Few things are better than hearing an employer say those two magic words: "You're hired!" Getting a job offer is exciting, but it’s also not the end of the hiring process. You'll likely still need to talk salary and benefits.
Presumably, you want to work at this company—so it can be tempting to simply accept whatever number they throw at you. That might be a mistake. While delaying the salary conversation is a solid tactic, that doesn't mean you shouldn't know your number during the application process. That way, you can take steps from your interview to the offer stage to ensure you get paid what you deserve.
Start With Your Interview
Lay the groundwork for your salary negotiation by doing the following during your interview.
- Focus on the job first. Before salary numbers even come up, sell your prospective employer on your experience. Once they see how you benefit their company, they'll be willing to pay you more.
- Get an idea of what they will offer—and what you are worth. Check the job posting for a salary range. Review postings for similar positions in your area and check salary sites. Network with people in similar positions and ask, "What salary should I expect for this type position?" Use this knowledge to decide what you think is a reasonable salary range.
Once You Get The Offer
Get ready to negotiate! Here's what you should do:
- Be honest. Start your relationship with your new employer right. If their number is too low based on your research or salary history, tell them (nicely). But be honest about this information—with the employer and yourself. Don't come in with an inflated number unless you can really back it up.
- Don't accept the first offer immediately. Ask for time to consider the offer and discuss it with family. Just don't wait too long to respond.
- Don't negotiate over the phone or by email. Being able to read and react to non-verbal language can really help you during a negotiation. Tell them you have items you'd like to discuss in person and schedule a negotiation meeting.
Get What You Are Worth
Now that you've set the stage during the interview process and are ready for a negotiation, do the following to get the number where you want it to be.
- Reinforce your value. During your interview, you successfully highlighted what you could bring to the company. Remind them of those benefits during your negotiation.
- Keep it reasonable. Request a slightly higher salary than the one offered—typically 5% – 15% higher. Justify this adjustment based on your experience.
- Be creative if all else fails. If the employer is unable to meet your salary request, offer to take on additional responsibilities or projects that would justify a higher salary. Or, if a salary increase isn't possible, ask about adjusting other areas of compensation, like vacation, continued training, benefits, or perks. You could also ask if they're willing to evaluate your performance and offer a merit raise sooner than they typically would (say, after 6 months instead of a year).
After all the effort it took to get to an offer, both you and the company probably want to make things work. Unfortunately, companies won't always be able to meet your salary demands due to their budgets, established salary ranges, or other reasons.
If that happens—and those other creative solutions aren't available—you'll have a hard decision to make. Think about where you are in your life, what's important to you, and if the company or job is best for your career. If you decide that it is, you may feel OK taking a step back financially to step forward professionally.