You’ve just had the call with the recruiter from that company you interviewed. The call with the offer – congratulations! Launching your career is undeniably exciting, but before you rush ahead and accept the offer, ask yourself: are you prepared for salary negotiation?
Even for an entry-level position, it is always prudent and wise to pause, consider the offer, and negotiate the terms of your employment. The art of negotiation is not a lengthy process, but should be treated as part of the job search process. In the end, salary negotiation is something you do as you advance throughout the interviews.
Understand the hiring process
Before you sit down for that first interview, take a little time to build a general understanding of that company’s process: how long the application window is open, what steps are involved for screening potential candidates, and any expected timeframe the company wants to conduct its interviews. This helps set expectations for how long a company’s process is expected to take. It also lets you focus more on your skills and unique qualifications when you sit down across the table from your prospective future boss. This is where you start to understand where there are opportunities to negotiate.
Understand the benefits landscape
This is perhaps the least interesting part of a job search, but its value in your job search is incredible. Educate yourself on the ins and outs of various 401K and health care plans before you begin your meetings. This will help you better measure the true value of the benefits for employees of this company. A simple matter of how they contribute to your retirement savings can make a big difference to the long-term value of your compensation package.
Before salary negotiation, make sure you have the job
No successful candidate ever started a preliminary interview by outlining their wage requirements or benefits questions. That only shows the hiring manager that you’re less interested in how you can help the company – and more interested in how you can help yourself. Once you progress past the initial interview, wait until you’re either in the final interview or receiving the job offer to ask for a benefits summary.
Comparison is key
A job offer is more than the salary. It includes health care, vacation time, sometimes tuition reimbursement, professional development, retirement account contributions, and more. When you receive your offer, take into account the value of all benefits including the salary.
If you are in a position of power, use it
What is a “position of power”? If you have a couple other offers on the table, or if you possess especially valuable skills or experiences, you are in a position to negotiate for greater compensation– whether additional vacation time, home office expenses, or even subsidies to cover dues for related professional organizations.
When you negotiate, consider how your requests fit the company’s culture
A collaborative conversation, with carefully-worded requests, can help you change your compensation or benefits. While they’re excited to get you in the door, there is still the expectation that you will embrace their work culture…not fight it.
Ask for more money only if you can justify it
In larger companies, there’s a pretty defined range for a starting salary. But if you think you deserve more money, do your homework. Research reputable sources to understand what a fair compensation is for the kind of work they want you to do. Don’t make this personal: a hiring manager doesn’t care about the size of your student loan debt or other financial pressures – these are not justifications for more money. Another equally-qualified candidate may not make the same request, but may accept their job offer.
Throughout the interviewing and salary negotiation process, what is most critical is a continued awareness of what’s important to you as an employee, how much you value yourself, and what you can expect from an employer. Negotiation of a job offer may not give you everything you want, but until you ask you may never know.