Updated: Mar 23
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Negotiations Are Uncomfortable
1. Let’s first reduce the stress. You should not put pressure on yourself to address every detail in one call or a single meeting. Let the conversation breathe. This is a negotiation process not a negotiation race. While you don’t want the process to drag unnecessarily, letting it move at a measured pace is always beneficial. You’ll learn more about the employer and get a better feel for what it would be like to interact with them as an employee.
2. Most salary negotiations should and will take place over email. You may address the primary structure and challenges for a deal in person or on the phone, but it is best to give the employer time to contemplate their response and send it to you via email. This removes much of the anxiety that comes with in-person negotiations as well as creates a written record of your conversations for future reference.
3. So, take a deep breath and center yourself in a process that allows you to clearly define what you want, what you need and what the employer can provide.
Familiarize Yourself With The Salary Landscape
1. It’s essential to be aware of what comparable companies are paying for the positions you are targeting. You may examine job boards and company websites to investigate the remuneration offered by your target organizations, as well as their competitors. The following States legally require companies to disclose the salary on every job they advertise:
California (California pay transparency law update)
Find the State that most accurately reflects the cost of living and tax structure in your home state.
2. Use salary calculators:
Online salary calculators can provide a rough idea of what you can anticipate earning. Although the data on these websites is self-reported by individuals and not entirely accurate, they can still be helpful. There are a variety of popular salary calculator websites to choose from, such as Glassdoor, SalaryExpert, Salary.com, Indeed, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
3. Consult with people working in your industry:
Consider individuals in your industry with whom you are familiar, such as colleagues, managers, ex-managers, peers, or LinkedIn connections. You can obtain insight into the current market by speaking with them. Although you don't need to ask directly about their salary, you can mention that you are applying for positions with a salary package ranging from X to Y and request their opinion.
4. Consult With Recruiters
Connect with recruiters who specialize in hiring within your industry and inquire about the salary range for the role. In the initial conversation, ask them to provide an approximate salary range to ensure that you're on the same page. To find industry-specific recruiters on LinkedIn, search for the term "recruiter + your industry," such as "Finance Recruiter."
5. Ask about the salary during the first conversation:
We will touch on this a couple times, but it’s imperative that you establish the salary range in your first conversation. This can be during an intro call or during the first interview. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking, it shows you know what you’re worth and it saves you from wasting your time. You can use very simple language like, “Just to make sure we’re on the same page before we get too far down the road, what is the salary range you’re applying to this role?” This also helps you quickly take control of the compensation question before they ask you - which they will.
Define Your Compensation Package
1. Before initiating a salary negotiation, it is advisable to devise a comprehensive plan outlining your desired compensation package, as negotiations may extend beyond remuneration to incorporate other benefits.
2. Such benefits may include, but are not limited to:
Bonus Structure (Guaranteed or Performance-Based)
Signing Bonus (this is a one-time payment)
Commission Structure (if you’re in sales)
Company Perks (e.g. fuel expense, gym membership, food stipen, etc.)
Work Equipment (computer, office supplies, printer, etc. note: if you negotiate these you should own them, otherwise, it’s not really a benefit if you have to return everything
Professional Development (certifications, conferences, etc.)
It is recommended that you prioritize which benefits are most important to you, as they can have significant monetary value.
Determine Your Salary Range
1. Now that you have a clear understanding of the salary landscape and which benefits matter most to you, define a salary range you’re not only willing to accept, but would make you genuinely happy.
2. If the salary range for the positions you’re seeking is 75K to 100K, strive to obtain an offer at the upper end of the range (i.e. 93K - 97K).
Establish Fallback Positions
1. If the employer comes in on the lower end of your range, it’s time to work the benefits angle so your total compensation makes accepting the role possible. It can even make it more lucrative if you do it right.
2. Being prepared to walk away can be the strongest fallback position at times. You must remember that they’re making you an offer so they want you. Selecting a candidate is time-consuming and resource-intensive. Typically, companies will cave on anything up to a 10% difference. It’s simply not worth the continued effort when a good candidate has been identified. They are motivated to secure your acceptance in any way possible that is within reasonable boundaries. You’ll need to read the room to understand how much leverage you have, but if you’re ok walking away you can always move from a place of strength.
The Panic Question: What Are Your Salary Expectations?
1. During a job interview, the interviewer may ask for your salary expectations. Even if they don’t, you should make sure they know what you expect. This will save everyone a lot of time and demonstrate that you’re confident of your worth.
2. A good salary range can swing +/- 15% and you can add the caveat that your flexibility depends on the total compensation package as you’re willing to give in one area that is less important to you if it’s made up in another. For example, if your target salary is $100K you could say your range is 90K - $115K in total compensation. Notice how the lower range is smaller than the upper range. Make sure you use this weighting.
3. Nothing you discuss is carved in stone, so feel free to explore all options during the interview process as is appropriate. You could also increase your salary range if the scope of responsibility increases beyond what you initially understood. This is why it is critical to get specifics from the employer on how they define success for this role 6,12 and 18 months in the future. It is also important to have them identify the biggest challenges that stand in your way of being successful (i.e. cultural issues, resource/financing issues, competition, etc.)
4. Discuss your salary expectations in the context of the value you’ll create for the company. This creates a positive association with your employment creating growth, revenue and having a cultural impact vs a pure expense.
Your Body of Work: Where Your Personal Brand Closes The Deal
1. To make a strong case for your salary expectations, carefully review the job description, identify the challenges or pain points the hiring company is facing and outline the specifics of how you can solve them.
2. At this point, you’ll be going toe-to-toe, with your competition for the role. If you have a personal brand, this is where you make the decision easy for the employer by showing them you are a high-impact higher.
3. Point to your body of work on your website where you have demonstrated broad-reaching knowledge of your industry and outlined specifics of how you would tackle the challenges. Show them you’re an expert and engaged in the industry beyond anyone else they’re interviewing.
If you only remember two things from this entire document, remember these…
Alway, always, always counter. Many of our clients pay for our entire service with this simple guidance alone. If you know how to do it right, you’ll always win. Spoiler alert, most people think they know but end up in an uncomfortable situation and cave - just one more reason to work with Grad Path!
Be confident! Know your worth and settle for nothing less. If you’re compromising at every turn just to get the gig, you’re selling yourself short and you’re in the wrong place if not the wrong career. You need to re-evaluate your approach so you don’t end up in a career you loathe. We can help make that happen so you’re never settling for a job again.
If you’re ready to move beyond the resume to build a career that will create lifelong happiness and financial freedom, contact Jason Ziemianski at Grad Path today. It may be the most important email you ever send - firstname.lastname@example.org
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