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 part 2 of “How to Negotiate Your Job Offer” series. In part 1, we talked about how to handle salary questions during the interview stage and how to do salary research. Today, we will continue and focus on how to conduct the negotiation:
Entering the Negotiation Process
Once the interview process is over, both sides are ready to negotiate salary. Employers frequently make their first offer at the lower end of their internal job range. You may even already know the internal salary range for your job. The job offer you hear first will most likely be lower than what you plan to ask for. That’s OK – you know what you are worth!
Common advice at this point is to repeat the amount of the job offer, and wait. It’s not quite “the first one who talks loses,” but it certainly won’t hurt to be silent for a few seconds. At the least it will give you time to think about what you want to say next.
After they have broken the silence, make your case. Highlight how your qualifications meet the higher end of their salary range. If asked for a counter-offer, aim about 10% higher than your desired salary and begin the bargaining process.
Even if the company has the reputation of always paying above the market, or for being a company that doesn’t negotiate, you still aren’t required to take their first offer. Remember: you are their leading candidate. They chose you to offer the job. At the very least you should ask if there is some wiggle room. As a wise person once told me, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!” For some positions, employers wait to see if you negotiate for a better offer, because that is a useful skill for your new position. They appreciate your willingness to ask for more.
You may even be in the enviable position of being offered exactly what you planned to ask for (or more!) It is still a good idea to negotiate. Ask for about 10% more and wait. You may be surprised.
How to Ask for More
What if the salary offered is much lower than you want or think is fair for the job? First, remember you did your research. Your desired salary is the fair market value for the position. So after you repeat their first offer, wait to see if they immediately counter with a higher offer. If so, they were waiting to see if you would take their initial offer and they could save money by paying less than fair market value for the job. When you didn’t accept their lowest offer, they correctly assumed you plan to negotiate. In this situation, for your counter-offer name an amount that is at least 10% higher than you believe to be fair and wait.
(In this type of negotiation, some experts advocate for naming an amount that is much higher than you want, to show just how low you thought their first offer was. In some cases, that may be a viable strategy. It does carry a certain amount of risk of not getting the job, along with requiring a fair amount of skill in negotiation. You must also answer for yourself if you want to work for a company that pays as low as possible for every job.)
With your counter-offer of 10% above your desired salary, include your research into the fair market value for the position. Check to see if you and the hiring manager are looking at the job duties and qualifications the same way. Maybe you are viewing the position as more qualified than actually needed. Maybe as an objective outsider you can see aspects of the job added over time that make it a higher paying job than they realize. If so, the hiring manager may decide they need to pay more, and go to bat for a higher salary for you. Remember, you were the candidate chosen for the position. You have a very good chance to successfully make your case for the salary you believe is accurate for the position.
In part 3, we’ll talk about compensation beyond just salary, handling negotiation gap, and final thoughts on negotiation.