How to negotiate salary and benefits

When it comes to accepting a new position or promotion, the old adage “it never hurts to ask” absolutely applies to negotiating your compensation package.

While this may seem intuitive for some, not everyone takes the opportunity to counter the first offer a potential or current employer makes when it comes to pay and benefits.

So how do you negotiate a better salary and benefits package? Here’s what you need to know when you sit down to the negotiating table.

Be prepared

Every field and position has a value and it’s important to know what the going rate for your experience and skills are. There are plenty of online tools to help you determine what the average pay for your career and position is. You can talk to others working in the field or recruiters who specialize in hiring.

Researching the pay scale and benefits during the application process is important so you aren’t caught off guard when you’re offered a job. If you have a figure in mind, negotiations will be in your favor from the start, but you’ll want to avoid being the first to put a number down on the table.

You’ll also need to be prepared for tough questions — probably tougher ones than you faced in the interview process — when it comes to negotiating salary and benefits. The hiring manager may ask if you are currently receiving other employment offers or how quickly you are willing to start with their company. In an effort to please them you may end up losing leverage in the negotiations. Remember to be truthful and direct in your answers.

Part of the preparation will be to determine your priorities. Is it more important to have additional vacation time each year or additional retirement and/or medical benefits? Are you more interested in work-from-home options or would you like your commute expenses covered by the company? You’ll want to address all these issues at once instead of one after another. This will save time for both you and the hiring manager.

Be specific

Ever wonder why prices and labels are always for 99 cents instead of a dollar? Because specificity matters. 

The same applies at the negotiating table. When you make a counter offer, be specific. You’ll be able to do this because you’ve done the research in step one. 

For example, if you know the position you are applying for pays a range of $54,500 to $62,750 per year, you could ask for $59,500. You’ll prove you’ve done your research and it’ll be more likely to get the actual salary package you would like because you asked for the higher end of the pay range. If you round up or down, it’ll seem like you are just throwing out numbers instead of knowing your real value.

When asking for additional benefits or pay, it’s also important to justify those requests. For example, why are you worth the higher end of the payscale or why would it benefit the company for you to work from home one day a week or have an additional week of vacation every year? Just like in the interview process, be prepared to have a conversation about your worth and what you can bring to the company to offset a higher salary or additional benefits.

It’s more than just money

Most think that negotiating your salary is the only item to worry about when accepting a position. But many times, the pay isn’t what brings satisfaction to an employee. Don’t forget that you can negotiate on other aspects as well and don’t be afraid to ask questions about items like hour flexibility, work location options, travel, continued education and promotion opportunity. You want a whole picture of a position and the company you’ll be working for.

Practice makes perfect

You’ll want to practice your negotiating skills just like you did your interviewing skills. Sit down with a friend or family member and talk through your points. This will build confidence and provide an opportunity to identify areas of improvement for the real deal.

Always be thankful

You’ll want to start any and all negotiations by being grateful for the opportunity – whether it’s an initial job offer or a promotion. Even if you decline an offer, being professional and gracious during the process will go a long way because you will want to preserve the relationship in case something changes in the future. 


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