Salary Talk: 5 Things You MUST Do When Prepping for a Salary Negotiation

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There will come a point during your job search when you must have THE salary talk. It can be a daunting conversation—especially if you’ve never negotiated your salary before.

However, with a little bit of preparation you can rock any salary negotiation.

As one of the nation’s leading staffing companies, we engage in salary discussions every day. Are you wondering how to best prepare for a salary talk? Check out our top 5 things you must do before any negotiation.

1. Figure out a fair price. Don’t just base your desired salary on your previous salary. During the time you’ve been working, you’ve earned valuable experience—you might be able to negotiate a much higher salary. Don’t sell yourself short!

The best way to gauge fair pay is to research salaries online. Check LinkedIn SalarySalary.comPayscale, and Glassdoor to get a feel for what you can expect.

Take into account the following criteria when researching salaries:

  • Location
  • Industry
  • Job Title
  • Years of Experience
  • Education

You should get a range for what a fair salary looks like. Individual cases can still vary since job responsibilities vary form one company to another.

Note: These online tools tend to predict on the higher end of the salary spectrum. Don’t worry if your offer is marginally lower that the predicted salary.

2. Know where you are willing to compromise. A job offer doesn’t solely consist of salary. There are other factors you should consider:

  • Health Insurance
  • 401(k)
  • Benefits and Perks
  • Commute
  • Company Culture
  • Flexibility Options

When considering an offer, you’re allowed to (and in fact should) ask about benefits. How much of the health insurance premium does the company cover? Do they match your 401(k) contributions? What other benefits and perks are available? What’s the company culture like? Will you be happy going into that office every day?

Health insurance costs quickly add up, so a company paying a high percentage of the premium is actually a great benefit. Similarly, contributions to your retirement savings invested early in your career could multiply into thousands of dollars down the line.

Before going into the salary talk, ask yourself where you are willing to compromise and where you are not.

Note: Some benefits, such as work-from-home options, can be negotiable. Don’t be afraid to bring these up. A simple “Are remote work arrangements negotiable?” can introduce the topic into the conversation.

3. Prepare for common questions. This is a tough conversation. The better you prepare, the more confident you will feel. Be ready to answer some common questions.

  • What are your salary expectations? Don’t start with a range—your interviewer will automatically trend towards the low end. Be ready with a specific number, such as $45,000. This shows that you’ve done your research and that you know exactly what you want.
  • Why should we pay you this much? The interviewer might not ask this straight up, but the point of a negotiation is to convince them that you are worth what you are asking. “Well, that’s what I saw online” is NOT an acceptable answer. Instead, refer to your past successes. Say something like “I have a proven record of excellent sales,” or “Not only do I meet all the requirements but I’m bringing SEO knowledge and copywriting experience to the table.”
  • Do you have any other offers? Are we your top choice? Don’t lie. It never ends well. When it comes to job searching, transparency is preferred. However, if you are uncomfortable sharing something, just let them know in a professional manner.
  • What did you earn in your last position? While your interviewer probably just wants to know whether they can afford to hire you, this question unfortunately has some dark repercussions. Basing pay on previous salaries has helped perpetuate gender and racial pay gaps. It might be in your best interest to NOT reveal your salary history. This question can be so complicated, that we’ve dedicated a whole section to it below.

4. Prepare for the dreaded salary history question. Unfortunately, this common interview question (it even shows up on some applications!) has been linked to gender and racial pay gaps. There’s no reason why your interviewer needs to know your salary history.

Here are some answers you could use when an interviewer asks, “What did you earn in your last position?”:

  • I’m looking for position in the $50K range. Is this something you are willing to offer?
  • Based on my experience, I think $65K is a fair range.
  • My accountant is adamant about keeping that information private, but I am looking for a position that pays around $45K.

Note: Some states prohibit interviewers from asking about previous salary or taking it into account when making an offer. States with laws regarding salary history include California, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Puerto Rico, and Vermont. Before walking into any salary negotiations, research what laws exist in your state.

5. Ask about everything. Negotiations are about back-and-forth. You too can ask questions to explore all aspects of the compensation.

Write down your questions and bring them to your interview. You never know when someone will bring up salary, so it’s better to be prepared.

Here are some questions you should consider:

  • Can I negotiate this offer?
  • Besides the base pay, what other benefits are negotiable?
  • What does career and salary growth look like in this position?
  • Can I get the salary offer in writing?

It’s imperative that you get your offer in writing—especially if you had to do some negotiating to get there.

Remember that when it comes to getting a good deal, the trick is to prepare. For more tips and tricks check out the next part of our salary negotiation guide: This is How You Rock a Salary Negotiation!