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Negotiating a salary may fill you with dread, but it’s actually not that daunting. With the right preparation and strategies under your belt, you can handle this phase of the recruitment process with confidence and tact. View here for our expert tips and tricks so that you can handle salary negotiations.
When you have a job offer in your hand after working so hard, it's easy to want to sign right away and get to work - even if the offer isn’t everything you’ve dreamed of. Resisting that temptation can pay off big in the long run - but many people don’t want to negotiate their first offer. They worry it’s too risky.
While it may seem a bit daunting, and frankly awkward, to negotiate a salary, it’s important to remember that you’re negotiating for your own worth. Regardless of what stage you’re at in your career, being prepared to negotiate salary (and an attractive benefits package) can make a huge difference to your life in the long-term.
So, what are the best strategies to employ when negotiating a salary for a new job? In this article, we explore:
How to prepare to negotiate a salary offer
7 tips for negotiating salary after a job offer
Preparation is key to successful salary negotiations. Before you head into the negotiation room, it’s a good idea to do your homework and make sure you’re ready for the conversation. This will not only build your confidence, but also ensure positive outcomes. Here are five preparation strategies:
Researching the salary range for the position will give you a good indication of whether you're being offered a reasonable salary for your skills, experience, and qualifications. Factors such as geographical location and market demand for your chosen profession will also come into play.
Finding out what salaries other companies are offering for this type of work in your city/region will enable you to identify how much of an increase you can target. It may even give you some hints on the best strategies to apply in order to achieve this goal.
Here are some suggestions to get started:
Research salary ranges online. Check out Career.ios Salary Analyzer with current market data, feedback, and recommendations to ensure you know your value at the negotiation table.
Arrange an informational interview. Meeting with an individual who is already working in the role you are targeting is a great way to find out more about the job itself and the typical pay range you could expect to receive.
Use your network. Reach out to professionals in your network who are already employed in the position so that you can find out more about the salary range. Aim to contact a few people if you can, as this will give you a good benchmark.
Apprehensive about negotiating your starting salary? You’re not alone. Studies by the Pew Research Center found that most U.S. workers (who were not self-employed) didn’t negotiate higher pay on receiving a salary offer. Among workers that did negotiate, 66 percent secured their target or an increase on the initial offer, and 35 percent received the original offer.
When preparing to negotiate salary, you should also think about what benefits and perks are potential trade-offs. Find out the exact details of the benefits package and then factor in any increases or additional perks you could potentially negotiate.
Employee benefit packages are becoming more complex than in the past when your salary and retirement plans were pretty much the full package. Here are some examples of benefits or perks that may top up your salary:
Paid Time Off (PTO)
Performance-related or holiday bonus
Extended insurance benefits
Child care assistance
Employee stock options
Deciding on which benefits to target will depend on your lifestyle and priorities. If you have a young family, you may want to negotiate a hybrid working option for the flexibility to balance your personal and professional life. You could sell this to the employer by explaining how beneficial this was to your previous employer and how productive you were. Alternatively, you may wish to negotiate additional paid leave if your passion is to travel.
Salary negotiation is the ultimate sales pitch. Instead of products and services, you’re selling something far more dynamic (with ever-increasing value): you. Because of this, your pitch needs to communicate your unique competitive advantage and tell the employer that hiring you is a great move for their company.
Here are some key points to include in your pitch:
Create a one-page “brag sheet” of bullet points that list your career highlights, achievements, skill sets, and qualifications. This will tell the potential employer what you have to offer and what you are worth, justifying your salary negotiations.
Explore the pain points that the employer is looking for someone to fix, then highlight how you are the solution. This will show your understanding of the role as well as the added value you will bring to the company.
Avoid mentioning personal circumstances as a reason for your salary negotiations. Justifying your request based on interest rates rising, rent hikes, or exorbitant child care costs isn’t going to sit well with the employer. Focus instead on how a higher salary is reflective of your unique experience and market value.
Develop your negotiation skills by practicing and role-playing your pitch with a friend, partner, or family member. Make the role play as real as possible. Ask your mock interviewer to throw some curveball questions and provide you with feedback on your performance.
Timing is everything when negotiating salary. Too early and you may look money obsessed. Too late and you may have missed your opportunity. The best option is to wait until just after you’ve received a job offer but have had time to fully review the compensation package on the table.
Most potential employers will give you a window of time to consider a job offer, so respond via email within this window and let them know you are thrilled about the job offer, but you’d like to discuss your salary and benefits. This will avoid your meeting being a complete surprise and will allow your potential employer to be prepared as well.
Here’s an example:
“Thank you again for extending the job offer. I’m excited about the opportunity to contribute to your goals at (Company Name). I’ve taken some time to review the proposed package, while factoring in my career goals and financial needs, and I would really appreciate the opportunity to discuss this in more detail with you. Please let me know a date and time that is convenient for you.”
Now that you’ve completed the all-important preparation and practice, it’s good to have some strategies ready for the actual negotiations. Here are our tips and tricks for negotiating salary the right way:
Striding into the negotiation room with a confident mindset and demeanor sets a positive tone for your salary negotiations. Nonverbal communication is equally important—if not more—as your words at the start of this meeting.
Renowned behavioral psychologist Dr. Albert Mehrabian’s 7-38-55 rule illustrates this point well. Essentially, 7 percent of all communication is verbal, 38 percent is tone of voice and 55 percent is body language. In the first few minutes of negotiations, smile, make eye contact, have a confident handshake, and project some energy and enthusiasm.
If you feel yourself getting overwhelmed in negotiation, remember that companies don’t negotiate, people do. You’re having a human conversation with a person, who will likely be your boss or your colleague in the future, so it's good to understand their point of view, priorities, and any concerns they may have.
The person on the other side of the desk may want to give you what you want but could have constraints (such as salary caps). If you’re talking to a potential supervisor that directly benefits from you joining the team, they may be more willing to try to get you a special request than, say, an HR Manager who has to hire 10 other employees this month.
Asking questions is the best way to understand your negotiator’s perspective and, in turn, improve the outcome of your negotiations. Questions like, “What are your top priorities at the moment?” will help you justify your market value in negotiations.
Being likable is an important factor when negotiating your salary. While it may seem obvious—and perhaps a little superficial—likability can often be overlooked when you are caught up in the swirl of negotiations. Simply put, employers are more willing to go to bat for someone who is a pleasure to be around. So, the more likable you are, the better outcome for your negotiations.
During negotiations, it can be easy for tensions to bubble, ultimatums to fly, and pettiness to creep in as you discuss the finer details of the salary package. Lead with likability and avoid getting frustrated as you work through the negotiation process. A great place to practice likability is via role-play when practicing your pitch, where your mock interviewer can let you know how likable you are during negotiations!
Abundant research has shown that whoever gets the first number on the table is usually the most effective in negotiations. This is due to the “anchoring” effect (a cognitive bias) that leads to people strongly favoring the first piece of information they receive when making a decision.
By getting your number in first, you are dropping your “anchor” and taking control of the discussion, which will place you in a stronger position negotiation-wise. You can expect the employer to counter your initial offer, so it’s best to pitch higher than your target salary to give yourself some wiggle room. If you’ve researched a salary range, work from the top end of this range and add 10 percent. You can then work down towards your target.
“Based on my research and accomplishments, I believe a competitive salary for this role would be $X / or would fall between $X and $X.”
Silence can be an overlooked tool in negotiations. When there’s a natural pause or you’ve been asked a question, it’s tempting to jump in and talk instantly to fill the gaps.
Being thoughtful and taking some time to formulate a response could give you a strategic advantage over quickly providing a response and potentially saying something you regret. Further, embracing a pause after a salary offer could compel the negotiator to increase the offer without you having to say a thing!
While likability and building rapport are important, you don’t want to be too accommodating and fold early in the negotiation process. The best strategy is being firm and flexible.
For the negotiator to know that you are serious about what you are asking for, always have your goals at the forefront of your mind and remain firm on these during your conversation. Equally, as negotiations are a two-way street, show your flexibility in coming to a solution that is agreeable to both parties.
Here’s an example of how you could respond if the negotiator tries to push you back:
Employer: “I’m sorry, but at this time, I don’t think we can match that salary amount.”
Employee: “I definitely understand where you’re coming from, but the current salary doesn’t reflect my experience and skill level. It would be great if we can arrive at a solution that works for us both.”
If the employer is unwilling to negotiate an acceptable offer, then be prepared to politely decline and continue your job search elsewhere. While this may seem risky, it’s far better to know your worth and secure an opportunity that aligns with your value than accept the job, be unhappy, and potentially leave within three months. This benefits neither party in the negotiation room.
Here’s an example of how to politely decline a low salary offer via email:
“Thank you for the time and effort you’ve invested in meeting with me to discuss the (Job Title) opening. After careful consideration, I’ve decided that the current salary offer doesn’t align with my career goals and expectations. While I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity, I must respectfully decline the offer. Thank you again for your time and I wish (Company Name) all the best in the future.”
An impressive resume can help get you to the negotiation stage. Learn more about Career.io’s Resume Builder today.
Negotiating a salary may be a daunting prospect, but it’s important to advocate for yourself and be recognized for the value you can offer an employer.
Preparation is vital in your salary negotiations. Identifying your market value and target salary, analyzing benefits, perfecting and practicing your pitch as well as timing your negotiations perfectly can pave the way to positive outcomes.
Present your case confidently in the negotiation room. Don’t feel that negotiation is a battle. It’s more about having a discussion and reaching mutually beneficial outcomes.
If your negotiations were successful, congratulations! If not, continue your job search to find an opportunity that aligns with your value.
Helen is an experienced content writer, with expertise in corporate law, business, sales, marketing and education. Prior to this, she worked in recruitment and human resources, so she has a strong sense of what recruiters are looking for in terms of a potential employee. Helen loves exploring new places, writing blogs of her travel across Europe and enjoying trips to the US, Thailand and the Middle East. She is an avid reader of fiction, poetry, self-help books and factual content and also enjoys creative writing in her spare time, including poetry and children’s fiction.