First, keep in mind that you’re not just negotiating a salary, you’re negotiating a job offer. A job is so much more than a paycheck. How you spend 30-40 hours of your week will affect and mold you, personally and professionally. A good job creates value in your life, not just money. If you’re merely negotiating a salary you’re likely missing the mark. Ok, let’s negotiate.
(1) It doesn’t hurt to ask, but it can hurt not to ask. don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, so long as it’s a reasonable request. Research the specifics of the job and make a list of all the things that would make the job more appealing to you. Now ask yourself if they are reasonable. In evaluating reasonableness you don’t want to come across as far too ambitious, but also be careful not to undervalue yourself. If you know you can deliver good work you should be adequately compensated.
(2) Salary. In business, numbers should never be arbitrary, this includes salary. The first question I would ask an applicant is, “how did you arrive at that number?” Be prepared to explain the number. In determining this number forget about your past salary, unless your salary was substantial and you want to volunteer it as a bargaining chip. Factors to consider include your unique experience, education, proficiency, personal expenses in taking the job, commute costs, savings goal, travel fund, etc. Actually go through the exercise of running the numbers on a spreadsheet. Note: In California, an employer can’t ask you about your past salary. See Cal. Labor Code § 432.3.
(3) Negotiating Perks. Perks can sometimes mean much more than a salary because they add balance and value to your life. You can negotiate perks like longer vacation time, a bigger signing bonus, a four-day workweek, the ability to work from home once per week, a later daily start time, continuing education, parental leave, etc. List them all and highlight the ones that are really important to you. I personally like continuing education and training as a good negotiation topic because it makes business sense for both the candidate and the employer. Instead of asking for more money, which is harder to sell, ask for that money in monthly training stipends. It’s a great incentive to increase your professional equity while simultaneously helping your employer stay current and relevant. Try to see it from their side and get creative.
(4) Set yourself up for success. You’re being hired to do a job. The better you can do your job the more successful your organization will be. Your employer wants you to succeed, but they may not know your needs. Tell your employer what you need to succeed. For example, if you have to commute over an hour to work because you can’t afford to live closer to work, this will take a toll on you and your performance. So, ask for a raise that will help you live closer to work. Or if you have substandard work tools that are slowing your productivity or making work unenjoyable (e.g., a crappy printer), ask for better tools. Be reasonable in your requests. Everything you ask for needs to have a reason behind it that makes business sense.
(5) Down the road. What’s not negotiable today may be negotiable tomorrow. If the employer is hesitant about offering you a certain perk or salary because they’re not sure that you’re worth the value, pend it for a set future date. Ask for a six-month performance review with your boss for the purpose of a promotion or salary raise. If you’ve performed above the expectations there’s no reason for refusing you the promotion or raise. It’s important to have a set date in writing and in a shared calendar. If you leave it for “later,” it’s easy to forget. This is a very reasonable request because it’s not a loss to anybody but it could be a big gain for you six months down the road.
(6) Show interest. Let them know you’re excited and don’t play hard to get. Have the character to tell the employer you’re interested and willing to perform at your best but you have some reasonable requests that you feel are important to put you in a position to succeed (i.e., salary and perks). Employers don’t want to negotiate with a candidate who is too tentative and irresolute. It can take a lot of time, attention, and money to vet a candidate, only to see them walk away in the end. If an employer feels you’re too unattainable, they may suspend their recruitment for another candidate.
(7) What does your employer want? Finding this out is more part of the interview phase, but knowing this can help you in the negotiation phase. First, it shows that you’re considering the employer’s needs. Second, it’s a great way to show interest in the subject matter of the job, and not just the salary and perks. And third, once you know what the employer wants, it will allow you to better communicate how your strengths and knowledge will help the organization realize its mission and vision.
(8) Counteroffers. Since a job offer is a negotiation process, don’t be hasty to accept the first offer. If the employer gives you a short time frame to accept, ask them for more time to think about the offer. If you do make a counteroffer, make sure it’s in the same communication at the same time. In other words, put them all in one email. You don't want to keep coming back later with something new. This will show the employer that you’re not resolute, which goes to your character.
*This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Each case requires unique legal analysis of law and facts. For legal issues that arise, the reader should consult legal counsel.