3 Tips for Negotiating Salary

by Rachel Anevski, MAOB, PHR, SHRM-CP, Matters of Management, LLC | March 10, 2022

You’ve just had a great final interview. You like the company as much as they like you. HR called and said to check your inbox, and there you find “The Offer.” The offer letter is complete with information such as your start date, where and who you will be reporting to, your official title, information on benefits and, of course, the presentation of salary. Unfortunately, the offered salary underwhelms you. You feel melancholy. You begin to question if they did like you as much you liked them, and you freeze. The process that occurs next likely sets the tone for your “incoming behavior” and establishes boundaries, expectations and professionalism.  

Here is the perspective from the other side. HR is responsible for hiring people like you. Day in and day out, they are working with salary guides, hiring budgets and, ultimately, the authority to go up to a maximum per job opening. HR is working the numbers the moment they lay eyes on your resume. Some are so good that they can value your experience before making it to the pre-screening video chat. Keep in mind that the job of HR personnel is to stay under budget on all hires, which ultimately makes them excel at their role, so they have already developed a skill set that starts with the lowest possible offering in hopes that you will simply accept. 

But now you know better. So how do you prepare in advance? Here are three ways to make sure you don’t lose sight of your value: 

  1. Set your minimum. Jobs usually have a range, and depending on the geographic location, number of employees and company revenue, this number is likely set. The only time it fluctuates is if a candidate is either missing some essential skills and the employer is desperate to hire or if the candidate is overqualified or brings a unique background to the company (a bonus candidate). Before the interview, do your homework on what the position pays by reviewing similar jobs in the market, checking salary databases or even asking your peers. Ask the interviewer how many candidates are being interviewed. or why they chose your resume. Even ask them to share the range for the position.  
  2. Tell them what you want and more! Most candidates are given this cookie-cutter question: “What is your salary requirement?” This is a perfect moment for you to announce your minimum… and add 10 percent. If you are working with a recruiter, your best bet is to defer to that recruiter and let them handle it. If not, and you know that you are the right candidate, feel confident with this number. It gives you immediate leverage. Once you announce your requirement, it is up to HR to negotiate with you instead of vice versa. They may say that your number is within range. If so, bravo! You’ve just given yourself a nice 10-percent increase. If they say, I’m sorry, we are looking to pay up to “X,” then you at least have the ability to adjust down to your own set minimum. If the range is below your set minimum, thank them for the interview and continue to look for opportunities. In other words, know your worth. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to decline. If a salary offer is given to you without prior discussion, you can choose to fight or flee. “Fighting” would look a lot like a dance between two professionals. You may want to consider the following responses:
  • “Thank you kindly for the offer of $80,000. However, with my years of experience, my last role at (insert previous company here), I cannot accept this offer unless it is re-presented at a base salary of $85,000. Would you kindly reconsider and get back to me?”
  • “I appreciate the offer, and I would love to accept; however, I was expecting this role to pay between $85,000 and $95,000 per year. As such, is there any room in the budget to increase the base pay?”
  • “I am excited to begin working at (company name). However, I am concerned that the compensation presented will not allow me to truly engage in the workplace experience. Is there any wiggle room in the offer? Are there any additional opportunities for compensation enhancement within this role?” 

The truth is, if you don’t ask, you will never know.  

Many negotiations take place before the start date. These conversations are expected from a majority of new hires. While I would love to say that there is an equal ratio of men to women in terms of negotiations; unfortunately, this is not the case. Considerably fewer women negotiate their salary before taking a position; this has been expressed frequently as an underlying issue in pay equity. Negotiating your salary from the onset of a new relationship exemplifies a level of business acumen and confidence. In a worst-case scenario, you find out that you might not be suitable for the company, and in a best-case scenario, you have scored a great job and just stood up for yourself in a way that can help shape your financial future positively.  

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