There’s no doubt that, for many, the entire job search and interview process is nerve-wracking. But many job seekers find that what comes next — negotiating salary — to be the most intimidating part.
Negotiating salary doesn’t have to be so scary, though. If you prepare well, you can calmly present your case for your desired salary. Consider these steps when getting ready for your salary negotiation:
1. Be prepared before you start negotiating salary
As part of your preparation for a job interview, research typical salaries for your desired position in your area of the country with tools like Robert Half’s Salary Guide.
Also do your company research and adjust your desired number based on the organization's size, longevity and industries served. For instance, a job at a small start-up company may not offer the same base pay as a similar position at a large, well-established firm.
2. Know your worth to the company
Before the interview, consider your skills and what you can contribute to the company. Do you bring with you unique knowledge or experience? Is the company offering you a new or existing position at the company? Do you meet or exceed the job posting's minimum qualifications? Are other candidates interviewing for the position?
Companies want to know your return on investment (ROI); if you can prove you will bring value to the company and boost the bottom line, you have a good chance of negotiating a higher base salary. Also, if the job is in one of the fastest-growing industries or is considered a hot position, you may be in a better place to negotiate.
3. Time it for when the hiring manager brings it up
Most employers expect to discuss a candidate’s desired salary in the first or second interview. Once they indicate they would like to make an offer, consider it an invitation to ask some questions. Begin with questions around benefits and other compensation areas before discussing salary.
Allow the hiring manager to broach the subject of salary, but be prepared to give a number when asked.
4. Practice your pitch and keep your cool
Even if you feel nervous, try to stay calm while negotiating the salary you want. One way to do that is to prepare a strong pitch before the interview, supported by the specific skills and accomplishments you bring to the table.
Whatever you do, though, don’t use personal reasons (e.g., credit card debt, a high mortgage, or child care responsibilities) to argue your point. Also avoid exaggerating your current pay range, qualifications or other job offers. Instead, focus on the value you can bring to the company.
Be sure you know what the top jobs in accounting and finance are and what's driving the demand.
5. Look past the money
If the offered salary and benefits do not meet your expectations, let the employer know, in case the offer can be adjusted to be more suitable. Also keep in mind the benefits of working there that reach beyond compensation, such as career goals and advancement opportunity with the potential employer. These things should be part of your analysis of accepting an offer.
Consider the entire compensation package when negotiating salary. To get to your ideal number, you may have to compromise on other benefits that are not as important to you. On the other hand, if the salary is not what you expected, remember the benefits of any employee perks you’re being offered, such as flexible scheduling, additional time off, on-the-job training, retirement benefits and tuition reimbursement. If you’re still not entirely satisfied, consider asking for a performance review with a potential raise within six months or a year, provided you meet expectations.
6. Get everything in writing
Once you and the hiring manager settle on an agreeable compensation package, ask for documentation in writing, along with a brief job description and a list of responsibilities for your new role. Ensure the document is signed by both you and the employer to ensure you’re on the same page.
The more prepared you are as a candidate, the more likely you are to negotiate a great salary. Ideally, you'll be prepared with as much knowledge about the position and comparable salaries for the area as possible. You can gather this information through your network and professional organizations. Seeking information from a third party is helpful, because the information given is not subjective.
Bottom line: Remember that no employer will simply offer up more money; you must be willing to ask for it.
Consider working with a recruiter who can handle the difficult conversations for you.
Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect more current information.