Negotiating a Job Offer

7/01/2020 by Simone M. Campbell

When considering a job offer, it’s no surprise that most people are not comfortable asking for more money once their job search has ended. The thought of negotiating your new salary can be daunting.  No one wants to risk losing an offer in hand, particularly if the salary is reasonable. Thankfully, most employers anticipate salary negotiations, however, when handled appropriately, you shouldn't lose what's already on the table.

The following points will provide a basic overview of the negotiations process and how to successfully navigate through it.

Do Your Research

The first step to approaching any salary negotiation process is preparation. Prior to a job interview, you will need to consider two key points in the event you are the successful candidate:  The offer that would make you immediately say yes, and your basement offer, the bare minimum of what you will need to meet your basic living expenses. Everything that exists between these two thresholds is negotiable.

Once you have determined your minimum and maximum salary requirements, be sure to have a clear understanding of what the market salary is for the position you are seeking. It is crucial to know the going rate for your position, in your specific industry and your geographic area. Conducting an online search on sites such as Glassdoor, PayScale or asking others in the field can lay the groundwork for structuring the offer negotiation conversation.

Know Your Worth

After you have done your homework and completed your research, you will need to begin assessing your professional value.  Value refers to what you bring to your employer through contributions you’ve made throughout your career, particularly in your current role. Think of strong examples of how your skills and experience will benefit your new organization and write them down. If you possess certifications or specialized technical skills that enhance your ability to do the job, do not fail to mention this. By tying your strengths to the role you’ll be taking on creates the case for why you should be given more than the initial offer. However, do keep in mind, your salary negotiation needs to be rooted. Highlight past or current experience that emphasize results you’ve achieved driving revenue, savings and productivity, with examples relevant to the organization or role. Remember, don’t undersell yourself. You are your own best ambassador, so aim for a competitive salary that you will be happy with.

Be Honest

When negotiating the salary for a new position, it’s not uncommon for an employer or a recruiter during the job search process to ask about your current salary (Illegal in some locations). Be honest about your salary needs. If you’re being underpaid in your current position or looking to make significantly more, it may be tempting to inflate your salary, but it is never a good idea to lie. Instead, provide your total compensation to include benefits and bonuses if you are comfortable.  Then, share the desired base compensation you are seeking. Professionals who know how to negotiate salary successfully understand that complete honesty is vital.  There’s nothing worse than to see your offer withdrawn by having a hiring manager find out you weren’t truthful about a competing job offer or embellished your salaries from past jobs.

Ask for More Than What You Want

You should always ask for more than you want.  However, avoid using salary ranges if possible when negotiating. Statements like, “I’m looking for $60K to $65K” should not be used because you risk the appearance of suggesting that you are open to the lower end of your range. The worst that can happen if you request a high number is that the employer or recruiter will counteroffer. Even worse, if you don’t negotiate, you’ll get nothing. If you would be happy with an annual salary of $65k ask for $70k. Chances are the employer will negotiate down to $65k if they are unable to meet your higher request. It will appear that they have successfully saved the organization money and you will have successfully received what you were originally wanted which creates a win-win.

Total Compensation Package

If an employer is unable or unwilling to meet your salary requirements, consider the other factors that you prioritize, such as extra vacation days, tuition reimbursement, bonuses, overtime pay, or remote work options and other potential opportunities to increase earnings. Remember to compare health insurance coverage, retirement savings plans and other benefits to assist in making an informed decision. Also consider perks that reach beyond compensation, such as career advancement and professional development opportunities with a potential employer.

Be Kind but Firm

Obtaining a salary offer is impressive particularly from an employer you ideally want to work for. Therefore, it is imperative to keep the conversation positive. If you receive a salary offer that is less than your desired range, counteroffering is essential, however, you want to make sure you handle it with tact. Asking, if the number is flexible at all and time to consider it is a graceful way to allow the employer the opportunity to offer more or mention other perks you may gain if a higher salary isn’t an option.     Be sure to provide the employer a reasonable timeframe that allows enough time to make an informed decision as well as provide timely feedback. Dragging out the salary negotiation process can frustrate the hiring manager and start your relationship on a sour note.

In the end, it is important to enter compensation discussions fully informed. Learning how to negotiate is invaluable and successful negotiation should never become adversarial. Establish what is most important to you and what you are willing to trade off. Never engage in a negotiation as an ultimatum but rather as a collaborative process and a unique opportunity to create a compensation package that makes sense for both you and your new employer. If your prospective employer is unable to meet your salary requirement, either accept the position as is or decline it gracefully. Most important, be sure to thank the person for selecting you and extending an employment offer to maintain your professionalism. Not only is it simply the right thing to do, an employer is much more likely to accommodate the wants and needs of somebody that shows them respect.

If you’d like to get a better starting salary offer, you must ask for it. Too often, job seekers accept the first number that's put on the table. For some, the primary reasons for not asking for more is not understanding how negotiations work and fear. You’ll be more successful if you explain why you deserve more by showcasing your strengths. A reasonable employer won’t withdraw an offer just because you tried to negotiate it. If the company can’t meet your requirements after a few discussions, respectfully withdraw your candidacy and focus on opportunities?that better match your compensation expectations. Salary negotiations can indeed be scary. What’s even scarier is not doing it.