So you got the job. Congrats! It is all smooth sailing from here on out, right? Wrong. First, you have to negotiate that offer so that you get exactly what you want and need in terms of salary and other benefits. By not negotiating your starting salary and benefits when you’re given a job offer — which requires simply opening your mouth for 30 seconds (!) — you can leave a ton of money on the table in the years and decades to come. Here are a few ways to get what you want from a negotiation.
The build up
Before you walk into a job interview, you should know what to expect in terms of salary and benefits. Check out sites like GlassDoor and LinkedIn to get an idea of what you are walking into. Also, if you know people in the industry, then don’t be afraid to ask them what you have to expect from the process.
Don’t be overly forthcoming with your past salaries and benefits. Don’t show your entire hand right off the bat, that is. Many states actually ban employers from asking about past salaries from their prospective employees. So utilize that statute and be vague. Also, when that question is asked from an employer, it is more than likely that the number you give will be used to craft your salary rather than using marketing standards to decide. That is a lose for you! So, if you’re making a low salary now, the employer might be tempted to follow that pattern because … well, they can. If asked to stick with something vague: “I’ll be happy to discuss compensation details further once I’ve learned more about the position.”
This also refers to what kind of compensation you might be expecting from the job. Try to keep this vague as well. Say something like: “I’d rather not discuss compensation until I have a greater idea about the position”. This is Negotiation Tactics 101: You never say the first number. If you do, you’ll most likely be offered the low end of the range rather than the top end.
The first offer
Don’t accept it! Accepting the first offer given is essentially lowballing yourself. You could be losing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a career simply for the mistake of accepting a low salary offer in your 20s. Ouch. Remember: Offers are often made with wiggle room built in. They don’t expect you to accept the first offer. They want you to. But they don’t expect it to happen. Even if there is a salary ceiling that cannot be cracked, it is still important to ask for a higher number initially — it doesn’t hurt to ask!
Take your time
There is nothing wrong with taking a day or three to think about an offer that has just been made to you. It shows maturity and wisdom. Being overzealous, on the other hand, might make the potential employer think that they offered you way too much. You don’t want your company thinking that you are overpaid in your position. Firstly, examine your benefits package. Consider things like the starting salary and the 401(k) matching plan. Remember that many jobs have a probationary period. This means that your starting salary, say $30,000, can be raised to $45,000 depending on how long you remain in the position without either quitting or being fired.
You should also think about insurance. Insurance plans usually come out of your paycheck pre-tax, and many employers pay a portion of that premium. Employer-backed insurance plans tend to be way better than what you could get on your own dime. Do your homework on a company’s insurance benefits, and learn how to read the fine print in order to calculate its real value.
Give some thought to non-monetary perks that your job will be offering you as well. Things like how many vacation days you get and how flexible the work hours are. Think about work/life balance and not just salary when considering a new position.
If you find that the offer is not to your satisfaction, you should definitely try to work with your employer to get what you want. Even if the compensation is to your liking, it never hurts to try and raise the bar just a little bit for the pure hell of it. Who knows what you might accomplish?
Ask for 10-25 percent more than was offered. In general, ask for more than what you want to make so that the counteroffer has a greater chance of landing somewhere within the vicinity of what you truly hope to acquire in terms of salary. For example, if you want to make $50,000 ask for $70,000 and chances are, if the employer is willing to play ball, you will land somewhere closer to your target salary. You might as well ask for more because you just never know what might be.
Remember that you can negotiate benefits, too, not just salary offers. For instance, rather than asking for 20 percent more on your paycheck, ask for another week of time off or if you can work from home on Fridays.
Don’t try to sweet talk your employer into a greater salary. Everybody has problems and everyone has bills to pay, mortgages and a bunch of kids to send to school. Instead, try and drive the point home about what you can do for the company, and how your value is worth more than what they are offering you in compensation. As sad as it is, employers care more about the value you bring to the company than about your domestic woes.
If they don’t go for it
You can do one of two things. You can accept the offer as is, or you can walk away from the deal entirely. There is a chance that through walking away, the employer might magically find some more money in the budget to increase your salary, but do not count on it. In other words, if you plan on walking away, commit to it because the employer might not call your bluff. Ultimately, negotiating, and then accepting or declining a job offer is all about finding exactly what’s right for you and where you’re at in life. Know what you want, and don’t be afraid to ask for it.
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