You’ve gone through the interview process, met the boss and had lunch with the team — and now the company is ready to offer you a job. There’s just one last conversation to have before it’s official: How much do you expect to get paid?
Salary negotiations can be tricky — after all, with everyone feeling good about hiring you, you don’t want to price yourself out of an opportunity. Through it all, remember that knowledge is power — and that your future employer has done a lot of research. “You, the candidate, are not in charge of creating a good offer,” says Katie Donovan, founder of Equal Pay Negotiations. “Too often candidates think they need to state numbers. They don’t. They do need to know when an offer is not good.”
Here’s what you should know when negotiating your pay.
Different companies will come up with salary ranges in different ways. Larger companies are likely to have more protocols in place than smaller ones do, Donovan says, but the underlying foundation of setting salaries for any job is generally the same: Hiring managers will try to determine the market value of the job, consider their employer’s culture and compensation philosophy, and then generally try to get the best candidate for the lowest amount possible.
Knowing as much of that information as possible yourself before the salary discussion comes up can help. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics is a good place to start, as it breaks down wage data for different roles and geographic areas. Other sites, such as Salary.com, PayScale and Glassdoor, can also provide insights on salary variations based on location, experience and skills.
In most cases the first offer the employer makes is not necessarily the best one, Donovan says. “The hiring manager may say something like ‘I think you are so amazing that I already went to bat to make sure I can give you the best possible offer. The best possible offer is this.’ There are many other approaches to make the candidate think the first offer is the best they can do, but most of the time it is not,” she says.
Approach the negotiation as a conversation, Donovan says. The employer will have information such as the salary levels that current employees started at as well as the top amount the company is willing to offer, and you’ll have the research you did to back you up. Ask what went into determining the employer’s number, share why you think the offer is not good enough and look for ways to bridge the gap between what they’re offering and what you’re looking for.
As you’re job searching, you need to decide the lowest amount you can accept and still have it be worth it to take the job. It’s not your role to create the acceptable offer, Donovan says, but you don’t have to take an offer you don’t want. If a company absolutely can’t meet you on salary, consider whether benefits and perks can still make it worthwhile to make the leap.
Through it all, the more information you have, the better. “Most things said during negotiations are bluffs,” Donovan says, “so the best tip I can offer anyone is to not believe what you are told.”
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