The Art of Salary Negotiation

Knowing the market rate for your industry and area is essential to earn the compensation you deserve. Without a number in mind and a negotiation strategy, you put yourself at the mercy of recruiters.

Reading Time 6 mins

This article on salary negotiation is part of the Coaching Collective series, featuring tips and expertise from Flatiron School Career Coaches. Every Flatiron School graduate is eligible to receive up to 180 days of 1:1 career coaching with one of our professional coaches. This series is a glimpse of the expertise you can access during career coaching at Flatiron School.

We all know that we should be negotiating compensation whenever possible, especially when receiving an offer letter for a new job. 

But, according to Salary.com and Indeed.com, only 37% of people consistently negotiate their salary. A startling 18% never do, according to a Salary.com survey. Even worse, according to 44% of respondents, they don’t bring up a raise during performance reviews.

The main deterrent to asking for more? Fear.

And yes, salary negotiation is nerve-wracking. The alternative, though, of not being compensated fairly, is far worse.

Typically, parts of a total compensation package such as salary, sign-on bonus, start date, and even location can traditionally be negotiated. Other components such as vacation, holidays, retirement, health insurance, relocation, and graduate tuition reimbursement are more difficult to negotiate. This may vary, however, depending on the industry and company size.

What you negotiate hardest for will depend on which components of a compensation package are most important to you. When preparing to negotiate when being offered a new position, list the following components in priority of importance to you:

Benefits Location Salary
Flexibility Stress level Teamwork
Job Responsibilities Prestige Hybrid Schedule

This will enable you to assess the offer in light of the qualities you look for in a job and prepare you to fight for what you want. 

So, if you’d like to negotiate, how do you know what to aim for that is both fair and realistic?

Know Your Worth

Knowing the market rate for your position in your particular sector and region is essential if you want to receive the compensation you deserve. Without a number in mind, you put yourself at the recruiting manager’s mercy.

Estimate the current market rate for your skillset and experience level by asking people in your field (ideally both men and women, to avoid falling into the gender pay gap) and conducting research on websites like Payscale, Salary, and Glassdoor. 

Identify salary averages for your field, industry, job title, experience level, and geographic location.

Consult Recruiters

Another way to accurately judge your current market rate? Answer those recruiters’ calls and messages on LinkedIn.

Take advantage of the fact that they are aware of the value of someone with your experience and knowledge! Talk with them about the duties and remuneration of the position the next time they get in touch.

Even if you can’t get an exact number, a range can be just as useful.

Create a Brag Sheet

A brag sheet is a one-page summary that outlines your work history.

List any successes, honors, and compliments from clients or coworkers that you’ve received (emails like “You saved me when you did XYZ!” qualify as testimonials!).

You want to show your prospective employer how valuable you are. Prove that you’ve made your current company money, streamlined processes, and generally performed well in your role.

This is your strongest tool when negotiating for a better compensation package.

How To Negotiate

You’ve done the prep. You know current market rates for your skills and experience and have created a brag sheet to highlight your experiences. You’ve scheduled the meeting with the hiring manager. So, now what?

Practice Your Pitch

Before you meet with the decision-maker, be sure to practice, practice, practice.

Write out what you want to say and repeat it in front of a mirror, on camera, or with a buddy until you feel completely at ease. This will help you speak confidently and not fumble under the pressure of a nerve-wracking conversation.

Starting The Conversation

Once you are in the room (physical or virtual), begin with positive opening statements like “thank you for the offer,” and “ABC Company / this role seems like a great opportunity!”

Then broach the subject. Ask “I would like to know, is the salary negotiable?” Wait for a response; do not speak further until they do.

If the employer says NO:

Although you might fear it, a salary negotiation doesn’t begin until someone says “no.”

If we’re asking for something we know our bargaining partner also wants, it’s not a negotiation. Therefore, realize that the “no” is merely a step in the process and not an evaluation of your performance.

There may be other areas to negotiate such as sign-on bonus, start date, and location. You can ask about anything in the proposed compensation package.

If nothing is negotiable, then thank your contact person and let them know when you will give them your decision. Stay polite. Remember, you may be negotiating with the person who will be your supervisor.

If the employer says YES:

This is where you need to present your case as to why you are negotiating. You can say something like “according to Salary.com, professionals with this title typically earn an average salary of $65,000 per year. In light of that, I was wondering if you could move my proposed salary closer to this range?”

Then, stop talking. Allow your contact person to process the offer and respond, don’t interrupt.

Stay polite and try to make this a win-win situation.

Body Language

Holding yourself confidently, and physically presenting yourself well can be a big factor in negotiations. According to James Clear, author of the best-selling Atomic Habits, “the manner you enter a room can influence how the rest of a conversation will go.”

When you enter or log into your virtual room, keep your head high and smile. No matter how nervous you are, it’s crucial to get things started on a positive note.

Focus on The Future

It’s not unusual for recruiters to inquire about your current pay during the salary negotiation for a new position.

It can be tricky revealing your pay, particularly if you feel underpaid at your current job or are hoping to earn significantly more money, but honesty is your best option.

Give your current compensation (including benefits, bonuses, and the like), and then advance the conversation to explain the rate or range you expect. Focusing on explaining your talents and skills, market value, and current responsibilities, and remember to pull from your brag sheet.

Don’t Be Afraid of “No”

If the employer wishes not to participate in a salary negotiation at all, then you can either accept the package as is or decline to continue searching.

Should you choose to accept, be honest about whether or not the pay offered is reasonable in the current market and you’d be willing to work for that rate.

If you anticipate being dissatisfied and desiring to find employment as soon as possible, there is no use in accepting a position. You may want to decline the offer and continue seeking a position with compensation more in line with what you desire.

Even if the employer decides not to negotiate, if you conduct yourself in a professional, courteous, and flexible manner, your offer likely won’t be withdrawn.

Additionally, you shouldn’t feel pressured to haggle if you find a position to be satisfactory as it is initially presented. Just take it then!

About Tjwana Dixon

Tjwana Dixon is a career coach with Flatiron School. Dixon has worked in the higher education and not-for-profit education sector for over 14 years. The majority of her roles were in the Career Development Department. She enjoys assisting people transitioning into new careers.

Posted by Tjwana Dixon  /  July 13, 2022