by Kristy Amburgey
What is your view on negotiating a salary for a new position? Are you nervous, concerned or feeling vulnerable? Are you confident, prepared and ready to start talking? Do you fall somewhere between the two spectrums? Regardless of how you feel about your upcoming salary and benefits negotiation conversation, you must ensure that you are ready to bring everything to the table, from your research to what you can offer an employer. Salary negotiation is a process by which you and your future employer come to an agreement about your view of your worth as an employee and their view of your worth. This process occurs after a job offer has been extended. Negotiation is not an exact science, and much of the process will be based on your comfort level and willingness to initiate the conversation.
First and foremost, you need to be prepared to have the salary conversation. Before you start any negotiation process, research the salaries typical of your job type, industry and geographical location. Resources such as salary and cost of living calculators are useful for this situation, and you can always ask your network about their insight into typical salary ranges or a new location’s standard of living. Know the average cost of living for you and, if applicable, your family and understand how it compares with what you currently have. And finally, understand what you personally can bring to the bargaining table. Your qualities, skill sets, education and more are all valuable points upon which you can base your negotiations, including any of these suggestions.
- Experience: previous work experience, especially in the same industry, can be a key negotiating point
- Internship experience: a co-op or internship can be a useful tool for entry-level negotiation
- Academic experiences: these experiences can include research, projects, campus involvement and leadership
- Accomplishments: market your achievements from previous positions to leverage the results you obtained
- Education: specifically a graduate degree or higher can be a good point for negotiation, but understand that it does not guarantee anything; some employers place more emphasis on experience than on additional degrees
- Job-specific skills: certifications, licenses, computing skills, technical skills and more are all valuable to your employer, so emphasize that you have these enhancements
- Another job offer: although this strategy can be tricky and risky by playing two companies against each other, you can let your preferred employer know that you have another offer that is higher (and DO NOT make up another job offer just to try to get more money – honesty is imperative!)
Next, you need to be confident in your negotiations. Part of your confidence should come from being prepared to have the conversation; you’ve already done your research and know what you can offer. Another piece of the confidence puzzle is your own personality. There are many people who are assertive and can confidently have the salary conversation. If you are not typically an assertive person and the idea of negotiations leaves you a little unnerved, know that confidence also comes from believing in what you can offer. Confidence is also a bit of courage, a willingness to just ask and a realization that this is just a discussion.
Finally, know how you are going to ask for a higher salary or additional benefits. Ideally, you have been extended the job offer and given the compensation package that the company is willing to provide. It is recommended that you ask for at least 24 hours to consider the position, letting the company know that you are very interested but need time to discuss with your family. Hopefully, all your research and preparation is done, so now you have to decide what to do. In response to the offer, there are several actions you can take.
- You can accept the offer
- You can negotiate the salary
- You can accept the salary but negotiate other elements of your job package (commission, vacation time, evaluation time frame for a raise, performance rewards, tuition reimbursement, sponsorship, etc.)
- You can decline the offer all together with the knowledge that you don’t want the job (don’t expect the company to come back to woo you if you decline the position)
Do know that you are not required to ask for more money, but it is an advantage to ask if there is any flexibility in the compensation offered. The choice is your very own, but you can certainly consult with other people to get a better feel for the situation. If you decide to negotiate, be ready and confident in your approach, always leaving the company feeling that you want the job but have additional things to bring to the table. As you counter-offer, you can either give a specific dollar amount or a range that you would consider, or you can negotiate other parts of the job package. A company may agree to your counter-offer or may extend another offer. Once you have come to a verbal agreement on the entire package, always get everything in writing.
When negotiating your salary, there are several topics that do not enhance your argument for more money. Just because you need the money is not a good reason to give to your future employer. Understanding that you may have need for a specific salary, identify the qualities and skills that you can bring to the table that are unique and make you the right fit for the organization. Don’t just ask for money because you have bills to pay. Also, you don’t want to point out that you know about another new employee who got a better offer than you. If you do have that information, phrase it as, “Through my research, I understand that a typical salary offer from Company is in the range of X to X. I would really like to meet the higher end of that range as I bring X, Y and Z.” Just because another person got a better offer does not mean that you should get the same; that other person may be more qualified or have presented a better case for additional compensation. Another negative tactic is to demand a specific salary; instead of demanding, ask if negotiations are possible and be conversational in tone. Hopefully through your research, you know the average salary range of the job you want, but many people still try to negotiate from what they think they can command or think they are worth. Your salary expectations must be grounded in reality. Having no idea what the realistic salary is for your career path and geographical location leaves both you and the employer frustrated, and, more often than not, the conversation is stalled. Before you decide on a career, obtain a degree or change professional directions, ensure you know what salary range to expect.
As always, there are exceptions to the rules. Jobs that fall under union agreements most often are non-negotiable. Some jobs have strict salary bands that bind your negotiation process. You may be able to ask for a bit of movement with the amount, but you may not be able to exceed the band (a good example is a government position).
Everyone wants to have the best possible salary for their new jobs, and everyone wants to be fairly compensated for their work. It is only natural that salary negotiation be a skill set that people want to master. Although there is no one way to achieve results, you want to research and prepare for the process, find your inner confidence and be ready to ask the question. Turn the idea of salary negotiation from an intimidating process into a simple salary talk by implementing the techniques provided.
Kristy Amburgey is the Associate Director of Career Services – Daytona Beach campus and currently manages marketing and employer relations for the department. She has been with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for approximately 10 years and with Career Services for nine years.