Negotiating your job offer

Part 1. Uncomfortable feelings around 'money talks' should not prevent you from getting a fair salary.

Whether you are in the final round of interviews or just started applying for a new role, you better prepare to negotiate your job offer. Otherwise, you might end up with a salary that isn’t fair or doesn’t make you happy.

When you think of a new job, you probably feel excited about the new role, the company you are about to join, and all the benefits and opportunities you will have there. You see short and long-term benefits and don’t want to take any risk of losing them, right? Sometimes, fear is what prevents people from negotiating a job offer. Well, don’t forget that your future employer sees the benefits of having you as well. The skills, motivation, knowledge, and attitudes you bring along are valuable assets. It’s a win-win game where the employer knows the market value of your role and how to push it down.

What about you? If you started seeking a new job without knowing your market value nor how to negotiate job offers, you are at a disadvantage here.

How can I find out what a fair salary is?

Even before your first job interview, you must do your homework. Have in mind that the location, industry, company size, seniority, title, and even the technology of the job influence the salary. You can use platforms such as GlassdoorPayscaleand LinkedIn Salary to research the salary range of your target job.

Nevertheless, what “fair” is goes beyond the market salary and has also to do with your personal needs. A fair salary has different meanings depending on if we are talking about a single, 20-year old person, or someone with a family of four. Thus, include in your research your living costs especially if you are negotiating an offer in a different location. In this case, you can ask friends who already live there or research online on platforms such as numbeo.

Last but not least, it’s important to understand your net salary. Similar to your living costs, what goes to your pocket every month is quite different depending on if you are in California, Dubai, or Berlin. To calculate your net salary in Germany, check this out.

Is salary all I can negotiate?

The great news is that the list of perks offered by companies is long and may include paid vacation, unpaid leaves, performance and relocation bonuses, a flexible starting date, home-office days, learning incentives, health insurance, language classes, pension insurance, stock options among others that vary from one company to another. When there is not much room for negotiating salary, you can negotiate other benefits that matter to you.

Think ahead. A job offer is more than a simple sum of salary and perks, it’s a combination of multiple factors that will be part of your life from the start of your work contract. In other words, when you say “yes” to a job you agree on the full package: the team, clients, business, work culture, lifestyle in the office location, growth and learning opportunities, etc.

Even before you start looking for a job, you should think of what is important for you in your future role. Make a list, and organize the items from the highest to the lowest priority. Then answer the following question: what is negotiable for you and what is not? Being aware of what you want and how flexible you can be will help you to apply to companies aligned with your goals, negotiate the best possible offer for you and recognize when you should decline an offer.

A recruiter asked about my salary expectation. What should I say?

Tricky question if you are not ready. If you say something significantly lower than the market salary for similar positions, you might be seen as a candidate who isn’t qualified enough to do the job and then get excluded from the hiring process. Diamonds are more expensive than glass, right? If they still decide to move forward with you, they will certainly take advantage of the fact that you don’t know your market value and make you an offer that is lower than you deserve. On the other hand, not every company is willing to afford an expensive diamond. This means that if you shoot too high it’s possible that your expectation is out of their budget or higher than other candidates’ expectations, then again you may fall out of the hiring process.

To be assertive when communicating your salary expectations do your homework. Have a clear picture of the salary range for the job in the local market, calculate the net salary, and take into consideration your living expenses. This will help you to define your salary expectation. Tip #1: avoid the bottom and the top of the local salary range.

Now that you have a number in mind (or at least a narrow range), showing that you are flexible and demonstrating that your interest goes beyond the salary can be highly appreciated by your future employer. Tip #2: add 2k or 3k to your expected salary. Why? Because very often companies try to negotiate down and by doing that you create enough flexibility for such negotiation. In this sense, when you are asked about your salary expectation, assuming that an annual gross salary of € 60k would make you happy, you may say something like “I’m looking for € 63k, but it’s negotiable as I’m also interested in the learning and growth opportunities I can have in your company”.

What if they offer less than I expect?

You can thank the person who sent you the offer, confirm your motivation to join the team, and ask how much time you have to think about that. Even if you decline the offer, showing gratitude is a great way to keep the doors open for you in the future, and motivation is something that really counts to keep the company interested in hiring you.

Take a time to think about the offer. What is the minimum you are willing to accept? Which other benefits would be interesting to you? Would you be willing to accept less now and get what you asked for after the probation period? Think of some possibilities, and write them down if it helps. This process will help you to decide whether to accept or decline the offer.

In the next contact with the company, you can start negotiating your offer. Most of us don’t feel comfortable at all when talking about money. Here is something that might help you deal with your feelings. Have in mind that you are not the only one to benefit from the deal. The company will benefit from having you on its team too. You can even start the conversation by saying what you bring to the table: skills, knowledge, and experiences you have that fill perfectly the role. Besides, instead of demanding a raise, you should adopt a more diplomatic attitude and ask questions creating an opportunity for dialogue instead of confrontation. You may say “what can we do to increase this offer?”. When it isn’t possible to negotiate the salary, then jump to plan B and try to negotiate other benefits that are equally important to you.

That’s it. We hope you enjoyed the read. Now it’s time for action. As always, we are rooting for you. Keep us posted.

— Your friends at Imagine

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