How to Negotiate Your Pay and Benefits Package


Negotiators are the winners of the world. The win could be easy, like asking a flea market vendor for a lower price on an antique. Or it could be tricky, like requesting a better salary and benefits package after you’ve been offered a new job.

Some people are experienced negotiators that can handle the challenge of wrangling more money out of their future employer. However, chances are you’re not that person.

For freelancers or full-timers, if you feel queasy asking for a raise during your a review, the idea of countering a new employer’s salary offer with a request for more money would probably have you shaking in your shoes.

You’re not alone. Here’s how you can improve your chances of a better job offer and win the salary and benefits you deserve.

Job Seekers Are Terrible Negotiators

Job seekers are terrible negotiators

CareerBuilder studied the difficulties inherent in salary negotiations and found out which job seekers are asking for more—and which are not.

In 2017, CareerBuilder surveyed 2,369 employers and 3,462 full-time U.S. workers across multiple industries. They found:

  • 56% of workers never negotiate for better pay when they receive a new job offer
  • 53% of employers say they are willing to negotiate that first offer—even for entry-level workers
  • 47% of men and 42% of women say they will try to negotiate the offer
  • The workers most likely to negotiate a job offer are information technology (IT) workers (59%), followed by sales reps (53%), and healthcare workers (48%)
  • Not surprisingly money is the biggest issue that workers are willing to negotiate, followed by benefits

There are indicators that employers are willing to pay more than what they initially offer. The survey showed 63% of employers believe they should pay workers more because of the competitive job market. But 71% of workers say they have accepted a position when they knew their experience should be worth more than the offered pay.

There is room for negotiation after the job offer, if only workers could find the courage to ask.

If you’re a job candidate who thinks negotiating a new job offer is as nerve-wracking as meeting your significant other’s parents, this next section will teach you all the skills you need to relax and get what you deserve.

Negotiation Takes Luck—and Skill

Negotiation takes luck and skill

If you want us to provide you with a clear way to negotiate successfully in every situation, forget it.

Negotiating salary and benefits when the first offer letter comes in is tricky. Negotiating isn’t easy. Situations are different. People vary. Your perceived skills may not match up with the salary the employer is willing to pay.

Two words: It’s complicated. And luck may also play a role.

In 2012, Forbes reported on a study by the MarketWatch Centre for Negotiation. The controlled exercise of 1,000 participants had fixed criteria that didn’t require specialized negotiation skills. The study showed only two-thirds of participants were able to close the negotiation successfully. Of those that closed the deal, they still left about 40% of additional revenue on the table.

Forbes concluded:

“With this in mind, a good negotiator is not only someone who can close the deal, but who also has a strategy, understands the value of cooperative partnerships, and sees opportunities for creating added value above and beyond considerations that are typically restricted to only price and quantity.”

This is an interesting point for the job seeker to consider. If you don’t go into the interview process confident in the value you’re bringing to the employer, how will you have the courage to ask for what you think you’re worth? Before that first interview and certainly before you open your mouth to negotiate above that first offer, consider your personal value proposition.

Understanding Your Personal Value Proposition

In business, a value proposition spells out why a consumer should buy your product. What need does the product fulfill for the buyer? Why is your product better than the competition?

These are the same kinds of questions you should bring to your job search. Your value proposition is the unique skills you bring to the job:

  • Why should employers hire you?
  • How can you help the company succeed?
  • What skills or experiences make you a unique and perfect fit for the job?

If you want to be a strong negotiator, the first thing you need to do is map out what accomplishments, skills, and strengths make you a good match for the position you’re applying for. You’ll come back to this assessment every time an interviewer asks you, “Why do you think you’re a good fit for this job?” It’s a good exercise to build your confidence and improve your interview skills.

Harvard Business Review is a fan of the personal value proposition. Its article on the topic suggests a few steps to help you understand your UVP:

  • Set a target to match your skills. In this case, the target is the job you’re applying to.
  • Identify your strengths and write down how you’ve exhibited them in life or on the job. Prepare this evidence for employers who will likely ask you behavioral questions that start out, “Tell me about a time when you…”
  • Match your strengths to your target job. This will help you share your story in a way that builds value. Your goal is to connect the dots for the employer and play to the skills they need.

Highlight your value proposition on your resume and in your interviews, and you’ll have your targeted job offer before you know it. Then it’s time to put your negotiation skills to work.

Characteristics of a Winning Negotiator

Characteristics of a winning negotiator

Now that you’re armed with a value proposition, let’s look at the personality characteristics of successful negotiators.

The HBR quantified some of the traits of negotiators in global business dealings. According to the Journal, the negotiator should be:

  • Well-intended: Being cutthroat kills trust and gives a negative impression to the employer
  • Respectful: Build trust by treating the person on the other side of the table with respect
  • Confident: Be confident in the value you bring to the company
  • Well-prepared: Winging it never works in any negotiation, including during a discussion of your future salary
  • Calm: Never let them see you sweat—especially not during a salary and benefits negotiation
  • An effective communicator: Listening is just as important as speaking during a negotiation
  • Open-minded: If the employer can’t meet your salary demands, they might be able to increase benefits or other perks

Other research suggests that being too nice in the negotiation can backfire. In the case of the new job offer, this means losing income or perks. Here’s what you should consider.

Should You Be a Naughty or Nice Negotiator?

Should you be a naughty or nice negotiator

Negotiators can be aggressive yet coldly effective. At the same time, we’ve all heard the expression, “You catch more flies with honey.” So, which is it?

Harvard Business Review suggests that early research shows being nice in a negotiation will usually get you what you want. But not so fast. Just this year, the journal released the findings of four experiments with more than 1,500 participants. Their goal was to test “the economic and interpersonal implications of being warm and friendly in a negotiation.” They did this by varying how participants negotiated. The studies used Craigslist as a negotiating venue, crafting email messages that were either naughty (“tough and firm language”) or nice (“warm and friendly language”).

The study found:

  • Warm and friendly messages were as likely as tough and firm messages to get a response from the seller
  • Sellers were more likely to provide a discount if the message was tough and firm

To confirm these findings, they conducted one-on-one testing in the laboratory. The participants were able to verbally negotiate a purchase as opposed to simply emailing a seller.

The research confirmed that warm and friendly negotiators ended up paying 15% more for the same item as tough and firm negotiators.

Researchers suggested that sellers may have felt guilty during the negotiation with the buyer and lowered the price tag. The study concluded:

“Although our findings highlight the clear economic costs of being ‘warm and friendly,’ they do not imply that everyone should become a jerk. All negotiations are a combination of value-creating and value-claiming, of making the overall pie bigger and securing a slice of it for ourselves.”

Conducting a Salary Negotiation

Today’s job market puts candidates in the driver’s seat. You have power as a worker in a low unemployment market. Your bargaining power depends on your skills and experience, the type of job you’re applying to, and other factors you can’t control, such as the size of the company’s hiring budget.

Landing the offer letter is a great step. Before you make a counteroffer, know that the employer may walk away from what you suggest. Try not to let that dissuade you. Some risk is worthwhile.

Here are some tips to confidently request a better offer:

  • In addition to your unique value proposition, understand industry-specific and local salary trends. Use Artisan Talent’s Salary Guide[RW1] to determine the market rate for the job that is acceptable in your area.
  • Be alert during the interview process to clues that signal how long the job has been open. This may indicate that the employer had a hard time finding someone for the position.
  • Be careful during the interview process to not supply a wide range on your salary expectations. Keep in mind that the employer will likely go for the lowest salary you offer, so aim a little higher for your baseline starting salary range.
  • After you’ve secured the offer, make sure you frame your counteroffer in a way that conveys your strengths. Share how excited you are to receive the offer and how much you’re looking forward to making a difference in the role.
  • Then say, “That’s a very generous offer. But is there anything else you can do?” Carefully make the question open-ended, putting the ball back in their court. Be prepared to explain why you believe you’re worth the additional investment.
  • When the offer is finalized, you have the option of asking for time to review it. This puts psychological pressure on the employer that could even open the door to additional incentives to “close the deal.”
  • In place of salary, you can also ask for additional work-from-home options or other benefits such as a sign-on bonus to come on board. Be flexible and creative; this negotiation is a two-way street between you and the employer. Keep the negotiation positive and make sure everyone feels good at the end of the experience.

Don’t drag out the salary negotiation. If the employer won’t meet your terms, you have the option to walk away. The important point to remember here is that it is okay to ask. There’s no harm in asking for more money. But if could be harmful in the sense that if you don’t ask you might leave money on the table. So be brave, dial up your courage, and make your play.

Let Artisan Do the Negotiating for You

Of course, you also have the option of talking to a Talent Professional at Artisan. Our team is skilled in the art of salary negotiation and would be pleased to represent you to future employers. We offer our services to candidates for free and provide resume reviews and interview coaching, in addition to representing you in salary negotiations. We’re standing by to help you win. All you have to do is make the call.




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