You've done it -- after countless informational interviews, phone calls, and in-person interviews, you've finally landed your dream job.
But as you peruse the contract, you find yourself a little hesitant about what they're willing to offer you.
You're torn. You know you're going to love this job. Shouldn't you just accept their first offer?
Unfortunately, your inability to negotiate now won't just affect the next year or two of your life -- instead, it will create a snowball effect that could result in major losses down the road. In fact, you could lose anywhere from $1 million to $1.5 million over the course of your lifetime if you don't negotiate early.
For instance, let's say your employer offers you 55K for a role. You were hoping for 60K, particularly since you're currently making 55K, but you accept. Then, after a year, your manager puts together a promotion package for you -- with a 10% raise.
10% out of 55K is $5,500, but 10% out of 60K is $6,000. This means, year two, you could be making $60,500 or $66,000 -- see why negotiating matters?
However, negotiation can feel awkward and intimidating, particularly if you've never done it before. Here, we're going to explore the best way to negotiate a salary to ensure you receive what you deserve.
How to Negotiate Salary in Person or Over the Phone
It's important to note, whether you need to negotiate your salary in person or over the phone, the following tips will be largely applicable to either situation.
However, if at all possible, avoid negotiating over email. Olivia Chin, a HubSpot Tech recruiter, told me, "I usually strongly prefer phone or in person over email/writing because there’s a benefit to on-the-fly adjustments and questions -- it makes for a more fluid conversation."
Take a look at the following five tips, as well as the sample script, to learn how to negotiate your salary.
1. Do your research ahead of time.
If you need to negotiate your salary in person, it's critical you come to the meeting prepared with various business-related reasons you're worth a certain amount. First, you'll want to research the salary range for the type of role you're offered.
Additionally, it's critical you ensure you're researching salary in the correct industry. A social media manager for a non-profit will have a different salary range than a social media manager at a major software company, so it's important you focus on the salary range for roles in the correct industry.
Finally, it's important you seriously weigh the worth of the skills and experiences you bring to the table.
For instance, let's say you've received an offer letter for the social media manager role at a software company, which offers the same starting salary as your current role. However, in your current position, you've significantly exceeded expectations -- rather than increasing the company's Instagram traffic by 50%, you increased it by 125%. This is important information for proving you're worth the additional investment to your new employer.
2. Come to the meeting with a collaborative attitude.
A negotiation is not an argument, or a chance to offer an ultimatum.
Instead, a negotiation is an opportunity to have a productive, collaborative conversation to reach a compensation package that feels fair to both you and your employer.
For this reason, come prepared with your non-negotiables, but remain flexible on the final result. For instance, perhaps you decide if the company can't match your highest-range salary, you'll accept additional vacation days or 100 more units of Restricted Stock allotment.
3. Come prepared with evidence based on research and market value.
When you arrive at the meeting, you should come prepared with notes on the research you've conducted -- if you're nervous, this can help you stay on-track. Additionally, you might forget numbers in the moment, so it's important you have them written down.
You'll want to make sure you know how much you can earn on the job market, and you want to convey to your employer that your data is grounded in reality. Begin the statement by saying, "Based on my research … " so the employer knows you're not just asking for a higher salary for the sake of it.
Additionally, include any information you might have regarding the value you're providing your new employer. If you earned your last company an additional $50,000 through a new campaign you spearheaded, your new employer might see the necessity of offering you an additional 5% on top of your current offer.
4. Don't say "I need" or "I want". Say "I would be more comfortable with X. Is that number flexible at all?"
It's a turn-off to employers if you begin the negotiation with a phrase like, "I need 5K more." It's critical you handle the conversation with tact. An employer will be much more open to the phrase, "I would be more comfortable with an additional 5K."
To further demonstrate a level of empathy for your employer, add, "Is that number flexible at all?" This phrase provides the employer with an opportunity to tell you how much more they can offer, or alternative benefits they might increase, while maintaining a sense of collaboration, which is key.
5. Say "If you can offer X, then I'm on board."
Your employer doesn't want an endless negotiation, and neither do you. Using the phrase "then I'm on board" signifies to your employer that if they offer you something, you're willing to accept the role, and negotiations can come to an end.
Of course, you want to be fair to your employer. If they tell you they can't offer you 60K, you don't want to say, "Offer me 60K, and then I'm on board." Instead, you might say, "I understand the best you can do is $55,000. If you can do $55,000 and an extra week of paid vacation each year, then I'm on board."
Here's a full script to get you started:
Thank you so much for the offer. I'm very excited about this opportunity. Over the phone, you offered $50,000. Based on my research, I've seen the salary range for this type of role in the industry is typically between $55,000 and $65,000. Additionally, I feel I'm able to offer unique value to your company -- in my prior position, I earned my company an additional $10,000 with a campaign I launched.
For these reasons, I would be more comfortable if we could settle on $60,000. I feel my qualifications and experience reflect this salary.
If you’re able to move the pay to $60,000, I’d be eager to accept.”
Remember -- if you offer a range, you want to start at the higher end of the range, but you also should expect the employer to try to meet you more in-the-middle. In response to the script above, an employer might say, "Okay, how about $55,000?"
If they counter with a little less than what you're asking for, you might respond with the following statement, based on an employee benefit or perk you feel is important to you:
"I understand the best you can do is $55,000. If you can do $55,000 and increase the Restricted Stock Unit allotment to 100 units, then I'm on board."
Lastly, if you're not sure whether you want to accept the offer, it's acceptable to say -- "Great. Do you mind if I take 24-hours to think it over?"
Regardless of how the conversation ends, it's critical you thank your employer for taking the time to negotiate with you. This conveys a level of professionalism and shows the employer you respect them and their time -- which is more likely to get you what you want, along with being the right thing to do.
Remember Your Worth -- Regardless of Gender
In a study at The University of Texas, men and women were asked to negotiate a starting salary for themselves, and then for someone else. When women negotiated for themselves, they asked for an average $7,000 less than the men -- but when they negotiated on behalf of someone else, they asked for the same amount of money as the men.
This concept is known as "communal orientation". Essentially, women succeeded in negotiations when they felt it wasn't about them -- it was about helping someone else. Succeeding in negotiations, then, might be easier if you can reframe the very concept of negotiation.
For instance, perhaps it helps when you're negotiating to consider how you are an asset to the company. If you focus on reminding the company how you'll support the organization and help them, you can make the conversation feel less about you.
Oh, and one last thing -- with job offers, 90% of employers have never, ever reneged because someone tried to negotiate. So what do you really have to lose?
How to negotiate salary
- Remember it's common to make a counter-offer, so be prepared to do it. Know what you expect to receive before you even receive the offer letter.
- Do your best to avoid verbally committing to a set salary during interview conversations. Instead, if you're asked directly, say you're open based on the range.
- Research the salary range for similar roles in the industry. It's critical you know how much your skills and experience are worth -- this will help you answer the question, "Why do you deserve this salary?"
- Keep it professional. Don't use personal financial needs like student loans as your reason for negotiating. Instead, use your resume to exemplify why you deserve a certain amount.
- You can negotiate more than salary -- consider which employee benefits and perks might be negotiable, if salary isn't.
- Take your time. It's okay to ask for 24-hours to think it over.
Take a look at 6 Negotiation Strategies Every Marketer Should Know to further strengthen your negotiation skills.