Negotiating a salary is a task that most workers may not be comfortable doing, particularly when jobs are scarce.
When the economy is bad, workers tend to shy away from asking for more money than they think they are going to get.
However, as the economy picks up, prospects improve and unemployment continues to drop, workers, particularly new hires, have more bargaining power than they realize.
That’s according to the findings of a recent survey by Robert Half International, a global staffing agency with an office in the Greater Lehigh Valley.
As the labor market tightens, workers have the ability to ask for what they think they are worth. However, many are not using that ability, according to a new survey of 2,700 workers across the nation.
The survey showed only 39 percent of professionals said they tried to negotiate salary during their last job offer.
Other highlights of the survey:
<46 percent of men negotiated salary, compared to 34 percent of women.
<The youngest workers (18-34) were more likely to negotiate than the other generations.
<Workers in these cities were most likely to negotiate: New York (55 percent), Dallas (51), San Francisco (50) and Pittsburgh (48).
<Cities where workers were least likely to negotiate: Indianapolis (24 percent), Minneapolis (26), Raleigh (29) and Denver (29).
LACK OF CONFIDENCE
That only 39 percent of professionals tried to negotiate a higher salary was surprising, said Jeanie Sharp, regional manager for Robert Half and Accountemps in the Greater Lehigh Valley and Delaware. Accountemps is a California-based Robert Half International company offering accounting and finance staffing services.
“I think there are folks who have a lack of confidence,” Sharp said. “I think there are folks who have a lack of experience.
“Some haven’t done homework. They don’t know what their market-based salary is for their profession.”
Many workers also may not realize that it’s a very tight job market, she said.
USE YOUR NETWORK
One thing workers can do is make sure they do their research and explore the level of experience and average rate for their profession, Sharp said.
“I think the other thing is to use your network, to gain a little bit of confidence and talk with an expert,” she said. “Talk specifically about what your salary expectations are.
“Our recommendation is for folks to negotiate the salary they think they are entitled to.”
Sometimes, candidates will assume they are worth an amount – one heard from someone else in their field – and may turn down an offer that pays less, said Kenneth Dawson, owner/strategic partner at PrideStaff, a staffing agency in Hanover Township, Northampton County.
“Often, we see them again and they are still not working; now, they are almost desperate,” Dawson said.
PrideStaff does executive recruiting, although the vast majority of its staffing is for light industrial jobs, which are showing strong growth in the region.
Doing research on what people are being paid in similar jobs will give employees a better feel for what to ask for, he added.
“Get an honest feel for what these jobs are paying,” Dawson said. “Approach it from a position of knowledge, of strength.
“Take a look at the job itself. Is it something you are interested in doing?”
Salary is also not the only deciding factor in taking a new job.
Dawson gave an example of a local company that pays $13.50 per hour to start, which is not a lot, he said, but the company goes out of its way to create a very favorable environment.
For job seekers, it also pays to look beyond the stated salary when considering a new position, he added. Often, the salary is just a starting point.
Hiring managers know they have to compete with the market, which is something that has changed over the years, Dawson said.
More candidates believe they can ask for more money, and many times one will say he will not work for a stated figure, Dawson said.
“Very often, we have that conversation right off the bat,” he said.
“When you have more experienced guys with salable skills, they are more in a position to call their own shots.”
NEGOTIATE AT THE START
Someone who has changed jobs six or seven times, Jack Pfunder, CEO of Manufacturers Resource Center, said the best time to negotiate for a higher wage is when you are ready to take a job.
“If they want you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more,” said Pfunder, who leads the Hanover Township, Lehigh County-based organization.
Pfunder said it does not hurt to try, and he respects an employee who expresses it.
ASK FOR FUTURE RAISE
Another negotiation tactic is to ask for a potential raise in six months after you have proven your worth, Pfunder said.
Asking for extra vacation time or a daily starting and ending time that works for your schedule are two examples of negotiable things other than salary, he added. The best opportunity to do this is before starting a new job.
He suggested not threatening that you have a better offer elsewhere and instead to say something like: “This part of the offer I like, but I have two problems with these two things.”
BE WARY OF LOWBALLING
Pfunder said you don’t know if a company is trying to lowball a candidate.
“I see the same thing with hourly positions, too,” he said. “If someone has a good talent, there’s a need for that.”
For example, a machinist would be in strong demand in manufacturing.
With low unemployment, the talent base is less and companies are going to be a lot more desperate for some talent, he said.
GET THAT RESUME IN ORDER
For someone with a good work history but a resume that is not up to par, the candidate should be permitted to provide a “verbal resume,” recommended Kenneth Dawson of PrideStaff.
Often, people can win on their presentation skills in the job interview even if their marketing plan on paper is lacking.
That being said, take the time to update a written resume that leads with current experience, he added.
“You want to lead with what you are doing now,” said Dawson, based in Hanover Township, Northampton County. “Know what you are talking about. Have a realistic view of yourself and your skills.”