Master the Art of Salary Negotiation, Then Make an Offer

Hands shaking in salary negotiation

Managers, when it comes to salary negotiation, hard-to-find candidates hold increasing leverage in today’s competitive hiring market. The shortage of skilled accounting and finance professionals, combined with frequent instances of candidates receiving multiple job offers, exacerbates existing recruiting difficulties and requires companies to up the ante to attract top talent.

For decades, Robert Half has helped employers evaluate compensation trends and develop strategies that align with their industry and region. The latest Salary Guide for Accounting and Finance shows a comprehensive list of salary ranges for more than 400 positions, with a Salary Calculator to adjust salaries ranges for jobs in your city.


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Danann SmithEven with salary ranges expected to increase an average of 3.7 percent in the coming year, Danann Smith, a vice president for Robert Half Finance & Accounting, says employers can make an offer that is both attractive to top job candidates and a fit for the organization. That's mastering the art of salary negotiation.

So, where do you start? Here are five salary negotiation tips to help you woo top talent and build your ideal finance team today.

1. Research the market

Benchmarking is the first step to understanding if the salaries you offer are helping or hurting your recruiting efforts.

Danann Smith, Robert Half Finance & Accounting


Examine the hiring market, with an emphasis on local trends affecting hiring, Smith says. Talk to your network about what they are seeing, the salaries they’ve had to offer and hiring strategies that have worked for them.

“Benchmarking is the first step to understanding if the salaries you offer are helping or hurting your recruiting efforts,” she says. “This exercise also quickly shows you where you need to make changes to your compensation strategies and defines what you’ll need to propose in upcoming negotiations.”

Also review industry reports, such as the Salary Guide and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Resources such as these provide insights into positions in demand and key trends influencing the hiring outlook.

These types of tools also help you see how your compensation practices stack up against your competitors and other companies in your area.

2. Know your limits

Whether you’re operating on a tighter budget or have significant room to move on salaries, determine the upper limit of what you can offer prior to negotiations. To identify this number, ask yourself:

  • How flexible can I be with this position and its pay level?
  • Are there other skilled candidates available in case my top contender does not accept the offer?
  • Is there a talent shortage for this particular specialty? If so, how severe is it?
  • Could a stronger offer create tension if it’s out of line with what other members of my team earn?
  • In addition to salary, what options do I have to bolster my offer?

3. Determine the candidate’s expectations

Professionals commonly want to make a move to a job that will pay them more, and many people are confident in their earning power. In order to develop an attractive compensation package, managers must understand an applicant’s current pay level.

“Be sure to have all the key information from the candidate before negotiating,” Smith suggests. “This includes their current total compensation — including a breakdown of the compensation components such as base, bonus and stock — and their salary expectations.”

Job seekers are likely researching relevant salary trends, and you must be, too. A lack of insights into current market conditions or the candidate’s desires is a major red flag for professionals considering joining your company.

4. Consider perks

Money may be a driving factor, but it isn’t the only issue people consider when choosing a job. Find out what matters most to the professionals you’re recruiting — do they want flexible hours or the opportunity to work remotely, for example — and be creative with employee perks and incentives.

“When evaluating a job opportunity, candidates often look beyond salary and consider work-life balance, for instance, or career growth opportunities, expanded benefits, extra vacation time, tuition reimbursement and relocation assistance,” says Smith. “In many cases, meeting applicants’ needs in these other areas, which often include little to no cost, can be the difference in whether they join your company or not.”

5. Finish strong with your salary negotiation

Think of the negotiation process as relationship building. Be upfront about your salary numbers, and make a strong initial offer. See how the candidate responds. Then be prepared to justify your offer.

You can find out a lot about a person in this stage of hiring. When a candidate enters into the negotiation process, it shows confidence, but is that confidence accompanied by professionalism and courtesy? Those are characteristics you want for your team.

Whether you succeed in hiring your top candidate or not, keep negotiations professional and courteous. If the person joins your firm, you will have provided a great start for him or her with your company. If your offer is declined, you’ve at least fostered a positive experience that could keep your business top of mind for the next time the professional contemplates a career move.

Infographic on 4 trends affecting hiring

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Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2015 but was recently updated to reflect new Salary Guide data.

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