10 IT salary negotiation do's and don'ts

Get the salary you deserve for that new job. Follow this advice on how to prepare – and how to avoid mistakes
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Put yourself in this scenario: You’re interviewing for a new job, and it’s going well. You’re on your third round of interviews, having passed the phone screening with flying colors and impressed your prospective new boss with your technical prowess and your soft skills. Now you’re sitting in front of an HR rep, and you know it’s coming – the salary discussion. Are you prepared?

Maybe your palms are sweating because you’ve never done this before. Or perhaps you are in the majority of job seekers who enter the salary conversation unready – or unwilling – to negotiate. Only 39 percent of professionals even attempted to negotiate a higher salary during their last job offer, says a 2018 survey of close to 3,000 people conducted by global staffing firm Robert Half.

“One reason why professionals often avoid salary negotiations is a lack of preparation. Being ready can give you the resources you need to feel confident in this conversation,” said Jim Johnson, senior vice president at Robert Half Technology, whose firm creates an annual salary guide with data for over 75 positions in the IT field.

This lack of preparation can be costly. A study from CareerBuilder found that more than half of employers leave room for negotiation when making their first salary offer to prospective new employees. How much room? According to 26 percent of employers polled, the initial offer is under what they are willing to pay by $5,000 or more.

Both recent college graduates and seasoned IT professionals owe it to themselves to go into salary negotiations prepared. To help, we asked career experts to share their tips for making the case, overcoming the nerves, and sealing the deal on the best salary and perks you can get from your next job offer. Even IT leaders who've been to the negotiation table many times can benefit from these reminders and ideas.

1. Do: Set a respectful tone

“Be professional and respectful,” advises Katie Ross, recruiting partner for Heller Search Associates. “Remember, you don’t have the job yet! Your salary negotiation is a reflection of how you’ll do business and maintain relationships in stressful situations. We have seen hiring organizations rescind offers because candidates became sour or communicated poorly during offer negotiations.”

2. Don’t: Wait to bring salary up

 “Address the salary issue as early as possible,” says Jeff Butler, host of the podcast “GigaNation.” “If you are internal, you probably already know what salary is realistic. If you’re external, I would bring it up early, because then you can see if the company even has the budget to hire you into their IT organization.”

Make sure your recruiter or HR contact knows what you are hoping for, says Ross. “No one likes to waste time interviewing candidates they can’t afford.”

3. Do: Bring specifics to the table

 “Job seekers should research local salary trends for their field and position prior to the meeting,” said Johnson of Robert Half Technology. “Present this research to the hiring manager along with examples of how you believe you’ll help the company based on your recent experiences and successes.”

“Use the demand of your IT skills to your advantage,” says Robbie Abed, author of “Fire Me I Beg You.” “If you're great at Salesforce implementations, or Adobe marketing cloud, for example, make sure to use the demand for those skill sets as leverage,” he said.

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4. Don't: Negotiate a salary and then ask for more benefits

“Negotiate compensation and benefits at the same time for maximum leverage,” says Abed. “Don't ask for more money and then, after they agree to it, ask for two more weeks of vacation. Ask for all of it at the same time.”

Ross from Heller Search Associates echoes this sentiment: “Negotiating compensation in pieces gets confusing and prolongs the processes,” she says.

5. Do: Understand your floor and ceiling

Know the range of acceptable salary as well as the number you will not go under, says Butler.  If you’re the one kicking off the negotiation, never start at your floor, Butler says.

Carla Rudder is a community manager and program manager for The Enterprisers Project. She enjoys bringing new authors into the community and helping them craft articles that showcase their voice and deliver novel, actionable insights for readers.