When to negotiate your salary (every time you get a job)

two men and two women talking at table

Imagine that you’re in an interview relating to your chosen career. You’re excited to begin your first full-time job you’ve been preparing for over the past few years. During your interview, your employer asks “What is the salary you want to make?”

If you aren’t prepared for that question, you might answer with a number far too low or too high. You’ll need an accurate number and you’ll need to know how to negotiate your salary. I went to another Career Services seminar called “Got a job offer, what now? Always negotiate your salary” where I learned a few negotiation skills.

Before we get started, let’s talk about why you need to negotiate. Employers want to make money and will expect salary negotiation. That means they’ll lower their offer. Its up to you to bring that number up to what your value to the company is.

Before the interview

Before your interviews even happen, research the typical pay range for your job. Look at the qualifications for the job and determine where you may fit into that pay range. You’ll have a good idea of how much you want to be paid.

During the interview

Don’t say your desired salary during the interview. If employers ask, you’ll want to discuss the market value of the job and mention that you’ll be happy to consider any reasonable offer. It’s important here to stay polite without mentioning an exact number (unless you keep getting pressed for one).

Once you have an offer

You’ve finally gotten an offer, what’s next? Now you’ll want to prepare a counter offer before you do anything else. Thank the company for their time and tell them you’ll get back to them in a couple of days. Then, prepare a counter offer that is 5-10 percent higher than your ideal salary. You’ll have a good place to negotiate from instead of starting your negotiation where you want to end.

Hard vs. Soft Negotiators

You’ll meet two common types of negotiators: hard and soft negotiators. If you stay assertive and polite, employers will respect you more than if you let them rattle you. It’s important here to know your value and your pay range.

Hard negotiators will attempt to intimidate you into accepting a lower pay. They’ll act as if your ideal pay is unreasonable. You want to make sure that you stay polite, but don’t let them rattle you. As long as you’re working within your value as an employee, you should keep to your convictions!

Soft negotiators will attempt to sway your emotions. They’ll make coffee, treat you well, and when you negotiate will act as if your base is unreasonable. The trick here is to remember your research and stay away from feelings of guilt.

What if they lowball?

Lowballing is when employers give you a far lower offer than is reasonable. If you ever come across a lowball, you’ll need to develop a strategy before responding to the offer. Make sure you meet all the qualifications for the job and look at the benefits package to see if any benefits make up for the low pay.

It’s a good idea to politely bring up that the salary listed is too low. Make sure to listen to the employer and see where they’re coming from before making a decision. If you can’t come to an agreement, then you need to learn when to walk away.

Walking away from a job

If you notice your employer does not treat you well or does not seem a good fit, you may wish to walk away. If you love the job but the pay is too low to support yourself, it may be a job you need to walk away from as well. It’s important to remember that you should only walk away if you intend to walk away, not as a negotiation tactic.

If you decide to walk away after a failed negotiation, refuse the job offer politely and explain the salary was too low. In any case, send a thank you letter to keep a good relationship with the employer. You may find another job with that company in a couple years.

Wrapping up

1: Before the interview, research what other people in that job are typically paid.

2: During the interview, discuss the market value of the job but don’t disclose the salary you want.

3: Once you have the offer, thank your employer and tell them you’ll be in touch in a couple of days.

4: When negotiating, stay assertive while being polite.

5: If they lowball you, research why they might and then ask why the listed salary was so low.

6: If you must walk away, reject only if you really mean it and send a thank you letter.


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