It’s not surprising that many people aren’t comfortable asking for more money once their job search has ended and they have an offer in front of them. If the salary is reasonable, they don’t want to jeopardize the opportunity now that they’ve gotten this far. And some job seekers are even more likely to feel this way than they did before COVID-19 hit.
Even with a larger labor pool, companies still face competition from other businesses seeking the same candidates. That’s why the most in-demand professionals can still command competitive wages.
If you have specialized skills and an impressive resume, you could be leaving money on the table if you don’t negotiate a salary offer. Thirty-six percent of managers recently surveyed by Robert Half said they are more likely to negotiate starting salary with new hires than they were a year ago; 50% said they are just as likely to.
Still, it would be a mistake to bluster into the starting salary discussion without proper preparation. Most hiring managers will give you the opportunity to do some thinking about the offer and won’t expect an immediate answer.
Here are eight tips for how to negotiate salary that can help you tactfully and confidently ask for what you want.
1. DO familiarize yourself with industry salary trends
You need to enter a salary negotiation as informed as possible. Information is your strongest ally. To get a current, realistic view of the compensation landscape in your field, consult Robert Half’s 2021 Salary Guides. You’ll find the going rate for your position and experience level. Use our Salary Calculator to adjust national figures for your geographic area.
Pay particular attention to the In-Demand Positions or Critical Roles sections of the Salary Guides. You can respond to the job offer more confidently if you find you’re in the running for one of today’s hottest jobs. The employer may be having a tough time finding someone with enough skills and experience, and that opens the door to negotiate higher pay.
Also of interest: While 44% of managers surveyed by Robert Half said they have made no changes to starting salaries, 28% have increased them since the pandemic started.
2. DON’T fail to build your case
Once you receive the salary offer, don’t just counter with a higher number. Even if your research supports it, you’ll be more successful if you explain why you feel you deserve more. Highlight your strengths, detailing all the extras the firm would get from someone with your track record.
Before negotiating, jot down concrete examples of how your skills and experience will benefit your new company’s bottom line. Possessing certifications or specialized technical skills, for example, can enhance your ability to do the job, so don’t fail to mention them. By tying your strengths to the role you’ll be taking on, you’ll make a solid case for why you should be paid more than the initial offer.
3. DON’T stretch the truth
Complete honesty is paramount when negotiating salary. There’s no better way to see your offer withdrawn than having a hiring manager find out you invented a competing job offer or inflated your salaries from past jobs.
4. DO factor in perks and benefits
Salary negotiations often include some give-and-take on employee perks and benefits. It may be less costly than a bump in salary for the employer to give ground on extra vacation days, flexible hours or, especially today, a work-from-home schedule.
Consider what’s valuable to you and what would make an offer more attractive. If you’re considering multiple offers, remember to directly compare health insurance coverage, retirement savings plans and other benefits to make an informed decision. Also factor in perks such as professional development opportunities with the potential employer.
5. DON’T wing it
This may sound like overkill to some people, but it’s a good idea to ask a friend or mentor to practice with you the conversation you’re likely to have with the hiring manager. The ideal partner is someone from the corporate world — a business-savvy person who can coach you on projecting confidence and answering unexpected questions. Running through your delivery several times can make you feel more sure of yourself heading into the salary discussion.
6. DO know when to wrap it up
A reasonable employer won’t withdraw an offer just because you tried to negotiate. But dragging out the salary negotiation can frustrate the hiring manager and start out your relationship on a sour note. If the company can’t meet your requirements after a few discussions, respectfully withdraw and focus on opportunities that better match your compensation expectations.
7. DON’T forget to get everything in writing
Once you and the hiring manager settle on a compensation package, ask for written documentation. Besides the salary amount, it should include any special arrangements, such as a signing bonus or allowance for moving expenses, and a job description and a list of responsibilities for your new role. Ensure the document is signed by both you and the employer. Some companies may provide this automatically as part of an employment contract, but if not, request some type of informal documentation.
8. DON’T make it only about you
Remember that most managers don’t love negotiating, either. Your future employer is not your adversary. Keeping your tone positive when you’re negotiating salary and perks will help you more effectively navigate these discussions.
If you’d like to get a better starting salary offer, you have to ask for it. Job seekers too often accept the first number that's put on the table. But whether the economy is strong or uncertain, employers are eager to bring on team members with specialized skills and expertise that can help them the most. Homework, tact and confidence are the keys to your success.