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Simple Salary Negotiation for Engineers - It's Not Rocket Science!
Many people are scared by the idea of negotiating salary after receiving a job offer. This includes engineers, which is baffling considering how in demand their skills are.
Would you be scared of presenting your analysis to a client? How about proving your boss wrong with cold hard facts? Or learning a complex concept to apply at work?
As an engineering professional these things probably don't scare you in the slightest because you are so used to relying on your technical skills. But I bet at one point early in your career or as an intern those things were terrifying. Arguing for a higher salary is really no different. It might seem frightening at first but understand the basic theory behind it and apply the skills a few times and it will become a permanent part of your skill set.
Special Considerations for Engineers in Salary Talks
You might have read or heard generic advice on salary negotiation aimed at non-engineers. There are many great articles and books to give you a foundation of salary negotiation skills. Some aspects of these are especially significant for engineers.
Engineers Add More Value
Engineering stands out as a profession that can and should add much more value to a company than their company pays them. Having a keen understanding of what you bring to the table will be especially important when asking for an increase in salary from a prospective job offer.
View Salary Negotiation as a Hard Skill
In our professional lives, we're great at developing hard skills to tackle technical problems. View salary negotiation as another hard skill you need to work at and you won't have a problem tackling it. If you're successful it will be the highest compensated skill you have.
Timing: Wait for the Job Offer
Conventional wisdom says a job candidate should do their best to push all salary topics until there is an official job offer letter. The reasoning behind this is you don't really have any leverage until you know they want you. Once the offer letter is sent out a lot of work has been done by the hiring manager and Human Resources (especially if it's a large Fortune 500 company that employs tens of thousands of engineers).
While this rationale is legitimate it also means that the annual compensation you get on your offer letter took a good deal of work by HR that they will not want to repeat. Of course it is likely worth it to the talent acquisition representative to redo your compensation to keep the hiring manger happy. But when working with a very large company with a bulky hiring process you want the compensation they agree to on your offer letter to be as high as possible to begin with.
To understand how you can influence the initial salary offer, you need to understand what goes into it.
The more information you have going into the interviewing and hiring process the more you can influence the results in your favor. Do some research before-hand of what similar engineering roles pay their employees. Try to reach out to as many sources as possible.
Your Current Company
Most large companies will list their salary range for internal job postings. Look at postings for specific job titles that match the role you are being considered for. This is fair game to reference with a recruiter so they know the other salary options available to you.
Contacts at the Prospective Company
If you have friends, family or professional contacts and it is appropriate to ask them for salary information, have them use the above internal posting strategy for you. This will give you a sense of what the prospective company is willing to pay.
Glassdoor or Other Online Research
Searching for compensation for a specific engineering role online can be tricky and misleading so be careful where you information is coming from. Large companies with multiple business areas across various locations will have a wide salary range for the same role. Only put weight behind the salary numbers if the location, job title and years of experience match yours.
How to Negotiate Salary
Okay, what about the actual phone call to the recruiter to ask for a larger offer? There is a lot of advice available on how to do this. Let's look at the basic points to keep in mind:
- Start by expressing your excitement for the role
- Explain how your skills and experience that justify an increase
- Ask for a specific number
- Adjust your needed salary range as you discuss the role with the recruiter
- Thank the recruiter and let me know when to expect an answer
Keep the entire conversation friendly and focused around how excited you are for the position and the value you will bring to the company.
Is A Salary Negotiation Email A Good Idea?
Email is not best way to negotiate salary. What you lose with email is the ability to get to the matter quickly and gauge the recruiter's reaction.
On the phone, the recruiter can tell you are interested in the position and interested a compensation that better matches your value. An email requires a little bit of back and forth before an agreement is met.
It's hard to really recommend email as the primary means for salary negotiation. But it is certainly better than nothing. Just make sure your first and last statements are communicating your excitement for the position so there's no way the email can be taken as, "I'll reject this offer if you don't give me $____ per year."
Entry Level Engineer Position: Should You Negotiate?
Should you negotiate your starting salary at your first engineering job? Absolutely. Get used to the idea of negotiating every job offer and it will become less intimidating and you will get better at it.
Some of the reluctance from newly graduated engineers looking for work is justified: you don't have the leverage that an engineer with years of experience has. But whether you're a seasoned engineering veteran or you're fresh out of college the hiring manager chose you. HR has already done the upfront work of giving you an offer. They want you. Now is the time to ask for what you're worth.
College hires for entry level positions do have a tougher time getting an increase in starting salary than more senior roles. Many big companies have a set salary for their college hires, because there's such a large pool of candidates trying to get that job. If you have an offer from a medium or small sized company you may get better results when you ask for a 2%-5% increase above their initial offer.
But regardless of your situation, there is really no harm in trying. The perceived risk of the recruiter pulling the job offer if you ask for more compensation is just not real. But you can gain useful experience engaging in a conversation about salary after the offer is made.
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