Salary Negotiations: A Collaboration with Your Next Team
Many job candidates do not negotiate salaries for various reasons: fear, gender pay gap, and lack of salary negotiation skills being the most common ones. Employers, however, expect candidates to negotiate. There should be no antagonism in this process, and it is not about getting more money for a specific job. More than anything, negotiating a salary is about mastering the art of negotiating consistently and collaboratively, earning more throughout your career, and supporting people in your life and on your teams with confidence in their value. Negotiating a salary means expressing gratitude for the offer and agreeing on a mutually acceptable compensation package.
The starting salary is the baseline for your growth in the coming years. Note that the job may evolve to include additional responsibilities that you were not aware of at the time of interviewing. Your compensation package should make you feel comfortable and motivated to take on new challenges, focus on delivering value, and grow professionally. I learned some of the ideas about negotiating outlined in this article from Marie Zimenoff, Thea Kelley, and Ezra Singer; I link to their podcasts at the end and recommend that you take a few hours to listen.
Here are salary negotiation tips that can help you feel confident and realistic.
1. Do your research.
Review your salary history and examine your current salary.
Have you negotiated salaries in the past? How did your past salaries measure up to the effort required by the job? While on the job, did you find out about your colleagues’ salaries accidentally in conversations or by asking them directly?
While in many locations it is becoming illegal for employers to ask about salary history (and you should never answer that question), reflecting on your past approaches to salaries should help you set new goals. Articulate your negotiation strategy early on, before you start applying for jobs. It becomes easier to negotiate each time you do it.
Research salaries for similar roles in your geographic area.
Salaries are location-dependent. You want to be realistic when you enter negotiations and have the best applicable number in mind. To find this information, you can ask your colleagues across your network and use websites that publish salary data.
When talking to colleagues, avoid asking them to reveal a specific number (their own salary). Instead, provide them with the ranges you have researched and ask if they are in line with their knowledge of the industry.
You can connect on LinkedIn with professional association leaders in your industry and ask them if their association has recently done any salary surveys and if they can point you to those documents.
Online resources to help you determine your target salary include: Glassdoor, PayScale, Salary.com, professional association surveys, The Occupational Outlook Handbook by the United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, Salary Finder page of CareerOneStop (by the U.S. Department of Labor), Wages page of Job Bank (by Employment and Social Development Canada), 81cents, professional Facebook groups (Tech Ladies, for example), or salary data from a large recruiting company like Hays.ca.
Balance out the potential job offer with your lifestyle.
Write or review your budget for the next 2-5 years. Consider your family goals and needs, mortgage and/or home expenses, professional development goals, leisure, and healthcare needs. Identify the necessary items, services, or larger expenses you have been postponing; assign dollar value to these items. Consider your emergency funds. List your biggest upcoming investments. Meet with your financial advisor if necessary. Note your tax bracket and inflation rates. Get a clear idea of what your net salary could be.
Use any of the online calculators to assess and add up your income taxes, other taxes, real estate expenses, health expenses, vacation budgets, insurance payments, pension savings, and emergency funds. Do this even if you already know your annual expenses, simply to accommodate the inflation, investment changes, and possible emergencies in the coming year.
Understand your compensation package as a whole, not just the salary number.
Before you start applying or interviewing, start with your salary requirement and the understanding of your total compensation. Defining salary expectations early on can help you select potential employers in line with your career strategy. Remember that a job offer is more than just a salary. You can negotiate such benefits as paid time off, insurance, stock options, pension plans, bonus amounts, remote work options, commuting costs, professional development/training/education, number of people on your team, internet/phone/equipment fees, your job title, long-term incentives, sign-on bonuses, and/or equity—depending on the role.
Wayne Pagani defines the following components of an executive compensation package:
Bonus: %, fixed, discretionary
Medical, eye care, dental, other insurance
Disability: short and long-term
Reimbursement of education and development expenses
Car allowance, expense account
Cell phone, computer, membership in a club/other services
Career transition service
Retirement investments and planning
Determine your ideal compensation and benefits package based on your salary research and your financial goals. Write it down. What is included in your final offer, ideally?
Carefully consider the lowest acceptable range of your desired salary. It should be a comfortable number that would allow you to meet all your financial needs and feel motivated in your day-to-day job.
Know that you are entitled to and worth the top number of your salary range. Specify the number as much as possible before entering the negotiation process. It is best to voice a specific number to a potential employer, not a broader range. You want to negotiate the job offer before accepting the job, not after. The common career advice is that it is more difficult to negotiate a salary increase after you have started the job, and the review process differs per employer.
2. Be clear about your professional value.
Review your most relevant, recent achievements as applicable to your target roles. Create a list of your differentiators, most significant measurable results, and key initiatives you introduced. Describe—concisely—the key improvements you achieved for your past employer(s).
Clearly state how you can begin to deliver value for your potential employer. Prepare to interview as a business partner: research the company, their latest challenges and achievements, find out what your team looks like and who you would be reporting to. During the job interview, ask insightful questions to uncover the company’s current needs and strategic direction. Use the interview process to start a productive dialogue with the company. Follow up with a thank you note after the interview.
3. When the job offer is made, prepare to negotiate the compensation package.
Employers are used to job seekers negotiating salaries and expect this to happen. Depending on the organization, a budget of several thousand ($7,000-$15,000) higher can be easily accommodated. For tech or executive roles, the ranges may vary broadly; an average salary in some industries may not be indicative. In this case, do more research on specific companies, their salary structures, and competitors.
If asked during the hiring process to quote your desired salary, the common suggestion is to avoid being the first to reveal the salary range or the exact number. Here are several negotiation tactics that may help:
✏ If you are absolutely certain that you will not proceed with the hiring process if the prospective employer is below your range, you can frame your salary requirement as a (narrow) range of your choice,
I am currently interviewing for roles that pay between $X and $Y.
✏ If you are interested in learning more about the organization and negotiating when the job offer is made, you can avoid stating the range and instead ask them about the available budget:
I’m interested in learning more about this role. Could you tell me the range you have budgeted?
Once you get the response, you can say,
This is in line with my research. I am sure we can agree on the manually beneficial compensation package once we determine that I am the right candidate for this role.
If no specific response is given:
According to my research, such roles pay [state your desired range]. If this is accurate for your organization, I would welcome the chance to tell you more about my qualifications and learn about your needs. We can agree on the manually beneficial compensation package once we determine that I am the right candidate for this role.
✏ If the employer insists that the salary is non-negotiable, but you want to negotiate a component of the package:
I understand that $60,000 is the best offer at the moment. I look forward to joining the team and working on XYZ projects. I’d love to accept the role with a compensation package that includes [the possibility to work from home two days a week and three weeks of vacation].
4. Choose the right time and setting for job offer negotiation.
Some research says people are more open to negotiations toward the end of the week, on Thursdays and Fridays. Some career professionals recommend scheduling a time to discuss an offer in person or on the phone (to express gratitude and enthusiasm to start the role), bring up your desired salary number/compensation package as a whole, and have a chance to support this by reiterating your top strengths and readiness to deliver results. Some job candidates have successfully requested a higher salary over email.
Your choice of approach will depend on your level of comfort and your unique situation and relationship with your potential employer. You may be negotiating salary with a recruiter, hiring manager, or your direct supervisor.
Consider each situation and do what is comfortable for you. The key is to know your value, enter negotiations with a realistic request, and speak with an enthusiastic, collaborative tone, as suggested by Thea Kelley:
How can we get closer to $XYZ?
How can we work together to agree on this compensation package?
Find your comfort zone and confidence space to ask for what you need to deliver your best performance. Before negotiations, spend some time focusing. Use any metal focus practice you like: meditation, rest, power poses, a visualization of a positive past experience or a future vision of yourself in your ideal work situation.
Treat your interviewees as if they already were your team. Your tone would be professional, grateful for the offer, enthusiastic, collaborative, positive, and respectful. Since you have received a job offer, you both are already interested in working together. The final step is agreeing on the mutually beneficial compensation package.
No matter the outcome, you can always stand out due to your preparedness and professionalism—and continue networking with these professionals. If they have a positive experience with you but hire someone else, they will remember you and may think of your name when another opportunity opens up. When you receive your desired final offer, express gratitude for the company’s cooperation.
This podcast episode of Career Confidante with Thea Kelley has examples of phrases to use to negotiate salary collaboratively.
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