After getting a job offer, the first thing most of us do is celebrate. For some, though, it’s time to start negotiations. According to a new study by employment screening service provider JDP, 41% of candidates negotiate every job offer—good or bad.
“Always negotiate,” says Lisa Rangel, executive résumé writer with Chameleon Resumes and former executive recruiter. “This is the secret high achievers know. They don’t wait to be offered a great salary. They ask for it and present proof as to why it is warranted.”
While negotiating can be intimidating, the 2019 Job Seeker Nation report from Jobvite found that 60% of candidates say they’re at least somewhat comfortable negotiating, up from 51% who felt so in the previous year. And for those who did negotiate, 83% say they received higher pay.
“Even though having a conversation about compensation can be uncomfortable, it’s important to do so,” says Janelle Bieler, senior vice president of the staffing agency Adecco. “Being up-front about salary expectations will ensure that you and your new employer are on the same page and that the employment agreement is a good match for both parties.”
Here’s how to boost your starting pay:
Do your research
“A good salary negotiation starts on the first minute of the first interview for the employee,” says Paul Sorbera, president of Alliance Consulting, an executive search firm. “It is important to assess the situation and information provided.”
Sorbera suggests trying to find out how long the company has been looking, what kind of turnover they’ve had in the role and why, and how urgent the hire is for them. If you’re the right candidate and you know the company is challenged, it can give you an advantage in negotiating.
Research the market salary range for the position, says Rangel. “Sites like salary.com, payscale.com, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics will be able to shed light on what individuals who do what you do get paid and how the salary may vary based on location and length of experience,” she says.
And find out the organization’s pay strategy, adds Elaine Varelas, managing partner of Keystone Partners, career management consultants.
“Companies choose to be lead payers, midmarket payers, or on the low side,” she says. “Companies can also approach salary based on how competitive the market is for your specific area of expertise. Knowledgeable recruiters may be able to share this kind of market data with you.”
Know your value
Understand the value you bring to the company, suggests Rangel. “It’s important to shift your interviewing presentation from a past-salary mindset to a job-value mindset,” she says. “So many go in asking for what they made at their previous position. However, it’s best to go in and negotiate based on the value you bring to the table.”
Tie the value of the salary you are requesting to the impact you will make on the company in a quantifiable manner, and then attach your salary request to this equation, says Jen Hwang, chief strategy officer for the job market app tilr. “Help the employer see that they are getting an excellent deal when it comes to return on investment,” she says.
And be clear about your own situation, says Will Bachman, cofounder and managing partner of Umbrex, a networking community for independent management consultants. “What other options do you have?” he asks. “What is the lowest salary you’d accept? What aspects of the employment package other than cash are important to you?”
Consider the first offer a starting point
Don’t immediately say “yes,” and don’t accept the first offer, advises Charlotte Westerhaus-Renfrow, clinical assistant professor of business law and management at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business. “Formulate a counteroffer to see if you can improve the offer,” she says.
When you ask for a higher amount, be prepared with reasons behind it, says Rangel. “Don’t make the critical mistake many make of saying you’re the best person you’re going to find for the role,” she says. “Go into the interview prepared for this question with not only an amount, but also the exact reasons and evidence you deserve more.”
Start sentences by recognizing the opportunity to help a negotiation go smoothly, says Hwang. “For example, don’t say, ‘In order to work here, you’ll need to pay me $X,'” she says. “Do say, ‘I’d really like the opportunity to work with your brilliant team—I know I could learn and contribute so much. I’d like to discuss an equitable compensation package of $X to make this possible for us both.'”
And don’t be afraid to buy some time, suggests Michael Solomon, cofounder of salary negotiation representatives 10x Ascend. “Email is your friend,” he says. “When they throw an offer at you by phone, thank them and let them know you will digest, discuss with your trusted advisers, and revert. There is no upside to responding in real time. The reasons are twofold: You don’t do this every day, and it is stressful. As such, you might say something you will regret.”
Another reason to take time: The person you are speaking to may not be the final decision-maker, Solomon adds. “Whatever your reasoning in your counter-proposal, it is better if it is carefully laid out in an email so that your complete thoughts, justifications, and presentation can be sent to all stakeholders,” he says.
Negotiate more than money
Know your salary expectations and deal breakers, adds Hwang. “Have a mental list of areas where you are flexible so if necessary, you can give without losing ground,” she says. “I recommend privately list out what could possibly be added to an offer to sway you to take a lower-paying offer, such as subsidized childcare, a transportation allowance, or stock options.”
Noncash components of the overall offer should be carefully considered, says Bachman. “An employer may have a hard limit on salary, but have more flexibility on the number of vacation days,” he says. “A prospective employee who obtains an extra week of vacation gains an effective 2% increase in the salary per day worked.”
If your negotiation attempts don’t pan out, don’t get discouraged, says Bieler. “Consider what aspects of work culture are important to you and prioritize them,” she says. “You may be able to ask for a flexible work schedule or negotiate for professional development opportunities. Asking about professional development opportunities shows the employer that you are willing to do the work it takes to earn that salary increase in the future, as well as better yourself professionally.”
And if the employer has a hard limit on the starting salary, consider negotiating for the future. “Perhaps you can identify clear metrics that would trigger an increase in salary 6 or 12 months into the job,” suggests Bachman.