“If you don’t ask, the answer is always ‘no‘.” This is a good mantra for life, and a critical mantra for salary negotiations.
If you want to maximize your starting compensation, while also maintaining a positive relationship with your new Manager, you need to understand the dance.
Let the Games Begin
Salary negotiations start once you get the offer – not before. When asked for salary requirements earlier in the hiring process (e.g., in the application or during a phone screen), the purpose is to determine if your expectations are reasonable and it’s worth moving forward.
How to handle it? The objective at this stage is to get to the interview.
In the cover letter or phone screen, address the question, but avoid giving away specific numbers (e.g., “My salary requirements are aligned with market value for the role.”).
If this strategy won’t work, offer a fairly broad range. Include a qualifier (which may help with negotiations later). Example: “From what I know about the role right now, my expectations would be between $45k – $65k.”
Another response is to flip the question and ask the range set for the role. Unless there’s a huge gap between your salary needs and what the role offers, simply state, “Great. That’s in my ballpark” and move on to other topics.
The End Game
True negotiations begin once you receive the offer. At this stage, they’ve chosen YOU out of all of the candidates. They’re visualizing you on the team, taking work off of their plates. NOW you’re in the right position to negotiate.
Regardless of what you shared about salary earlier in the hiring process, consider yourself starting from a clean slate (within reason). At this point, you presumably know a lot more about the role expectations. You’ve also (hopefully) conducted research about the market value of the job on sites like Salary.com and Glassdoor.com, as well as tapped into your network. So, you should be well-versed in what’s reasonable.
Strategies to Succeed
Never accept on the spot. Negotiations are over the minute you say, “yes.” Ask for 24 – 48 hours (longer if relocation or other significant changes are involved), then set a time to reconnect via phone. Start with what’s most valuable (usually base salary). Have 1 – 2 other items (e.g., sign-on bonus, start date) to negotiate in case your first request isn’t met (or even if it IS met). Asking for more than 2 – 3 items and/or dragging out discussions over more than two conversations risks damaging the relationship with your new Manager. Know what you want and be organized.
Although some employers try to use your previous salary as part of the negotiations, this is really irrelevant. After all, if you were an Accountant in your last role and are now taking a job as a Barista, what would your previous salary have to do with the new role at Starbuck’s? Base discussions on the current market rate for the work and the value you bring.
While you may feel a little intimidated about your new responsibilities, consider how you’ll feel 6 months from now once you know the people, systems and processes. Don’t base your value on what you bring to the role in the first month. Rather, think about the value you’ll be adding once you learn the ropes.