Companies have profited for years off of job candidates & employees being scared to talk about pay and negotiate. Even though those same employers expect people to negotiate salary in a job offer, they often quote the lower end of the salary range in their budget knowing most candidates won’t try and ask for more.
Pay gaps can often be linked to the way different demographics approach negotiating salary. For instance, 42% of women say they don’t feel comfortable asking for higher pay vs. only 33% of men, according to a recent survey done by Pew Research Center.
It’s important to note that even though certain demographics tend to negotiate more than others, the responsibility of closing the pay gap and paying workers fairly is not on the worker. That falls on companies – something that the salary transparency movement is nudging them to do.
Regardless of who has more power in addressing these disparities, learning to negotiate salary is an invaluable skill to have.
- Researching your market rate and building a “brag sheet” can help build confidence when walking into negotiations.
- There are pay transparency laws in each state that may affect your salary discussions.
- You don’t have to accept a job offer right away. Ask for some time to review the offer so you can appropriately respond.
Salary Negotiation Preparation
The worst way to walk into a salary negotiation is unprepared. You’ll need to show evidence and data to back up your ask and show your value, as well as be able to communicate effectively why you should be compensated as such.
Being prepared for salary negotiations not only increases your chances of having your requests fulfilled, but it also boosts confidence so you can continue to advocate for yourself throughout your career.
Here are a few steps you can take to prepare.
- Review Job Descriptions
It’s best to start with reviewing different job descriptions of the positions you’re applying for, in addition to your current job. Understand the roles, responsibilities, and required qualifications to gauge the level of expertise and experience expected by employers.
2. Research Your Market Rate
Determining your market rate involves researching how much you should be making according to your job title, unique skills, years of experience, location, education, and other relevant professional factors.
Other elements to take into consideration are:
- What is the level of the position you’re applying for?
- Are there any preferables that are listed in the job description that make you a more unique candidate?
- Are there any on-call duties listed? Remember: you don’t work extra hours for free.
- Is the role a hybrid role of several different duties that isn’t normally included in that type of position and because of it, the role is more demanding?
Tools to Use
Using tools like our Market Research Guide, as well as Indeed, Payscale, and Salary.com can give you a rough starting point of what your lowest and highest salary would be, a.k.a. your market salary range. Then calculate the average and median of your data to get your expected salary rate.
From there, you can then gain additional insights from your network. This is where the best research is going to come from – talking about salary with coworkers and other people you know. People like your friends, family, people in your network on Linkedin, past colleagues or bosses, or anyone you think will be comfortable with having that conversation. You’ll have to share with them why you’re asking and be prepared to share your salary as well.
Other tools to gather salary data:
3. Know Your Boundaries
Once you get to know your expected salary a little better, you’ll be able to set better boundaries around your salary, benefits, and what is expected from you in your new role. Think about your absolute “musts” for you to be able to accept a job offer.
Determine your absolute lowest salary you’re willing to accept and quote a salary range above that in the case that they negotiate it down. Then think about other things you need in order to thrive in your new role like remote work, health benefits, a 401(k), or anything else that you need included in your total compensation for you to accept that offer.
4. Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you’ve gathered all the necessary data and you’re preparing to talk about salary with the recruiter or hiring manager, it’s time to practice. Talking about money and pay is awkward for everyone. Practicing those conversations and what you’re going to say will help make these conversations a little easier.
Building a “brag sheet” of all your accomplishments can also help give you more confidence in these discussions. This is basically a spreadsheet or document where you brain dump everything you’ve ever done or accomplished in your career. Then pick a few that you can apply directly to the role to show your unique value and why you should be paid appropriately.
How to Negotiate Salary: The Nitty Gritty
The salary negotiation process can start at any stage, whether that’s with the salary range posted in the job description, in the introductory interview, or upon receiving a job offer.
When is it appropriate to bring up salary expectations?
If the job posting doesn’t list a salary range, bring up salary expectations as soon as you can.
An appropriate time to do this could be towards the end of an introductory interview when the recruiter or hiring manager asks you if you have any questions. You can simply respond with “What is the salary range for this position?” This is so your time isn’t wasted on several stages of interviews only to find out that the salary is half of what your market salary is.
Compensation Isn’t Only Salary
The total compensation package is more than just your salary. Total compensation includes your salary, bonus, and anything that falls under employee benefits like health insurance, retirement plan matching, and education stipends.
When talking about salary expectations with the recruiter or hiring manager, you can also ask what benefits they offer. Usually companies list their benefits on the careers section of their website or in the actual job postings themselves, but some don’t. When you ask about benefits, you can even ask for their benefit packet and they’ll most likely be fine with sending that to you. This way, you'll also be prepared to negotiate your benefits along with your salary.
Know Your Pay Transparency Rights
Look up your location on the Salary Transparent Street Interactive Map to see if your state, city, or county has any pay transparency laws that protect you in negotiations. For instance, if you’re in the state of Washington and a hiring manager asks you in an interview what you made at your last job, you don’t have to answer that question. That question is actually illegal in Washington, as well as 20 other states.
However, if they ask you to provide your expected salary, you can provide them a range.
Negotiating Salary In The Job Offer Stage
Alright, you’re on the home stretch to the finish line of your job search and receive a job offer. Congratulations! But you don’t have to accept an offer on the spot. Whether they present the job offer to you over the phone or over email, ask if you can have 24 - 48 hours to review the offer. If you can do this in an email, that’s most ideal.
Once you’re ready to accept or want to negotiate for more in the job offer, use this format in your response:
- Thank them for the offer
- Let them know how excited you are to accept the position
- Share that the only concerns you have is with the proposed salary
Then you can say something along the lines of: "Based on the market rate for the role, my expected salary based on my location, skills, education, and years of experience is $X." Emphasize your value, skills, & expertise that best match the company’s goals, and use your research and brag sheet to back it up.
Negotiating and advocating for yourself as much as you can will help you get paid what you deserve, but it won’t protect you from employers saying no or passing on you as a candidate. When an employer can’t budge on salary, consider negotiating for other things like remote work, more paid time off, or other benefits that are important to you.
Employers can also pass on candidates because they’re going for the cheapest talent possible. In that case, you probably don’t want that job anyway.
Stand firm, hold your ground, and keep going. We’re rooting for you!
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