If you do not ask, you do not get.
While we all know money is not everything, most job seekers only negotiate salary when negotiating a job offer.
Presuming the hiring manager says, “$85K is the best I can do,” then your next words should be along the lines of:
YOU: “Okay, I understand $85K is your best offer. I would be more comfortable if it were slightly higher, say $95K. With that in mind, could we discuss adding extra benefits and perks and revisiting the salary later, say in six months?
HIRING MANAGER: “Sure, what did you have in mind?”
Before I delve into “adding extra benefits and perks,” I want to discuss salary—the reason we hold down jobs.
Salary discussions should always take place at the end of the hiring process or, better yet, after receiving a written job offer. When “What compensation are you looking for?” is inevitably asked, I will say, “If you do not mind, I would rather leave the money discussion when you make me a job offer.” (Note I do not say, “If you make me a job offer.” Throughout the hiring process, I assume I will get the job.)
Never start to negotiate salary in the midst of the hiring process. You are not negotiating before the employer has said: “We want to hire you,” you are putting a price tag on yourself, which means that your interviewer is now going to ask themselves, “Is Bob worth the $75K he is asking?”
When negotiating salary, think about these three “Ws”:
- Wish: A salary you open with and wish to receive. (e.g., $100K)
- Want: Your actual salary target, which is lower than your wish. (e.g., $85K)
- Walk: The salary you will not go below. (e.g., $75K)
It would be great if all employers were upfront in the job postings regarding salary. However, for many reasons, many that are understandable, it is common for employers to refrain from posting salary information. If they do, it is a salary range. Therefore, during the hiring process, you will be asked what your salary expectation is.
In the first five minutes of an initial conversation, which is usually the interview vetting stage, regarding an opportunity, I will ask, “So we do not waste each other’s time, do you mind my asking what the salary for this position is?”
Usually, I will be given a salary range and then asked what I am looking for. Unless the salary is in my “walk” range, I will answer, as I mentioned before, that the range works for me at this point and that I would rather discuss salary when I get a job offer. If you do not feel comfortable with the salary range, do not continue the interview.
In addition to your “want” salary, seriously consider negotiating “extras” such as:
Ask what the position expectations are, then propose a bonus plan that says when—believe in absolute success, not “if“—you achieve XYZ, then you receive a bonus of X.
Employers love it when they are able to give something in return for receiving something. On the other hand, they do not like negotiating for the sake of negotiating. The key to a successful bonus conversation is understanding what a win is for the company.
- Your hours
A flexible work schedule can be invaluable. Discuss how you are most productive when you work slightly different hours. (e.g., you are a morning person or an afternoon person). Maybe you have kids you want to take to school every morning or are looking after an elderly parent.
- Paid time off
Employers offer a set amount of starting paid vacation time, usually 2 weeks. If you are coming from a company with more weeks, say three, ask your potential employer to match that number.
- Job title
Depending on where you are in your career, now may be an ideal time to negotiate a title with your prospective employer.
By negotiating a higher title, even if you are not getting paid more, your pay comparable will be higher at your next employer. This is because you have created the illusion of a higher-paying job.
- Professional development
Professional development and training should be a part of your career management activities, regardless of your profession or position, and should align with your long-term career goals. Negotiate a budget for career-enhancing activities such as classes and conferences.
The above are just a few suggestions on what you can negotiate besides your starting salary. The list is endless, from money for grad school to childcare reimbursement to subsidizing your commuting costs. I once had a candidate ask if their industry magazine subscriptions, four in total, could be covered. Remember, if you do not ask, you do not get.
Above all, only accept a job if you are completely satisfied with the compensation package. Do not be one of those employees who complain about their agreed-to salary.
Lastly, always get everything you have negotiated in writing; otherwise, it does not exist.
Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers “unsweetened” job search advice. You can send Nick your questions to [email protected].