(In the recently published Career Guide, brought to you by Barden and Chartered Accountants Ireland, Gina London shares her tips for negotiating a comprehensive and competitive benefits package below).
You did it. After how many rounds of interviews and follow-up meetings, you have finally been offered the job. Congratulations! Now all your research, role-play sessions and diligent preparation work is over, it’s time to settle into the role.
Wait a minute. What about your salary and benefits package? Have you negotiated that? No? Then there is still much work to be done. If you’re one of those people who thinks you should just take whatever is offered, I have good news for you. In today’s hybrid, employee-centric marketplace, employers expect candidates to discuss their salaries and benefits.
1. Introduce negotiations when you’re offered the job
If you feel uncomfortable reading this first tip, you’re not alone. While the research I refer to above states that 70% of employers expect to engage in negotiations with their would-be employees, the same research revealed that just over half (55%) of candidates brave the waters to negotiate their packages.
But as someone who coaches and trains business professionals all over the world, let me give you some inspiration as to why you should join the few who decide to take that plunge. When you negotiate your salary, you are demonstrating to your manager that you are confident and comfortable discussing your value and worth. This kind of communication is likely what helped you land the job in the first place, so keep building on this foundation of strength. Your courage to initiate what many consider a difficult conversation is what will set you apart, establish you as a leader and position you for promotion.
Consider, too, the other side of the coin. What happens if you simply accept, without any discussion, whatever salary or benefits package is set before you? You may be considered a follower rather than a leader. Even worse, depending on what you receive, you may be accepting a salary far below the market or your needs. Imagine, for instance, that you accept a wage 10% beneath your desired salary. If you’re later provided an average cost of living increase of 4% annually, it will take you more than two years to attain your original desired starting point.
For those reasons and more, the positives of negotiating outweigh the negatives. So, let’s explore how to be as successful as possible during this process, even if you don’t move the monetary dial as high as you envision.
2. Understand your value
The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly impacted the workforce. The International Labor Organisation (ILO) shows that unemployment remains at record-setting levels. This means you are valuable as an employer investment. You have more leverage than you may realise. Don’t forget to factor in your years of experience, level of education, leadership, and other related skills as part of that leverage.
While the pandemic is still affecting the world’s economy, it doesn’t mean you need to steer clear of discussing your value in the ecosystem of your new company.
The events that shaped our lives during the pandemic, and now beyond, have promoted both employers and employees to examine their career opportunities, culture, values, and lives. What is important to you? You likely want to be in a company that makes a difference. Employers, too, are looking for people who can positively influence their teams. That is a value in itself. Seek to define that.
3. Do your research
While you’re putting a value on your own worth, conduct some research on the value of your potential new employer. Can you determine how badly they were affected during lockdown? Many companies lost revenue. If so, how are they doing today? Other companies continued to chart financial growth during the pandemic. They hired new team members, granted promotions, paid increases, and even provided year-end bonuses.
Try to inform your research with as many sources as possible. Also, consider asking some of these questions as part of your interview. This will set you up nicely for your package negotiation.
4. Prepare and practice your negotiation conversation
I work with my clients to understand that even their most seemingly informal, off-hand conversations become a part of their brand. Therefore, please understand that if you ultimately accept your new offer, your negotiation conversation will become a part of your employer’s perception of you. Your conversations are not neutral. They are positive or negative. Knowing this, seek to make this conversation a positive one.
Start off with gratitude. Once you’ve been offered the job, thank your manager, HR professional and whoever else was part of the process. If you are asked what your anticipated salary would be, don’t limit yourself to a single number. State a range with a spread of about €10,000. Make sure your bottom range number is something you can realistically live with. Don’t low-ball yourself here.
5. Summarise your qualifications
Remember how I suggested you understand your value? Well, here is where you need to not only understand this, but also be able to articulate it. Write out your points of distinction and rehearse these lines out loud. The more you can be clear and confident here, the stronger your case will be.
6. Make suggestions beyond money
As companies move into the unchartered waters of hybrid working and other new workforce of the future models, here is your opportunity to suggest a range of benefits and ideas beyond the salary range you have already proposed.
Consider discussing a possible signing bonus to compensate for accepting a lower salary than what you suggested. Can you nail down a work from home schedule? Annual leave days? Are there any other perks that your employer can come up with? Ask them for their own creative ideas.
This is not a competition you have to win in one go. Rather, I encourage you to approach this conversation as a means of establishing yourself as an engaged and active employee who is a confident and courageous leader – not only for your teams, but also for yourself. If you keep your composure, you will plant positive conversation and leadership seeds that will grow over time – regardless of whether you land the salary and benefits package of your wildest dreams.
Gina London is CEO of Language of Leadership, LLC. She guides global companies and executives to better connect and engage with their employees, their boards and themselves. Her Fortune 500 clients include Salesforce, Oracle, Google and more. Gina is an Emmy award-winning former CNN anchor and correspondent.
You can read this article and others in Career Guide 2021/2022.