It’s a candidate’s market today, and job seekers are in the driver’s seat. But that doesn’t mean you can take a casual approach to the negotiation process with a prospective employer. If you’re being offered a new creative or marketing role, check out these tips on how to negotiate salary:
WHAT DO I SAY WHEN A JOB OFFER IS EXTENDED?
A hiring manager calls to say you got the job! It comes with a salary of $X.
So, what do you say?
Start with “thank you.” Whether you ultimately opt to accept the job or not, you should understand that it’s a compliment to you that an employer chose you out of a large group of contenders. If you already decided that this is not the job for you, you’ll still want to say something positive about the company and how much you enjoyed interviewing. You never want to burn any bridges, no matter your decision. Be gracious, diplomatic and thankful for the opportunity.
If you are highly interested in the job, it’s wise to take some time to ponder the various aspects of the offer. In that case, express your appreciation, but say you’d like a little time to consider the offer. Most employers will not expect an immediate response and are accustomed to applicants making this type of request. Agree on a reasonable time frame in which to get back to the employer.
Remember that it’s not just what you say, but how you say it. Don’t play it too cool. Lack of enthusiasm and wishy-washy responses will send the wrong message. Don’t give the hiring manager any reason to second-guess the decision. After all, the employer likely has a second- and possibly third-choice candidate in mind for the position.
DO I REALLY WANT THE JOB?
Asking for some time to mull over the decision gives you the chance to take a step back and get introspective. Before you begin fixating on the initial salary figure that’s being offered, make sure you are truly excited about the actual opportunity. Recognize that beyond the dollar signs there are other important factors to carefully consider.
- Are the job responsibilities interesting to me?
- Will it make use of my top skills and talents?
- Does it fit into my long-range career plans?
- Is there a defined path for internal advancement?
- Is the organization in an industry with favorable long-term prospects?
- If the job is currently remote will it always be remote? Will I have the flexibility to work from anywhere should I move in the future?
- Is the job environment one where I’d likely feel comfortable? Would my work style fit?
- Is the boss someone I can learn from?
- Is the company stable? Does it have a solid reputation?
HOW DO THE SALARY, PERKS AND BENEFITS STACK UP?
Once you've resolved the questions above to your satisfaction, then it’s time to do some salary sleuthing. Research what the average salary range is for that position in your geographic area. Check out Cella’s 2023 Creative, Marketing and Digital Salary Guide, which provides median salaries for more than 80 creative, marketing, digital, video and other positions. The Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, can also provide insight into the compensation you might reasonably expect.
Is doing your salary-related homework important? Yes! Are there more questions to ask? Also, yes! Too often people make salary their "bottom line." This is a mistake as there are often other perks and forms of compensation that, when added up, amount to a considerable benefit. For instance, these might include:
- Health and other insurance coverage and employee assistance programs (EAP)
- Signing bonus
- Stock options
- Performance-based compensation
- Paid education and training opportunities
- Extra vacation time
- Relocation stipend
- Telecommuting and flextime
- Overtime pay
- On-site daycare or childcare stipend
- Pension/retirement plan
- Phone, internet, technology reimbursement
- Home office stipends
- Generous family leave plans
- Volunteer time off, corporate donation match, and charitable opportunities
- Mentorship programs
- Employee resource groups (ERG)
- Student loan repayment programs
- Financial planning and guidance programs
- Health and wellness benefits
Also take into account some of the "softer" benefits. The job might involve a level of creative freedom and mental stimulation you need to feel happy and fulfilled. It may offer you better work-life balance or more independence. It may be a community-minded company that shares your values. You can't easily affix a monetary value to these factors, but they can be every bit as impactful to you as salary.
WHAT ARE SMART APPROACHES TO NEGOTIATING SALARY?
OK, so you’ve decided you do indeed want the job—but you don’t want to potentially leave money on the table. Your decision to negotiate salary will not result in the employer rescinding the offer. Negotiating salary is typically an expected part of the hiring process. You are well within your rights to ask for a compensation package that meets your requirements, so long as they are reasonable.
You can begin the salary negotiation process by simply saying that you are very interested in the position, but that you were looking for an offer closer to $X. When making this ask, aim for the top of your estimated salary range. In short, be sensible, but go high. The worst that can happen is the employer says no to that particular figure.
Reinforce your position by citing the current salary range information you’ve collected, and by citing your most marketable skills, qualifications and credentials. Be firm but non-confrontational. You are grateful for the offer and optimistic that this can be a "win-win" situation for both you and the employer. Approach the salary negotiation as an opportunity to work together to find a solution versus viewing it as a back-and-forth with only one winner.
Practice what you are going to say and be confident. Seeming hesitant or unsure of yourself won’t help your cause. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can someone else?
Should you reach an agreement, make sure you get the final offer in writing, particularly if it now reflects a modified salary or benefits package. Typically, such a letter indicates a starting date, salary, employment location, perks and benefits, and supervisor.
Navigating salary negotiations can be tricky. But if you do your research, express enthusiasm, and make a persuasive and polished pitch, you’ll put yourself in a good position to get a favorable outcome.