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How to Negotiate a Higher Starting Salary

If you’ve started a new job search, you are in one of the most powerful and important negotiating positions you’ll ever be in. Starting salaries are the foundation for the rest of your earnings while working for a company. Starting too low can add up to a lot of missed potential earnings. That’s why taking time to negotiate a higher starting salary is one of the biggest contributors to your lifetime earnings.

There are certain things you can do to give yourself the best shot at earning a high (and fair) starting salary.

Familiarize Yourself With Industry Salary Trends

Your greatest asset when it comes to negotiating a higher starting salary is research. Have a good understanding of what are others are making in your industry?

When you suggest a number during a salary discussion it needs to be realistic and consider several variables. The most important ones are the current compensation landscape in your field, the position you’re seeking, your location, and your experience level.

Here are some valuable resources to guide you:

  • Job Bank – Search by occupation and location.
  • Payscale – Search industry salaries or browse industries by category.
  • Indeed – Search average salaries by industry.

Build Your Case for a Higher Salary

To be able to ask for a specific number, you’ll need to back it up by showcasing your value.

If you’ve been offered a salary that is significantly lower than what you expected, be prepared to present your findings. Explain why you deserve to negotiate a higher starting salary. For example, you might say, “I see that you’re offering $45,000 as a starting salary. However, based on state data and some of your local competitors, the average starting salary is $53,000. Is there room in your budget to offer a higher starting salary for this position?”

You can then go on to highlight your experience, educational background, or even the importance of pay equity.

The most important things is to stay positive. Be confident in yourself when discussing your skills and experience. Share that you are certain you can find a fair middle ground that works for everyone.

Tell the Truth

When negotiating a job offer, use effective negotiation tactics but always be honest. The data you present must be factual. Do not inflate your salary from a past job or makeup numbers concerning a reasonable salary range. Hiring managers in your industry will know if you’re lying, and if they don’t right away, it won’t take them long to find out.

Consider the Perks and Benefits

Sometimes, what’s most valuable to you isn’t necessarily a slight bump in salary. Other considerations might be working from home, health insurance, and retirement savings plans. If you have multiple job offers, consider all variables, not just your salary.

For example, more flexible hours or a work-from-home schedule could help you avoid paying for an after-school child care program. You could put that money toward your debt or emergency funds.

Practice With a Mentor Before the Negotiation Process

Before you head to your interview, take the time to practice.

Do you know someone that can guide you through the interview process and ask you potential interview questions? If so, lean on their skillset. Set aside some time specifically for questions about salary and negotiation. Whether that person is your friend, mentor, ex-co-worker, or family member, this step could make a difference when push comes to shove.

Send Counter Offer Through Email If Possible

You’ve impressed a potential employer and received a job offer via email, now is the time to negotiate a higher starting salary. Negotiations can be stressful, high-pressure situations. Email takes the edge off. Sending your counter offer via email reduces the risk of settling for something without fully thinking it through. It give you the chance to compose your thoughts into a well-structured argument.

Don’t Disclose Your Current or Expected Salary

Sometimes, interviewers start talking about salary expectations before sending a formal job offer. If this happens, try to deflect and speak on more general terms. Don’t throw out a number before you have learned about all the details. Doing so could limit your offer.

How do you handle the dreaded ‘what is your expected salary’ question?

The key is to remain confident in your experience, skillset, and industry research. If the hiring team mentions a proposed number, and you think it’s too low, counter with a reasonable figure. If they say their offer is what’s in their budget, make it known that you understand budgeting issues and want to be flexible. However, you’d like to explore the possibility of a higher salary based on industry averages and your resume.

Worst case, they say no, their offer is final. Best case, the hiring team reviews your proposal and accepts or meets you somewhere in the middle.

Know When to Wrap up Negotiations

If you have a back and forth negotiation, but the company can’t meet your requirements, know when to back down. If you come on too strong, you’ll start on the wrong foot. If you’re happy with their final offer, take it. This is especially true if they were flexible with you. If not, respectfully decline the offer and seek out other opportunities that match better with your expectations.

Ask for a Written Documentation

Once you’ve decided on a compensation package that works for both of you, get it in writing. Make sure it outlines your salary and any additional specifics you agreed on. You’ll be grateful you did if anything happens to go sideways.

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