Nancy Kasmar, MS, SPHR, CCP is the Practice Lead for Compensation and Benefits Consulting at Washington Employers, a member-based organization providing real-time business results through strategic workforce performance solutions. She is a subject matter expert on compensation and assists members in attracting, retaining, and motivating their employees.
The groundwork for negotiating a salary offer in your new job begins when you start the interview process. You need to do your homework before you get to the job offer stage, so you are ready to negotiate for that higher salary when the opportunity presents itself. Here are some tips for improving your next job offer, and a short illustration about why you need to negotiate.
This is the last part of “How to Negotiate Your Job Offer” series. In part 1 and 2, we talked about how to handle early salary questions, how to do salary research, and how to conduct the negotiation. Today, we will wrap up with looking beyond the salary, closing the negotiation gap, and an illustration to remind you of the importance of negotiation.
Beyond just Salary
Once you have agreed on salary, move on to negotiating the other parts of your offer. Vacation, benefits, career development, and time to first raise are all open to negotiation at this point. Now is the time to ask for these, before you agree to the offer.
If you are happy with the salary and other benefits you have negotiated or you are certain you have heard their best offer and want to accept it, congratulations! Now get it in writing, preferably on company letterhead and signed by HR or the person with the authority to extend job offers. Why does it need to be in writing? Once I accepted a job offer in a nearby city. We discussed my salary, office location, and start date. The week before my start date, I called the hiring manager to find out where to go and what time to arrive on my first day. After a short silence, he told me they hired someone else who had already started. No explanation. Make sure you get the complete job offer in writing.
What if There’s Still a Gap
What if you just can’t come to an agreement? What if their best offer is less than fair market value for the position? What if you can’t live on the amount they are offering and they can’t/won’t budge? Walk away. You will never be happy in the new position and may have to look for a new job right away to pay your bills. At least if you tried to negotiate you know you did your best to make it work for both sides.
At the beginning I promised a short illustration of why you must negotiate a job offer. If you are still on the fence about why it’s important, look at the chart below. I created this as an illustration for one of my classes on why it’s important to negotiate a job offer. With a $50K starting salary, and assuming a 5% increase every year, it shows a difference of $5,000 in starting pay over a 40-year career is $600,000.
The last time I chose not to negotiate my starting salary, on my first day my new manager told me she would have paid an additional $5,000 in salary to hire me. Then she offered some very valuable advice, “You only get two times to negotiate with an employer: on the way in and on the way out. All the other times you’re just asking for a raise.” The other lesson in this story: after failing to negotiate with my new employer, I also waited a year and a half to for my first raise in this position.
Why not start your new job being satisfied with your pay?