How to Negotiate Pay When Starting a New Job

How to Negotiate Pay When Starting a New Job

By: Daniel Steingold | August 14, 2016

You just got a new job, and all is rainbows and butterflies except for one thing: pay.

You’re obviously not going to work for no pay, but you’re also not going to work for very little pay. Despite being able to sell yourself on why you should have the job, you find yourself struggling when it comes to trying to convince your new boss that you should be paid what you think you’re worth.

This post will discuss everything concerning negotiating pay at a new job, including when to ask, how to ask, and how much you should ask for.

When to Ask

Although circumstances vary, usually the best time to negotiate pay at a new job is after the interview process has concluded, but before you sign your job offer.

At this point, the employer will have made a firm commitment to you, and everyone— including your new coworkers— will be looking forward to having you on board. Since the employer will likely want you to start as soon as possible, for once, you have the upper hand.

How to Ask

Many employers will provide a fair salary or wages, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that they don’t.

In this case, it will be important to determine your true value, which can be gauged based off of what similar employees make— either at the same firm or a different company. Sites like Glassdoor can help with finding out the pay of others.

Ultimately, if you have legitimate reasons for why you believe you should be paid what you’re saying you’re worth, you will be more likely to get what you’re looking for.

Furthermore, some employers will even like you putting your foot down, as high-performers are often thought to be more assertive.

Practice how you would bring up the conversation, and give a loose script a shot. It can go something like this:

“I’m eager to start at XYZ Company, and feel like I can contribute a lot with my unique experience and skills. I really appreciate what XYZ offered me at $35,000 a year, but I was expecting a salary more around $40,000 based upon my background. Would XYZ be able to offer me $40,000 for this position?”

If the employer comes back at you, saying that the $35,000— or whatever you’re offered— is what they have planned to pay and they’re not budging, you should continue to demonstrate enthusiasm and confidence in what you proposed.

You can come back and say something like:

“I understand your perspective, and I want to reemphasize how I feel I’d fit in well at XYZ Company, both in terms of my background and relations with the team. I feel like my skills are perfectly suited for this position, and I am worth $40,000 a year.”

From here, you should just sit back, and wait for the employer to reply. Depending upon their needs and if they’re fully convinced, there’s a good chance that they’ll accept what you’ve proposed.

Even if they don’t fully meet your salary expectations, there’s a good chance that they’ll meet somewhere in the middle— think, $37,500. If this is the case, take what they give you, and count it as a victory.

How Much to Ask For

Although there is no hard and fast rule for how much you should ask for in negotiations, it’s usually appropriate to ask for somewhere in the range of 10 percent to 20 percent more than what you’re currently making or what you were initially offered.

In other words, in the XYZ example previously provided, it would be appropriate to ask for somewhere between $38,500 and $42,000.

If you’re offered a job where the starting salary is already over 20 percent what you last made, you can try to negotiate even further— you may be able to get an additional five percent or so— but you shouldn’t have any further expectations.

Questions You Should Ask

Although you should by now have a basic idea as to what you’re worth, this section will cover some questions you should ask the employer to help increase your odds of getting the pay you desire.

  1. When is the start date? Asking this question shows you’re serious about starting soon, which helps with negotiation. You do want to be careful, however, with not committing to start too soon, as this signals that you’re carelessly leaving your old job behind.
  2. Can I see a job description? Asking for a job description helps you reaffirm to both yourself and the hiring company that you can do the job. This helps with presenting a case for salary negotiation.
  3. Is this salary negotiable? By asking if a salary is negotiable, you save yourself the trouble of embarrassment and discord if your request is actually declined.
  4. Is this simply a base salary? Asking if there are bonuses looks good on two counts to employers: it shows that you have deep interest in the actual job, while also showing that you intend to perform it to the best of your abilities.
  5. What benefits am I entitled to? It is never a bad idea to ask about benefits that weren’t discussed previously, whether related to pay or something else. Non-pay benefits could include the ability to work from home, accumulate vacation, or get flextime.

It is important to remember that your negotiation skills signal to an employer not only how good you are at achieving your own aims, but how you can help the employer with achieving theirs.

Mistakes You Should Avoid

For all the things that you should do when negotiating pay at a new job, there are certain mistakes you should avoid.

Here are a few of those mistakes:

  • Revealing too early in the process what you’ll accept. To clarify, there is a difference between what you want and what you’ll accept. Telling the company the latter will doom you in terms of negotiation.
  • Thinking about what you need as opposed to the value you can provide. An employer doesn’t know nor care too much what your needs are. Rather, they are concerned about how your presence will benefit them. Get the word “need” out of your vocabulary.
  • Accepting a job offer too early. If you don’t give yourself time to consider the pros and cons of the job, along with how you can leverage the job to your advantage, you are missing out on a golden opportunity. Typically, a job will give you up to a week or two to make your decision.
  • Declining a job offer too early. If you are offered a salary much too low, by all means, turn it down. If the salary is just slightly below average, however, try different methods. Ask if pay can be negotiated. Look the entire benefits package— often, you will find that are other perks, pay-related or not, that balance out slightly lower pay.
  • Not asking for final job offer in writing. By asking for a job offer in writing, you have a legal way to enforce the terms agreed upon.

This post should help with negotiating pay at a new job. Understanding the employer’s perspective, along with proper techniques, should help you with getting the salary you deserve.

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