All things considered, it’s a pretty good time to be a marketer (and a marketing recruiter). The opportunity to grow your career, and your salary, is high. But it’s important to keep a realistic perspective on your position and not overreach.
Yes, the economy is still in recovery mode. Yes, there are some segments of marketers, especially entry-level, that don’t have a buffet of career options. But for anyone with a little experience, a proven track record and a modern skillset, the national job market is pretty ripe for the picking.
Businesses large and small are scrambling to catch up with the demands of a fast-moving, increasingly digital business environment. Media are increasingly fragmented, consumers are more mobile, new technologies and channels emerge constantly.
After a period of layoffs and hiring freezes in past years, companies in nearly every industry are now competing for top talent at all levels to rebuild their marketing infrastructure and remain relevant.
A Position of Strength
This puts marketers in a good position, especially those looking to make a career move. Those who have a good view of the industry understand just how valuable they are, and are wisely using it to their advantage to grow their careers–and their compensation
However, it’s important not to overestimate your capabilities and professional value. Abusing your position of strength in a candidate’s market can ruin an opportunity, sour a relationship with a future employer, or put unrealistic expectations on yourself.
Here are some tips to navigating a salary negotiation so that you get the best possible salary without putting your career at risk.
Don’t be the First to Mention a Number
Getting the best of any negotiation usually relies on you not being the first to put an offer on the table. Most prospective employers will ask you how much you’d be looking to make at their job at some point during the screening and interview process.
If at all possible, it’s important to avoid responding with a hard number first. You risk undervaluing yourself or putting yourself way out of their range. You want the company to first suggest a salary instead.
Here’s our President Bob van Rossum explaining why you don’t want to be the first to give a number:
When asked, simply respond with an answer along the lines of: “I fully understand the position and your company and think I’d be a great fit. I only ask what you think is fair for someone in a role with that sort of responsibility and my kind of experience.”
The exception to the rule: When working with a marketing recruiter it is important to be upfront and honest about your salary history and expectations. Their job is to negotiate on your behalf and be a good steward of time–both yours and their clients’.
In most cases, they’ll then respond with a general range which you can choose to accept, decline or counter offer. Either way, getting them to offer first gives you more options.
In case they refuse to give a number first, though, it’s important to have a backup in place. Do some research into what people with similar titles are making in similar markets. Leverage your network. And do some personal reflection on what would be the minimum amount required for you to consider leaving your current situation for this new opportunity.
It only makes sense to work towards a reasonable benefits package that’s as favorable as possible for you. But don’t negotiate yourself out of a job.
How much exactly is safe to push for varies, but for most marketing jobs it’s right around 10%. So if you’re especially convincing, a company offering $100,000 could probably be pushed for around an additional $10,000 without too much resistance, and so on.
Be Careful What You Wish for
It’s usually fine, even expected, to negotiate comfortably within the Wiggle Room zone. But once you start pushing its boundaries you put yourself in a precarious position. One potential outcome is that you’re removed from consideration altogether. If you do manage to achieve that significantly higher salary, understand that it will probably come paired with higher expectations and demand to drive results.
You might earn that higher compensation, at least for a while. But you likely won’t be able to keep up with the disproportionately increased demands.
One of the best parts about this job market, especially for individuals with leadership and digital skills, is that you almost always have the option to back out of the negotiation process. After all, if you’re truly talented and have the ability to accurately express your value, you won’t have much trouble finding other opportunities.
Resist any temptation to be condescending or snarky.
There are plenty of reasons to consider walking away. Many organizations are a few years behind when it comes to reasonable marketing compensation standards, and simply won’t be able to give you a competitive offer. Sometimes as you learn more about the opportunity you discover it doesn’t align well with your career goals and personal growth.
Whatever the case, always be professional when rejecting an offer or declining to continue negotiations. Resist any temptation to be condescending or snarky. No need to burn bridges or develop a reputation, especially in today’s socially connected world.
Instead, express your gratitude for the consideration and tell them you’re going to consider other options. At this stage, both you and the employer have probably invested a fair amount of time into the process. Thus, a best business practice is to inform the hiring manager via a phone call (NOT email or text message!).