Negotiating your salary can be intimidating. While it’s important to get the best pay possible, it is also essential not to overprice yourself or undervalue your skills and experience. So, let’s explore a few tactics to improve your chances for negotiating the best compensation package you can get.
Research Market Rates.
Researching market rates for your job and geographic area is an important part of salary negotiation. Look for salary surveys, industry averages, and job postings that list pay information to help you determine the median salary for the job.
In fact, as we discussed in a previous series of posts, a number of states and localities have enacted pay transparency laws in recent years. These laws are intended to make it easier for jobseekers to learn the salary range for jobs either before they apply or during the application process.
Your state and local labor department probably has a website that offers wage information for your area. We have also published median salaries for the top growth occupations, based on Federal statistics, in our Resumes that Shine Guide to the Post-pandemic Job Market.
You are, in essence, marketing your services to employers, so market research is one of the most important things for you to do.
Strategize Before You Negotiate.
Plan ahead before negotiating with your prospective employer. Think about the arguments you’ll use to justify your target salary and come up with a plan of action. Consider potential counteroffers you may receive and decide ahead of time how you’ll respond. This will prevent you from getting caught off-guard while negotiating, and give you the confidence to stand your ground.
Remember that hiring managers do not always have a lot of leeway to offer additional compensation. They may be constrained by corporate, government, or collective bargaining rules. Your job market and company research could uncover these restrictions so you can make realistic requests.
The person I negotiated with at one job was a subcontractor who, I learned, did not have the authority to set my salary. A manager from the parent company revised my salary downward to conform to their union pay scale,
Understanding your own value will help you determine an appropriate starting point for negotiating pay. Make sure you don’t undersell yourself. Consider factors such as your skills, experience, education, and other assets that you bring to the job. By understanding your value in the marketplace and setting a realistic target salary, you’ll be better equipped to negotiate the best possible pay for your work.
While you want the best possible salary, remember that the process is about the employer’s needs, not yours. You may feel the need for a six-figure salary to live in, say, New York or San Francisco, but you won’t get it unless the employer believes you bring that much value to the job.
Setting a target salary will give you something to aim for and provide a benchmark for negotiating with prospective employers. When deciding on your target, consider factors such as your skills, experience level, market rates, and other benefits included in the package. Be sure to keep realistic expectations in mind and avoid setting a figure that is too high or low. And avoid setting a figure based solely on your cost of living.
Be prepared for potential counteroffers from employers. This could include offering additional benefits in lieu of a higher salary or proposing an alternative benefits package. It’s important to be flexible and consider counteroffers, but also stay firm in your position and don’t accept something significantly lower than your target salary.
Many of us take jobs or remain in jobs because we need benefits such as health insurance and vacation time. Keep in mind, though, that some employment arrangements, such as freelance, temp, or independent hourly consulting usually don’t include benefits. The only thing you can discuss may be your hourly rate or salary.
Remain professional throughout the process. This means avoiding personal attacks or making threats that won’t benefit either party in the long run. Instead, stay focused on facts and present your case in a way that is both clear and concise. Maintaining a positive attitude will go a long way toward demonstrating your worth and may help you get a better outcome.
When negotiating salary, it is often a good idea to ask for more than you expect to receive. This will give you room to negotiate and could result in higher compensation than if you had asked for the exact figure that you wanted. It’s important to be realistic when considering your target salary, but don’t be afraid to ask for a bit more than you initially expected.
A basic tenet of negotiating anything is to let the other party suggest a number first. If, for whatever reason, you do not know the salary range, this is an especially good idea, because you may ask for too little.
Consider other benefits that may be included in the package other than salary. Benefits, if available, can be about one-third of your total compensation. These could include healthcare, vacation time, flexible working hours, or even stock options. By taking the time to consider these additional benefits, you’ll ensure you get the best possible compensation package for the job.
When negotiating salary, don’t threaten to walk away or refuse to accept certain conditions. Making empty threats will only damage your reputation and put you in a weaker position. Stay professional throughout and politely express your concerns.
Threatening to walk away could work if you are sought after as a top expert in your industry or profession. Most of us are good workers that know their business, but we are not indispensable, so threats won’t work. The employer will just go to the next jobseeker on their list.
Remember that you’re not obligated to accept any offer. If an employer offers a package that is significantly lower than your target salary or doesn’t include all the benefits that you were hoping for, don’t be afraid to walk away from the negotiation. Of course, if you have no other offers on the table, give the offer lots of thought before walking away. Every week of unemployment or underemployment may cost you thousands of dollars in lost wages. So, do your homework before you start receiving job offers. Know what to expect, and what your services are worth to employers. While you won’t always have much room to negotiate, especially if you are being hired into a unionized organization or publicly funded program, you get nothing when you don’t ask for it. But always ask in a courteous and professional manner.