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How To Negotiate Your Starting Salary

Job Seekers / 26 Feb, 2016

You’ve done it! You’ve made it through all of the interviews and have finally received a verbal job offer! Now that you have the written offer in front of you, it is time to negotiate your starting salary.

The time between the verbal offer and the signing of an official offer letter is one of the most important times in the employment process. You have the unique opportunity to establish a strong starting compensation package that fits your needs, possibly setting you up for increased overall earnings throughout your career. Many employers are eager to see whether their job candidates will showcase their negotiation skills – a highly valuable skill set in many industries.

Unfortunately, nearly 50% of job applicants fail to take advantage of this important opportunity and accept their employer’s first offer without question. Women are particularly prone to this mistake, which may play a role in the persistence of the gender pay gap.

Unless your future employer has explicitly stated that the starting salary for your position is non-negotiable, you should be negotiating your salary. As awkward as it may be, these seven tips could earn you thousands of dollars in the future.

1. Do Your Research Before You Negotiate Your Starting Salary

Gather all of the information you can on common salary ranges for your industry, position, company, and geographic location. Many websites – such as salary.com, payscale.com, indeed.com and glassdoor.com, – have company and industry-specific salary information on-hand, providing you with an excellent idea of how your potential employers value your position. To help our clients understand the candidate market, we also develop a salary tool that shares the average compensation package for accounting & finance positions, available here for free download.

2. Know Your Worth

Now that you understand how the skills required in your position are valued by your industry, work toward a full understanding of your own skills. All of them, not just those explicitly relevant to your position. What soft skills do you posses that raise your value as an employee? Do you have other work experiences that make you unique? Reach out to your mentors and ask them for their input. Then write them down. Use this information to identify what you’re worth based on your salary range research, and pick a number that you feel accurately describes your skill sets and fits your financial needs.

3. Do Not Give the First Number

Many employers will ask about previous salaries, or request that you make your salary request first. If this happens, politely demure, keeping the focus on your enthusiasm for the position and a desire to fully understand how its responsibilities are valued by the company. If your employer continues to push, simply state that your responsibilities and role within this company will be different, therefore you would like to discuss their salary expectations.

4. Assume The Best

Do not assume that your future employer is trying to stiff you with a low salary. It’s likely they are simply trying to offer you a number slightly lower than the full amount they are willing to pay in an attempt to save money for the company. Do not assume that your attempts to negotiate will be met with annoyance. Many employers expect to negotiate a salary, which is why they offer a lower number at the outset. Approaching the negotiation as an opportunity to secure your true value will not be seen as greedy or selfish, but as further proof of your abilities.

5. Don’t Make It Personal

Do not ask for a higher salary because you have recently purchased a new house or are concerned with the cost of living in a new location. These are not your employer’s concerns. Keep your negotiations focused on your skills and what value you bring to your new company.

6. Practice

As with any skill, practice makes perfect. Find a friend or trusted mentor (preferably one who has experience in salary negotiation) to practice with. Have them walk you through different scenarios so that you can practice what you are going to say and how you can keep the interaction positive. Then, reverse roles. This will allow you to put yourself in your hiring managers position and experience, in a small way, what their perspective and responses may stem from.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Negotiate Your Starting Salary

Regardless of how it feels, those 20 minutes of salary negotiations with your future employer could set you up for a lifetime of success. So, buckle down, do your homework, and just take the plunge. You may be surprised at what you accomplish.