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The Why and How of Salary Negotiation

Posted in Business Careers by Sydney Frazer on 16 Sep 2016

After the stress and excitement of landing your first post-college job, the last thing you want to think about is negotiating your salary. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to simply accept the offer as-is?

If this sounds familiar, you aren’t alone. In fact, new research from Glassdoor shows that 59 percent of job seekers accept a salary without negotiating. The statistics are even more bleak for recent graduates; according to a NerdWallet survey, 62 percent of new graduates entering the job market didn’t negotiate.

However, early on in your career is the time to get comfortable with talking about salary. Your first salary sets a baseline from which raises, bonuses, and other job salaries will be determined. That $2,000 you might be leaving on the table can balloon into a loss of tens of thousands of dollars over the course of a decade if you don’t speak up.

Luckily, you can prepare for your salary negotiations the same way you prepared for your job interviews. Give yourself the best chance possible using the following tips:

1. Research

• Before entering into a salary negotiation conversation, you need to know what people in the position are making - ideally in your city. There are lots of places to look for this information, so you should take an average of what you find instead of trusting just one source.

• If you’re willing to relocate, compare salaries across geographies. For instance, a Medical Assistant in Chicago will make a salary very close to the national average, while in the San Francisco area, the compensation is well above that.

• Factor in your benefits package. You might find that a higher salary from one company comes at the expense of a 401(k) match, or a more expensive health care plan. Make sure you know exactly what is being offered. You can use tools like Glassdoor to compare benefits across companies. And don’t forget the non-monetary benefits! A company that gives you a flexible schedule might be well worth it if you can save on things like child care costs, even if the salary is a little lower than at another company.

• Decide what offer you will agree to as a compromise. A salary negotiation is more than just a yes/no situation. You need to know what your “must haves” are, vs. your wants. Your employer might not meet you at the exact salary you ask request. In fact, you should expect that. However, think carefully about what your limits are and how low you are willing to go.

• Have a plan if things don’t go your way. Are you prepared to wait for another employer to make an offer? Are you willing to move to a location with more jobs? Are you willing to accept what is on the table? Having a clear idea of your options ensures that you enter negotiations confidently.

2. Use Timing to Your Advantage

• Wait until you have an offer in hand to negotiate. Why wait for the job offer? This is when you are at your strongest - when you have an offer, but haven’t given a number. Most employers prefer to negotiate with a candidate they’ve already decided on, rather than before a job offer has been officially made.

• Do your best to deflect any salary talk prior to that offer coming in. The person who puts the first number in usually doesn’t have the upper hand, which is why you want to hold off. If salary talk comes up early, be vague and turn the conversation to what you can offer the company.

3. Tips and Tricks for the Conversation

• Be honest. When asked about previous salaries, tell the truth. This will be the starting point for negotiations, and employers will value your honesty.

• Offer a salary range rather than a figure. You should already range based on the research you’ve done. Aim for somewhere in the middle if you don’t have a wealth of experience to set you apart.

• Speaking of experience...if this is your first professional job, recognize that your negotiating power might be reduced. In fact, many employers level new employees at the same rate, so the salary is non-negotiable. In this case, it’s entirely acceptable to mention that you would like to revisit your salary once you’ve had the opportunity to show your abilities on the job.

• Don’t be afraid to leverage perks and benefits in lieu of base salary. Negotiating these details can add a great deal of value to your offer. Consider bringing up signing bonuses, additional paid time off, or a flexible schedule.

4. Be Ready to Respond

Avoid accepting the initial offer. Instead, ask for some time to consider the offer (24 to 48 hours is considered reasonable). • Request the offer, and any counter offers, in writing. This allows you to check out what the compensation looks like as a total package. If you think there’s room for improvement, approach the employer with your counteroffer and be ready to go through the process again. • If you land the job and the salary you were hoping for, congratulations! Express your excitement to be joining the company, and how happy you are that you were able to come to a consensus.

Finally, remember that negotiating your salary isn’t a one time event. Think about these tips as you progress throughout your career:

• Leverage moves internally. Thinking about a promotion or new job with your current employer? This comes with another opportunity to negotiate your salary. • Stay abreast of your current market value. If you find out you are being paid less, consider asking for a raise at an appropriate time. • Keep your eyes open for other arising opportunities. Changing employers can be one of the best ways to get a pay increase.

There is no way to get around it: salary negotiation can be a bit intimidating. But with a bit of research and preparation, you can set yourself up for a successful conversation and a more generous compensation package!

About the Author

As a Partnerships Manager at Glassdoor, Sydney works with hundreds of accounts across universities, libraries, and blogs, helping to provide them with content and tools to aid job seekers. Outside of work, Sydney enjoys running, hiking, and searching for the perfect burrito.