“How Do You Prep for Starting Salary Negotiation?”
An employer will not be surprised if you want to negotiate. Show them that you are prepared.
1. Research the Market – Consult ACPE’s latest salary survey, and keep the following in mind. First, look at the date of the survey. For every year past that date to the present, add 2.5-3.0% to the wage numbers shown, to better reflect current wages. Second, the survey reflects salaries for people that are serving in the positions, not salaries currently being offered to attract candidates; this difference may result in artificially suppressing current compensation conditions. One way to confirm the numbers is to talk with colleagues who have recently (within the last several months) changed positions or been actively recruiting to fill an opening. Cost of living in a particular area may have a slight influence on the salary offered.
2. Know Your Worth – Be prepared to explain why you believe you deserve a higher starting salary. Be able to directly tie your credentials, skills, and accomplishments to the position being offered. In advance, make note of specific examples that may increase your value to the employer (see “CART Stories” here).
3. Consider Total Compensation – Think through the total package that is being offered and consider having a “Plan B.” Consider what is important to you and what (other than salary) could make the offer more attractive. Some examples: relocation assistance, retirement matching contribution, and paid professional membership dues.
4. Practice Your Pitch – Ask an associate or mentor to practice the conversation you are likely to have with HR or the hiring manager. Have this person coach you on confidently presenting your request. Also practice answers to likely follow-up questions, such as:
- Our survey data shows that our offer is quite competitive, and yet we are a few thousand dollars apart. Help me understand how you arrived at your number.
- We are unable to meet your request—is that your bottom line? If not, what is the lowest number you’d accept?
- For a starting salary, that’s the very best we can offer. Is there anything else we can do that would make you say, “Yes!”? If you have not already done so, you may ask the employer to share what the pay range is for the position, to help make sense of some of your own research.
5. Remember the Other Person – Thank the employer for their time and for considering you. By the time you receive an offer, the hiring manager has probably invested significant time and resources, as you have. Most managers dislike salary discussions, too. They are not “the enemy.” Share why the position attracts and excites you, such as curriculum development or having an opportunity to supervise residents. Maintain a positive and gracious tone throughout the compensation discussion. If you end up declining the offer, it’s important to do so in a professional and personable manner. This is a tightknit community, and you never know where your paths may cross in the future.
6. Know When to Walk Away – After a couple of back and forth volleys, if the organization is unable to meet your salary requirement or request for additional benefits, graciously decline the offer and look for opportunities that better match your compensation expectations. In some cases, the employer will counter-offer with a salary that’s higher than the first offer, but not as high as your request. If the new position shortens your commute, offers a more compatible culture or a more flexible schedule, or some similar benefit, you might find the lower salary offer acceptable. If the offer is still unacceptable, you should pursue other opportunities.
7. Ask to Receive the Final Offer in Writing – Get the offer in writing before giving your final “yes,” for several reasons. First, you gain the opportunity to step back and ponder what you are accepting, before negotiations are closed. Second, you want to have no doubt that the job offer as presented is solid and that there are no misunderstandings regarding the particulars (i.e., starting salary, other compensation and benefits, your start date). You may want to discuss something further, or have questions answered before fully committing. In some cases, you and the employer’s representative will sign the letter.
Things NOT to do when Discussing Compensation
1. Don’t Focus on Personal Reasons –Understand that money is money. There’s nothing emotional about it. Set emotion aside and focus on the market data, your accomplishments, and your contributions.
2. Don’t Initiate the Salary Discussion – Avoid introducing the subject of salary or compensation until after the hiring authority mentions it. Negotiation will be more favorable for you if you wait.
3. Don’t Offer a Specific Number – If pushed, avoid providing a specific salary (e.g. $79,500) and instead offer a range (e.g. 85 – 90K). If you do offer a range, the employer will typically lean toward the lower end, so be sure the lowest number you provide is still an amount that you find acceptable.
4. Don’t Ask for Too Much or Too Little – Don’t ask for a high starting salary if your research shows the position is worth less. By coming in too high, you may price yourself out of any offer. On the flip side, coming in too low may also price you out of receiving an offer, as the employer will assume you are not quite who they thought (and hoped!) you were.
5. Don’t Apologize or Be Negative – Most people “feel bad” about asking for anything. When you apologize for asking, or ask by opening with a statement of regret, you weaken your position and your chances of getting what you want. If the amount being offered seems below market, reply with gratitude and ask if there is room for negotiation. Salary (total compensation) is obviously important. To have any opportunity to improve the employer’s initial offer, you may very well have to ask. Applying the ideas presented in this article will prepare you to discuss salary confidently and graciously—and improve your odds of getting the total compensation you deserve.