Salary negotiations are stressful - a lot is at stake and although most people know they can and should negotiate, few people feel comfortable about how to do it, especially if their new job is in a higher paying field than they’ve ever worked in before.
Here’s my guide to asking for more money in a way that feels collaborative.
Make sure you are ready to talk about money for a potential job before the company brings it up. Do research on the job and the field and be ready to give a salary expectation. Here are some specifics:
Recruiter: What are you currently making?
You: My salary expectation is $104,000/year
Recruiter: Thank you, but can you tell me what you are making now, please?
You: I would prefer to stick to my salary expectation, since I’m [switching fields/completing my degree/working as a freelancer/whatever your situation is] and that gives you a much clearer idea of what I’m looking for than my current salary.
That’s great news! Make sure you reply right away, without committing to anything. Here’s some phrasing: “I’m thrilled to get this offer! Your company seems like an incredible place to work. I will review the offer and get back to you with any questions by [date about 2 business days from now].”
One of the things I most often see people struggling with in negotiations is how to frame asking for more in a way that doesn’t feel overly aggressive, combative or off-putting. Women, gender minorities and BIPOC folks are often taught that there is a steep price to pay for coming off the wrong way. I don’t want to wave away any of that. One thing to keep in mind is that if a company punishes you for negotiating your salary, they will be a terrible company to work for. You may need to take the job anyways, so don’t ignore your instincts, but if you are in this situation, don’t stop your job hunt, even if you take the job. The consequences of job hopping are not nearly as high as the consequences of being stuck in a job at a hostile company.
It is not only ok to negotiate from a collaborative and positive place rather than a combative one, it is preferable. You don’t have to say, “give me more, or I won’t take the offer.” Instead, keep everything really positive. “I’m excited about coming to work for your company. I’d be able to enthusiastically accept your offer if you can increase the salary to $174,000 and add an extra week of vacation for my first year. I made vacation plans this year with my current vacation time in mind, and I’d like to be able to keep those plans while coming over to your company.” Notice in this example, I explained why the vacation time was important, but not the salary increase. If you have a reason for something you are asking for, it’s often good to share that, but you don’t need to give one for everything.
Make sure you don’t lie. Getting caught in a lie will put you in a bad place and may even get your offer revoked. “I would need $82,000 to be able to accept this offer” is an ok thing to say if it’s true. If it’s not, and they say that $79,000 is the best they can do, that puts you in a tough spot. Better would be to say, “Can you bring the offer up to $82,000?” It’s simple and straight-forward.
If you are switching careers, this might be a huge jump in salary. I went from making around $35,000 before grad school to over $100,000 after grad school. It can seem ridiculous to ask for more money when you are making this big of a leap. However, keep in mind that the recruiter or hiring manager is acclimated to the salary range for the new job, not your previous one. If they made an offer, asking them to increase that offer by 10% will not seem absurd to them. It will seem normal. You do not need to justify asking for that. Just ask.
Remember, they not only want to hire you, they want you to be happy working there for a long time. That means it’s not in their best interests to lowball you. Even if you accept a too low offer, you are unlikely to be happy there long term. You are trying to be on the same team.
I’ll be honest, I didn’t negotiate that job offer right out of grad school. I don’t regret it either. It was part of a program and it was a standard offer. A friend of mine in the same program did try to negotiate and was told no, so I didn’t miss out on anything. I am glad I’ve learned a lot about negotiating since then. I’m unlikely to get a standard offer ever again. I say this for transparency, and also to encourage you not to feel bad if you don’t try to negotiate or if you try and aren’t able to get an increase. Each situation is different. Hopefully, this guide will help you make a new comfort zone where you ask for more money with confidence, or at least ask for more money better prepared. Good luck. Your skills and experience are needed and should be compensated.