The process of salary negotiation can be ambiguous—and for some, quite uncomfortable. Yet, with a bit of research and realistic expectations, claim professionals can enter negotiations prepared and confident. Be sure to consider these five points prior to interviewing or talking to your current employer.
Know where you stand. Be honest with yourself and clearly define your expectations. Why are you looking for a new position? Is it to make more money, or are you hoping for a vertical move or a change in work environment? Exploring these reasons will help you set an accurate salary range for potential employers.
Most importantly, determine the lowest salary you can accept to meet your needs. Are there nonmonetary benefits that would complement a lower salary, such as better 401k, shorter commute time, additional paid-time-off, or simply getting your foot in the door at your dream company?
Be realistic. Unfortunately, 10-percent salary jumps are nearly nonexistent. A 3- to 5-percent increase above your current salary is more realistic, especially if you are seeking similar positions with comparable companies. When calculating your desired salary range for a new role, start with your current salary and round it up slightly. Unless you are significantly underpaid, searching for a new job strictly to make more money may not be worth the time investment—or the risk that your current employer may find out. On the other hand, a slight increase may be a welcome bonus if the new job achieves your primary goal of a shorter commute or improved advancement opportunities.
Do your homework. Everyone has a friend of a friend who makes $10,000 more than the industry average. Recognize this is not normal. Additionally, do not compare your salary to that of friends in other fields. Instead, gain real-world perspective by networking with your industry peers. Inquire about their personal views and experiences with salaries in the claim industry. Further your research by referencing industry salary surveys or by visiting online salary sites. Try to frequent online industry discussion boards and search for recent posts on the issue. While you should seek information from a variety of sources, use your discretion, as it may be inappropriate (or even be against company policy) to ask current colleagues about their personal salaries.
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Be honest. Do not ask salary-related questions during initial interviews. Do share the expertise, skill sets, and accomplishments that make you a valuable employee. Enter the interview assuming that most reputable firms will make an offer within the industry’s average range. If the interviewer inquires about your current or desired salary, then be honest. While sharing this information may be uncomfortable, it is expected by most employers. Do not consider holding back or misrepresenting your current salary.
Instead, if you are currently making $61,000 and are hoping to earn $65,000, state that your current pay is in the low sixties and you are looking for an offer in the mid-sixties. This allows for some interpretation and does not pigeonhole you into a specific number. If you are currently unemployed, then you can share what you made in your last role and state that you are hoping for a figure in that same general range. If your expectations are flexible, then say so. In fact, in the current market, your expectations should be flexible.
Negotiate like a pro. So you aced the interviews, and an official offer is in sight. What if it is much less than you anticipated? The key to success here is to ensure that both you and the employer see it as a win-win. If you are offered an amount with which you are uncomfortable, share the reasons that you are excited about the position and then state that you were really expecting closer to this amount. If they are unable to budge, mentally reference the salary needs you set prior to interviewing. Does the amount logistically meet those needs? Are there nonmonetary perks or advancement opportunities that may make it worthwhile in the long run? If the answer is no, then it is acceptable to walk away in a professional manner.