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 another step before you should accept the offer: salary negotiation.
In a market where in-demand professionals often consider multiple job offers, companies know they have to have some flexibility in their salary ranges. A new survey from Robert Half, however, shows job seekers may not be speaking up for more pay. Only 34 per cent of Canadian workers said they tried to negotiate salary during their last job offer.
If you don't inquire about a better compensation package, you may be leaving money on the table, especially if you have specialized skills and an impressive resume.
Of course, salary negotiations are tricky conversations. For many people, talking about money is uncomfortable. It can feel impolite to ask for more than what you’re offered. You might be afraid an employer will withdraw the offer altogether if you counter it. Just remember: You have bargaining power.
Here are eight salary negotiation tips in the form of do’s and don’ts to help you tactfully and confidently ask for what you want your next job:
1. DO familiarize yourself 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.
2. DON’T negotiate too early — or too late
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.
If the company doesn’t bring up pay when they make the offer, don’t hesitate to ask. Trying to negotiate a salary after you’ve signed the contracts and agreed on a starting date is definitely too late.
3. DO give a specific salary
Some employers will ask about your expected salary early in the hiring process. Giving a wide pay 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 you’re offered $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 hiring process.
4. 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. While you’re preparing for a job interview, you should gather concrete examples of how your skills will benefit your new company, and when you get to the negotiation stage, 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.
5. 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 salaries from past jobs to leverage a bigger paycheque. Skip the bluffing, and be honest about your needs and expectations.
6. DON’T overlook the benefits
Salary negotiations often include some give-and-take on employee 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.
Also keep in mind the benefits 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.
7. 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 your application and focus on opportunities that better match your compensation expectations.
8. DON’T forget to get everything in writing
Once you and the hiring manager settle on an agreeable compensation package, ask for documentation of your salary and any special arrangements 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.
Here’s the bottom line:
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. Yet many companies set starting salaries as a range, with a variance of 5 or 10 per cent. All it takes to find out if there is wiggle room in the budget is a simple question: “I was hoping for something closer to [specific amount]. Is that possible?” Then wait for the response.
The more prepared and professional you are, the more likely you are to negotiate a great salary, so again, gather as much knowledge as you can about the position and comparable salaries for your region. Know your worth, practice your pitch, and speak up for yourself.
In Robert Half’s Confidence Matters survey, 34 per cent of the workers who responded said they feel confident negotiating their salary at a new job, but even more — 83 per cent — said they’re confident about their performance review. Salary negotiations can also come up during the annual performance reviews at your current job, so 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.
If you decide to continue your job search, learn how Robert Half can help.
Editor's note: This post was updated recently to reflect current information.