What to know about negotiating salary before accepting a new job

·4-min read
 (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
(Getty Images/iStockphoto)

For many people, the job search can be a discouraging experience filled with endless cover letters and unanswered applications.

When the process goes according to plan, however, and you receive a job offer, it then means it’s time to face the most daunting task of all - negotiating salary.

While salary negotiation can be intimidating, most experts agree that it is a requirement before accepting a new job, and that it actually makes you look good to your prospective employer.

To find out the best ways to negotiate salary, and the protocol around doing so, we spoke with career experts, who revealed that “you should always negotiate”.

According to Allison Cheston, a career advisor based in New York City, salary negotiation is a must when considering a new job, as it shows the employer that you “know your worth in the market and have options, which makes you a more desirable candidate” and that you “are a good advocate for yourself, which will ultimately enable you to advocate on behalf of the organisation”.

As for how, and when, the topic should come up in the recruitment process, Cheston said it depends, as junior workers are likely to find themselves asked early on “what kind of compensation you’re seeking”.

If you feel that the topic was raised too early into the interview process, Cheston told us that applicants can attempt to deflect the question by saying something such as: “It feels early to speak about compensation. I’d like to learn more about the role and get a sense of how I can best contribute.”

But, if the recruiter is adamant about getting you to name a number, as Cheston noted that many are when hiring more junior staff, it is important to have done your homework.

According to Cheston, being prepared for the question means having done extensive research on sites such as Glassdoor or Payscale to find out the average salary range you can expect to receive in the role beforehand, at which point you can provide a range to the recruiter.

However, that doesn’t mean giving the same salary range listed online, as Cheston recommends applicants “begin high enough that you are in range but not at the low end”.

“If you find that the average salary for the job is $60,000 for example, you can say that, in your research, you’ve found that this job pays $60-70K. That way you provide a number within range while avoiding either being cut from the process for being too high or undercutting yourself,” she said.

According to Lynn Berger, a career counselor based in New York City, the best scenario for salary discussion is after you have been offered the position, at which point you should tell the company that you appreciate their offer and will get back to them.

Once you have done your homework, Berger told us that she also recommends offering a salary range to the company, but “making sure your lowest number is one that you would be satisfied with”.

As for the important things to keep in mind during the process, Cheston said to remember “you are in the most powerful position you will ever be again with this employer, as you are all upside,” and “generally speaking, good places to work want to attract great candidates and therefore offer a competitive package”.

“It’s important to understand your power in this dynamic and to push for what you’re worth,” she continued. “Otherwise, you risk finding out that colleagues junior to you are making more money, just because they negotiated harder. And that is never a good feeling.”

In regards to the logistics of the conversation, Berger told us that it is best to speak in “neutral tones” during the salary negotiation process and to try to refrain from becoming “too emotional,” before adding that, as long as “it is done in a professional way, it is usually fine to negotiate”.

Cheston also confirmed that salary negotiation is an expected practice, and that “companies do not get upset if applicants negotiate”.

If you find that the company does react negatively to a conversation about salary negotiations, Cheston told us that it is typically a sign that you should not accept the job offer.

However, Cheston also noted that, although many companies are open to negotiation, that doesn’t necessarily mean “companies offer a low salary and expect you to counter, especially now that we are in more of a buyer’s market”.

If you find that the company is unwilling to budge in regards to compensation, that doesn’t mean you should stop negotiating either, as both Cheston and Berger told us that, even if salary negotiation is off the table, there are a lot of other things you should negotiate before accepting a new job, such as time off, remote work and your job title.

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