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How to negotiate your IT job offer

Joanne Yip headshot
Joanne Yip|July 28, 2023
Dog drooling while reading content on laptop
Dog drooling while reading content on laptop

To negotiate your IT job offer, you need research, strategy, and a level head. It also wouldn’t hurt to practice a little positivity and self-confidence (just enough to make a good impression and not lose your lunch).

Some important don’ts: don’t focus solely on the money, don’t bait and switch, and don’t bluff. Whether you’re negotiating the role of a network engineer or an IT support specialist, we’ll take you through some key tips and common mistakes to avoid during the negotiation process. 

Useful tips for negotiating your job offer

Not gonna lie, there’s no surefire formula when it comes to negotiating a job offer. But we’ve gathered some useful tips below that might tip the odds in your favor. 

Get your job offer in writing 

You may receive a verbal job offer first (which isn’t legally binding unless you accept it). Ideally, a written offer should follow shortly after, containing details of your compensation package — an assurance that the company does want to hire you. If you don’t receive an offer letter in writing within the next few days, ask for it. 

Do your research 

Being prepared from the start can strengthen your case. For instance, it’s helpful to know how equity works if that’s part of your compensation package. Gather market data on the average salary for similar roles or reach out to recruiters (for more accurate insights). You can also consult your peers in similar fields or roles to find out what comparable salaries look like.

Be confident

For those of us with a severe case of imposter syndrome, advocating for yourself can seem scarier than even the most hair-raising IT horror stories. And that’s why it’s important to do your research and know your market value. You may not always feel it, but tell yourself that you do have what it takes to do the job and make a difference to the team.

Show that you’re serious about the job 

When negotiating terms, potential employers want to know that you’re serious about the role before they make their move. You don’t have to fake excitement, but show that you’re willing to commit.

Camille Lewis, VP of People Ops at PDQ, says, “It goes a long way to say, ‘I’m excited about this offer and appreciate you taking time to talk through the details with me.’ Then, the company knows that you’re preparing to accept the offer if they can come to the table with a little more.” 

Be flexible 

It’s hard to negotiate anything when there’s no wriggle room. Rather than take an all-or-nothing approach, show a willingness to be flexible. For instance, if the company has a hiring budget and cannot offer a higher base salary, consider negotiating non-salary aspects of your package instead. Benefits like flexible time off, paid parental leave, and company-sponsored growth opportunities can be just as crucial to your success and happiness at work. 

Give a salary range 

In a salary negotiation, studies have shown that putting numbers on the table first and offering a bolstering range tends to yield better results. For example, if you’re expecting a base salary of $100K, give a range that’s between $100K to $120K and not one that’s between $80K to $100K. When negotiating salary, extreme counteroffers generally appear rude, so the other party is likely to stick within the range given.

Be patient 

A job offer is a big deal, and it’s okay to take your time to think it over. Taking up to a week to respond is considered reasonable (it’s also good practice to indicate when you’ll reply with a final answer). And patience works both ways — if you made a counteroffer, give potential employers enough time to mull it over before responding.

Practice negotiating

If the thought of a salary negotiation makes you nervous, you’re not alone. But practicing your pitch can ensure a smoother, more confident delivery when the time comes. Do it with someone you trust, and get honest feedback on your tone, choice of words, or body language. (And um, if this is for a job with a new employer, it’s probably not a good idea to practice with anyone at your current workplace.)

Be prepared to walk away 

It may sound counterintuitive, but you must know when to walk away. Perhaps the employer can’t even meet your lowest acceptable base salary. Or you spot telltale signs of gender bias in their actions or policies. Or they’re just plain disrespectful. In such cases, it may be better to walk away than to make a compromise you’ll regret just to get the job. 

"As a job seeker, you must be mindful of your expectations compared to what the role entails and what the company is willing or able to offer. If it’s clear that one or more of your needs won’t be met, don’t expect that it’s negotiable at the job offer stage. Consider bowing out earlier,” advises Camille. 

Common negotiation mistakes

If you decide that it’s an opportunity worth fighting for, we say go for it. But before you do, we’ve put together some common mistakes you want to avoid when negotiating your next job offer. 

1. Don’t disclose your current salary 

Remember that you’re not obligated to share your current salary. The hiring manager may want to know hoping that it gives them leverage at the negotiation table — especially if your current pay is on the lower end. But they can’t force you to disclose the information. And yes, there are ways to say no without hurting anyone’s feelings. 

2. Don’t fixate on the money 

Sure, money is important (anyone who says otherwise either doesn’t have bills to pay or isn’t the one paying them). But it shouldn’t be the only thing you focus on. A job that pays big bucks in exchange for your soul and sense of humor is never worth it.

3. Don’t bait and switch 

It’s normal to change your mind after you’ve decided on something. But this isn’t like ordering rocky road ice cream and switching to butterscotch at the last minute. Saying yes to a lower base salary to get the job only to ask for more later can leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth (pun intended). 

Camille says, “If I told the recruiter that my salary requirement was $100K and that’s my offer, I wouldn’t suddenly ask for $120K after that unless something major changes.”

4. Don’t get defensive 

Negotiations can sometimes feel … confrontational, especially if you think you’re getting lowballed. Try not to get defensive or react immediately. Take a breath and focus on maintaining your composure as you formulate an appropriate response. Because when feelings escalate, things rarely end well.

5. Don’t bluff 

It’s one thing to embellish your role in a project, but making up your current salary or another job offer to use as a bargaining chip is a different matter altogether. Hiring managers and recruiters can tell if something’s off. Or they may know someone that can verify if this other job offer really exists. The world is smaller than you think, and it’s just not worth the reputational risk.

FAQs on negotiating your job offer 

We wanted to dig a little deeper, so we checked in with Carole Jones, Director of Talent Acquisition and Recruiting at Prowess Consulting, a boutique firm that offers solutions and services to some of the largest tech companies in the U.S. Here’s what she shared. 

Should you accept the first salary offer? 

Sure, if it’s a job that you want, and the compensation and benefits are right. Also, the grass is not always greener on the other side.

How do you negotiate a job offer without the risk of losing the opportunity? 

Candidates should always be clear about their salary expectations. But if it’s a role that you’re really interested in, you should also let the hiring manager know that you can be flexible about salary numbers.

It’s the same thing if you’re talking to a recruiter. And you can let them know that you don’t want to lose out on the opportunity in case the hiring company finds your salary request too high.

“In the U.S., it’s now easier to negotiate salaries with the pay transparency laws that multiple states have put in place. Any remote opportunity that covers states where pay transparency is required must post a salary range in the job listing. This gives candidates a clear idea of the numbers that they can work with from the start.” — Carole Jones, Director of Talent Acquisition and Recruiting, Prowess Consulting

Does working with a recruiter get you a higher salary? 

If a recruitment agency is involved, employers pay a fee that’s typically 20% of the successful candidate’s annual salary. This could cause companies to offer a lower overall salary. But skilled recruiters know how to sell their candidates and, depending on the circumstances, they can help you successfully negotiate for a higher salary. 

Negotiating a job offer is a delicate dance of give and take, and it helps to learn the steps so you know where to place your feet. But even if you have two left feet like me, it does get a little easier the more you do it. And you might even luck out with a company that truly cares about its people. Intrigued? Check out PDQ’s current job openings, or come get to know us through our blog or YouTube channel. We promise we’re only weird in all the best ways.

Joanne Yip headshot
Joanne Yip

Joanne has always loved the impact that words can make. When she isn’t typing away in the world of sysadmin, Joanne loves hiking with her husband and dog, true crime podcasts, and dreaming of her next scuba diving adventure.

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