Employer and candidate negotiating salary and job offer

You’re in an interview and get blindsided by the salary question. Even though you had a good idea of what you planned on asking for, you get nervous; you worry the hiring manager will think you’re expecting too much. So you lowball, spitting out a number at the bottom of your range. Later, you’re frustrated with yourself because you know you didn’t demand what you’re worth.

The question is… what now?

Ideally, you won’t have to respond to lowballing your own salary—because you’ll have avoided doing so in the first place. But if you’re already beyond that and have lowballed yourself, there’s still a chance you can continue negotiating and get closer to the compensation you’re really looking for.

Here we’ll discuss:

  • How to effectively negotiate compensation
  • How to handle the situation if you have lowballed your salary
  • Areas to negotiate besides salary

How to Negotiate (and Avoid Lowballing Your Salary)

Depending on the employer/recruiter, a discussion about salary can happen at any point in the hiring process: as early as the pre-screen call or after the final interview. So, make sure you’re prepared for this conversation to come up anytime.

Here are four salary negotiation tips to make sure you get the salary you deserve:

1. Do Your Research

Do your research ahead of time to learn about the typical salary ranges for employees in your field doing this job. This will vary depending on geographical location, industry, company size, years of experience and other factors, so be specific when conducting research. You can use tools like Indeed, Glassdoor or Google, and if you are working with a recruiter, they can be an excellent source of up-to-date information on salary ranges if they are actively recruiting in your field and location.

2. Know Your Bottom-Line Number

Once you have some idea of the typical salary for the position, create a range for yourself. Think about the highest amount that you’d ideally like to make (within reason for the role and your experience) and the bottom-line or “walk-away” number that you’d be willing to accept. Also, start thinking about factors aside from salary that are important to you—we’ll talk about this more later.

3. Negotiate During or Before the Offer Stage

Trying to negotiate after you’ve already lowballed yourself is never ideal. If you need to negotiate, the time to do so is during (or before) the offer stage. Come in confident and armed with your salary range. Once you’ve heard the offer, make a counteroffer if necessary and see how the hiring manager responds.

Since you previously decided what your bottom-line number is, you should be prepared to walk away at this point if they are unable to meet it. Communicate to the employer that, unfortunately you are unable to accept below that number.

If you are working with a recruiter, they will explain their role in the negotiation process. In some cases, the recruiter will mediate the entire negotiation between you and the employer, and in others, they will act as more of an advisor and you will negotiate directly with the employer. Ensure you are clear on these expectations and ask for clarity if needed. It’s important to respect the relationship your recruiter has with you and with the employer (their client).

4. Don’t Make a Verbal Commitment Until the Offer is Right

Avoid making a verbal commitment to a salary that you are not prepared to accept. Verbal offer acceptance is a common step in the process before drafting the formal offer letter, so if you agree to something verbally, be sure it’s the salary you’re ready to commit to on paper as well.

What To Do If You’ve Lowballed Your Salary

We’ve learned what to do to set yourself up well for salary negotiations and avoid lowball salary offers in the first place. But what happens if you’ve already done it, or you get tripped up in the negotiation process and walk out having lowballed yourself despite your best efforts?

Don’t worry – it’s possible that you could still save yourself and land a salary that’s closer to what you’re looking for.

1. Address the Situation Promptly

Don’t wait until your next interview or scheduled conversation with the hiring manager. Email or call back as soon as you realize that you’ve lowballed yourself. They are likely taking the salary that you agreed to for budget approval, so the sooner you communicate, the better.

2. Be Transparent and Own What Happened

Clear communication is appreciated. Let the employer know that in your excitement about the position, you may have spoken hastily about your salary expectations.

3. State Your True Salary Expectations

Tell the hiring manager what the salary range is that you are actually looking for.

If this discussion is in-person or on the phone, stop talking at this point and give them a chance to respond, rather than trying to fill the silence with nervous backtracking or explanations.

Essentially, there are three possible outcomes: 1) they’ll agree to your number; 2) they’ll say they will see what they can do, speak to their team, and may come back with a salary that’s at least closer to the range you’re looking for; or 3) they’ll tell you that they cannot meet the salary you’re asking for, at which point it’s up to you whether to take the offer or walk away.

If you are working with a recruitment agency, make sure you are involving the recruiter in this discussion.

Other Things to Negotiate Besides Salary

Negotiating a job offer is a business decision. The company is willing to pay a certain figure for your services, and you’re willing to take a certain amount in exchange for your work. But there are other considerations to keep in mind during a job offer negotiation besides the money:

1. Time Off

Work-life balance is important. Having vacation time is essential for allowing yourself to rest and recharge. If the salary offered to you is slightly under your ideal figure, see if you can secure more vacation time, personal/flex days or sick days.

2. Career Development

If you can’t secure the salary you’d like right away, you could at least work with the employer to finalize a growth plan for the future. Ask about the training the company provides or a promise of a performance-based promotion in the future. It’s a good way to learn and grow in your career and ensure you’ll be paid more down the road, even if you’re not given the salary you want right off the bat.

3. Flexible Work Arrangements

Flexible work is more popular than ever. From hybrid work schedules to fully remote work and flexible start and end times, ask the hiring manager what kind of arrangements might be possible. For some candidates, flexibility is as important as compensation, so you may decide you’re willing to take a slightly lower salary for a role that offers more flexibility.

4. Benefits and Perks

Benefits and perks can factor into your job offer package in a big way, so make sure you are clear on what those include. In most cases, group benefit packages cannot be negotiated at the individual level; however, you may be able to negotiate when your benefits will take effect (i.e. waive the waiting period if there is one). There may also be some room for negotiation if other perks are part of the package, such as wellness allowances, gym memberships, transportation reimbursement or a company-provided cell phone.

5. Salary Review

Many companies will be open to a salary review at a set time in the future. At that point, you and your manager can sit down and re-assess your compensation. Asking the employer to include the salary review date in the job offer can solidify this plan and bring you peace of mind.

6. Signing Bonus

Some companies are willing to offer a signing bonus, which can be a good way for you to negotiate around a lower offer. Remember that a signing bonus is only a one-time payment, so it will not be included in your earnings in subsequent years.

Overall, approach salary negotiations as a collaborative process. Instead of focusing on what you can “get” from this employer, have a transparent conversation and think about reaching a win-win. Check out our Bridging the Gap guide for tips on having positive interactions with employers during the hiring process.

Want More Tips for Your Job Hunt?

If you’re looking for more great tips on negotiating your salary and landing your dream job, you’ve come to the right place. The Headhunters is the Canadian recruiting firm committed to your success – it’s what makes us the preferred employment agency in Canada. Explore our Career Resources page and subscribe to our Job Seeker E-news for resources sent right to your inbox.

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