Here in the Office of Alumni Career Management, we often receive questions from alumni about salary negotiation. In anticipation of next week’s Job Club meeting on salary negotiation, we thought we’d post a few answers to the most common questions we get here for your review. Enjoy!
Q. – Are you able to negotiate when the job is in the public sector? It seems like pay and benefits are pretty well set, at least at the state level.
A. – There are a few sectors that do not allow for salary negotiation unless you advance to another level. Some government agencies and K-12 Education have set pay scales. However, some public sectors get around this by hiring a candidate into a higher level than the posted job so that they can be sure to keep that valuable candidate.
Q. – How should salary negotiations differ between internal and external positions?
A. – Internally, know the salary request schedule of your organization. Give your manager plenty of time to discuss with you and then enter into the request process for you. Be ready for that conversation with your manager. Show your accomplishments and progression in your role and market value data to support your negotiation. External negotiation is with a hiring manager that does not know you and has not seen your work. However, the process is the same with research, strategy, and negotiation. In both cases, be prepared and strategic.
Q. – Do you have advice for salary negotiating when making a career change or going into a new industry?
A. – When changing industries, you have to focus on the transferrable skills that you are offering to the employer. If you are at point of offer, then you did well in selling yourself. If you are referring to the research phase and setting your range, then you should still honor your years of work experience. Networking definitely helps in getting interviews when you are changing careers.
Q. – How do you inquire about merit increases? In my experience, I have been able to negotiate salary a little bit but was told they could not offer the top amount in the range because the person in the role before had not reached that amount when they left the position. I am wondering if the range listed accounted for merit increases and the potential of what you could get up to for salary after some years in the role.
A. – In the negotiation process, ask about opportunities for advancement. This will lead discussing merit increases. Ask the hiring manager to be specific about the salary range listed. Does this include a merit or bonus structure and what is the history of employees reaching that top dollar?
Q. – I’ve heard before that your first salary is the most important, or that it dictates what you’ll make later in life. What’s your take on this? How important is that first, out-of-school salary?
A. – Your entire future career does not rest on that first salary because you will not be sharing that figure in negotiation. You will focus on the market value of each job for which you apply. However, initial negotiation is important for each job because every year the typical 2-5% raise will be calculated from that initial offer. That is what we mean by do not leave money on the table.
Q. – What happens if you give a range and the employer comes in at the top of that range with their offer? Have you just run out of room to negotiate?
A. – No, because you gave that range at the beginning of the process to determine if you were both in the ballpark. And in may cases, that initial person is not the decision maker. They are not determining your offer on that initial conversation. They are determining your offer on the market value for that position. So, do your research and know what the market is dictating for that role. At point of offer, you know much more than you did at the beginning and can base your negotiating on how your skills match up to their needs. In addition, you will have your data to support the market value range. Remember, their first offer is not usually as high as they can go. And if it is as high as they can go, they will tell you. However, you won’t know if you don’t try. And they will respect you as a savvy job seeker.
Q. – What else can you ask for to strengthen a job offer once salary is set or can’t be moved more?
A. – Please consider all the benefits that can possibly come with an offer. Prioritize what is most valuable to you at this point in your life. Is it flexibility, autonomy, working with a team, travel, a car, cell phone, vacation time, working remotely, a bonus structure each year?
Q. – Would it be best/more likely to get more with haggling with the paycheck or a bonus like 401K match, etc.?
A. – It is easier to negotiate the salary than a set 401K structure. However, you can ask for a sign on bonus.
Q. – What % of salary is standard for a sign-on bonus?
A. – It is more of a flat fee of 1K-5K.
Q. – Is asking for the offer in writing insulting? You mentioned reneging on an offer but can you speak to an agreed upon salary, yet the employer doesn’t hold to their offer?
A. – Absolutely ask for the first and final offer in writing. They can quickly send a letter via email and then typically HR will follow up with a benefits package.
Q. – Are there any unwritten rules about requesting stock in a salary negotiation? Ex: You should only negotiate after working with a company for 5+ years or holding a specific position within a company.
A. – There are benefits that may come after working for an organization for so many years, like education credit, some insurance benefits, and family leave, and yes, stock options. These are typically not negotiable.
Q. – I was given a raise at the beginning of this year and lost it due to Covid. When would be the right time for me to revisit this topic with my manager, if ever?
A. – I’m sorry about that. Yes, many organizations are freezing raises so that they can keep positions intact. I would check in at your official review period. In fact, they will probably bring it up first at that time.
Q. – Any strategies particularly important for women to keep in mind for negotiating (who may be offered lower amounts relative to worth)?
A. – Have your research and data ready! Fall back on the market value. Be confident and assertive.
Q. – Any advice on approaching the topic of a raise if you feel like you deserve it, but want to stay with the same organization?
A. – Know the salary request schedule of your organization. Give your manager plenty of time to discuss with you and then enter into the request process for you. Be ready for that conversation with your manager. Show your accomplishments and progression in your role and tie them to the goals of the organization to support your ask.
Q. – What would be the proper way, if at all, to negotiate more PTO/Vacation Days in a job offer?
A. – Once you have settled on salary, then launch into the other important factors that you want to negotiate to include PTO/vacation time. Research shows that vacation time is one of the easiest to negotiate.
Q. – Can you make up some numbers about what to ask for… Lets say walk away point is $40k, top of range is $60k, and initial job offer is $50k…What should I ask for? $51k? The full $60? or even higher to hope that you can ultimately settle at top market value.
A. – This would depend on your market value. Your years of experience will determine where you should fall on this range. If you have less experience (1-3 years), then you would be on the lower end. If you have more experience (6-10), you would be on the higher end. If 50K is about right, then try for an additional 1-2 K.
Q. – In negotiations, of a current job, is there an unspoken limit?
A. – Typically, there is a set range for your position. Glassdoor.com is good for this research.
Q. – When the application requires you to enter your current salary and anticipated salary, how should you answer?
A. – Always try to leave current salary blank. If you cannot, then offer a range of your last position. For the anticipated, offer your anticipated range. If you are only allowed one number then put the middle of the range.
Q. – How do you negotiate a salary match of a current job?
A. – Always negotiate from market value rather than with your current salary. However, if the offer is close to your current salary, but a bit lower, then use that as leverage. State that you need to at least match your current salary and would like to obtain an increase in this transition. Then suggest $2,000 or 5% over your current salary as long as it is still in the market value range for the job.