Salary Negotiation for Engineers in a New Job

Updated on May 11, 2020
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Katy mentors and educates young professionals beginning their careers and financial journeys to make informed decisions.

You're confident with any technical problem but the idea of negotiating your salary scares the crap out of you.

Sound familiar?

Then you're probably an engineer!

Following the basics of salary, negotiations can get you at least a 10% pay increase with every job move. Even if you're introverted or not that interested in a salary increase, these tips will work for you too.

The process for salary negotiation is laid out below. The steps are simple but it will take you out of your comfort zone. Let's get started!

Top Salary Negotiation Tips

Here are my top tips for getting more money out of a job offer:

  1. Never do it in an email; you have to pick up the phone.
  2. Do your research. Know how much the market pays for your role.
  3. Gather evidence. Be ready to show the hiring manager and the recruiter how you've saved a business big money in the past.

Let's get more into the details if you really want to master the negotiation process.

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 for salary negotiation skills. Some aspects of these are especially significant for engineers:

1. Engineers Add Value: Know How Much

Engineering stands out as a profession that can and should add much more value to a company than their company pays them.

How do you translate that to a higher salary?

Have a keen understanding of what you bring to the table. That means actually getting dollar amounts on how much you've saved a business on previous projects. This is essential when asking for an increase in salary from a prospective job offer.

2. Salary Negotiation is Learned 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.

Think about it: If you're successful it will be the highest compensated skill you have.

Salary negotiation is intimidating for everyone at first. But it's a skill that can be learned.
Salary negotiation is intimidating for everyone at first. But it's a skill that can be learned. | Source

Salary Negotiation Timing: Wait for the Job Offer

Timing is key in securing a salary increase. 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.

Conduct Salary Research on Your Position

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.

Do your research on market salary before accepting a job offer.
Do your research on market salary before accepting a job offer. | Source

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:

  1. Start by expressing your excitement about the role.
  2. Explain how your skills and experience justify an increase.
  3. Ask for a specific number.
  4. Adjust your needed salary range as you discuss the role with the recruiter.
  5. Thank the recruiter and ask him or her to let you know when to expect an answer

Keep the entire conversation friendly and focused on how excited you are about the position and the value you will bring to the company.

Salary Negotiation Email?

News Flash: Email is not the best way to negotiate a salary.

You lose 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. Why? So there's no way the email can be taken as, "I'll reject this offer if you don't give me $____ per year."

It might make you nervous but a salary discussion over the phone gets the best results.
It might make you nervous but a salary discussion over the phone gets the best results. | Source

Entry Level Engineer Position: Should You Negotiate?

Many of us wonder: 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. Read about how much of a raise to expect after 1 year with a company.

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.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2018 Katy Medium


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