According to a 2015 survey by NerdWallet and Looksharp reported in a May 2015 Atlantic article, 62 percent of new college graduates from 2012 to 2015 did not negotiate salary offers. In the arts, more than 90.4 percent of those who tried were at least partially successful in receiving the salary they requested. Make sure you get what you’re worth.
Since you may not have a competing job offer to use as leverage during your hiring discussion, negotiate from a strong position by investigating what employers in the region are paying employees with similar levels of experience to yours who are doing similar work. Check these resources for market rates:
Weighing an Offer
Don’t focus solely on salary when you’re considering a job offer. You’ll most likely receive other benefits, and you’ll have many costs to consider too.
- What health care benefits are available: medical, dental, vision, other?
- How much vacation time will you get? Is sick leave offered?
- What’s the value of the retirement package?
- What will it cost to commute to your workplace and how long will that journey take in both directions?
- What options are there: walking, mass transportation, car pooling?
- How much is parking?
- Is assistance for the cost of mass transportation available?
- Are there options for working remotely?
- Does the position include professional development funds and/or tuition waivers?
- How much travel is involved and who pays for that?
- Is comp time offered for business travel and work?
- If you’d be moving to a new area, will it cost more or less to live there than where you are? Use the cost of living comparison calculator to get an idea of the difference.
- How will you need to budget your money? Sketch out a basic financial plan to check where your funds will go, but remember to deduct taxes from your salary.
- Do you need relocation assistance (moving expenses and hotel accommodations while you find a place to live)? If so, what’s offered?
- Are you expected to work regular hours? What are they?
- How long will it be before you receive a performance evaluation? Are they held regularly?
- Do you need to invest in a new wardrobe for the job?
- Is the starting date negotiable? If not, can you be ready in time?
When you consider the offer, remember that your potential employer may be able to negotiate on some items, but others may offer no flexibility, such as the company health plan and the retirement package. Think carefully about your deal breakers.
Make a Deal
Begin your conversation by noting how thrilled you are about the position, and repeat that sentiment throughout the discussion. Tackle items that likely have established policies, such as health care, professional development, evaluation schedules, and retirement plans, first. Move on to items that you’re flexible about.
When discussing trickier elements of the offer like the salary, try asking questions instead of making demands: “I was hoping that my two years of work experience would be factored into the offer. Can you increase the salary at all?” A different approach is naming your salary from the beginning. Forbes recommends specifying a range early in the interviewing process before you receive an offer (but make sure you’ll be satisfied with the bottom amount).
But remember that salary isn’t everything. If you can’t get the salary you want, will other benefits make up for it? Perhaps opportunities for advancement and tuition waivers more than compensate for a lower amount. Will you be expected to give up nights and weekends for work and travel? If so, will you get comp time in return? If not, the salary may shrink when you factor nights and weekends of work into your hourly wage.
Ensure you have a written offer. If you’re given terms in a phone call, ask to have them sent to you officially by letter or email before you respond.
Remember that the negotiation is not personal. If the employer does not change the offer, it may have nothing to do with how much you’re wanted for the position. Budget constraints, hiring policies, and other administrative restrictions—or even that you were offered the best deal possible—may mean that there’s no room for negotiation.
Professional circles are small and careers are long. Consider all your options carefully, and don’t respond in a way that will alienate an employer. The people you met with last week could be the same ones you’ll be speaking with 20 years from now. Your goal should be to build positive relationships that last a lifetime.