Congratulations! Your interview has resulted in a job offer. How will you negotiate the offer (salary, for example) in a way that’s fair to you and the employer, and won’t soon have you regretting the offer you accepted and resenting your new employer for not compensating you well?
First, rather than focusing only on the salary, look at your salary and benefits as a total compensation package.
- Start by considering the salary you will need, as well as your ideal salary (e.g., “I need to have $40,000 to pay the bills; I’d like to have $55,000 in my next job.”).
- Do as much research as you can to find out what the market will support, in your field and geographic area, for similar positions. If you’ve been employed in the same field as this potential job, you’ll likely have a sense of the typical salary range. However, don’t just rely on your own knowledge; it may be based on only one or two companies, and may not be up-to-date (i.e., be either too high or too low compared with what most employers are actually offering new hires).
- Research job postings which may list the salary and ask trusted friends and professionals in the field about the range and direction of salaries (do not ask co-workers, if you are in a confidential job search). Don’t ask them about their own salaries, of course, just the general range, based on their knowledge.
- You can also check niche career sites and your professional membership organizations which may report salaries for specific fields and occupations. Find out how they gather the data so you know how representative it is and how much you can trust it. Is the data based on two people self-reporting their salaries, a survey of 500 members, or a representative sample of area employers?
Having this information will help you see where the employer’s offer fits in the current market. If it’s too low, you can politely and confidently bring up the range for current salaries, based on your research, and suggest an alternative to their offer. In addition, focus on your unique qualifications for the role and organization. This reminder of how your skills, qualities, and qualifications fit their exact needs and goals will help support your position that a specific (higher) compensation package makes sense.
- Keep your career management goals and plans in mind, too. For instance, a position may not pay as well as comparable ones, but would allow you to work at an organization that is the leader in your field, greatly expand your skills and expertise and work with the top experts in your area, and prepare you well for future opportunities. If these fit your career goals and values, you may decide this is exactly the right position for you at this point in your career and life, and that the lower salary is not a big issue.
- Make a list of the benefits they are offering, as well as those you would like. How many vacation/sick/personal days do they offer; how is their health plan and coverage; do they offer a good retirement plan? Thinking about the benefits that matter to you, create a prioritized list for yourself. You might also want to consider how much each matters to you. For example, having a flexible schedule and the option to work from home 20% of the time may be worth accepting a $2,000 reduction in your ideal salary. Paid professional development opportunities may make up for an otherwise average benefits package.
As you consider their entire compensation package, knowing which benefits matter and which are less important (or even unnecessary) can help you craft a thoughtful response and propose changes the employer will likely find reasonable and which will allow you to feel appropriately compensated.
I hope these tips will help you and your next employer create an offer package you can both be happy with, setting the stage for a positive and productive working relationship.