First off, congrats! Getting a job offer is the result of a successfully performed job search and interview process. Now comes a part of the process most people don’t think of (until this moment):
“How do I know their offer is fair?”
“How do I negotiate to get what I think I’m really worth?”
First step: Do your homework.
There are lots of resources on the web that can provide you with baseline salary information for your field-and, in some cases, even at the company who has made you the offer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics is an old standby, but can provide general guidelines for your field (generally not for your specialization, however).
PayScale has a cool Wizard that helps you evaluate a job offer based on title, years of experience, and location.
Salary.com is another old standby. Worth throwing into the mix.
Glassdoor.com provides crowdsourced salary information provided anonymously by current/former employees at your target company. Take this information for what it is-anonymously submitted data that may or may not be 100% accurate (and also may be years out of date in some cases). ‘
Tech Company Pay is an interesting tool-it takes H1-B visa application data provided to the DOL by companies-which requires them to list a pay range-and pulls it together with LinkedIn Data.
H1-B Company Data-this is a DB of public information filed by companies when they request an H1-B visa for an employee who is a foreign national. Companies are required to state a minimum salary as part of the application. Note: this may not be fully indicative of what an experienced individual in this role may be making (i.e. the actual market range for this position is likely higher).
Now you will have a very strong idea of whether your current position is compensating you appropriately-and what your ‘make me move’ price is (thanks for letting me borrow that, Zillow).
The first thing I recommend: Don’t lie to the recruiter about what you make now. If you’re under market-and your research makes it clear that you are-then say so. “I’m currently at $85,500, but due to internal promotion policy they haven’t been able to bring me to market. My research shows that someone in my role with my level of skill/experience is averaging mid-90′s in this market right now, so that’s where I’d like to be.”
Second, consider the entire compensation package against your own. Don’t have target fixation on the base compensation number. That’s the easiest point of comparison, I agree, and it’s also the number upon which we tend to benchmark. That will work against you at a company like Amazon where they provide a satisfying base compensation number and pair that with a large signing bonus that is often paid out over the first two years of employment. The base compensation number may not be as high as you expected; however the overall compensation package over the first two years is likely to be very rich.
Additionally, don’t forget to look at things like 401(k) contribution, health benefit premiums and coverage, vacation (if you have 3 weeks vacation, 10 paid sick days, and 8 paid holidays now-is 4 weeks PTO, an week off at the holidays, and 9 paid holidays better or worse in your mind?), other perks (free food, transit subsidy/paid parking, etc). Depending on the benefit, something you might overlook could add $1-2000/year back into your pocket (or retirement account)-or cost you the same amount vs. your current job.
What about if the position is exclusively work from home? That means not buying a work wardrobe each year, much lower out of pocket costs in terms of transportation (no more $50/week trips to the gas station or $250/month bus pass, lower insurance, less wear & tear on the car), etc. That can easily put $1500-2000/year back in your pocket.
Now that you’ve done all of the research, and compared current total comp vs. the offer, it’s time to decide: Is the offer presented by the company your ‘make me move’ number? If not, inform the recruiter of the area(s) in which their offer doesn’t quite meet expectations.
“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join _______ and work with this team. In reviewing the offer against my current total package, I noted that I would end up paying about $1500/year more in benefits costs with your company. I want to make this move, but I’m sure you understand I don’t want to lose money doing so. Would it be possible to increase the base salary by that amount to make me whole?”
Be aware that most companies will not move on anything related to paid time off or benefits. It’s highly unusual for a new hire to successfully negotiate for more vacation time, for instance. I totally get that it sucks to lose what you’d worked up to after 5 years at your current company; but often that’s a cost of making a job change.
One last thing. Don’t ever end your negotiation with, “… but I’d be totally flexible on that number.” I’ve had a number of candidates do this over my career. There is a lot of perceived risk in negotiating a job offer. What if they think you are being unreasonable? What if they rescind the offer completely? But in adding the statement above, you give them permission to ignore your negotiation request by stating that you’re not a real negotiator.