Once an employer makes you a job offer, consider it hooked. But curb your urge to reflexively say yes to the first number it throws out. Now is your time to negotiate a higher salary.
“You’ll never have more power in your relationship with a company than the time in which you’re offered the job until when you’ve accepted it,” says Katie Donovan, a salary and career consultant and founder of Equal Pay Negotiations in Boston.
Yet most young people who are offered jobs aren’t negotiating salary. Only 38% of those who responded to a 2015 NerdWallet survey said they negotiated with their employer when they got a job offer. Of those who did ask for a salary increase, 80% of those surveyed were at least partially successful. Most hiring managers said they had room in negotiations to bump up their salary offers by 5% to 10%.
Employers aren’t going to volunteer a higher salary in a job offer unless you’re willing to be your own advocate. If you’re feeling squeamish about having this talk, here are 15 tips to help you come out on top in negotiations.
Kicking off the conversation
1. Let salary come up naturally
Once you’re offered a job, let the employer be the first one to throw out a number. If you’re first asked to spill your salary history, deflect the question. The goal is to have the employer mention an amount or an ideal range first, which will put you in a better position to negotiate, says Jennifer Lee Magas, vice president of Magas Media Consultants and clinical associate professor of public relations at Pace University in Pleasantville, New York.
2. Don’t accept any offer immediately
Resist the urge or pressure to accept an offer right away. Be gracious and upbeat but ask for time to review it. Give a reasonable time frame in which you’ll respond — typically 24 hours to one week, depending on the employer’s urgency to fill the position.
3. Assess the entire package
As important as the salary amount is to negotiation, it’s not the only factor in the package. Weigh the base salary you’ve been offered against other perks and benefits. This may include a health package, retirement match, performance bonuses, flexible hours, remote work opportunities, transportation reimbursement, a gym membership or extended vacations.
Preparing to negotiate
4. Know what your job is worth
Reach out to a local recruiter or other career expert in your field to learn the going rate for similar roles. You can also research salary ranges according to industry, position, company, employment level and geographic location. Use resources such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook, the National Association of Colleges and Employers, and websites including Glassdoor, Indeed, PayScale and Salary.com.
5. Determine your number
Even when you have a salary range to work with, experts recommend nailing down a precise number. Giving an employer a set of figures rather than an exact amount gives it the opportunity to lowball you. Putting forth a higher amount, within reason, may get you closer to your desired salary.
6. Prioritize your wants and needs
Decide what you can and can’t compromise on among salary and benefits. But you also have to be practical. You don’t want to accept a lower salary just because the perks are enticing. Free lunches on Thursdays won’t pay your rent.
7. Decide what to say
Once you know what to negotiate, prepare how you’ll ask for it. “You can go to an employer and say, for example, ‘My expectations are $41,000 because, according to the research I’ve done, that’s the average starting salary for somebody with my experience level in this industry,’” says Katie Nailler, director of the Career and Professional Development Institute at City College of New York.
8. back up your proposal
You’ll need to give the employer a reason to say yes to a higher salary. In your back pocket, have a few accomplishments and ideas you plan to bring in that will support providing you a higher salary.
9. KNOW WHEN you would WALK AWAY
If all goes well, everyone will leave the room pleased. But consider what your alternative to accepting the position would be. If the employer won’t budge on salary, for instance, decide if you’ll be comfortable saying thank you and walking out.
10. Get the timing right
If you say you’re going to respond within two days, don’t call back on day three. Stick to the deadline you set when you received the offer.
Closing the deal
11. Talk In Real Time
The best conditions for negotiations are face to face or by phone rather than email. Those allow for a back-and-forth conversation and ensure nothing gets lost in translation.
12. Remember you’re still in a job interview
Present yourself to the employer as confident but never cocky. Keep yourself grounded with the knowledge that negotiation is still part of the job interview process. That offer you were given can still be rescinded. Be polite and grateful for the opportunity to negotiate.
13. Lay out your cards
Thank the employer again for its time and the offer, then present the exact terms you’re hoping for, including salary and benefits. You can mention that you came up with the salary amount by doing research, but don’t bring up any personal reasons behind your wants and needs. Let your offer do the talking.
14. Don’t fill the silences
Once you present salary and package negotiations to the employer, it’s best to stop talking, experts say. “Give them a chance to respond. All you’ll do is negotiate against yourself if you try to fill the silence we’re all so uncomfortable with,” says Donovan, of Equal Pay Negotiations. “They’ll give you some information, and you’ll go back and forth. It’s about figuring out if it’s a good offer to accept.”
15. Follow up
Ideally, you’ll be able to agree on a higher salary or better package than you were offered. If you accept the new terms, let the employer know you’re looking forward to getting to work, then follow up to ensure all details are in place, including your start date. When you get a mountain of paperwork to sign, ensure the accuracy of everything you agreed upon in negotiations.
Anna Helhoski is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @AnnaHelhoski.
Updated July 5, 2017.