While many employees have felt stuck at their current salary point for the past several years, and good jobs have been hard to come, recent data suggests that employers are experiencing a turnaround involving their pay structures which often involve increasing pay ranges by several percentage points. Asking for a raise during a time of mass layoffs and industry-wide cutbacks and freezes may seem especially intimidating, or even inappropriate, but now more than any other period since the start of the recent recession, employers seem more willing to accommodate for pay raises for the right people.
A recent survey conducted by PayScale showed that 60 percent of employers reported adjusting their pay structure in some manner over the prior 12 months and 44 percent adjusted salaries by increases between 1 and 5 percent. The data are certainly suggestive of a period of opportunity for those seeking better pay at their current job, but many career experts agree that the best time to negotiate for higher pay is before accepting a job offer. For starters, approaching a salary increase at this stage is seen as more “fair” since the request comes during a transitional phase; and asking for a raise at this time is much less stressful than during a performance review.
If lessening work stress isn’t enough for you, consider that all future raises will be based on that original salary number, so the higher you start, the more you will earn in the short, and especially the long, term. Your starting salary is one of the defining variables of your career and you will be attached to it for an extended period, so it should be the best one you can negotiate. As an added bonus, showing your willingness and skill to negotiate for more money or benefits demonstrates how seriously you are taking the job and how invested you are in yourself and your future success with the company.
Even if a potential employer is unwilling to budge on the salary, other factors such as benefits packages, vacation time, and schedule are also negotiable and may be as valuable to you as a monetary raise. In fact, an employer may be more willing to meet you in the middle for non-salary portions of your total compensation package. The worst case scenario here is that the employer will say no. Even if your offer is much too high, the job offer won’t be rescinded. If anything, you will have gained respect for having the courage to negotiate for a better offer. However, in order to avoid making an outlandish request, research job sites that compare salaries by industry or setup informational interviews with company employees to learn about their compensation practices ahead of time.
In the words of Alexa von Tobel, CEO and founder of LearnVest, “Absolutely the best time to boost your income is when you’re starting your next job. It’s a transition phase, so the discussion is fair game.” On negotiating a higher salary before accepting a job, she says, “It’s a way of saying, here’s what I’m great at doing and here’s why this salary makes sense.”