your guns and reiterate your enthusiasm and readiness to work for them, while also showing confidence in your abilities.
- Wait for a response. Once you've put your number on the table, remain calm. Don't try to fill the silence or empty space with empty rambling or small talk.
- If the person says "I'll have to get back to you," get a time frame, and then leave it alone. For example, if you're told you'll hear back by the end of the week, don't call or send an email until the following Monday.
- Remember that the appearance of confidence includes being in control, so even if you're on pins and needles, don't show it. If you constantly badger them with emails or phone calls after the meeting, you'll only appear desperate and pushy.
- Be willing to counter. If you receive a response that still isn't within range, don't be afraid to shoot them another counter offer.
- The corollary to this is that you can't be afraid of being rejected outright, and you also must be willing to walk away if you don't get something suitable.