Updated: May 10, 2019
Congratulations on getting your first job offer! It’s a proud moment that you should celebrate.
But there’s one more important step before you break out your patented happy dance – and that’s salary negotiation. Countering a salary offer (especially your first one) will set you up for better earning potential throughout your career. Here’s how to get the best offer possible.
Respond quickly, but ask for time to consider
Hiring managers expect and appreciate that potential employees will need time to decide. Just reply quickly and include these points:
• Thank them for the offer and show enthusiasm for the opportunity
• Request additional time (like one to two days)
• Ask for all the details about benefits other than salary
(health insurance, tuition reimbursement, paid time off, etc.)
If they called to make the offer, ask that they send it via email to protect yourself.
Know your budget
It’s best to start with what you need. If you don’t already have a budget, now’s a good time to make one, or at least have a rough idea. The last thing you want is a job that can’t cover your bills.
This will also help you determine a “walk-away” amount.
Do lots of salary research
You want to balance what you need with what would be reasonable for the position. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and do a bit of research. Here are a few resources to use:
• Robert Half Salary Guides – Each year, Robert Half publishes salary guides in the areas of finance & accounting, technology, legal, office & administrative, and creative & marketing. You can compare compensation levels for positions by location.
• Occupational Outlook Handbook – Maintained by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, this handbook has salary information for hundreds of occupations.
Don’t forget to talk to people who already work in your field to see what they think is a reasonable entry-level salary. Use this to compare what you’ve already found. If you’ve been working with a recruiter, you might also tap them for insights.
Consider the whole offer
It’s important not to get fixated on the salary. There’s a lot more to compensation – and it might make the offer much more appealing. For example, if the salary on the low side, does the company offer an amazing health insurance package and tuition reimbursement? You’ll want to factor that in, especially if you have more than one offer.
Counter high to leave room for negotiating
Once you have a salary in mind, you’ll want to increase the amount by 5-10%. That allows them to come down to what you think is reasonable. And if they accept the higher number – great!
As you decide how much to increase, be conscious of supply and demand. Are there a lot of applicants competing for this type of position? This can affect your bargaining power.
Present your counter offer with the right message
The key is to change the tone from “I want more” to “Here’s why I’m worth this.”
Here are some ways to do this:
1. Show your research – Point to the resources you used to establish your counter offer, so they know you’re not just pulling the number out of thin air. Showing your data will give more weight to the counter offer.
2. Reinforce your value – Do you have special qualities or experience that would make it easier for you to hit the ground running? Remind them. For example, did you have an internship just like the job? Do you already know how to use a software system they have?
3. Leverage Other Offers – If you have more than one offer, don’t state the specific amount, just mention that you’ve compared both offers and your counter takes that into consideration.
For example, you might respond: “Thank you for the offer. I spent some time researching entry-level positions on Salary.com and PayScale.com to see what entry-level graphic designers make in our area. Based on this research and the fact that I already have significant experience using PhotoShop, I’d like to request a starting salary of $45,000. I’m eager to get started and believe I can be a great asset to your Art Department.”
So, what are the big takeaways for countering a salary offer?
• Respond quickly to acknowledge their offer and ask for time to consider the salary
• Figure out your budget to make sure this salary is enough to support you
• Do thorough research into salaries for your position, so you know what’s reasonable
• Consider the whole offer – salary + health insurance, vacation, and other perks
• Add 5-10% to the salary you want to have wiggle room for negotiating
• Present your counter offer with references to your research and a reminder of your value