With unemployment at a low 3.6%, American workers have been enjoying a candidate-friendly market, and many have used it to their advantage. According to a recent survey by recruiting firm Robert Half, 54% of job seekers negotiated for a higher payout before accepting their most recent position. Of those who didn’t ask for more, nearly one fifth said it was because they felt uncomfortable doing so.
“Anyone who has the experience is in demand,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. “Everybody should feel comfortable negotiating compensation today.”
Negotiating can be intimidating, but with a little preparation, job seekers can be better equipped to walk away with what they’re worth. Here are three keys to a successful salary negotiation, plus what to do if the hiring manager doesn’t budge.
1. Do Your Research
While hiring managers often discuss pay with candidates early on in the hiring process, with 35% of respondents reporting that the subject of salary came up in their first in-person interviews, McDonald advises against negotiating before an offer has been made. If salary range does come up, use that as the starting point to research industry averages for the role at hand, using online resources like Glassdoor’s salary tools and Payscale’s salary calculator as your guide. Another form of compensation that’s worth considering is benefits. A flexible work arrangement or student loan reimbursement, for example, may not pad your paycheck, but they are perks that could boost your bank account. Whatever you do, don’t overshoot—that could be a turnoff. Flexibility and knowing your market worth is key, he says.
2. Establish Your Must-Haves And Your Nice-To-Haves
Before you go into a salary negotiation, determine what you need and what you can do without. “If you’re interviewing for a new role, or if you’re going to your current employer for the annual salary review, know what your priorities are,” McDonald says. “Take the emotion out of it and be really in tune with what’s important to you.” Not being able to articulate what matters most can cost you a few extra thousand dollars, or even the position itself.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
There’s no better way to calm prenegotiation nerves than to practice. McDonald recommends role-playing with trusted colleagues, mentors or recruiters so that you can get feedback from those who have been on different sides of the table. As you craft your pitch, remember to make liberal use of the words “we” and “us.” “It’s always good to try and join the parties when you’re negotiating,” McDonald says. Something as simple as “There are a few things that I’d like us to discuss” can demonstrate to the hiring manager that you’re a team player. For instance:
“I’m so thrilled that you’ve extended an offer and I’m really enthusiastic about the role! I know I’d be the right fit for the [co. name] team and based on what we’ve discussed during the interview process, my background and experience align really well with the expectations of the job. I’m hoping we can discuss the offer you presented because based on my research, the salaries in our area for [job title] are typically around [number]. I’m confident you’ll be pleased with what I’ll bring to the role and organization and I’m looking forward to contributing.”
It is unlikely that your negotiation will end with you receiving an immediate “yes,” so leave by offering to continue the conversation. If the hiring manager doesn’t follow up regarding your request or just won’t budge, ask yourself if you can still afford to take the opportunity. If the answer is no, tell the company right away. “Don’t ghost the opportunity,” McDonald says. “Regardless of how it all turns out, always be professional, always be courteous, always be objective.”