How to Confidently Negotiate Your First Salary and Benefits

negotiate your first salary
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When you really, really want the job, salary negotiation is the last thing you’re worried about. You’re more concerned with impressively answering interview questions, proving you’re fun to work with, and dressing the part.

 Salary negotiation matters. Here’s why:

  • Millennials walk into the workforce with nearly $30,000 in student debt.
  • Millennials’ average salary is just $35,000 (and only $30,000 for women).
  • 60 percent of millennials don’t negotiate salary when receiving their first job offers.
  • Negotiating just $5,000 more for a starting salary could be worth over $600,000 over the course of a career.

Learn more: Salary + Benefits–How to Benchmark and Negotiate:

When we hear the words “salary negotiation,” we cringe. We would rather spend three hours at the DMV than bring up salary during an interview. But, earning what you’re worth should no longer be cringe-worthy. A proper salary negotiation demonstrates the assertiveness and confidence employers want in a job candidate.

What’s a Salary Benchmark, and Why Should You Memorize It?

You probably guessed that a salary benchmark is the amount of money your position earns. But, to make sure you earn what you’re worth, there’s a little more to it. Your salary is based on your position, sector, geographic location, the type of organization, the company size, and your experience. Determine your salary benchmark by looking at a variety of resources:

  • Job listings that include the salary for similar positions.
  • Glassdoor salary reviews for the company you’re interviewing for, and similar roles.
  • Resources such as PayScale to calculate your salary.
  • Looking online at any available published company reports in your industry.
  • Reviewing the U.S. Labor Bureau’s salary statistics for your specific industry.

This quick research can make a huge difference in your advancement. If you benchmark your salary 8k off target, that means when you negotiate more for your role, you’ll easily be over or underselling yourself. You want to earn a fair salary, but you also don’t want to come off as cocky or ill-informed during a salary negotiation. This can jeopardize your chances at a final offer, a completely unnecessary risk. Save yourself the loss and conduct 10-20 minutes of simple salary research.

When Should You Bring Up Salary?

This depends on the interviewer, but don’t stress. Just be ready to answer!

Some interviewers bring up salary in the first phone interview, asking you point-blank. If this happens, don’t immediately give a number. Answer with a question: “What is the salary range your company is offering for the role?” If you must give them a number, you’ll likely want to round up. Ask for more than your previous role, and definitely more if this new role would be a promotion or is in a more successful sector. For example, if you’re working as an accountant at a small environmental rights non-profit and you interview at a large and successful financial institution for an accountant role, it makes sense to ask for more. Use your best judgement and base it on research.

If you’re interviewing for your first job, you may not even be given the opportunity to answer your salary preference. That’s okay. You can still bring it up when the interviewer gives you time to ask questions. Ask what their pay range is. Or, if you’re super confident in what you should earn, state that. Again, it’s best to round up because employers will negotiate down.

Remember: You typically don’t want to bring salary up in the first interviews. You will come off as eager, and more concerned with money than the role itself. Ask during the final interview stage.

Why You Should Negotiate Benefits

Benefits sound pretty boring compared to an 8k salary bump. But, they are a bold part of your value at a company. You’ll become extremely aware of your healthcare costs and vacation days once you start a new role.

The company you’re interviewing at might not be able to match your salary request. But, they may be able to offer you extra vacation days. or a flexible schedule where you can work remotely. Other compensation package points include social security, healthcare, unemployment insurance, worker’s compensation, and sick/personal days. These can make up 30 percent of the company’s payroll. Factor your compensation package into your salary, and consider it during negotiation.

Salary negotiation is a step we prefer to skip because it’s stressful and awkward. But, it has a lasting impact on our career advancement. Learn how to confidently negotiate your first salary with our webinar Salary + Benefits–How to Benchmark and Negotiate.

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