The prospect of starting a new job is exciting. All the hard work of gaining experience, perfecting your resume, and preparing for the interview has finally paid off.
But there’s one step left: negotiating the job offer.
Today’s job seekers are more likely to negotiate salary and job benefits when they get a job offer than in the past, and it pays off. Glassdoor research found that 17 percent of employees negotiate their salary and end up getting more money in their current or most recent position.
But research has found time and again that men are more likely to negotiate than their women counterparts, and a study by InHerSight found that half of women have never negotiated their salary at all. In fact, 20 percent of women report never having negotiated at all in their career advancement, even when they recognize that negotiations are appropriate or even necessary.
There are many factors that contribute to women’s unease when negotiating, but regardless of gender, negotiating a job offer doesn’t have to be stressful or overwhelming—not if you think of it as a normal part of the job acceptance process.
As Allison Martin points out for CNBC, “Most employers actually expect to negotiate a salary offer, so they never give you their very best offer at first. That means it’s your job to know what you—and this position—are worth and to ask for more money if their offer doesn’t match that.”
But all that is easier said than done, right? When you’re negotiating a job offer, whether in person or replying to a job offer email—here are some best practices to point you toward success. These eight tips will help you approach negotiations prepared, knowledgeable, and confident.
8 tips for negotiating a job offer and getting what you want
1. Know the current market
Right now, the job market is tipped toward the job seeker, not the employer. The Great Resignation, as it’s become known, started during the pandemic and led 47 million workers to leave their positions in 2021 alone. While those people are of course obtaining new jobs elsewhere, the Great Resignation has left many employers in a tough spot in terms of turnover and having employees cover multiple roles.
You should always use what you know about the job industry in negotiations. In a tense labor market that happens to be tipping in your favor, your main priority should be to get what you really want, because it’s out there.
In other words, now is not the time to convince yourself not to negotiate. Stand up for what you think is fair, and chances are, employers will be more pliant because of the current market. You’re in demand and have some bargaining power.
2. Be extra prepared
Just as you prepared for your interviews, you need to be ready for negotiations. Do this early on in the process in case a job offer comes at you fast. You don’t want to be caught off guard.
Create scenarios of what the company may offer you and write down all of your must-haves. Be specific about numbers. You never want to enter into a negotiation not knowing what you want or need, and simply asking for something arbitrary, like $10,000 more than they offer you.
Also be prepared to answer some difficult questions. Employers may want to know your salary history or what you currently make, what other offers you have right now, and why you’re asking for a certain salary or benefits (within reason—brush up on illegal questions a hiring manager should never ask here). You need all these answers before the negotiation begins. Otherwise, it will become clear to the person on the other end that you’re just negotiating to negotiate.
3. Research salaries
So, maybe you’re interviewing for a higher job than you currently have or a completely new type of role. What kind of salary should you expect or ask for?
It’s easy to look online to find salary estimates. Allison Green, of Ask a Manager fame and a former chief of staff for a nonprofit, suggests that while these sites can be a good starting point, “The problem is that those sites (particularly free ones) generally don’t account in any accurate way for the fact that job titles can represent incredibly different scopes of responsibility and can vary wildly by field, company, size of company, and the amount of experience you bring to the job. Many of them rely on self-reported data, with no controls on how accurate or recent that data is.”
She suggests instead talking to people in your field about what’s reasonable. She says, “You should ask people with professional-level knowledge about salaries: recruiters in your industry and professional organizations.”
Make sure the salary you’re sticking with is in line with your experience, your needs, the job responsibilities, and your industry—not to mention your cost of living. A good salary should be a comfortable or ideal wage, not merely a living wage.
4. Gather information about the company
Beyond researching your industry and similar salaries, you also need to know what the company typically pays and where they are in the hiring process. Find out the kinds of benefits packages employees are getting, too.
Paul Sorbera, who is Alliance Consulting’s president, told Fast Company, “A good salary negotiation starts on the first minute of the first interview for the employee. It is important to assess the situation and information provided.” You should try to uncover all the facts, like: how long they’ve been trying to fill the job, if there’s been turnover for this position, and essentially how desperate they are to hire someone right now.
All of these factors could impact how willing or unwilling they are to hear you out and negotiate. It will give you an advantage knowing where they’re at in their process.
5. Be convincing about why you deserve what you’re asking for
In a perfect world, job seekers (and especially women job seekers) wouldn’t have to convince anyone of their value. But in job negotiations, it’s important to first know what you’re worth and why and, second, to be able to convince someone else of that fact.
You need to talk about why the specific numbers or benefits you’re asking for are justified. This could be because of factors like your current position and salary, your experience, what sets you apart from other candidates, your family obligations, industry standards, and others. Always have sound reasoning to back up your ask, and don’t be afraid to talk about your accomplishments.
6. Don’t play too hard to get
You may feel strongly about what you’re asking for and won’t settle for less. That’s a great place to be. You don’t have to budge.
But you do have to make sure it’s clear that you will accept the right offer when it comes along. Lots of company leaders won’t be willing to meet your needs if they think you’ll still end up rejecting a job offer at the end of the day, no matter what they do.
Instead of going overboard emphasizing all the other offers you’re receiving (though you can mention them), focus on how serious you are about working for this company in particular. You want them to know how important the job is to you, otherwise they may not be willing to offer up everything you’re asking for.
7. Know what is negotiable
You may have the ideal scenario in mind for your employee benefits package, flexibility options, and salary. However, you still need to put it all into context. Depending on your industry or the company you’re interviewing with, they may not be able to give you what you want. And it’s not because they don’t want to, it’s because they actually can’t.
For instance, lots of employees want a fully remote position right now, but some employers simply can’t offer that option if the role needs to be in person. Or, your desired salary may not be realistic for a small organization’s budget. If it’s your dream job but you know it’s a nonprofit that can’t shell out six figures, think about ways you can ask them to beef up your benefits and perks to compensate.
Think through the limitations for the employer at hand so you can create a more feasible offer on your side.
8. Remember that negotiation is normal
Repeat this to yourself: Negotiations are common and reasonable. You might worry that negotiating too much can make you come off as cold, ungrateful, idealistic, or even money hungry. But this just isn’t the case (and if it is, you may want to think twice about working for that employer).
While employers may not want a candidate to negotiate an offer, they still expect it and deal with it. In most cases, the worst thing they can say is no, but you may be surprised just how much they’re willing to concede to get you on their team. Remember that you’re negotiating with real people on the other side. They want the best thing for the company, too, and if you make a great case, you just might win.