Whether you’re a recent graduate entering the job market or a seasoned professional looking for a new role, knowing how to negotiate your compensation package is a key professional skill.
Let’s review how you can conduct market research, prepare for negotiations including thinking through common objections, and so much more.
Why Negotiate Compensation?
Before we dive into some strategies for negotiating compensation, let’s talk about why having these kind of conversations is a good thing.
For starters, getting a fair and competitive salary is important for the financial wellbeing of you and your family. Most of us work to pay for our lives. Fulfillment is a huge benefit from any job we love, but it would be tough to underestimate the power of a paycheck in day-to-day life. And higher pay can mean greater financial stability, a better quality of life, and the ability to save for bigger things like home ownership or your retirement.
It rarely hurts to ask questions when you get an offer for a job. In spite of what many of us were taught years ago, it’s usually ok to talk to your potential employer about additional compensation, perks, or benefits.
Now that many states and local governments are requiring pay transparency in job postings, you may know the salary or hourly rate range going into the conversation. But if it’s unclear or your research indicates that the compensation and the standard rate for the role you’re interviewing for aren’t syncing up, you can ask for clarification from the hiring manager.
Compensation isn’t always about take-home pay. Does the employer offer paid benefits? Do you have access to a company cell plan or company car? What about additional PTO? Could you earn performance-based bonuses? Exploring your options through compensation negotiation can make a big difference if you keep an open mind.
Now, let’s go over some things to consider when talking to your potential new employer.
7 Tips to Effectively Negotiate Pay and More
1. Do Your Research
You may have already done some market research when you were looking for a new job. If not, now’s the time. What are other people in this position getting paid? Is that in line with pay in your local area or does that change if the role is remote? For instance, compensation in cities with high costs of living like New York or San Francisco may be higher than in smaller towns or rural areas.
Does that pay rate increase significantly with five years of experience? What about 10? What if you have an advanced degree or specialized certification? Do some office locations have a higher range than others because of parking costs or commuter costs?
Here are some ways to conduct this kind of research:
Check online salary resources
Websites like Glassdoor, PayScale, and Indeed provide salary data for specific job titles and locations. Know that this is mostly generalized information, and it doesn’t always offer ranges based on industry or years of experience, but it can be a starting point.
Network with people in your industry
Consider reaching out to people in similar positions and asking them about their salary range. Consider checking in with other members of an industry group like Public Relations Society of America or Society for Human Resource Management. It’s important to ensure they’re comfortable answering the question before you ask it, however—especially if you don’t know them personally. Compensation is often something people don’t like to discuss even with family.
2. Lead With Gratitude
Even if you aren’t initially offered the exact compensation package you want, be sure to express your gratitude for the opportunity to have a conversation about compensation and explore options. Thank the employer for their consideration and let them know you’re looking forward to joining the team. A positive relationship is important for now and the future!
3. Be Empathetic and Listen
Great negotiators will bring empathy to the table with them, according to expert Chris Voss. In his book, Never Split the Difference, he explains that putting yourself in the shoes of the other person in your conversation with help to quickly establish rapport. And this helps to reveal obstacles and build trust, so everyone is more to all possibilities.
4. Comfortable in Your Confidence
Maintain a calm and respectful tone throughout the discussion. Don’t forget that body language is important, too. Even if you’re not excited about the initial offer, be respectful of the other party. Remember, they’re trying to do their best to find a compensation package that works for both of you, so stay positive as you stay the course.
5. Prepare for the Conversation
When preparing to negotiate your compensation after a job offer, learning how to have a good conversation is key. Be prepared to listen and be open to options.
You can start by sharing any market research you’ve conducted—know that it’s likely the hiring manager or HR did their own compensation research when setting the salary range, so they may have that information share with you as well. Next, you can reiterate the skills and value you would bring to the team. What impact will your involvement have on the department’s (or company’s) productivity and bottom line? Talk about your work in your field and past impact you’ve had.
Practice with a Friend or Family Member
Practicing your negotiation skills with a friend or family member can help you build confidence and prepare for unexpected scenarios. It also allows you the chance to receive feedback and get tips for improvement. Have them play the role of the employer and practice different scenarios together.
6. Ask About Alternate Forms of Compensation
If the employer isn’t able to meet your desired compensation amount for any reason, try negotiating for additional perks, benefits, annual bonuses, or even a sign-on bonus instead. These can include other things like commuter benefits, paid parking, workplace discount programs, paid gym memberships or mental health benefits, or even in-office meals.
Whether these requests make sense may depend on a few elements, so do your homework about the company and industry. Those factors may include:
- Industry standards. Alternate compensation like additional PTO or business-driven performance bonuses are common practice in some industries, while in others they are not.
- Job level and experience. Some senior-level positions or highly-experienced candidates might be more able to request a sign-on bonus based on the level of expertise they bring to the company.
- Company policies and norms. Some businesses have specific rules regarding other forms of compensation or bonuses, so it’s important to research the company’s hiring practices before making a request.
7. Do You Need to Just Say No?
Finally, if the job and and the compensation just don’t fit your needs, you’ll need to decide for yourself if you simply cannot accept. Saying “no” can be a powerful tool in a negotiation if it helps uncover points of friction or signals that you are moving towards agreement by learning more about where you both stand. It can also be a helpful way to gather more information or understand other options.
It’s a tough call to say no to any offer, but only you know best what works for you and your life right now. We hope you never find yourself in a situation where you feel like you have to accept an offer that doesn’t feel right since that can sometimes lead to dissatisfaction and negatively impact performance.
Agreeing on your salary or hourly rate may seem daunting, but it’s part of any job search. Take time to do your research about the role, company, industry, and geographic guidance and prepare to have a compensation conversation with an open mind with your new employer. Best of luck!