You find the job listing, you nail the job interview, and then comes your moment of glory, the job offer. You open it with great anticipation, which is then followed by the most deflating feeling possible… the salary isn’t quite what you hoped. You were hoping they would knock your socks off and be able to accept the job within the hour. Instead, you have some thinking to do and some negotiation to plan.
First and foremost, be sure to thank the company for their offer, and let them know that the salary wasn’t what you had hoped. Tell them you will need a few days or a weekend to think about it. This will immediately put them on the alert that their offer wasn’t acceptable to you. If the company truly wants you and think you are a perfect fit, they may come back immediately with a counter offer. Whatever you do, stick to the timeline for a response in order to keep actively in the negotiation. If you fail to do so, they may think you are not interested and move on.
A common thing for companies to do today is to offer you exactly what you were making at your previous position. The fact is you probably left your job because you wanted to make more money, so that should be immediately unacceptable to you. The whole point of moving to another company is to move up in the world, not sideways. Especially if you are currently employed, you can use the point that you need to see some investment in your skills to leave the comfort of a job you already have.
If you really like the job and the opportunity, you should be prepared to counter with a salary expectation more reasonable to your needs. If you simply say no, you may risk the fact that they have other individuals they can turn their offer to, and they may not give you a counter offer. Don’t get me wrong, there is something extremely powerful in being able to walk away from a job offer, and it does tend to make people sit up and notice your worth. However, unless you are perfectly comfortable in walking away and know that you are their only candidate, it’s very risky to not at the very least propose a more suitable salary for them to contemplate.
When pondering what you want to counter with, you need to understand what you need. Make sure that whatever salary you get covers your lifestyle, bills, and goals. Nothing can make you bitter faster with a perfectly good job than not making the money you need to run your life. If you are stressing out about money at home, you will not be as focused at your job. Financial stability should be a priority when considering any new job offer.
Consider if the economy turned bad, or the company needed to buckle down for a few years, and no raises or bonuses were given right after you were hired. Believe it or not, this has happened to me personally more than a few times. Would you still be happy with the salary you were given and be able to survive just fine?
It’s also typical in many companies these days to only give standard of living raises of one or two percent. In other words, don’t hold out hope that if you accept a lower salary today that you will be rewarded later. You should have a level of comfort with the salary you accept today. If the salary they are offering is not going to cut the mustard or will make things even the slightest bit tight, you should view this as unacceptable.
Review the requirements they outlined in the job description. You can use these as part of your argument that the job is going to require a higher level of responsibility than they are paying for. Research online what the average going salary is for this position, and compare it to their offer. If it matches perfectly, you may not have much room to ask for more. If it is off target, note some of the other companies that are hiring a similar position and their advertised salary offering, or write down what the average for your area is for that set of job requirements.
Advanced planning and showing a dedication to the position can also come across as very impressive. Take a few notes on some ideas you have for growing the project, the position, the product or the service to produce more revenue. Share these ideas as you relay your expected salary level. Your forward thinking about the position may convince them you are worth a few more pennies to start.
If you really like the opportunity, and you can perhaps be persuaded by a few tradeoffs or alternatives to salary compensation, write down what those items might be. Maybe stock in the company, extra vacation hours, a corner office, or a flexible schedule would be worth a few less dollars in the bank. Just be sure that the monetary compensation balances.
A mistake I see a lot of people do is they will accept an additional week of vacation time, but it does not balance the loss of salary. For example, if you make $100k a year, one week’s worth of vacation is valued at less than $2k. If the salary offer was off by $5k or more, this isn’t really a fair alternative.
At the end of the day, you need to be satisfied with your salary and benefits from the moment you walk in the door of a new job. There is nothing more empowering and motivating than getting what you want from the start, and these will carry over into better work ethic and drive. It’s worth the research, and extra phone calls to negotiate your needs for a fair salary. As Chester L. Karass said, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”
by Sasha DeMarino