Negotiating your salary is the biggest opportunity to control your compensation. Raises tend to hover around 2–3% of your base salary, whereas negotiating at the beginning will generally yield a 10–30% pay increase. Though it might be uncomfortable, in the end you risk very little, as offers are generally extended with wiggle room for negotiation. If you don’t negotiate, you are losing money.
Put off talking salary in the early stages
Don’t be defined by a number early on. You want them to want you by the time you are negotiating. That is at the offer stage, so try to avoid talking numbers too early in the process.
Here are some things you could say to stave off the early “what is your target salary?” questions:
- I need to know more about the responsibilities of the role before I feel comfortable talking salary.
- It’s a personal policy not to discuss salary until we are at the offer stage.
- I’m confident that we can work something out that is fair.
Always do your research
Use tools like Glassdoor to get an idea of the range of salary in your area for the position you are seeking. Hunt around. Do not anchor yourself to what you currently make—keep an open mind. Decide an appropriate range for the job you are looking for, and have some numbers in mind for yourself—crystallize this range in your mind.
In one of my negotiations, the hiring manager sent me screenshots of similar jobs in the area, including the average salary for the position at my current company. He used these to explain where he got his numbers, and I respected that he shared the research with me. It gave us a platform to start the conversation going and made the conversation feel less abstract. Also, the numbers he provided were no surprise to me because I had done my research as well. I could counter and provide some examples of salaries for the role in businesses more similar to his.
Know your worth
Talk to friends and peers about salary. There is a pay transparency movement happening that I fully support. If you can talk about it with trusted friends, do it! A couple friends shared what they were making at their new jobs when they left our company, and it gave me a starting point for the market when I was job hunting. One friend told me the enormous pay increase he got moving companies and referred me, so I knew what to expect when I was applying. I understand the hesitancy around these conversations but I tend towards more honesty and openness. I can attribute my biggest pay bumps due to not only knowing my own worth but also knowing the “worth” of my peers.
Aim high. In most cases we undervalue the work that we do. Take some time to list out your accomplishments, short term and long term. What projects have you directly worked on? Which ones have you influenced peripherally? Take your number, tack on extra, and own it.
Remember, you are not the only one negotiating
The company has invested time into you– screening you, contacting you, setting up meetings, taking time out of their employee’s days to interview you. Maybe this negotiation is a raise and the company has already invested in training you and ramping you up to be productive.
It is a time consuming process to find and hire a worthy candidate. If you reject their offer, they are going to have to go through the whole process again. This is a collaboration, you have similar goals. They want to hire you and you want to be hired!
Ask for their number before revealing yours
If you must, revert back to putting off the discussion of salary.
- I am very interested in this position and would really like to know more before talking money.
- I have a good idea of the market rate and I’m sure we can work something out that will work for both of us
- Do you have a range in mind for this position?
The last question is my personal favorite, because when put on the spot to name my desired salary, I have asked this in turn and surprisingly a couple companies offered up the range and we could go from there. Both times the range they gave started 15-20k higher than I would have said if I had blurted out my number first. This won’t always work, many companies are cagey because generally in negotiations he who talks first loses.
IT IS TIME TO NEGOTIATE
So, you’ve researched the salary range, you’ve made it through to the offer stage and it’s time to talk numbers. Make sure everyone is on the same page that you are now talking about money.
First off, you’ve got this. It might feel uncomfortable. Feeling uncomfortable is the price to pay for a potentially huge jump in salary. You might want to just name a number and get it over with. Don’t rush. You did your research, you know your worth.
Here’s a script for what you can say:
- I’m excited about the opportunity and I know we can agree on a starting salary.
- Based on
- the market
- what I’ve been earning
- standard of living/etc a
- other opportunities I’m looking at
- and goals I’ve set for myself
- I would expect to be at the __________ to __________ range within the next 12 months (where low range is actually around your upper range
- “No problem, we can do that.” You do not want to hear this, it means you undersold yourself.
- “That’s more than what we budgeted for. We were planning to start you at ________.” You do want to hear this; it means you’re still negotiating.
- “That’s more than we were planning on paying.” Make sure you get what number they are thinking before you go any further.
What you will not hear: “What are you freaking crazy?! No way are we going to do that! Consider our offer rescinded!” This would be an extremely rare case, and near impossible if you’ve done your research. I’ve agonized over a couple of days between negotiations wondering if the company would ditch me after negotiating and it has never happened. Almost every offer given has wiggle room built in specifically for negotiating. Looking back, I’m glad I endured those uncomfortable days for the extra comfortable financial cushion of the raises!
Do not continue without getting their number. You should now have a number of what the expected start rate is.
Negotiating is about more than salary
Benefits range far past your base compensation.
- Retirement, 401K
- Relocation expenses
- Time off
- Education: conferences, college tuition, trade shows or outplacement services.
- Transportation: car allowance, bus pass, frequent flyer miles
- Non traditional arrangements such as home offices and flex time
The last time I negotiated for a raise, my friend asked if I had also negotiated the bonus amount, since when she had been at the company for 2 years, they had bumped her from a 7% bonus to a 10% bonus. I hadn’t considered negotiating that in the conversations about my salary but I regretted it afterwards because I’m sure that could easily have been included in the conversation. Each company has unique benefits and it would be worth sitting down and ticking up which you are planning to use and adding it to a monetary value to include when you are comparing jobs.
I recently applied for a gamut of jobs, and negotiating over and over made the offers creep higher and higher. I sat through phone screens, did multiple take-home technical assignments. I even went to a workshop over the weekend to practice whiteboarding problems since that was my weakness. I wasn’t in a rush to get a new job, I had good coworkers, a boss that cheered me on, and management promotions in the mix. However, my learning was plateauing. The take-home tests, although tedious, were great motivators to code in my own time. It’s better to job search when you’re not desperate, and practice negotiating when you can easily say no.
Accept or Reject The Offer With Grace
Don’t burn any bridges. Express your excitement for an offer and the next steps if you are taking it, give your appreciation for their time if you don’t. In one case I rejected an offer and they asked if they could tailor a role just for me. I would have been tempted but there were other reasons for rejecting so I made sure to let them know how grateful I was for the offer and opportunity.
The preparation will pay off. I had intel into what the final company I was interviewing with might offer based on a friends’ salary. The process was rigorous, including a phone screen, a take home exam, an online programming test, and a full day of interviews, hours of whiteboarding code. I may not have even bothered with it at all as it was tedious and I wasn’t really in a rush to leave my current company. However, I knew it would be a big bump if I got an offer around what my friend had received. When offer time came, the company named the number first, which was the first time that happened to me in what was around seven other negotiations. It was also double my current salary, blowing all the other offers out of the water.
Trying not to feel greedy, I kept in mind: ALWAYS NEGOTIATE and asked if the number was negotiable. They asked what I was thinking and I threw 5k on top of a salary they knew was incredibly competitive. I waited a few days fretting, but reminded myself of all of the tips above, as they had already invested a lot in interviewing me. Three days later I received an email from my future manager saying, “I approved your negotiated rate (good job!)”
Although not every hiring manager will congratulate you on negotiating, many do respect your negotiations, as long as you have followed this advice, done your research and know what you are worth.
The 7 Tips:
- Put off talking salary in the early stages
- Do your research to know your worth
- Remember that you are not the only one negotiating
- Ask for their number before revealing yours
- Negotiating is about more than salary
- Accept or Reject Offers with Grace