After several rounds of interviews, you finally land a job offer from a terrific team at a company with a bright future. You may have made it through the most challenging part of the job search process, but there's one final step before you can accept the offer: negotiating your salary.
The good news is that most companies expect a candidate to negotiate. In a market where in-demand professionals often consider multiple job offers, companies know they have to have some flexibility in their salary ranges. In fact, if you have specialized expertise and an impressive resume, you may be leaving money on the table if you don't inquire about a higher starting salary.
But salary negotiations are tricky conversations. For many people, talking about money is uncomfortable. It can feel impolite to ask for more money than what you’re offered, or to bring up the issue of pay before the company does. You might be afraid that an employer will withdraw their offer altogether if you dare try to negotiate. But you’ll never get paid more if you don't ask for it. Here are eight do’s and don’ts to help you tactfully and confidently negotiate the starting salary for your next job:
DO get familiar with industry salary trends
You may think you deserve a higher starting salary in your new position. But what do the national and local job markets say? Information is your biggest ally. To enter a negotiation fully informed, consult Robert Half’s annual Salary Guides to determine the going rate for your career path, position and experience level, and the salary calculator to see adjusted figures for your geographic area. If you’re in the running for one of the year’s hottest, highest-paying 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.
DON’T negotiate too early — or too late
Asking about a job’s salary in an initial interview is definitely too early, unless the hiring manager asks specifically about your salary range. And trying to negotiate a salary after you’ve signed the contracts and agreed on a starting date is definitely too late. The best time to bring up salary is either when you have completed a few interviews and know you are in the running as a finalist for the position, or, at the very latest, when you receive a job offer. If the company doesn’t bring up pay when they make the offer, don’t hesitate to ask.
DO give a specific ideal salary
Some employers will ask you to name a pay range you’re looking for early on in the hiring process. Giving a wide salary range might seem smart, hedging your bets against pricing yourself out of a job. But if you tell a potential employer that your acceptable pay range is $60,000 to $90,000, don’t be surprised if they offer you $60,000. After doing your research, you should know your baseline salary — the number under which you’d be willing to walk away from a company. Being willing to state a specific number or range will help you and the potential employer figure out if you’re on the same page and if it makes sense to continue the interviews.
DON’T make it only about you
Salary negotiations are a two-way street. When talking about your capabilities and career, you need to frame your request for higher compensation in a way that conveys what the employer will gain in return. In the interview process, you should give concrete examples of how your skills will benefit your new company, and when you get to the negotiation stage, be sure to express how excited you are to work for the company. Remember, many managers don’t like negotiating, either. Keeping your tone positive and collegial will help you navigate the discussions in a manner both sides will be happy with.
DO be honest
Successful salary negotiations depend on honesty from both parties. 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 past jobs’ salaries to leverage a bigger paycheck. Skip the bluffing, and be honest about your needs and expectations. If your past salaries don’t reflect your worth on the market, be able to explain why you deserve to be paid more now in this new position.
DON’T overlook the benefits
Salary negotiations often include some give-and-take on benefits, not just dollars. It may be less costly for the employer to give ground on extra vacation, flexible hours or a work-from-home schedule. Consider what’s valuable to you and what would make an offer more attractive to you and your lifestyle. If you’re considering multiple offers, remember to directly compare health insurance coverage and retirement benefits to make a truly informed decision.
DO know when to wrap it up
If the employer has made a reasonable offer — a bigger paycheck, an improved benefits package or better work-life balance — consider accepting it as is. 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 your application and focus on opportunities that better match your compensation expectations.
DON’T fail to even ask
If you’d like to get a better starting salary offer, you have to ask for it. Job seekers too often accept the first salary they’re offered, and studies show women are less likely than men to try to negotiate. Yet many companies set positions’ starting salaries as a range, with a variance of 5 or 10 percent. All it takes to find out if there is wiggle room in the budget is a simple question: “Can you do any better?” Another good starting point for negotiations is: “I was hoping for something closer to [specific amount]. Is that possible?” Then let the other person respond to your request — don’t give in to the temptation to blabber on and negotiate against yourself.
Salary negotiations can also come up during the annual performance reviews at your current job, not just when you’re interviewing for a new position. If you think your strong performance warrants a raise, remember the above do’s and don’ts. Do your homework and present a case that shows how your work has benefited the company. That way, your compensation will better match where you are in your career and set you up for a fruitful future.