A lot of people are scared to talk about money. I meet people in my travels who will share every detail of their life on social media, but when it comes to talking to a potential employer about money – they freeze up. If you aren’t comfortable talking about money, you can’t effectively negotiate a job offer. And if you can’t negotiate your job offer, you may end up with a salary that is far below what you’re actually worth.
I wrote this blog post to share what I’ve learned, and help you understand that negotiating a job offer doesn’t have to be scary – you just have to value yourself.
Do your research
In 2016, I was happily working at Monster as an Associate SEO nd my salary was around 8,000 Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) per month, or 96,000 per year. When I got approached by Zapier (via Twitter, in fact – read the story here) I wanted to see if I could do a bit better. So I did my research. To understand the level they were at, I looked at their history and saw they had investors and were making money. I also looked at Glassdoor and saw what the average was for the SEO Manager role. This gave me a good idea of how much to expect. While interviewing with Zapier, they started with around 120,000 MYR.
I knew that was a good salary if I was planning to stay in Malaysia, but I was not. Zapier is a fully remote company, and I wanted to take advantage of this and travel the world. Before I started negotiating, I checked to see what the average salary was in other cities like Chicago and I used these figures to counter with a higher number. To help my case, I pointed out that their website says “we don't use remote as an excuse to pay less.” Yes, I took them on a little bit of a guilt trip. But it worked! I negotiated my annual salary up to 300,000 MYR, and they agreed.
Never start with a number
Always do everything you can to have them give you a number first. If you go first, you run the risk of either going too low (they say yes right away and you miss out on a higher earning potential), or going too high (they may see you as too expensive and stop considering your application). Some companies will ask what your current salary is, which is actually illegal in most countries. There are a lot of ways you can carefully respond to questions about salary expectations without giving a number. You can deflect the question, or say “I’m flexible and open to discuss a fair compensation package. What range are you looking at for this role?”
If you try to get a number three or four times and they won’t budge, start with the market rate for the type of job. You can use websites like Glassdoor and Monster to find these market rates for jobs.
Consider compensation beyond salary
When you receive a job offer, look at the big picture. Would you be willing to accept a lower salary if it came with lots of time off? Or had some other great perks? While I do recommend putting in the work to get a higher salary, sometimes there are other factors to consider. It depends on what’s important to you, your personal and professional goals and how long you plan to stay with the company.
For example, a job can be a good opportunity if it will help you get your foot in the door. A job may offer great experience, the opportunity to work with a strong team and knowledge you can’t get anywhere else. In that case, it may be worth it to take a lower salary for the sake of career growth and building connections.
And there are lots of other benefits companies offer that you should consider alongside salary: health benefits, time off and equipment allowance are a few common ones. (At Zapier, even though they pay well, they also provide up to USD 5,000 to buy equipment for working remotely. Computer, desk, chair – that kind of thing.) If you don't want to, or can't, negotiate salary, consider negotiating the number of vacation days. Typically companies are more willing to increase vacation days than salary.
Network your way to better benefits
A lot of companies brag about the great benefits they offer, but how beneficial are they really? No one knows this better than their current employees. Check Glassdoor to see if the company has reviews, and what other employees have said about the benefits. You can also take a more direct approach. Ask the recruiter if you can talk to current employees, or reach out to people directly on LinkedIn. I've had a lot of people reach out to me about this when I was at Zapier, asking about the benefits and the working environment. I still get requests, in fact, and I'm always happy to answer people's questions.
The most important thing to keep in mind when negotiating any offer is that you are your own best advocate. You are negotiating with a business, so their main goal will always be to save money. To be successful, always value yourself higher than you think and the you can negotiate from there. If they really really want you, they will willingly negotiate with you, and try to get you at any cost. If they don't want you, they will just end negotiations. It's that simple. The key is to go in with confidence and research – you can't lose!