Job Interview

Negotiate Your Best Salary Offer Yet: Do Your Research

Salary Negotiation Image

Salary negotiation is uncomfortable and complicated. Let’s face it, after you have gone through a gauntlet of interviews you may be tempted to say “yes” to almost anything, so the job search can finally end and you can get started in your new role.

However, negotiating your salary at the job offer stage is when you should take extra care to advocate for what you want and set yourself up for a solid financial future.

Your baseline salary sets a framework for compensation during your time at that company. Think about it; your raises will be a percentage of your base salary (usually 2%-5%), and bonuses are typically a percentage of your base salary too. Your goal should be to negotiate the highest base number possible.

The time to prepare for negotiation is before you start to interview. You’re likely to be asked questions about salary and what you want to earn right from the start of the interview process. The answer you give can lead to a terrific compensation package that makes you sing, or it can lead to difficult conversations, so start your prep early.

There are three essential things you should know before your first interview, or at the very least before you get the verbal offer:

  1. Your Numbers. Know the going rate in your market for the role you want and zero-in on the salary you would be happy earning.
  2. Your Worth. Know how much value you’ll bring to the company. Be prepared to explain why you deserve your desired base salary. Also, be prepared to walk away from sub-par offers. This takes confidence and good negotiation instincts.
  3. Best Tactics. Think through how you will get to the number you want before your first interview and you’re more likely to set yourself up for success. In addition to knowing how to negotiate, you should also know the current laws in your state that could help you get the information you need.

Most importantly, anyone can negotiate a fair base salary, but it takes confidence and conviction, and that’s where most people stop short of negotiating for what they want. Below are proven tactics to help start your new job with a salary that makes you smile. In this post we’ll start with the biggest piece of the puzzle.

Your Numbers

You need to have a solid grasp on a few key numbers before you start your first interview.

First, do your homework on base salaries for the level and role you are pursuing. There may be some differences from company to company, but you should be able to find a tight range that will inform your negotiation.

The best place to go for compensation information is your network. Ask people who are in that role – not people who are in your target company, but other professionals who are doing similar work. Make sure you get a good sampling of responses so you can be confident in your research.

Here’s how to tap into your network for salary information:

  1. Ask former colleagues who have gone to other companies. 
  • Ask, “Could you share with me what you’re earning?” or “Could you share with me the salary range for what people in your role are earning?” Another way to ask is, “Would you mind sharing what your company pays?”
  1. Ask your connections. Reach out to people who are secondary connections; you don’t know them personally, but they are in your field and you have mutual connections. LinkedIn is a perfect resource for this.
  • Here’s a sample email script: “Dear X, I’m a colleague/friend/former coworker of X. I’m reaching out to you because you and I work in the same industry. I am actively interviewing and I’m about to get an offer. I’m trying to do a little bit of research on what kind of compensation I should expect in this marketplace for this role. My understanding is that these jobs typically pay between $140k and $150k. Does that seem right?”

Sometimes giving a number or range can prompt more feedback than just asking for a number. Giving the range is asking for confirmation that you are in the right ballpark, which is helpful. Some of our clients received very generous responses doing this research – and those were from their second or third connections. Your connections can be very helpful with these types of inquiries if you have an open mind and ask for the information you need.

“I always remind my clients when they are done with the job search to pay it forward. Help another job seeker by answering salary questions like the ones you asked. We all need that kind of help at some point in our career.”Julia Holian

You can also look online for salary data. Websites I recommend for compensation information are:

Glassdoor.com: Glassdoor is an excellent place for job seekers or people who are looking to make a move internally. It’s also a good resource to find a salary range for a particular company or job role.

Salary.com and Payscale.com: These sites aggregate compensation information obtained from companies that release their compensation information and in return receive compensation reports. The compensation information goes into a database and an algorithm calculates what the salary rate would be in a different market. There’s good value in those numbers if you use them as a benchmark.

Use a few different resources to verify the information that you’re getting from your network.

Most of the time, your offer will be comprised of multiple compensation pieces and other benefits that you’re able to negotiate, such as:

  • Base
  • Bonus
  • Benefits
  • Equity
  • RSUs
  • Vacation
  • Start Date

Take all of these things into consideration and know what your ideal is for each, but keep in mind that your base salary drives all areas of your compensation package. In a perfect world, what would the details of your package look like? What would make you do a happy dance? Write it down.

You also have to know what your deal-breaker is. To find out the absolute lowest number you will accept you need to do some analysis, and most definitely, some soul searching.

Figuring out the lowest number is just some simple math. How much do you need to cover your expenses? That number should be very straightforward. But also take into consideration if there are any expenses that may increase over the next year and think about how much you want to put into savings or investments.

Once you have that number, do some soul-searching to confirm that you would be satisfied with that number as your base salary. Then, you have to root yourself in confidence about your worth. You’ll also need to know the most effective tactics for negotiation. We’ll cover those in the next post.

Julia Holian & Associates provides strategy, resources and coaching for every stage of your career. If you need help with job search strategy, career transition, resume creation, LinkedIn development, interview preparation, or professional strengths coaching, email us at Julia@juliaholian.com or give us a call at (925) 451-3183.