5 Tips for Negotiating Your Salary

Money in a wallet
Money (Elise Amendola/AP File Photo)

You've made it through the interviews, completed the background check and received a job offer. Congratulations.

On the one hand, it's tempting to take whatever the employer offers and not "rock the boat" by negotiating. On the other hand, if the offer isn't what you want or need, you could try to get a better offer.

Related: Search for Veteran Jobs

When negotiating a job offer, consider these tips:

1. Be Prepared

Employers are accustomed to candidates negotiating the initial offer. You certainly won't offend the hiring manager if you ask, "Is there flexibility in that salary?"

Be prepared to show your rationale. You'll need to research the company, the job and the industry to know where your skills, experience and contribution land. If you are inexperienced in the industry, or if all of your experience was during your military service, the employer could see you as landing on the lower end of the pay range. You'll need to justify why you should command more.

In most cases, the hiring manager will need to hear your rationale in order to "sell" the idea to others in the company and advocate for an increase.

2. Consider the Entire Offer

A job offer is more than base salary. Oftentimes, employers provide bonuses (quarterly, annually or spot bonuses) that can amplify the base amount. There are other benefits to consider and the value these bring to your life and income as well:

  • Time off. For an employee who has children at home, for instance, paid time off can alleviate some child-care expenses, thus saving money. Time off means you can enjoy more vacations and hobbies, which are also valuable.
  • Health insurance. With the rising cost of health care, many employers pay a portion of the health-care premiums, which is valuable. Whether you left the military with retirement benefits or not, the cost of health insurance can be a dealbreaker in a negotiation.
  • Quality of life. Does the company promote a healthy work/life balance? Do they encourage employees to attend your children's sporting events, provide generous parental leave, and invite your spouse to company-sponsored events? These benefits can ensure your experience in the job is more enjoyable.
  • Other benefits. Flexible spending accounts and health savings accounts, for instance, allow you to take money out of your paycheck pre-tax, for expenses you know you'll incur. This can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a year.

3. Evaluate Your Timing

If your research revealed the company missed their last quarter's earning projections, it may not be a great time to ask for more money. Timing is everything. Also, consider this: If the company offers a 90-day salary and performance review, you can negotiate up then. This would enable you to show that you're worth the increase.

4. Remove Emotions

As with most negotiations, if you can remove your emotional attachment to a specific salary or compensation package, you'll be in a better position. When you are upset, angry, desperate or show fear, you weaken your position. And when you're emotionally connected to the outcome (for instance, a specific salary amount), it can blur your perspective on the entire picture. A job with a 10% salary reduction could offer you tremendous career potential, where you'd make up that 10% quickly.

5. Stand in Your Value

As you were applying for jobs, hopefully you were clear on who you are and the value you can offer an employer. With a compelling personal brand, you secured a job offer. Be sure to express your appreciation for the offer and your desire to accept the position (if this is the case) before you negotiate.

Moving through a job salary negotiation shouldn't compromise your value or brand. Make choices that feel appropriate, respectful and consistent with your values, and you will do fine. If this position doesn't give you those feelings, then no amount of salary will. It might be time to move along.

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