You’ve made it to the final interview of a job you really want and that would advance your career. You’re offered the job and you do an internal happy dance. Then they tell you the salary and your heart sinks. What do you do? Because so many see salary negotiations as dreaded conflict, most will either walk away from the opportunity altogether or accept the unfavorable offer without any pushback. There’s a middle ground, however, which is exactly what you’re hoping to negotiate - a salary that will match your qualifications and industry standard while aligning with the company’s goals and budget.
So, when do you engage in salary negotiations, and how do you advocate for yourself to achieve a win-win in this critical area? Let’s explore some salary negotiation tips to answer those questions.
When (and When Not) to Negotiate Salary
Not every salary offer is worthy of negotiation. But there are some general criteria for when you should, and should not, go to bat for a higher paycheck.
Consider negotiating when:
- Your research clearly shows the written offer is less than the industry average for people with your level of education and experience
- The cost of living is verifiably higher where the job is located but the offer does not match that standard
- Your proven skills and past achievements demonstrate added value you would bring to the organization
- You have received higher offers from other companies for a similar role
- You know you can’t accept the job unless the salary is higher
Be reluctant to negotiate when:
- The salary and benefits offer is fair, even if you would prefer it to be higher
- Your skills and experience give you no leverage to ask for more
- The company has made it clear they want you and have put their best offer on the table up front
- You’re not willing to walk away from the offer
Preparing for Successful Salary Negotiations
Going into the interview, you always want to be prepared for salary negotiations whether they become necessary or not. There are several salary negotiation tips that can give you confidence to advocate for yourself in what can feel like a career balancing act.
- Research your market value.
If you are just entering the job market, or if you have been in your current position for a while, you need to learn what companies are paying for similar roles, skill sets, education, and experience in today’s market. By searching on sites like Payscale or GlassDoor, you can see the range of salaries being offered for similar jobs. However, it’s critically important to take into consideration the geographic location of jobs you will be applying for, as pay scales vary widely across the country.
- Research the industry and company.
It’s also important to research salary ranges within specific industries and types of organizations. HR professionals in manufacturing, for example, may garner salaries that are significantly different than HR professionals in commercial real estate. Likewise, a Fortune 500 company may have set guidelines for salaries, whereas a start-up organization may be more flexible in negotiating salaries of its first employees, particularly for leadership positions.
- Identify the value you bring to the organization.
Beyond your education, skills, and years of experience, you will have greater leverage in salary negotiations if you can pinpoint quantifiable results that you have achieved at your current or former jobs. Did you increase productivity? Have the highest sales? Save the company money? Overhaul the inventory process? Triple social media engagement? Write down what you did and what the specific results were to showcase your worth during the negotiation process.
- Determine your must-have salary.
What is the salary you are shooting for? What is the lowest salary that you would accept? When would you walk away from the negotiating table? When identifying your salary needs, determine a range you will start with, always starting 10-20% higher to give yourself and the organization some wiggle room to come down to a figure you would accept.
- Identify benefits you would negotiate to augment a low-range salary offer.
Are there perks that would make a less-than-ideal salary offer worth accepting? From your research of the company, pinpoint benefits it may be able to add to sweeten the pot - things like a higher percentage of profit sharing, pension plans, a company car/mileage, flexible work schedule or working from home, additional sick or personal days, stock options, moving expenses, bonuses, education reimbursement, earlier review and pay raise schedule, overtime, insurance packages, or childcare assistance. Decide which ones are important to you and add them to your negotiation strategy.
- Script and practice your pitch.
Once you’ve developed your salary negotiation strategy, be sure to write down your talking points and become familiar with them. Practice a mock negotiation with a friend, or record yourself and play it back for clarity, tone, and persuasiveness. Adjust as necessary until you are comfortable with making your pitch and countering any pushback.
How to Discuss Salary in an Interview
Sitting across from a potential employer and advocating for a higher salary can be intimidating. But holding your ground can pay off in compounded income that can add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. So, take a deep breath, and keep these things in mind regarding how to discuss salary in an interview.
- Negotiate in person. It is always ideal to meet face to face to discuss the company’s salary offer. Due to distance, there may be times when you have to negotiate over the phone, but it is never advisable to have salary discussions via email.
- Always be polite. Never allow the negotiation process to devolve into a battle of wills. Stay positive and objective.
- Be confident. Being courteous does not mean showing fear or weakness. If you waiver, they will sense it and any ground you gained can easily be lost. You must believe in your worth before you can expect them to do the same.
- Remember you share a common goal. The organization is looking for the right person to fill the position. You are looking for the right job to best utilize your skills. If you’ve gotten to this point in the interview process, they are interested in what you have to offer. Use that to your advantage by outlining the ways you can uniquely meet their needs and justify a higher salary.
- Be prepared to counter their offer with your researched response and desired range – but also be prepared to verify how and where you got your numbers.
- Diplomatically anchor your salary ask in the higher range. Instead of making a demand like, “I deserve $90,000,” try saying something like, “You can correct me if I’m wrong, but my research shows that people with my level of experience typically earn $90,000 to $100,000.” Now you’ve set the bar within your desired range.
- Don’t make your salary ask about your personal financial needs. Instead, base your argument on your market value and what you personally bring to the table for meeting the organization’s goals.
- Be firm but flexible. If the employer indicates that it isn’t in their budget to offer the salary you’re asking, or it isn’t in line with what others in the company are making, empathize with their position, but don’t immediately back down. Say something like, “Based on our discussions, I believe I am the right candidate to achieve your company’s goals in this position. I understand that it can be challenging to come up with another package, but the current offer doesn’t match my level of skill and experience. If you can offer XXX, then I’m on board.”
- Know when to negotiate benefits. If it becomes clear that the salary itself is non-negotiable, discuss adding some of the relevant benefits outlined above as a way to entice you to accept their offer.
- Once you’ve reached a verbal agreement, be sure to get the offer in writing. Then take some time to mull it over – 24 hours is usually an acceptable period.
- Know when to walk away from the table. Rather than pushing to the point of becoming unprofessional, if they have emphatically stated that the salary they’ve presented is their best and final offer – and if it doesn’t meet your bottom-line requirements – then thank them for their time and interest in you as a candidate, but respectfully decline the offer.
Earning the Credentials for a Higher Salary
Sometimes the only thing standing between you and a higher salary is a degree. Ottawa University offers more than 30 fully online bachelor’s and master’s degrees to prepare you for negotiating a salary that matches your worth. Enroll today to start climbing your career ladder!