Why and How to Negotiate for your starting salary

You’ve probably heard it before, but once you’ve finally landed that job offer you’ll inevitably end up asking yourself: should I negotiate my job offer for a higher salary? First off, you need to decide what you are worth, or what you would be happy with. If the first offer you get is all or more than you could ever ask for, then stop here and accept the offer.

After you’ve done a little research, you should have a good idea of what you could and should be getting paid. Glassdoor offers a tool to help you estimate your worth in addition to providing user posted salaries for different positions at many companies.

Negotiating may seem intimidating as you may be afraid of confrontation, and you don’t want to seem greedy before you’ve even started working there. However, you can’t let this get in your way! Remember that you aren’t the first employee to negotiate for a higher salary, and you certainly won’t be the last. Here are a few reasons why you should negotiate, followed by tips on how to negotiate.

Why you should negotiate your initial offer

The most obvious reason to negotiate for a higher salary is that you would otherwise be leaving that money on the table. For-profit organizations are always trying to increase their bottom line, meaning that they are going to offer you a salary as low as possible while still offering you a reasonable amount in order to bring you in. Managers are often given a set budget for their team or a salary range that they can offer candidates, and it is in their best interest to stay on the lower end of that range if possible.

How much to ask for

As a general rule of thumb, it is usually appropriate to ask for a 10-20% raise from what you are currently making. If you are making $50k, you should be safe in asking for $55k – $60k at a prospective employer. Of course, always do your research to see what you are actually worth. You may be making $50k, but if you are in a higher paying industry, don’t be afraid to ask for $75k, $80k, or $100k+ if your industry and experience level warrant as much.

The stats according to job seekers

According to a 2017 Jobvite survey:
* Only 29% of job seekers negotiated their salary at their current or most recent job
* 48% don’t feel comfortable negotiating at all.
* 84% of those confident enough to ask for higher pay succeed in getting it
* 1/5th of those who did received 11-20% higher pay
* 56 percent of men overall feel comfortable negotiating, versus only 38 percent of women

These findings show that less than 1/3rd of people even bother to negotiate for a higher salary, but those who do have a high likelihood of receiving a higher salary. The numbers show that negotiating is worth it. According to math done by CBS news, you could be leaving $1,000,000 on the table.

How to negotiate for a higher salary

Now the most important part, how you should negotiate your job offer. You may find different tips from various sources on what exactly you should say and how you should say it. Most of it will be good advice, and that’s because negotiating shouldn’t be that hard! Follow these tips and you will be on your way to maximizing your income.

Ask for a specific target, not a salary range

This is associated with not wanting to sound greedy or lacking confidence in yourself. You may be targeting $50k / year, but in an effort to be more appeasing to the employer you may say you are looking for “$45-$50k”. The number that the employer will hear is “$45k” and will base their offer off of that. If they wanted to make a tempting offer of 10% over your asking price, they are now on the hook to offer you only $49.5k rather than $55k. You should pick a single number, and stick with it.

Have a plan when a company inevitably asks for your currently income

Often times, an employer will ask what you are currently making. They use this information to gauge your market value, and may try to base their offer from this. If you’re asking for $50k, but only making $30k, then employers may be more comfortable low-balling your asking price and offering you somewhere in the middle, like $40k. Without knowing that you are currently making $30k, they will may have the incentive to give you an offer closer to your asking price.

However, by simply not providing your current salary, you may be weeding yourself out before you start negotiations. If you are comfortable sharing your current salary, be truthful as it is fairly easy for employers to verify this information (unless asking for salary information is banned in your city).

It’s not usually a problem to share your current income situation, just make sure you are prepared to answer this question. If you are not comfortable providing this information, instead consider telling them a salary you are targeting.

Ask for more time to consider the offer

When your potential next employer calls to offer you a position, always politely ask for more time to consider the offer. Accepting a new job offer is a huge life decision, whether it is your 1st job or your 10th job, as it will help shape your career path, so you should take the time to really consider the offer. Keep it simple and say something along the lines of:

Thank you, I am very excited to receive this offer. Would it be possible to get a little more time to consider everything?

You should also ask to see the offer in writing before making a decision. You can take this time to fully review the offer, including salary, benefits, perks, and vacation time to determine if you are happy with the complete package. If not, you should ask for more. Say

I have reviewed the offer and am excited about <Company Name>, but I would be more comfortable if the salary offer was $50k.

You should always be able to defend your request, as they will most likely ask why you deserve such a raise. Be prepared to be met somewhere in the middle.

Consider (tactfully) leveraging another offer

If you are fortunate enough to receive multiple job offers, you may be leaning towards one company, but another is offering a salary in which you can’t refuse (and of course would be a position that you would be happy accepting!). You can use the higher offer to help leverage a higher salary offer from the company you prefer.

For example, if Company B offers you $60k, but you really want to work for Company A who is offering you $40k, you can absolutely use this as leverage. You can open the dialog by saying “I have a very good feeling about Company A, but have received another offer for $60k. Would it be possible to explore an offer closer to this amount?”. Of course, don’t provide Company B’s name, and always, always consider the full package before using an offer as leverage. If Company A really wants you, they will bring their offer up or close to the offer from Company B. Worst case scenario, they don’t increase their offer so you can take the position at Company B and make more money.

Final words

First and foremost, remember to be prepared. Know how much you are worth, how much you want, and what you would accept. Be prepared for any questions an employer may ask during negotiations, including why you think you deserve what you are asking for.

This should go without saying, but also make sure you are being respectful throughout the whole process. Companies will be more willing to negotiate with you if you are someone who they would like to have working there.

Remember, those confident enough to ask for a higher salary will usually get it. The worst that could happen when attempting to negotiate is that the company says no, leaving you with the original offer. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t leave money on the table!

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