To Negotiate or Not to Negotiate ... That is the Question.

by Elizabeth Morgan

To Negotiate or Not To

Salary negotiation: an uncomfortable, but necessary (and rewarding!) process that every professional experiences at different times throughout their career. The process requires research, an understanding of your value, a thoughtful strategy, and confidence. As a recruiting professional, I expect my candidates to negotiate, and have been an advocate of teaching new and experienced professionals how to negotiate offers and ask for a raise the right way. One common misconception about salary negotiation that is rarely talked about is that it always needs to happen. While you should usually try to negotiate, there are some cases where you shouldn't.

Shocked? Don’t be. While these cases are rare, there are situations when you need to pause and understand that accepting your first offer is the best option. The following scenarios are good benchmarks to use when you are up to bat in the negotiation game:

  • You have already accepted the offer: There are a variety of ways to recover from a faulty salary negotiation. Negotiating after you have accepted the offer is not one of them. This strategy will put you at risk of losing professional credibility and is not regarded as a good business practice. If you undermined your negotiating power at the offer stage, the best time to revisit the compensation conversation is during a conversation with your manager, when discussing performance reviews and understanding when there is potential for a merit increase.
  • The company has provided you with the best offer possible: You’ve done your homework and are educated on current compensation ranges for your role.. If the company that you are interviewing with extends an offer to you that is at the top of the compensation range, and has verbally expressed that they are providing you with their best offer, what do you do? Wait! Don’t accept right away. Instead, validate their offer by revisiting your comp research, in addition to any additional information you can find on the company and relevant public salary information for employees in a similar profession/position as you are in. Once the data has been validated, and you feel good about your findings – accept the offer (and celebrate!).
  • Re-entering the workforce: This is a tricky one and varies with individual circumstances. When you are re-entering the workforce after time off, it's difficult to even know where to start with figuring out your worth. I usually advise people in this situation to use their last salary before they left the workforce as a starting figure, and then compare that number to compensation data from sites like PayScale. Sometimes, though, depending on your profession, the industry you work in, and how much time you have taken off, you may need to consider a lower salary offer. My recommendation is to get a good understanding of all of the following:
  • Will the position provide you a way to update your skills and quickly integrate back into the workforce?
  • Is your employer willing to train you?
  • Is there an opportunity to re-negotiate or update your salary grade during performance reviews once your skills are up to date, and you have met or exceeded position expectations?

Most of the time, negotiation should be a natural step in the job offer process. However, if you fall into one of the categories mentioned above, you may want to think before you ask for more money. Think long term, do your research, and make sure you develop a good, open relationship with your manager so that you can talk about compensation and your career goals often.

Elizabeth Morgan

About the Author
Elizabeth Morgan has over 15 years of technical recruiting experience, with companies including Microsoft, Google, Amazon and LinkedIn. Currently, she is building LinkedIn’s Engineering Leadership team and helping launch of LinkedIn’s Women in Tech program. Elizabeth is also the founder of Seattle Girl Geek Dinners, a community of more than 1,000 women who study or work in science and engineering. SGGD provides community for technical women of all ages to come together and build professional connections and learn about technology and local tech companies that support women in STEM.

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