How To Negotiate Your Salary During COVID-19

By Indeed Career Coaches

Updated November 29, 2022

Published July 23, 2020

Jamie Birt, Jennifer Herrity and Emma Esparza are career coaches at Indeed with a combined 17 years of experience in career guidance. They help others navigate the challenges of their job search, identify opportunities for career growth and find fulfillment in their unique paths.

Negotiating your salary during the offer stage of the hiring process can feel uncomfortable, but doing so may significantly increase your lifelong earning potential if done correctly and consistently. For instance, the average US annual salary increase is 3%, so if you accept a starting salary that is 10% below your expectations, it could take over two years just to regain those earnings. It is increasingly important to discuss salary and benefits at the offer stage now as some companies may hold on increases or bonuses due to the economic impact of COVID-19.

It may be helpful to know that when it comes to salary negotiation, employers expect it from their candidates. One survey found that 70% of managers expect candidates to negotiate their salary and benefits—and in 2018, 55% of job seekers negotiated their salary.

In a recent Indeed survey¹, more than half of respondents (58%) claim to have never or rarely tried negotiating their pay, which is nearly five times as many as those who always try to negotiate their salary (12%). In addition, 44% of women do not feel they are paid fairly for their work — a stark contrast to the 74% of men who agree or strongly agree that they are. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, women are paid 82 cents for every dollar men are paid with minority women averaging even less. While multiple factors contribute to gender and race wage gaps, one opportunity to help close the gap could be at the offer negotiation stage.

In this article, we discuss why negotiating your salary and benefits may still be necessary during COVID-19 and how to find your professional value with tips for making your next salary negotiation simple and successful. While these tips are generally about negotiating your salary when starting a new job, they are also certainly applicable when negotiating your salary in your current job.

How to negotiate during COVID-19

It can feel challenging to decide whether you should negotiate your salary while COVID-19 is still impacting the economy. Many businesses are laying off or furloughing employees which may lead you to believe that offer negotiation isn’t an option in the current market. While COVID-19 has significantly affected companies, 57% of organizations have already paid or still plan to pay salary increases in 2020 and 19% haven’t yet decided if they will stop pay increases.

Do your research

Prior to your interview, conduct research to get an idea of how COVID-19 has affected your potential employer. You might find indicators on news sites, social media or the company’s website. If you know someone who currently works for the company, then you could also ask if they have any public insights to share.

During the interview, consider asking questions such as:

  • How has COVID-19 affected the company?

  • What challenges has the company faced since the onset of COVID-19?

  • How is the company recovering from the impacts of COVID-19?

Getting answers to questions like these may help you better contextualize your negotiation conversation if you move onto the offer phase. For example, if you understand the company to be under a significant amount of financial and operational pressure, you might say something such as, “While I certainly understand these to be challenging times, I am requesting a 10% increase in pay based on your initial offer. I believe this better represents the value I’d bring to the team based on my skill set, background and experience.”

Understand what you have to offer employers

After receiving an offer, take a moment to consider your qualifications in the current environment. Because the US is experiencing record unemployment, you may see an increase in competition—and many businesses might have the opportunity to be more selective in their hiring process. If a company has extended an offer to you, then you’ve likely demonstrated skills and value that they need.

If you feel like you are highly qualified for a role and the initial offer doesn’t meet your expectations, it might be a good idea to negotiate. During your discussions, take into consideration what you learned about how the company has been impacted by COVID-19 and use it to help you determine your negotiation strategy.

How to identify the right pay

Before initiating a negotiation conversation, conduct research to gain a strong understanding of your personal professional value which will be unique to your work experience and location.

Factors that can impact your professional value include:

  • Years of industry experience

  • Years of leadership experience

  • Level of education

  • Level of seniority

  • Skills

  • Licenses and certifications

  • Conditions of the local job market

  • Supply and demand for your expertise

Another factor that might impact your professional value, especially now, are qualifications for a role that is considered essential during COVID-19 and requires niche skills.

Conducting research from multiple sources will give you a better understanding of a fair value for your role and experience. Gathering this information and using it to prepare for an offer negotiation can help you feel more comfortable and confident during the conversation.

Here are some tools you can use to conduct salary research and help you decide your salary preference:

  • Indeed Salary Calculator: This tool generates a pay range based on your location, industry and experience.

  • Indeed Company Reviews: Review salaries reported by current and former employees using these sites.

  • Indeed Job Search: Search job titles with experience levels similar to yours to get an idea of what other employers are offering. 75% of new jobs posted directly on Indeed include salary information.

One impact COVID-19 has had on the job market is an increase in the number of remote job opportunities. If you plan to work remotely full time, use the national average salary for the role or the average salary of the position in the city where the company is headquartered as your point of reference.

How to negotiate salary

Set yourself up for successful negotiation by clearly communicating your skills and experience throughout the entire interview process. If you make it to the offer stage, you should feel confident that you were the best candidate for the position.

Here are several recommendations for conducting a job offer negotiation:

1. Wait until you have an offer in-hand

You might be tempted to begin negotiations early in the interview process if a recruiter asks for your salary expectations. Initiating an in-depth negotiation of salary and benefits before you’ve proved that you’re the best candidate for the role might be negatively perceived. However, at an early stage, the interviewer’s intention is most likely to confirm that their budget for the role generally aligns with your salary requirement.

When providing your initial salary requirements to recruiters, keep in mind that at the offer stage, the employer may provide a lower number than you requested. As such, you might consider offering a range with your actual required salary on the lower end. For example, if your salary requirement is $55,000, you may explain that your required salary is between $55,000 and $65,000.

2. Request a phone call with the company or recruiter to discuss the offer

After you have received an offer and decided to negotiate, consider having the conversation over the phone instead of through email where your tone or intention could be misinterpreted.

3. Lead with gratitude

As a best practice, convey your excitement about the role and gratitude for the offer before you begin discussing your requests. You might begin the call with a greeting such as, “Thank you and [Company Name] for the offer. I want to express my continued interest in this opportunity. I am thrilled by the prospect of joining your team.”

4. Emphasize your qualifications

Acknowledge your accomplishments, skills and experience to demonstrate the value you bring to this specific role. You might also provide examples of how your qualifications can help you make an immediate impact at the company.

5. Present your proposal

After the employer has presented their initial offer, take some time to understand how you want to negotiate, and share your salary preference and/or benefit requests. Because employers typically want to secure your position quickly, it is best to have your desired salary in mind before this stage.

Be as specific as possible about what you need in their final offer by either providing a specific number, range or percent increase. It can be helpful to identify your non-negotiables ahead of time. For example, if they are unable to meet your salary requirements, what is the minimum you are willing to accept?

6. Mention other offers if you have them

Carefully mention other factors that affect your decision, such as additional job offers or late-stage interviews with other companies. For example, you could say, “This role with [Company Name] is my first choice, however, I have received a competing offer and I’m also wrapping up interviews with another company...”

7. Consider negotiables beyond salary

If the company is unable to give you a higher salary, consider negotiating these additional benefits:

  • Flexible schedule

  • Paid time off

  • Sign-on bonus

  • Regular performance reviews with opportunity for pay increases

8. Understand that you may not receive an immediate response

Regardless of whether you are speaking with a recruiter or decision-maker, it’s possible that they will need time to consider your requests. Be patient and understanding, but you can also ask when you should expect to hear back from them.

9. Seek candid guidance

If there’s no flexibility in compensation or benefits, you might ask if there are any possible next steps. For instance, “I am really interested in this opportunity and would love to work here. What have you done in the past with candidates to close the gap if a higher salary isn’t an option?” This might be a situation they have encountered in the past and there may be a protocol to help you move forward with the company.

Read more: How to Negotiate Salary (With Tips and Examples)

¹Indeed U.S. survey, n=1500

Explore more articles