There is nothing easy about a job interview. Etiquette says dress up, even if your interviewers arrive barefoot in blue jeans. You should smile, but not too much. You should be humble and confident at the same time. You should write a thank you note. But what about salary?
Addressing salary while moving into a new role in a new company can feel as difficult as landing the job, itself. And while finding a fulfilling position is important, your income should also be a factor. You deserve the dream job, and you deserve an income that makes that job sustainable.
According to a recent survey, only 37% of employees even attempt to negotiate for their salaries -- and in 2018, that's got to stop. Emily Post never gave us any intel on the etiquette surrounding salary demands, but fortunately, there are a few steps proven to work. You don't have to choose between decorum and financial stability.
First things first, professional negotiators recommend doing your research before an offer is even on the table. Know what people in similar positions are earning, and be prepared to defend yourself if your eventual offer doesn't comply with industry standard. This doesn't mean you should throw a number at an employer during your first interview -- it'll give you the upper hand to wait until you've got have a sum to negotiate with. But be sure you're prepared when going into this conversation. Know what your counterparts are making, and go from there.
When it comes to finally having the money conversation, finance journalist Alison Doyle recommends remaining neutral. "Negotiations needn't be adversarial, and no one has to get aggressive. If you're a reluctant negotiator, it might help to keep in mind that you're on the same side." she writes. Approach the conversation with a sense of camaraderie -- technically, there are no enemies. You both want your services.
"The team has invested time and resources in the interview process, they have consensus on hiring you and they're eager to seal the deal and put you to work. This is the perfect time to talk salary," adds journalist, Robin Madell. Ultimately, you and your employer are a unit, and they want you here. If they were underselling you, they'll want to make it right. They, too, are invested.
If you have pre-negotiation jitters, keep in mind the fact that most employers actually expect to have a little back-and-forth when it comes to salary. The number attached to your initial offer is often ever-so-slightly lower than it could be, in the event that you push back. Your reluctance to talk about money here may be polite in an old school dinner party sense, but those rules no longer apply. Certainly no one will think less of you for negotiating.
Once your discussion is actually underway, if it feels like your negotiations have come to a halt, Doyle recommends negotiating benefits. There may be some other aspect of your financial compensation with a little more wiggle room, be it an office perk, or a health insurance package. Try to take a look at the whole financial picture, and be flexible when it comes to options that don't apply strictly to salary.
There is, of course, the distinct possibility that you will never arrive at an offer that feels substantial to you. If this happens, don't be afraid to say no. Again, this might feel counter to the rules of decorum, but this is 2018, and sometimes self advocacy requires a little bluntness.
"I turned down a position I knew I didn't want, regardless of salary, and received three follow-up phone calls upping the compensation package," Doyle reports. Like with haggling, the word "no" can be powerful. Sometimes, the thought of losing you as an employee will be enough to kick a full negotiation into gear.
On the other hand, know your own situation. Don't push too hard if this doesn't feel feasible. There are times when budgeting doesn't allow what you're fighting for, and if you truly need the hours or the title, check yourself before you deliver a flat no. Walking away with less than you deserve is no fun, but it's equally problematic to walk away with nothing.
"The main reason employees aren't paid what they're worth isn't because they don't deserve it," Madell writes. "It's because they don't ask." This is important to keep in mind.
You only get what you negotiate for, and in 2018, job offer etiquette urges you to make that request. Earning what you deserve is your prerogative. That shouldn't scare you, it should empower you.