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How To Negotiate Your Salary and Benefits

March 28, 2024
Learn about negotiating benefits and salaries to maximize your job offer, raise or promotion.

How To Negotiate Your Salary and Benefits

You’ve been putting a lot of work into getting your new job. From the moment you started polishing your resume to practicing the perfect answers to all the classic interview questions, you’ve been setting yourself up to get the job and the salary that you want.

Now, you’re nearing the triumphant end. Maybe you just lined up an interview or perhaps you’re feeling like the phone’s about to ring with a job offer after a second interview. Either way, there’s one more thing to do – learning how to negotiate your salary and benefits. Luckily, DCU is here to help. Read ahead for a few simple tips to help ensure you get the paycheck and the benefits you deserve.


Do Your Compensation Research Online

Before you get that phone call with a job offer, you should know what people in your position and with your responsibilities are paid. Do compensation research using online resources such as Glassdoor and The Bureau of Labor Statistics.

When researching, take note of experience level and location as well as compensations in your position. Once you have an idea of what someone with your title, your experience and your location could earn, you’ll know what kind of a salary and benefits package you should be asking for.


Know Your Value Before Starting Negotiations

Take some time to evaluate yourself. Go through the work you’ve done in the past with a fine-tooth comb. Are there things you didn’t bring up in the interview? Perhaps there are skills you’d want to emphasize in salary negotiations. Come up with those ideas now rather than on the spot.

If you’re confident in your abilities and your value when you enter salary negotiations, you’ll have more power in the negotiations. The fact that you’re ready with a number that you’d like to be paid and reasons that you deserve that number shouldn’t make you seem pushy. Doing your research shows that you’re prepared and organized, just what any employer wants in an employee. When you’re coming up with a yearly salary amount, set your base number higher so that there’s room to negotiate down to a number that you’d still be happy with.


Choose the Right Moment to Initiate Salary Discussions.

Whether we’re talking jokes or salary negotiation, timing is everything. If you’re about to start a new job, there’s an easy rule on when to bring up money.

Don’t talk about money in the interview. Negotiate your salary when the job offer is extended. Typically, the hiring manager will throw a number out there and ask if that will work for you. That’s your cue to ask for the number you were looking for.

There are good reasons not to bring up money before the job offer. Part of this rule is about civility. Talking about money during interviews might give the impression that you only care about the cash rather than the job itself. Secondly, the salary the employer is considering could be higher than the numbers you have in mind. Bringing up money first may result in underselling yourself. Once the hiring manager brings up your salary package while extending a job offer, the negotiations are on.


Focus on the Total Package

Zoom out. Compensation isn’t only about the base salary. A great health insurance package can change your whole budget. Know that negotiating employee benefits of all types is your right. There are obvious financial benefits such as bonuses, insurance, and HSA accounts. But when you’re negotiating, don’t overlook asking for perks outside of monetary benefits such as flexible work arrangements that might work better with your lifestyle.

An important benefit that many employers offer is a retirement account such as an IRA. Many employers have matching programs that shouldn’t be overlooked as compensation, especially if the matching amount is immediately vested. You’ve considered your benefits and your salary, now it’s time to zoom out even more. What are your financial and career goals? Can you accept a lower salary if the job will present you with opportunities that align with those goals?

There’s a lot to decide on. Need help coming up with a financial plan? Consider becoming a member of a non-profit financial institution such as DCU. DCU supports members through education centers and advising.


Remember to Communicate Effectively

You know what you’re going to talk about. You know what you’re asking for. You know the value you add to your position. You even know what other people in similar positions are getting paid. Now it’s time to talk.

When you start the negotiations, keep your tone professional and positive. Don’t focus on your college debt or the long hours you put in at your last job. Instead, focus on the resources you can offer this new job. Highlight the reasons you are interested in working for this employer and share the ways you’re eager to grow.

Whatever the hiring manager’s response may be, know that it’s critical to stay calm and respectful. If they are unwilling to give you the benefits and salary you’re looking for, respectfully restate what you’d require to work for them and wrap up the conversation.


Tips for Negotiating a Counteroffer

If you receive an offer from your potential employer, you have the power to make a counteroffer, using the information that you already have up your sleeve after doing compensation research and noting your various accomplishments. Here are a few more basic tips to use in your conversation.

  • Stay enthusiastic: As you’re making your counter-offer, make it clear that you would like to work for them if they can make a compromise.
  • Stay honest: If you’re asking for more many hiring managers may ask, “Have you had another job offer?” As tempting as it might be in the moment, never lie. A lie may come back to haunt you after you’re hired and dampen your reputation in your professional network.
  • Listen: Remember to listen to the whole package rather than listening only for the salary amount. They might have great health insurance and an HSA package. What does their IRA matching look like? All of this can have an impact on your lifestyle and is worth considering.
  • Try to understand: Hiring managers often work under limitations such as salary caps. Sometimes there’s just not a lot of room to wiggle. Consider other benefits that might make up for a smaller salary. Could you get more PTO? A signing bonus?


Making a Decision

If you’ve been negotiating employee benefits and your salary then you’ve been doing the hard work. Save that work. When you agree on terms, wrap up the conversation rather than going back and forth on little details.

After the conversation, document the agreed-upon terms by sending them in an email to your future employer. Complete the entire conversation with a tone of genuine gratitude both for your job and the opportunities it represents as well as the conversation itself.


How DCU Can Help

Taking the steps to learn how to negotiate your salary is the first of many brave steps to better your future. No matter how that negotiation goes, this conversation won’t be the last step. It’s part of a lifelong process. Need help on your journey? DCU cares about the financial well-being of all its members. Learn about becoming a member to receive support throughout your financial journey. Whether you’re looking for a loan or simply need advice, DCU can be there for you.

Please note, membership is required to open a DCU retirement account. Visit our membership eligibility page for more information.

This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as legal, financial, investment or tax advice or indicate that a specific DCU product or service is right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a financial professional.