If you’ve just been offered a new job, you probably feel very fortunate to be one of those people who will no longer have to spend endless hours surfing job sites or supplying perky Twitter updates to garner some attention from a recruiter.
But now you’re about to take on one of the most difficult tasks in this job search journey: Negotiating a salary.
What? You’re willing to take whatever they give you? You’re not good at negotiations? You don’t want to risk the new job by asking for too much?
Forget those doubts. If you don’t negotiate, you may be jeopardizing your future with the company and the trajectory of your career in the decades to come.
That’s because your skills at negotiating will not only impress your new employer, but it’s expected. If you don’t haggle a bit, they’re going to wonder what sort of nincompoop they’re hiring.
Also, the salary you negotiate now will be the one chance you have to set yourself up for better salary boosts at this company and your income at future employers. Bungle this now, and you’re likely to pay for it in the rest of your career as no one is going to be willing to give you a huge pay boost to make up for undervaluing yourself now.
So how do you negotiate the right salary for a new job? Follow these tips:
1. Do your homework. Before your first interview, you should have done research on comparable salaries. If you haven’t done so, do it now. Sites like Vault and PayScale offer salary information on thousands of jobs, but you should also use your network to ask about salaries from those in the industry. Keep in mind that what someone makes in Topeka, Kansas may differ from the salary for a comparable job in New York City where the cost of living is much higher. You also can use sites like Salary.com to figure out differences in salaries for various regions of the country.
2. Check out the company well-being. If you’re taking on a job at a start-up, for a company that has seen massive layoffs in the last few years or has been hit by other economic downturns, it may not be reasonable to ask for the high end of your salary range. Google the company to get financial information so you can see if they’re in a place to be flexible with salary offers.
3. Consider your experience. If you specialize in Ruby on Rails, for example, that’s a skill that is highly sought and you may be able to garner a bigger paycheck. Or, if the position has been empty a long time because it’s been difficult to fill, they may be willing to offer you more. But if you’re in a field with a glut of job seekers, you may have to adjust your expectations a bit. You don’t want to undervalue yourself, but you also don’t want to appear unrealistic about your value to employers. Again, they’ll wonder about the nincompoop factor.
4. Be honest. Look at your costs such as rent, car payments, food and commuting. If the salary won’t help you meet those costs, then be honest with the employer. Often, managers are willing to go back to their bosses and see if they can get more money when an applicant presents a clear argument about why the salary won’t work.
5. Look for wiggle room. If the employer holds fast on the salary, look at other issues that might add to your compensation package. For example, would the employer be willing to pay for your relocation? Or subsidize commuting costs? Or perhaps pay for access to a local gym? What about an extra week of paid vacation?
6. Don’t rush it. It can be a bit nerve-wracking to negotiate, especially if you haven’t done it before. The trick is to not rush to fill silences – let the employer fill the gaps and listen carefully. You want the employer to make the first offer, so don’t fall for the trap of a hiring manager asking you about your salary range. Respond with “Do you have a salary range for the position?” That way you won’t lowball yourself.
Keep in mind that negotiation is something you must do in all phases of your life. Don’t shy away from it or try to avoid it, or you’ll pay the price for a long time to come. Tell yourself that negotiating a salary is just another skill that you must develop.