Career Tips, EMBA, MBA

How to Negotiate Salary and More on Your Job Offer

By Mary Shea Watson-

You networked, did well in interviews, and got a job offer – but it’s not quite as strong as you’d like it to be. Now what? Negotiating a job offer can be a scary process. It causes doubt and anxiety about how your potential new employer might interpret your actions.

For UVA Darden career coach Sarita Soldz, helping the School’s Executive MBA students learn how to negotiate and do so successfully is one of her favorite parts of her job. She recently hosted a webinar with Director of Enrollment Marketing Brett Twitty and shared tips on how to negotiate and increase success through the following specific actions.

Sarita Soldz
UVA Darden Executive MBA career coach Sarita Soldz offers her negotiation tips.

1. Know your value.

How does the market value the job you’re going after? What do others in similar roles earn? For Sarita, knowing your value is the most important aspect of any compensation negotiation. To discover how the market values the role you’re pursuing, Sarita suggests a simple start: google the job title and salary. Then, visit websites like Indeed, Glassdoor and Comparably. She recommends keeping in mind the differences in salary due to geography, and to use CNN’s cost of living calculator to make those adjustments.

Sarita also encourages honest conversations with coworkers – if you’re interviewing for a new role in your current organization.

“Do your research and have a range ready for the screening interview. That’s when recruiters are typically trying to see if your expectations line up with what they plan to offer,” says Sarita. “During that initial conversation, say, ‘I’m looking for a salary between x  and y, based on the  role’s level of responsibility, geographical location and entire compensation package. What do you have budgeted for this?’ ”

2. Be positive and confident about the negotiation.

Smile and be warm to those with whom you’re negotiating an offer. Sarita asks her coachees to think of negotiating as an opportunity to create and build a relationship with your hiring manager.

“Negotiate with confidence and a desire to collaborate,” Sarita suggests. “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. Negotiating actually helps you strengthen that relationship with the hiring manager.”

3. Aim high and have multiple options ready.

Don’t anchor your new opportunity in your current salary. By aiming high, Sarita explains, you create an anchoring effect and give the hiring manager the opportunity to lower the offer to a number with which you’d still be comfortable.

Plan to concede on some items, too, so that you’re seen as cooperative and flexible. What are other aspects of the total compensation package that you could negotiate, too? A signing bonus, vacation days, working from home, less time traveling, and additional benefits like gym membership, can be negotiated.

4. Frame it as a win-win.

When you’re negotiating perks beyond salary, be sure to frame your negotiations so that you’re clearly outlining the benefit for the company. Sarita offers a framework for discussing less travel time, for example.

“If you’re discussing less travel time, take the company’s point of view. It might be your goal to spend more time with family, but make sure the precise value to the organization comes across,” Sarita says. “You could say, ‘In my first year, I’d like 20 percent travel rather than 40 percent given the need to be in the office to work on the company’s strategic priorities.’ ”

5. Be specific and get to an agreement sooner rather than later.

More than three rounds of negotiation can start to harm the relationship with your potential colleagues.

“You’re trying to get to a ZOPA as quickly as possible, or ‘zone of potential agreement,’ ” says Sarita. “If you’re in one spot and the company is in another, what is the zone in-between where you could come to an agreement?”

Specificity is critical in reaching that ZOPA. Sarita suggests the following clearly outlined asks, both of which invite communal discussions:

“I’m very happy to have this offer. It sounds like a great job. I was really looking for closer to this number, based on my skills.”

“I really think I deserve a 10 or 12 percent raise. Which would you like to give me?”

6. Remember that you might have to walk away.

Before you enter negotiations, Sarita says, you should know what your BATNA is, or the “best alternative to a negotiated agreement”. When should you walk away?

Know what’s most important to you in your current role or in a new job offer and be clear on what you’re not prepared to give up.