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It’s Time to Get Paid: Here’s How to Negotiate Your Compensation

Here are some smart tips on what to ask for, and what to expect, when you negotiate the pay and perks for your next role.
Women shaking hands

Things are getting wild out there. With companies urgently hiring, job seekers often have the upper hand when it comes to compensation, work location, and perks. According to the Society for Human Resources, now is the time to strike if you’re ready to level up in your career. Only this time, be brave enough to ask for what you really want.

Pay is often seen as a mystery at best and taboo at worst. This really doesn’t make sense, considering the entire agreement of work is to exchange skills and services for financial compensation. But why has pay been the working world’s dirty little secret for so long?

Headshot of Cassandra Faurote
Cassandra Faurote

Indy Maven tapped into the expertise of compensation expert and CEO Cassandra Faurote of Total Reward Solutions, a firm that helps clients design competitive compensation and total reward programs that attract, retain, and motivate their talent. Today, she’s lending her industry knowledge so the other side of the negotiating table, the talent, can land the best total rewards package possible.

 
 
 
 
 
 
TODAY’S COMPENSATION TRENDS ARE AGGRESSIVE, IN THE BEST WAY

Employers are starving for talent that can get on board and hit the ground running. If you’re considering a move, what kind of compensation package should you expect? According to Cassandra, some common themes in today’s hiring environment are:

  • Sign-on bonuses
  • One-time home office stipends
  • Higher average salaries
  • Stock (publicly traded) and tech start-ups (phantom stock)

Resources like Glassdoor can help you research self-reported salary and benefits data, but be wary of over-inflated numbers or reports from disgruntled employees before you make a decision on a new role. Your recruiter will always have the most accurate information and, if they’re hesitant to share it, that could be a red flag.

HOW TO START THE COMP CONVERSATION 

The interview process can often feel like a dance where each of you is calculating your next move. This is especially true when it comes to bringing up compensation.

Cassandra recommends letting the employer start the conversation and offers some tips on how to draw out more details during the process.

“It’s usually best to ask for a starting pay range or to even provide a pay range that is acceptable to you [during an interview]. A candidate needs to see the future picture of compensation—salary, bonus opportunity, health insurance cost, time off, other insurance costs, etc. to fully evaluate an offer,” suggests Cassandra.

ON PURSUING REMOTE ROLES

The pandemic forced many organizations to figure out how to get work done at a distance. As the public health situation has shifted, some employers have fully embraced remote work, making the employee experience more dynamic. If you’re considering transitioning to a remote role, there may be some expenses or modifications to your space that you’ll need to make. How much of these should you cover? What should your employer cover? Cassandra weighs in on the whole picture.

“We do sometimes see a company offer an initial flat dollar amount for [new employees’ workspaces]. Some employers see working from home as a benefit as it lowers an employees’ costs for parking, lunch, etc. so they do not offer any help in this area. During the height of COVID, we did see employers paying some of the internet cost,” Cassandra says.

If the role you’re considering is remote, think about what changes you’ll need to make to your potential workspace including your desk, chair, and internet connection. While you will likely save on ancillary expenses like lunch, those are not components of your job. Prepare questions about one-time stipends or reimbursement items when you speak with your recruiter. When you begin discussing compensation and benefits, bring up your questions so you have a good idea of your potential employer’s remote work support.

COMBAT INFLATION WITH A SOLID COMP PACKAGE

Inflation has been soaring, with the Dec. 2021 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics confirming an increase of 7% during the past 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending June 1982. Experts predict that inflation won’t be slowing down anytime soon, which reduces the spending power of each dollar you make. When it’s time to negotiate your compensation, you’ll want to consider the impact of inflation on your starting salary and potential future increases.

“Employers look at the full picture of total rewards—compensation, benefits, and work-life benefits when determining its budgets and changes to employee total rewards,” says Cassandra. “The latest numbers indicate that the average pay increase will be at 4% for 2022 with the median being at 5%. An employee should expect to be compensated in relation to their performance no matter what the inflation rate is,” she adds.

Cassandra reminds us that inflation rates are different throughout the country. As employers approach how to adjust compensation in light of inflation and talent demands, they look at their overall investment in employees. As you consider your offer, evaluate the total compensation package, your development path, and expectations for future earnings.

NOT READY TO JUMP SHIP? REAFFIRM YOUR VALUE AND MAKE YOUR ASK

You’ve seen the job posts, you’ve spoken with friends, and you’ve come to the conclusion that you’re underpaid. But how do you bring this up with your current employer?

“This conversation is best had with your direct manager,” says Cassandra. “An employee can simply say they feel they may be underpaid relative to the market for their experience and performance and ask to have their pay reviewed. The direct manager should make a commitment to look into it in conjunction with human resources.”

When you start this conversation, be prepared to convey your accomplishments and value to the organization. If you’re aware of similar roles with publicly reported salary data, that’s good to have on hand too. Make your ask and stay on top of the follow-up.

“It is the manager’s responsibility to ensure the job description is updated and that they know each of their employees’ backgrounds in the same role for comparison purposes. A company may not disclose their pay range, as they consider it proprietary information. [Even so, they] should be able to get back to you and give you a feel for where you are paid relative to [the] market for your relevant experience, education, and performance level,” adds Cassandra.

FOUND YOUR DREAM ROLE, BUT THE COMP IS TOO LOW? HERE’S WHAT TO DO

Sometimes, an employer’s budget just isn’t there. The salary you may be requesting could be outside of their established ranges. A non-profit organization could be more limited in what it can offer. But if you love the role and its responsibilities, there’s a chance you could negotiate for other factors that could help address the gap, provided you can do without the cash.

“Time off is typically the easiest to negotiate as well as a hybrid schedule. Perhaps the candidate could recommend working 35 hours a week instead of 40, as long as they maintain their benefit eligibility,” Cassandra says.

Get creative with your total compensation request and you may just land in the sweet spot when it comes to job satisfaction, pay, and benefits.

No matter what your work situation is, you deserve to know your value in the market, pursue opportunities that align with your goals, and negotiate for what you’re worth.

Natalie Derrickson is a full-time communications professional, freelance writer, and unabashed advocate for top-tier pay for top-tier work. Chat salary with her any time by connecting with her on LinkedIn.

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