Many of us are wired to receive job offers and accept them as is. But if you agree to the salary you're presented with and don't push back, you could end up selling yourself short.
Fortunately, most workers aren't falling victim to that trap. In fact, 55% of employees negotiated salary the last time they received job offers before accepting them, according to staffing firm Robert Half. That's an impressive 16-point jump from a similar survey conducted a year prior.
Why the change? Today's healthy job market could be playing a role. With so many work opportunities available, professionals might not be as shy about speaking up and demanding to be paid a salary they deserve. But employers' attitudes might be shifting as well. About 70% of managers don't expect job candidates to accept an initial salary offer but rather anticipate a bit of back and forth.
If you're sitting on a job offer or expect to get one in the near future, you should know that you have every right to negotiate before settling. Here's how to go about it.
1. Know what you're worth
You can't reasonably fight for a higher salary or evaluate the one you're initially presented with if you have no idea what you're actually worth. Rather than negotiate blindly, do some research to determine what the going rate is for your job title based on where you're located (keeping in mind that if you're in a major metro area, you'll generally be able to demand a higher salary than someone in a smaller city). Once you have that number, don't hesitate to tack on a premium if you possess unique skills that make you extra valuable in the context of your role. For example, if you're a seasoned IT professional who's not only a networking wiz but also has management experience, that's a winning combination you deserve to be paid for.
2. Ask for more, but don't go overboard
Just as most hiring managers expect candidates to negotiate when presented with a given salary, so too should you expect them to negotiate downward when you come back with a higher number. That's why you'll need to pad your ask just a bit -- to give your potential employer some wiggle room, too. That said, don't go crazy when padding your salary, because in doing so, you might come off as unreasonable -- and that, in turn, might cause that offer to get rescinded. Therefore, if you're offered a $75,000 salary but you really want $85,000, ask for $90,000 -- but don't ask for $100,000 if that's totally unrealistic.
3. Consider the big picture
There's certainly nothing wrong with asking a potential employer for a higher number than what you're being presented with. That said, don't forget to take your workplace benefits into account when determining that number. If the company in question is offering up a stellar health plan whose premiums it will fully subsidize, a terrific 401(k) match, and unlimited vacation, that might be worth a slightly lower salary than you'd get elsewhere. Figure out what the benefits in question are worth to you, and keep that in mind as you negotiate.
In today's hiring environment, there's no need to accept a job offer without negotiating for a better deal. Just go in armed with research, be reasonable, and factor your benefits into the equation. With any luck, you'll come away satisfied with the number you ultimately land on.