5 Ways to Negotiate Your Post-Pandemic Job

Job seekers: Don’t miss out on negotiating for flex work, extra paid time off, and other perks. 

For most of 2020, most people were happy if they could keep their existing job, let alone try to negotiate for a better role. But since the calendar flipped, the market has gone from favoring employers to favoring candidates—and in a big way, with a nearly 50% jump in the number of US job vacancies since January.

But before you start demanding a massive pay bump in the new job, experts caution that negotiating now is going to be a little different than haggling before the pandemic began. Employers may be considerably more willing to bargain on many other valuable benefits than they are on salary. Plus, not every firm has gotten the memo that they need to give away the store to candidates. “Although the job market is on an upswing, it’s still competitive, and hiring managers can be picky,” says Stacey Perkins, a career coach for Korn Ferry Advance. “We’re still recovering from the pandemic.”

Here are a few tips to gain leverage in your next job negotiation.

Identify your needs.

Experts say that before getting into the negotiations, it is crucial to know what you want. That sounds obvious, but many candidates don’t do it. Perkins says job seekers should have a salary range and nonfinancial requirement in mind before going in to discuss a job offer. If a job doesn’t meet your salary expectations but is still something you want to pursue, ask the company for a performance review and renegotiate compensation after three to six months, says Perkins. “I had several clients do this and be successful.”

Know your market.

Don’t go into a job negotiation blind. If you didn’t do much research about industries and companies for your job search, certainly do it before serious negotiations begin. Websites such as Salary.com, Glassdoor, and others can give you a sense of the salary range for the role you are being offered. At the same time, understand that the pandemic changed the fortunes of many companies, but not necessarily in obvious ways. “Contrary to popular belief, there are a lot of companies and industries that weren’t affected by the pandemic,” Perkins says. Indeed, if the company wasn’t impacted much or actually saw a big bump in sales, there is likely more leeway to negotiate a higher salary.

Bargain for nonfinancial benefits or rewards.

Pay isn’t everything. For example, a recent survey found that 33% of candidates want employers to have flexible work schedules, and 25% prefer a remote work environment. Those are also areas open to bargaining, says Tom McMullen, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry. “It wouldn’t have been as much of a point to negotiate pre-pandemic as it is now.”

Depending on the company, there might also be some flexibility on the job title, McMullen says. It may be easier to negotiate these in smaller- to mid-sized businesses, compared to larger corporations that may have “more processes and rules wrapped around that,” he says. Additionally, job seekers should also discuss daycare support and healthcare benefits such as dental and vision, says McMullen.

Be empathetic.

Put yourself in the shoes of the employees at the organization you want to join, experts say. “The big thing coming out of the pandemic is to be sensitive to what the company may have gone through,” Perkins says. For instance, the company might have had many layoffs, or employees may have taken salary cuts due to financial hardships over the past year. Budgets might be tight for companies still in the recovery phase, so there may not be much room to negotiate a higher salary. Perkins says job seekers should try to negotiate for equity or a sign-on bonus to compensate. 

Be honest and communicate clearly.

Virtual hiring is most likely to continue even as we move out of the pandemic. At the same time, the recruiting cycle and subsequent window to accept a job are also getting shorter. It’s more important than ever to convey your expectations effectively to a recruiter or hiring manager. All written and verbal communications should be clear, prompt, and professional. “Don’t give ultimatums,” McMullen says.

Don’t go back on your word, either, says Perkins. “Be honest if you have other offers or are in the interview process,” she says. Being transparent can either give you more negotiating leverage or, in the worst case, allow you to move on from the opportunity faster.