Smith Brain Trust / December 14, 2022

How to Ask for What You Want Before Taking a Job

The following column by Associate Professor of Management and Organization Rellie Derfler-Rozin was published originally by USA Today. She studies how the social context impacts employees’ decision-making, focusing on hiring decisions, negotiations and business ethics.

Are you looking through the details of a new job offer or planning to ask for a raise with your current employer? The labor shortage and need for good employees means you still have some leverage.

And with inflation the highest it’s been in decades; you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to get the salary you deserve. Now’s your chance to negotiate.

As a professor at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, I’ve been teaching and studying negotiations for more than 10 years. When looking to close the deal on a new job offer, many people — especially financially vulnerable people, as I’ve shown in my past research — don’t take full advantage of the opportunity to negotiate.

Too often, people suppress their own economic advancement because they view negotiations as a zero-sum, win/lose scenario. But you can learn to see yourself as a valuable contributor and ask for the terms that would keep you happily putting in the work. 

Here’s how to ask for the job offer you want:

Don’t be shy. Yes, negotiating can be uncomfortable. But if you don’t ask for what you want now, you’re unlikely to get it. That can eventually leave you resentful and looking for a new job sooner than you otherwise would have. After you have an offer in-hand, be ready to negotiate.

Use your leverage while you have it. Hiring is slowing. But companies still need good people to fill the gaps left by the COVID-induced workforce exodus. And with inflation, asking for more money is justified.

Do your homework. Before you make your ask, the key is preparation. Look at or for an idea of what people in your industry and region earn in similar roles. Go beyond what you find online and ask other people for input. Use your network to reach out to people who have worked at the organization in the past or work at similar companies now. Have an informal conversation to feel out a typical salary range and a typical package and get their advice. 

Don’t make it all about what you need. Sure, you might need to make more money to justify spending more on gas for your commute or to afford your higher grocery bills, but don't make inflation the central argument for why you need a higher salary. Instead, focus on your unique skills and the value you bring to the position. Start with something like this: “I hope we can discuss compensation that appropriately reflects the value I am bringing to the company based on my past performance, skills and education. 

Also, I’d like to take into account factors such as the cost of living and rising inflation.”

Think beyond the paycheck. If a higher paycheck is out of the question, try negotiating for other factors. Ask for things that also can add to your bottom line, such as more telework to save on commuting costs, better retirement plan options, more generous health insurance policies or tuition reimbursement. And if the employer can’t budge on these things, other perks such as vacation time and flexible schedules could be on the table.

Be ready to suggest several options. That shows you’re flexible, but you’re still likely to get at least some of the things you want so you and your new employer are both satisfied.

Win-Win Negotiations: Find out how to hone your skills with Dr. Derfler-Rozin and Dr. Venkatarami

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