Job hunters have the upper hand in today’s sizzling job market. The demand for talent is high: 69 percent of companies have reported difficulty filling jobs this year, according to a survey conducted by ManpowerGroup in the third quarter of 2021. Meanwhile, nearly 90 percent of 1,200 U.S. employers surveyed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in May-June of this year said they were struggling to fill open positions.
“Companies are working diligently around the clock to hire top talent because they know job seekers are getting multiple job offers,” says
Vicki Salemi, a career expert at Monster and a former corporate recruiter. “It’s a complete 180 from where the job market was at the beginning of the pandemic.”
Human resource professionals know the hiring landscape better than anyone. After all, they’re the ones grappling with the talent shortage daily. And they know that talent shortages apply to HR positions as well.
In fact, HR job openings have been among the hardest for employers to fill this year, according to the ManpowerGroup survey.
“HR professionals are in high demand right now because people are front and center for CEOs and other business leaders,” says Shaara Roman, founder and CEO of Silverene Group, an HR and culture consultancy based in Arlington, Va. “Over the past 18 months, HR has been a strategic partner, helping leaders navigate pandemic-related issues [such as] office closures and reopenings [and] figuring out hybrid work, all while trying to stem the tide of the Great Resignation.
“There has never been a more exciting time for the HR profession and for these specialists to showcase their critical skills in helping to run the business,” she added.
The increased need for human resource professionals comes at a time when fewer of them are available on the market. “When COVID hit, many companies furloughed or downsized a lot of their talent acquisition employees because they weren’t hiring,” says Tom Darrow, SHRM-SCP, founder and principal of Talent Connections, an Atlanta-based HR executive search firm. “A lot of those people got out of the profession because they couldn’t find jobs, and now that employers need talent acquisition professionals again, there’s a shortage of talent [in that area].”
Despite that shortage, HR practitioners—like all job seekers—must be skilled at negotiating if they’re going to walk away with the best job offer possible.
These expert-recommended negotiation tactics will help you earn a great HR job offer.
Determine What You’re Worth
An advantage of working in HR is being privy to how much everyone at your organization, including your HR peers, earns. Still, it’s a good idea to research how much you’re worth in today’s labor market.
Start by contacting former HR colleagues and bosses to get a sense of what salary range to expect given your experience and skills. “Don’t rely on one source,” Salemi says. She suggests gathering at least three salary estimates and taking the average of those to arrive at an approximate number.
In addition, talk to recruiters who specialize in filling HR roles. “They’ll know what companies in your area are paying for HR positions,” Darrow says.
Gunning for a job opening at a specific company? Check out that employer’s pay ranges on Glassdoor, where employees share salaries and employer reviews. (Salary.com, PayScale and Indeed also collect salary data.) If possible, talk to the person who last held the position you’re applying for to ask what they earned.
Make sure you’re specifically looking at what workers are paid in your location, since salary ranges are often based on where an employee lives, says Liz Cannata, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. For example, HR specialists in New York City earn $82,580 on average, while HR specialists in Chicago earn an annual mean salary of $66,760, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Make Your Case
When negotiating your job offer with a hiring manager, citing the salary research you uncovered can help justify your ask, according to Salemi. “You want to show that you’re not pulling a number out of thin air,” she says. “You don’t have to specifically mention who you talked to, but you can say that your salary range is based on several sources, including industry peers, salary data found online and other resources.”
Asking for a salary range is better than naming a specific number, according to Roman. “It shows that you’re flexible,” she explains.
Before you have that conversation, though, “know what salary you’re willing to accept and what you’re not willing to accept,” says Deirdre Macbeth, a content director at WorldatWork, an association of HR compensation professionals. Don’t be afraid to walk away from an offer that’s too low. “Stay true to your value,” Macbeth advises.
Talk Peer to Peer
For job seekers, “the easiest negotiation scenario is an HR professional negotiating with an HR professional,” Darrow says. “Use that to your advantage.”
His advice: Lead with something like, “Mary, we’re both in HR. We know offers and negotiation. I don’t want to take either of us down a difficult back-and-forth. We’re close on the terms of the offer, but there are a few aspects I want to ask you to consider tweaking.”
Framing is important, Darrow adds. “Tweak” is a strategic word to use, he says. “It makes the hiring manager feel like you’re not asking for much and it should be easy for them to make the change. They almost feel obligated to make a ‘tweak’ to get the deal done.”
Ask for a Signing Bonus
If you can’t get an employer to budge on your salary offer, there are other financial incentives you can ask for, such as a signing bonus. “Some hiring managers may have more discretion to offer a signing bonus as opposed to a higher salary if their hands are tied to a salary limit that’s been predetermined,” Salemi says.
“In a job seeker’s market, offering sign-on bonuses is a way for companies to maintain internal equity while still providing a financial incentive to attract talent,” she adds. Nearly 20 percent of all jobs posted on ZipRecruiter in September offered a signing bonus, up from 2 percent of jobs advertised on the site in March.
Negotiate Flexible Work Options
Want to work from home? You’re far from alone: 40 percent of U.S. workers would prefer to work remotely in some capacity, according to SHRM research. The research also showed that when thinking about their future careers, nearly half of U.S. workers (48 percent) would prefer to work remotely.
If remote work is a priority for you, make sure to ask for specific accommodations when negotiating a job offer. Do you want to work from home full time or during specific hours? “Make sure you’re on the same page [as the hiring manager],” Salemi says.
Consider Your Total Rewards
In addition to negotiating a base salary, consider haggling for the following benefits:
- Higher-education assistance. Nearly half (47 percent) of companies offer undergraduate or graduate tuition assistance, according to 2020 SHRM research.
- Student loan repayment. Saddled with student debt? A growing number of companies, such as PwC and Aetna, help employees repay their student loans.
- Professional training. No matter where you are in your career, you can always gain new skills. Ask a prospective employer to provide a yearly allowance for professional job training.
- Relocation assistance. Being asked to move for a new job? Ask the company to pay for all or a portion of your moving costs.
- Transportation reimbursement. Request that the employer cover your commuting costs, such as gas, bus fares or train fares.
- Child care assistance. Child care benefits are on the rise, with some companies providing subsidies and others offering discounts at select child care centers. Companies such as Aflac are going a step further: The insurance company offers free onsite day care at its headquarters in Columbus, Ga.
- More paid time off. You can negotiate for extra vacation days. Proof: Of the 54 percent of job seekers recently surveyed by Monster who asked for more paid time off, nearly one-quarter were successful.
Don’t ask for something you know the hiring manager cannot offer. For example, as an HR professional, you know that most companies provide the same medical coverage and retirement plan to all employees. “It’s very difficult to ask a company to increase a benefit that’s systemic, like its 401(k) match,” Salemi says.
While your goal is to nab the best job offer possible, being reasonable is important, especially when negotiating salary. Don’t split hairs over something small. For example, don’t ask for an extra $1,000 a year if you’re making six figures.
Remember to get everything the company offers you in writing so there are no discrepancies in the future. Implementing the right negotiation strategies is key to walking away with a great job offer.
Daniel Bortz is a freelance writer based in Arlington, Va.
Illustration by iStock.