You dazzled in interviews and crushed the take-home test. Now comes the tricky part: Negotiating your salary.
Negotiation is your chance to advocate for yourself and ask for what you’re worth, explains Ariel Lopez, a former tech recruiter and career coach in Atlanta. A lot of people dread negotiation, because it can feel uncomfortable or intimidating — but done the right way, it can be a game-changer, she says.
Knowing what to expect is half the battle when it comes to negotiation conversations. You should be prepared with a salary range in mind, because recruiters typically ask what you’re hoping to make, says Harmeet Parmar, Senior Technical Recruiter at Codecademy. The rest is really just a conversation: “Negotiation is very centered around your style and what your personality is like,” Harmeet says.
Here are some lines that you can use to confidently communicate your salary requirements, leverage better job benefits, and ultimately get the job offer you deserve.
“Everything that I'm interviewing for falls between $X and $X.”
Why it works: This framing is key when you’re communicating salary requirements, because it takes the onus off of you, Ariel says. “Instead, the market is what is deciding what you should be paid,” she says.
It also lets recruiters know that you're interviewing elsewhere, which is a good thing, because companies like candidates and job seekers who are in demand, Ariel says. A statement like this adds a level of urgency and intrigue, and is a reminder that you have other options and potential offers on the table, she says.
“I don’t know enough about the role and responsibilities to be able to provide a salary range at this time. Do you have a range in mind in terms of total compensation and what that would look like?”
Why it works: When a recruiter asks what you’d like to make, one way to defer is to flip the question back onto them. “There's value in turning that around to them and asking what the job offers itself,” Harmeet says.
That said, it’s important to be very clear about what your expectations are; you can’t be so tight-lipped that you never tell the recruiter what you need to be making. “A lot of people want to get into this song and dance and don't want to reveal too much,” Harmeet says. “And they have a certain threshold that they need to meet that the recruiter never ends up finding out, because they wanted to be coy about that.”
Another strategy: Talk less than you think you need to, Ariel says. Many people tend to talk to fill awkward silences. But the more you say, the more the recruiter can infer what you’re making, where your values lie, and how firm you are in this type of conversation. That doesn’t mean you have to lie, but the point is to “have enough conviction and belief in yourself to be asking for things,” she says.
“Based on the market, I’m seeing $X for this position. Is $X your true cap?”
Why it works: Just like you have an ideal salary in mind going into a negotiation, a recruiter knows what the budget is for the role. Unfortunately, recruiters often present a range that's lower than the actual one, Harmeet says.
Given that, it’s wise to inflate your range, so that your baseline is higher than the number that you’re willing to settle for, Harmeet says. (Ariel suggests aiming for a salary that’s about 20% more than what you currently make.) For example, if you need to make at least $180k, providing a salary range between $200k and $220k ensures you’re above that baseline salary.
“Odds are, if you're too high the recruiter will try to level-set with you,” Harmeet says. “Especially if they think that you're viable talent: They want you to join, so they're going to try and do what they can to make it work.”
“Thank you for your transparency around salary ranges. I’m grateful that you advocated for me.”
Why it works: Your relationship with a recruiter shouldn’t feel adversarial. It’s important to express your gratitude and maintain a civil relationship. “You want recruiters to be on your side, because ultimately they're going to be advocating for you when it comes to the offer,” Harmeet says.
Put another way, if you’re disappointed by the offer, don’t shoot the messenger. Keep in mind that recruiters are also motivated to complete the negotiation process so they can move on. “If anyone's on your side to try to get this thing wrapped up with a pretty bow, it's the recruiter,” Ariel says.
“My current company offers a 401K match, and without that benefit I’m missing out on $X. How can we work on bridging that delta?”
Why it works: Mention what you’re potentially leaving behind, including monetary benefits and other perks and benefits, Harmeet says. “Be able to probe them on the entire compensation plan,” Harmeet says. For example, does the company offer stock options, which allow you to buy shares of the company’s stock at a discounted price? Or are you eligible to receive a bonus in the position?
Don’t forget that you can negotiate things outside of just the money, like your allotted paid time off, discounts for gym memberships, job titles, and work-from-home stipends. “Use anything and everything in that realm to see if you can gain a little bit more,” Harmeet says.
“This is well below what I’m looking for in my next role. Let me know if there’s anything I can provide to build a business case for this.”
Why it works: It’s a bummer to get excited about a job only to be offered a salary that’s below your bottom line. “There's a few things to ask yourself: How bad do you want to work at this company? Is it more about the money or is it more about something else?” Ariel says. For instance, is this an up-and-coming startup that could pay off in a few years? Or is it a huge name that would elevate your profile?
If you decide the opportunity is still worth pursuing, you can offer to put together a “business case” that documents in hard facts why you should be earning more money. For example, can you point to stats from your previous job that illustrate the tangible impact and benefit you had on the team? Or, is there market data that you can pull from sites like Glassdoor and Levels about how much other people make in similar positions? (You can think of this like having receipts.)
Sometimes, you have to make a decision because of the money — and that’s okay. If money is a big factor in your job search, don’t shy away from saying that to the recruiter, Harmeet says.
“I've had several conversations with people where they've told me: ‘Money is not a factor,’” he says. “And then, when we actually talk about it, it’s a big factor and they get upset. So don't do that.”
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