It’s interesting that many people find it very easy to negotiate prices when they are buying a house, or car, but become shy and reluctant when negotiating their own salary.
Your salary, just like anything else, will have components that are negotiable. While some companies will have more flexibility than others, what the company initially presents you is usually their starting offer.
Salary negotiation reminds me of the old card game Go Fish. You’re negotiating with the other card players to collect cards that give you sets. Sometimes, you’re successful and quickly get the sets you’re collecting and other times you’re told to Go Fish; have to change strategy, make compromises and rethink what cards are of key importance. Salary negotiation follows a similar method, but the sets you're collecting are things resembling base salary, weeks of vacation, start date, etc. Your wish list for your new position may be quite lengthy, so you have to be prepared if you’re told there’s no flexibility—or Go Fish—to reshuffle your strategy and truly know what items are your must-have requirements.
Before you’re at the negotiation stage, take time to review a few things:
Know what you’re worth
Before you can ask for a specific base salary or hourly rate, you need to know what you’re worth. Don’t assume your current or last salary is the going rate in the market. You must do your research.
Network and talk to people in your industry, HR contacts and Talent Acquisition specialists. From their perspective what are the current salary trends? What are organizations paying for individuals with your skills and experience?
Review the current job market—what are the current supply and demand conditions in your specific geographic area? The market is ever changing and you need to be knowledgeable and flexible in your salary requirements to meet the current market.
The optimum time to begin negotiating is when you know the interviewer is convinced you’re the best candidate for this role.
Collect data from multiple salary surveys such as Indeed and Payscale, and review the low-high ranges for similar positions. You can also download Lee Hecht Harrison's 2017 US Guide to Workforce and Salary Trends. Our latest research report includes salary data for full-time positions across major industries and functional roles, as well as strategies and insights on workforce developments.
Understand what you’re negotiating
An important reminder, is that salary negotiation is really talking about total compensation. Your base salary, or hourly rate, is only one component of salary negotiation. Most organizations will have fixed ranges or bandwidths that base or hourly rates must fall within. You can only push these limits so far. You should never feel awkward about asking “What is the base salary range for this position?” Some organizations may not share this information, while others openly will.
So where does that leave you?
Remember any negotiation involves trade-offs. Both sides want to make the best deal so it’s important to maintain both your flexibility and patience.
Once you’re armed with a realistic salary range, begin to identity what components of your total compensation you might want to negotiate. Some areas may include:
- Base, or hourly rate
- Signing bonus
- Six month salary review
- Commission or annual bonus
- Job title
- Flexible hours
- Health/dental benefits, etc.
- Virtual/work-from-home options
- Paid parking and/or mileage expenses
- Total vacation weeks
- Company employee discounts
- Tuition reimbursement and/or yearly industry accreditation dues
- Paid attendance at industry conferences
When is the best time to negotiate?
Timing is definitely critical. Walking into a first interview you want to verify if your researched salary range is on target by learning more about the role and clarifying expectations, as requirements may have changed from the time the original position was posted. Be prepared with targeted questions to learn more about the position, and ask questions related to challenges or obstacles the interviewer expects from someone starting in this role. Combined this will help you confirm the salary range you will want to negotiate.
The optimum time to begin negotiating is when you know the interviewer is convinced you’re the best candidate for this role. Depending on the organization, this could be sometime between the second and fourth interview.
As long as you’ve done your research, maintain your flexibility and professionalism. Most organizations are open to negotiation, and hopefully you won’t be told to “Go Fish” too often.