Out of the starting gate: Is salary negotiable?

February 12, 2018

When they go low, do you go high? Many job postings close with a statement indicating salary is negotiable, but how often do job seekers speak up to secure a better package? According to findings of  a survey by global staffing firm Robert Half released on February 5, more than one-third (39%) of workers tried to negotiate a higher salary than they had for their last job offer.

Among job candidates in 27 U.S. cities who recently were polled, those in New York (55%), Dallas (51%) and San Francisco (50%) were most likely to ask for more pay; followed closely by Pittsburgh (48%), Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. (both 45%).

Those least likely to speak up were respondents in Philadelphia and St. Louis (both 31%), Denver and Raleigh (both 29%), Minneapolis (26%) and Indianapolis (24%).

In terms of gender, 46% of men negotiated salary compared to 34% of women.

And workers ages 18-34 (45%) are more likely to negotiate salary than those ages 35-54 (40%) and 55 or older (30%).

A previous study by Robert Half, Confidence Matters, revealed worker confidence levels in talking money with their employers: 54% of workers surveyed felt comfortable negotiating pay in a new job, compared to the 49% who felt confident asking for a raise in their current role.

Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half, noted that employers are broaching the subject of salary expectations earlier in interviews to streamline the hiring process. He alerted job seekers to two common pitfalls: “First and foremost, avoid negotiating any part of the compensation package until after you’ve received a formal offer. Second, don’t go into a negotiation without practicing the conversation in person with a trusted friend or mentor. Someone who has been in your position can help you prepare for the unexpected and make a stronger case.”

Legislation in many cities and states now prohibits employers from asking candidates about their salary history. This development has removed a long-standing question from the start of the hiring process and forced employers and job seekers to shift their approach to determining compensation.

Added McDonald, “Starting salary should be a factor of the job skills required and current market demand for those skills. That’s why it’s more important than ever for both parties to research market conditions thoroughly to pave the way for realistic, productive discussions.”

Research contact: maureen.carrig@roberthalf.com

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