If you’re going to negotiate your salary, the best time to do it is after you have a job offer, but before you accept it. This is when you have the most leverage.
STARTING OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
When you receive an offer, the first thing you should do is say thank you. If the offer is not what you were expecting, ask if it is firm, or if there is room for negotiation. Then ask for all the details in writing, and find out how long you have before coming to a decision.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
During your job search and your interview preparation, you were researching salaries, but now you can get more specific. Here are some sites to help you compare typical salary ranges:
Don’t forget to also consider cost-of-living differences. CNN Money has a useful tool to make these calculations. You can find their cost-of-living estimator here.
MONEY ISN’T EVERYTHING
Make sure you are looking at the entire offer, not just salary. Many times, other parts of the package are more negotiable – starting date, moving expenses, vacation or personal time off, flexible work hours, health insurance, medical benefits, training, travel to conferences, and so on.
You will probably negotiate at least your start date. Make sure you are only asking for what you need in order to be able to accept the position, and know where you are prepared to give. This may be your first significant interaction with your new company, and you want it to be positive for both sides.
BE PREPARED TO MAKE YOUR CASE
If you decide to negotiate salary, prepare a list of concrete reasons why you are worth more than they are offering. Perhaps the position has evolved to include more responsibility than originally discussed, or you bring some special skills or experience that makes you more valuable.
If possible, conduct your negotiation in person or by phone, rather than by email. Being able to read facial expressions and evaluate tone of voice can help you betterunderstand what they are saying. Start the conversation by asking your other questions about the offer, and work up to salary. You can ease into the topic by reporting that the salary range you found is slightly higher than their offer (giving numbers), and you were hoping they would be competitive. Be prepared to show your research, and know how you will respond to either answer.
THE GOAL: A WIN-WIN OUTCOME
Many people don’t like negotiating, because they associate it with confrontation. But if you have done your homework, and are confident in your worth, you can have a productive discussion with a positive outcome for both sides.
Bonus Tip: To get better at negotiation, practice with smaller stakes – ask nicely for a better table in a restaurant, a discount on a shirt with a small flaw, and so on. You’ll get over your fear of being told “no”, and get better at getting to “yes”.
Lisa M. Balbes, PhD, has been a freelance technical writer and editor at Balbes Consultants LLC for 25 years. She is the author of Nontraditional Careers for Chemists: New Formulas for Chemistry Careers (Oxford University Press).