4 tips for negotiating your salary and other benefits during the pandemic

Klaus Vedfelt

Negotiating a pay raise is no easy feat, with the impact of today's pandemic making it even more stressful for employees to ask for more at work. 

But, a recent survey from staffing agency Robert Half shows that 86% of senior managers are just as likely or more likely to negotiate salary with new hires today than they were a year ago. 

Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, says though he is surprised by this number he realizes that many company leaders are concerned about losing top talent amid Covid-19. In fact, 88% of the more than 2,800 U.S. senior managers that Robert Half surveyed between July and August 2020 said they are worried about their company's ability to retain and attract valued staff, with 47% saying they're very worried. 

"Companies struggle to find the talent they need to support new business priorities sparked by the pandemic," he says. "Professionals with in-demand skills know they still have options, and employers realize they need to offer competitive salaries to attract and secure top candidates."

Below McDonald, along with career coach Ariel Lopez, offer four tips for how you can go about negotiating for more at your current job or a new one, even during the pandemic. 


1. Research industry salaries

Before entering a salary negotiation, both Lopez and McDonald agree that you need to arm yourself with the right data that proves the money you're asking for is within the industry range for your position. 

McDonald suggests using online salary guides, such as Robert Half's salary calculating tool, or other online resources like Glassdoor or PayScale to find out "salary trends for your position, skills, the experience you have and the [location] in which you'll be working."

"Ultimately, I think you want to be cognizant of the market," Lopez says. "So yes, negotiate, but negotiate smartly. Don't just come up with some outlandish number because I think most companies are probably becoming a little bit more conservative [financially]."

2. Always provide a range

After researching the market rate for your role, Lopez, who serves as the CEO and founder of the hiring platform Knac, says you should always enter a salary negotiation by giving a range for how much you want to make, rather than an exact number. 

"The range should typically be at least 10%-20% more than what your base salary already is," she says. "So, if I'm making $70,000, maybe the range is $77,000-$87,000, or you can just say $80,000 to $90,000, right?"

Providing a range, she explains, gives you more flexibility around how much an employer might offer. 

"So usually what happens is the company will come back and they'll say, 'Okay, I can do $85,000,'" she says. "And now, you have a $15,000 increase on your salary as opposed to only having a $5,000 or $7,000 pay increase because you gave an exact number."

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3. Schedule a follow-up conversation

If your current employer has told you that they're unable to raise your pay for budget reasons, then Lopez says you can ask when is an appropriate time to schedule a follow-up conversation if you're at a company that you really like. 

In that follow-up meeting, she says, you want to go in there with concrete points that prove why you're beneficial to the company and why you're deserving of more money. 

"Build your business case by talking about everything that you've accomplished since you've been at the job," Lopez says. For example, if you're a social media manager then she says you want to detail how you grew the company's social media presence during your time there. Additionally, if someone on your team quit or was recently let go, then you want to detail how you've had to pick up some of their duties since they've been gone. 

Detailing your accomplishments and any newly gained responsibilities, Lopez says, will paint a clear picture of how business operations will suffer if you were to leave.  

"Let's say budget cuts just happened and layoffs just happened," she says. "Maybe you had a team of 10 people and now it's down to two. It's probably in the company's best interest to go ahead and give you a $10,000 bump instead of you quitting and them being down another person."

Ultimately, she says when you make the business case for your value at a company, the organization will realize that it's easier to keep you rather than hiring, training and paying someone else a full salary to replace you. 

4. Be open to negotiating more than just pay

If an employer is unable to offer you more pay, then McDonald says you should also consider negotiating for other benefits beyond salary that will enhance your work experience right now.

Negotiations, he says, can "include compensation in terms of base pay and bonus, but it can also include the non-monetary benefits and perks." For example, if you're looking for ways to grow and elevate in your career then you can ask about continuous learning and training opportunities. Or, if you need more support with creating an effective work-from-home space then you can ask about a new laptop or assistance with WiFi. Additionally, if you need more time off then McDonald says you can ask for more leave benefits. 

"While [these are] categorized as non-monetary, they do turn into expenses for the organization," McDonald says in regards to the perks and benefits you can negotiate for outside of your salary.

Today, he says, many company leaders are open to treating negotiations like a broader business discussion because they recognize that their organization is "faced with a pandemic and they're seeing headwinds like they've never seen before." So, rather than missing out on great talent because they can't meet a salary expectation, McDonald says companies are asking top employees and applicants, "How can we make this work?"

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