Many job seekers view a job offer only as the amount of salary an employer extends. It is important to understand that the job offer is a comprehensive package of benefits that can include everything from the work to be performed to the location of the work setting. Salary is only one aspect of a job offer to consider before accepting a position. The negotiation process requires gathering information about yourself, your target industry, and the specific company. We’ve outlined some tips below to help you navigate this process effectively.
Know what you are worth
Before you start the negotiation process it is extremely important to do your research to find out what you are really worth. Research the salary averages for your job target(s). Try to find out the industry’s salary norms: Look for job postings with salaries, find competitors’ salaries, conduct informational interviews, visit company websites. Also, be sure to take into account the overall state of the economy and the demand for your particular industry. Next, evaluate your salary requirements: How much do you NEED to earn? What are your baseline criteria – what must you have just to live? Then, Investigate the cost of living in the job location and adjust requirements accordingly. Also, evaluate your skill set. Be realistic about your experience and skills when developing your range. Construct your argument based on your skills, with examples from your work/school experiences. Finally, develop a salary range with high, low, and middle expectations based on your research.
When to negotiate
The best time to negotiate is after an offer is made (and before you have accepted it)—let the employer make the first move. Avoid salary discussions during an interview before a firm offer is made. It is best to get a formal offer in writing so you can review it carefully. After reviewing it, you may want clarification or more specifics on particular points. Negotiate only after doing research on what you are worth and what the market will bear. Current economic factors such as hiring demand and availability of candidates will influence your worth to an employer. Finally, ask whether an offer is negotiable—many companies expect to negotiate, but some employers have set entry-level salaries (such as government and public education).
What to negotiate
Evaluate the entire package, not just the salary. Many items in a job offer can be negotiated other than salary. Fringe benefits are often negotiable, even when salary is not. Don’t hesitate to present something that is not in the company’s portfolio of options. Items that may be negotiable include:
- Start date
- Vacation/sick/disability leave
- Stock options
- Relocation expenses
- Tuition reimbursement
- Professional memberships/conferences
- Retirement plans
- Signing bonuses
When to stop and consider
The recruiter or manager will often give some verbal clues that the offer is final or nearly so: “This is the best that we can do,” or “We’ve done all we can do,” or “This is our final offer.” Stop when you sense the employer is becoming frustrated with your proposals. Finalize the agreement when you feel the offer is fair and is within the range that you can accept. Finally, accept or decline the offer both verbally and in writing.