“There are a number of economic factors that are relevant for thinking about salary negotiations right now,” said Linda Babcock, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University. Along with rising inflation, the nationwide labor shortage – there are now almost two jobs available for every job seeker – has given workers “a lot more bargaining power than they have traditionally had in softer labor markets,” she said.
With that in mind, here’s how experts suggest you handle salary negotiations in today’s market:
Recruiters are getting to the salary question much earlier these days.
“What has really accelerated in the past few months is companies asking candidates very early in the process what their salary expectations are…early on maybe in the first interview or in the screening interview is something that I am seeing happen a lot more than I used to,” said Kate Dixon, CEO and founder of Dixon Consulting.
But just because they ask, it doesn’t mean you have to give a number.
Dixon recommends saying something like: “Without knowing more about the job and your total rewards, it’s hard for me to give you a firm number at this point. What is the hiring range for the role?”
Keep in mind that many states and cities have passed laws prohibiting employers from asking about salary histories, and there are some laws that require companies to provide salary ranges in certain situations.
If you have an offer and the salary falls short of what you were hoping to make, don’t be shy about negotiating – just be sure to do your homework first.
“There is more leverage, there is a shortage of labor, companies need good employees and, with inflation, it is justified to ask for more,” said Rellie Derfler-Rozin, an associate professor of management and organization at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. “There is room to negotiate. The key part is the preparation.”
Several factors should go into a salary figure, including the typical compensation for someone in your role, industry and location, the unique skills and value you’ll bring to the company and economic conditions, like inflation and the labor market.
“It’s really important to be well-calibrated. You don’t want to go in and ask for too little, but you certainly don’t want to ask for too much that it’s not credible,” said Babcock.
Online job sites, including Glassdoor and Payscale, can help you find the pay range for someone in a similar role in the industry, but talking directly to others in the field can also be helpful.
“I encourage people to go beyond what you find on the web,” said Derfler-Rozin. “If you know people that have worked there or worked in a similar place, try to have a conversation with them informally and get their advice. People are usually more willing to help and mentor… than we actually anticipate.”
While inflation can be part of your reason for negotiating a higher salary, Derfler-Rozin said it shouldn’t be the central argument. Instead, she said to put most of the focus on your unique skills and values.
After showing excitement for the offer, she recommended saying something like: “I would hope we can discuss something that appropriately reflects the value I am bringing to the company based on my past performance, skills and education. Also, naturally taking into account factors such as the location cost of living and the rising inflation.”
Negotiating full or partial remote work is likely a lot easier since the pandemic forced many companies to send their workers home to work.
If you’re seeking a flexible work schedule, Dixon recommended emphasizing how the arrangement benefits the company.
Dixon suggested saying something like: “In the last few years, I’ve found that working remotely really fires up my productivity so I would love to do two days at home and three days at the office. How does that land?”
But if being able to work remotely is a must-have for you, don’t wait to bring it up until you have an offer.
“More employers are upfront about it: ‘this a fully remote role’ or ‘this is a hybrid role,’” Dixon added.
To inquire about the work schedule early on, she suggested saying something like: “I am glad to talk to you about the role. Given the way that I like to work, I am only considering opportunities that have hybrid or fully remote. Can you tell me how the organization views that?”
While working from home allows you to skip the commute, it does require certain equipment, which can get expensive.
“It is certainly reasonable to have a good camera, lighting system, chair, printer, whatever the things are that they would be buying for you if you were in the office. It’s a reasonable thing to ask for those,” said Babcock.
You can ask if the company provides a work-from-home stipend. And, if they don’t, Babcock suggested coming up with a spreadsheet of projections of items and costs you expect to incur in order to set up your home office.