Answer: When it’s a well-crafted counter-offer to a job offer. Let’s take a look at three common questions job-seekers have.
Should I Negotiate My Salary?
There are dozens of reasons why people don’t indulge in salary negotiation, such as:
They’re scared or nervous about salary negotiation
They’re afraid of losing their dream job
They’ve never been taught the proper skills
When I first met my client Rebecca, all of the above reasons applied. She had been interviewing for her dream job, she wasn’t sure how to negotiate a raise. On top of all that, the job was in the arts, not known for its high pay.
The first thing we did was to build up her confidence and adapt a salary negotiation mindset, with the crucial factor being as long as a salary negotiation was done in a professional and business-like manner, it was completely appropriate. Even for a dream job. Even in the arts. So, by all means, yes. There is always a way to negotiate your salary.
Should I Negotiate in Person, Over the Phone, or via Email?
In most cases, I’d say the job-seeker really doesn’t control this. Rather, it’s the company offering the job that will take the lead, choosing to discuss salary in person, making a follow-up phone call after an interview, or sending along an offer letter in writing or via email.
Negotiating in person has its advantages. You can read a person’s body language, get to the point quickly, and use negotiation techniques such as long pauses of silence to your advantage. The downside is you need to be confident, prepared, and able to think on the fly.
Salary negotiation over an email is the opposite. Without the interpersonal context of someone sitting in front of you, there’s risk of the written word getting lost in translation. However, for those who are shy or get nervous in the moment, email can be preferable. You can spend 10 minutes – or 10 hours – researching and crafting the perfect response to an offer.
What EXACTLY Should I Say?
Let’s take a look at a real-life example of a salary negotiation email that netted an $11,000 raise. I’ll include not only what we said, but also why we said it (some minor details have been changed).
Background: Rebecca is a museum gallery manager, who is also an artist, has taught at the college level, and has built programs in previous jobs. She was making approximately $40,000 on an hourly basis, and was hoping to be at least in the high $40s. The position is in another state, so while she flew there for the final interviews, she was offered $41,000 and a generous benefits package via email. Thus, we responded via email.
Here's the Email We Sent
Hi Joanne, [Start out cordial and friendly, recapping previous conversations, and reminding them of solid recommendations.]
I had a great Christmas week with family and friends, and I hope you had a good holiday as well. So glad that you received my letters of recommendation - I wanted to share with you some of my friends and colleagues that I've had the pleasure to know and work with over the years. [Even though you are going to be negotiating, it’s important to show excitement and gratitude for the initial offer.]
Thank you so much for the offer to be a Museum Manager for the Fine Arts Gallery. I am beyond excited about this opportunity! [Transition into the questions you have. Demonstrate in your email that you are professional and seriously looked into the offer and discussed it with your family.]
I spent the weekend thinking about the details and responsibilities of the job, spoke with my husband John, and did a little research, and would like to ask a few questions regarding the overall offer. [Don’t start with salary. She begins this section of her email with honest questions about the timing and costs of the health plan, which wasn’t discussed in the offer letter. Factors like how much the employee must contribute, who is covered, and when coverage starts can have a large effect on your take-home pay.]
Vacation Time/Sick Leave
How many vacation and sick days would I be eligible for?
Are they separate or on one pool?
[Finally, we move on to the topic of money. Once again, we emphasize that the request is based on research, not just pulling numbers out of the air or being greedy. Because this was a unique position, we compared other industries and tapped into her network.]
This weekend I did some extensive research, matching up the responsibilities of this job with the value of my skills on the marketplace. It was a bit tricky because this job is so varied and takes into account many different skill sets. I researched comparable positions at museums and non-profits across the country, and spoke with my mentors and colleagues in the industry. [The setup: We bracketed the range based on their initial offer, leaving plenty of room at the top of the range, explaining why]
What I found was that there was a range from about $40,000 to $65,000, with $40,000 being more entry level, and $65,000 being at the top of the market. [The proof: This aspect is one of the most critical lines of a salary negotiation email.. Rebecca was not just another gallery manager. There were plenty of people that could do that. What she was also bringing to the job that was crucial and that no other candidate had, was the experience of building a new program, so we use that line here.]
I will be coming into this position not with just teaching, curation and gallery management skills, but with the unique ability to build a brand-new program. I feel the compensation should fall in the middle to upper end of that range. Would that be possible? [The ask: We decided to go with an “open-ended ask.” Rather than put forth a specific number, such as $48k (what she originally hoped for) or a 20% increase ($49k), we kept it vague. The reason? We could always go back for a second round if the counter offer letter was too low, but we didn’t want to leave money on the table.]
Thanks again for this consideration. This is an incredible job opportunity to work with a fantastic organization. I am looking forward to speaking with you soon. [The closing of the email: Again, be excited and thankful.]
The company came back with an offer of $52,000 -- an $11,000 raise! This offer is far better than the initial offer, and it also confirmed vacation time and medical coverage.
It truly works out to be a win-win. The museum is getting an excited, talented employee who values her work and can’t wait to get started. Rebecca is brimming with confidence, has her dream job, and knows she has the trust of her employer, as well as nearly $1,000 a month extra in her pocket from a few hours of work and a single email.
You can see the same results if you're willing to put in the same effort.
Let Salary.com Help You Negotiate
We understand you might be like Rebecca and hesitant to do salary negotiation, even over email. But failure to take action will not only leave you underpaid now, it'll damage your earnings potential for years to come. Luckily Salary.com can help. The first thing you should do is research, so you're able to come to the table armed with the knowledge of what your job is worth. Use our free Salary Wizard below to find out what's a fair salary for your position, and to know when you deserve a raise. You can enter your location, education level, years of experience and more to find out an appropriate salary range before you negotiate.