Negotiating a Starting Salary


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There are so many parts of the job search and application process that are stressful but one of the parts people agonize over the most is salary negotiation. Two general tips are:

  • Try not to bring up compensation before you have a job offer, this will give you more leverage to negotiate. 
  • Once there is a job offer try to not be the first one to say the dollar amount. 

However, sometimes it does not go that smoothly and you may find yourself being asked “what are your salary expectations?” as early as your first phone call with human resources. If this question is asked early in the interview process you can say something like “I would like to learn more about the job responsibilities and duties before assessing salary expectations.” And we have all heard tips that recommend saying things like “I’m sure my salary expectations are in line with my experience and qualifications” or “I’m sure that if I am the right fit for this position we will be able to come to an agreement on salary.” But there may be an effort for the employer to push further. 

The thing is we all know that this is not the answer they want and most times they won’t accept that as an answer and will press you further until they get an actual number. 

So, what do you do?

Prior to your initial interview with the employer you need to do some research. I have heard this question asked as soon as the first phone call with the company so do your salary research as soon as possible.  

What to research: 

  • Salary range for similar positions 
  • Salary range within the company 
  • Salary range for a similar position with competitors 
  • Pay range for the location where the job is located 
  • Your experience and education 

When answering this question, you can also emphasize your qualifications and the value you are bringing to the company. You can say “based on my years of experience in this field my expectation for salary would range from X$ to Z$.” Or you can say “based on my specific training in this field my expectation for salary would range from X$ to Z$.” 

Always make sure you are saying a number you will be happy with receiving. It is much harder to negotiate a higher number once you have said something lower than you would be happy with. You may feel like saying a number too high could cost you the position but that’s why it is important to do your research ahead of time. You also do not want to work in a position where you are feeling under compensated. This can severely impact how you feel about the company as well as your work effort. If you really like the company and they are not able to offer you the salary amount you are looking for try inquiring about compensation in other means. They might be able to give you increased vacation, a possible bonus, working from home privileges, tuition reimbursement, free parking, subsidized transit passes, gym memberships or other opportunities. Please remember that this offer is the baseline for your future earnings so it is important to take your time and carefully think about your initial starting offer prior to accepting. 

Tips specifically for womxn: 

There are biases placed on womxn when they are negotiating their pay. So, in order to combat these and get the amount you feel best suits your experience and qualifications here are some tips. 

  • Have an amount you want to earn in mind prior to starting your job search. Think about your qualifications, experience, and unique skills and do some research. Having an idea prior will help you hone and focus your search and be less likely to settle for a wage you won’t be satisfied with. 
  • You are allowed to ask for more. Unless you are positive that the salary is fixed, get into the habit of asking if there is salary flexibility or is there any leeway in the compensation package. It may be uncomfortable but most employers expect it. It’s better to ask and have them say no than miss out on the amount that they would have actually paid you or continuously question what you could be making. 
  • Be prepared to explain why you deserve a higher salary. Make sure you have researched the salary of similar positions and know your value, especially that which specifically applies to this company. 
  • Be okay with walking away from the job. I know in some circumstances not everyone is able to do this. If that is the case, accept it for now but continue to look for something that meets your salary requirements. If you are in a position where you are able to walk away, do so. 
Alysha Chin

Alysha Chin

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