Salary negotiation

You’ve received a job offer, along with an offer of compensation. First of all, congratulations! Now the big decision: do you accept the offer, or do you negotiate? Only you can decide whether an offer is acceptable. If you believe your qualifications and experience merit more than what you’ve been offered, ask whether the compensation package is negotiable. You might be able to negotiate benefits.

Confidence goes a long way

Your confidence that you are worth more than the employer is initially offering will likely spill over onto the employer. When you decide to negotiate, be sure you know ahead of time how low a salary you are willing to accept and what risks you are willing to take. Be realistic and positive rather than strident or demanding. Employers may rescind offers to inflexible candidates.

If you are a recent graduate, you may feel that you should accept any offer, but it is acceptable to ask whether there is room for negotiation — if you have the skills and experience to back up a higher offer. 

Weigh all the options according to what is most important to you both now and in the long term. Seek advice from family members and mentors, but in the end you may need to go with your gut feeling.

Negotiation tips

  • Negotiate based on your skills, experience, and knowledge of the salary standards for the specific field and location. 
  • Be aware of, but never mention, personal budgetary needs as part of the negotiation. 
  • Give a range rather than an exact figure.

Here is an example of what you could say:

I am really excited at the prospect of working for your organization and using my skills in this position. As you know, I have direct experience in this area, and I believe I bring significant skills to the position. Based on my background, I’d like to negotiate the salary, and am hoping that something more in the $ __ to $__ range is possible. Is there any room for negotiation?

Sometimes organizations have room to negotiate, sometimes not, especially with entry-level positions. Also, if the employer is not willing to budge on salary, you may want to negotiate for additional benefits, such as a signing bonus, stock or stock options, extra vacation time, a gym membership, tuition reimbursement, or an early salary review.

Ask for your final offer in writing, including any promise of raises or bonuses down the line — those have a way of not materializing if they’re not in writing.

In the end, you may want to be prepared to decide whether to accept less than what you had hoped for:

I appreciate your considering my request, and I understand. I am still interested, and would welcome the opportunity to join the organization.

But declining an offer is also acceptable. Do so gracefully and professionally, and in a timely fashion.You don’t want to burn any bridges.

Steps to Effective Salary Negotiation

  1. Do your research in advance on an accurate range for the position.
    • - 80% of the work of negotiation happens before you get in the room!
    • - Talk to friends, do research online.
    • - Know your work; be thoughtful about where you stack up.
    • - Also consider the job market’s supply of qualified candidates.
    Try to determine what the hiring manager’s/company’s top challenges are, & map out how you can help solve them
    • - Ask the hiring manager about their top challenges in the interview
  1. Always thank the interviewer and reiterate your excitement about the position.
    • - “First, I want to say I’m very excited about the role. I want to be here, this is the job that I want.”
  2. Give a range, and suggest where you fall into that range.
    • - If you deserve to be at the top, name why: your attributes, experiences, promotion progression, current salary, etc.
    • - Frame it in terms of the company’s value, not just your own
    • - E.g. “In terms of my own research regarding this role at this company and others, what I’ve actually seen is range of $45K-$65K. I think that given my experience and the success I’ve had in other roles that I believe I’ll bring here too, I believe I deserve to be at the higher end of that range.”
    • - Repeat the top challenges you learned about in the interview, and map out how you can help solve them
    • - “It seems like what you’re telling me are that your top challenges are X, Y and Z. If you don’t mind, I prepared a document on how I would handle these three challenges. ‘Here are the challenges I’ve identified for your company … and these are the things I’ll do in the first 30, 60 or 90 days.’"
  3. While having a clear goal, read the hiring manager as you decide whether to ask for more
    • - Never use an adversarial tone.
    • - “I really like your company, it has what I need, and I want to make sure I can be there for the long term. Can we talk about another 5%?
  4. Once salary is maxed out, explore other types of compensation.
    • - “One of the things we didn’t talk about was other modes of compensation: signing bonus, tuition reimbursement, stock options (especially for start-ups). Would it be appropriate to talk about some of those now?”
    • - E.g. Tuition Reimbursement –“I’m a lifelong learner, and passionate about growing in this role and bringing learnings back to the company. Do you offer tuition reimbursement or assistance?”
  5. Consider asking for a review cycle to keep the door open for future negotiations.
    • - If it’s usually a year, suggest a review cycle after 6 months
    • - "The one other thing I want to ask is what would be the review cycle for my performance in terms of evaluating my candidacy for promotion or a raise. If it’s usually a year, could we instead do a review cycle after 6 months to repeg my salary that’s more commiserate with the experience I’m bringing to the table?”
  6. Know your bottom line.
    • - Only you can decide if an offer is too low.
    • - If it is, be prepared to keep looking; it may be the best move for you.
An SPU business student networks with local employers | photo by Lynn Anselmi

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