Receiving a job offer can feel a little like getting married. You have arrived to the end of the process and it’s time to stand at the proverbial altar and say, “I do”. But just like getting hitched, some pretty important details need to be hammered out on the front end in order to ensure a successful future. The biggest concern most job seekers have at this phase is agreeing to a salary package. Here are some important things to consider as you embark on the salary negotiation process.
Do your homework - It is important to enter into negotiations armed with data and facts about your salary desires. Know what the average salary is for the position, industry, and region of the country. You should also consider your level of experience and how that may influence where you fall in the salary range. Web sites like glassdoor.com and salary.com can be good starting points, but try to gather data from real people, too. Talk to colleagues, peers, and LinkedIn contacts in the same/similar role until you arrive at a range that you can comfortably defend to the recruiter who made you the offer.
Do give a range (and not just a number) - When negotiations begin, use a salary range to state your position. For example, if you've been offered $65k and your research indicates that you can reasonably ask for $70k, a good strategy would be to tell the recruiter your desired range is in the ballpark of $69k-$74k. This way, you are much more likely to land where you want to be because the recruiter will almost certainly negotiate you down.
Do rehearse your salary negotiation approach - Most people are a little squeamish when it comes to discussing money. Practicing ahead of time will help calm your nerves. Once you have collected your data and decided on a salary range, engage in a role-play with your partner or friend. Ask them to realistically argue from the point of view of the recruiter until you're able to defend your case with confidence.
Don't overlook the total compensation - It is easy to get fixated on the base salary offer. Contrary to the popular song, it's not all about that bass (base)! Sometimes the company may not be willing or able to budge on the base salary but may have flexibility elsewhere. If a bonus is offered, sometimes the amount can be negotiated. You may also ask for a signing bonus. Make sure to find out when you will be eligible for an annual merit increase. If you will need to wait more than a year for that, consider negotiating for a shorter timeframe. The point is, there are many parts of the salary package to explore as a part of the negotiation process. Most people start and end with the base salary. But if you don't make much headway there, be willing to get creative.
Don't act desperate, arrogant, or pushy – When I worked as a recruiter, I once made an offer to a new hire and was met with a 12 item bullet-point list of demands that read almost like a ransom note. Talk about getting a bad taste in your mouth. Approach negotiations with an open mind, positive attitude, and friendly demeanor. Employers are open to talking about money but they are less interested in hearing about your financial woes, mounting bills or student loans. Keep that to yourself and focus on the experience and value you can bring to the company and why you believe you're worth the money you are asking for.
Don't forget the other parts of the offer package - Money is important but it's not the only thing. I coach my clients to not lose sight of the other reasons they were attracted to the job or company in the first place. A better commute, improved work-life balance, inspiring manager, and opportunities for growth and development should not be overlooked and are very important parts of the overall offer package.