“How To” Cyber Blog Series: Part V

Mission Critical Institute blog post: How to Negotiate the Best Cyber Job Offer

“Ensuring that you are paid what you are worth, is worth the time to research other company benchmarks, payscales, and benefits packages.”
Christine Olyer, MSOL Director of Academic Programs, Mission Critical Institute

Only about 37% of people negotiate during a job offer; the others don’t negotiate at all or only occasionally, mainly out of fear and lack of negotiation skills. But buckling under may mean depriving yourself of thousands of dollars of income and other benefits. There’s a huge shortage of cybersecurity professionals, which could reach 3.5 million by 2021; leverage that knowledge to your advantage. And reach out to a mentor who really understands the cyber job marketing to help you negotiate.

Let’s look at these key points for negotiating a cyber job offer:

  • Research why your KSAs are worth ahead of negotiations
  • Evaluate both salary and/or other benefits
  • Negotiate the entire offer or just a section of the offer
  • Be able to use another current job offer as leverage

Research Your Worth
Browse PayScale, Glassdoor, and similar job sites for the typical average salary of the cyber position you’re interested in. For example, a Google search for “cybersecurity risk manager average salary” results in several hits, including here and here. Notice that some sites offer a free salary report, matched to the experience, education, and skills you provide, to help you identify your worth in the market.

When inquiring about salary, a job candidate typically has three primary choices:

  1. Let the employer offer a salary: Don’t tell them your expected salary – let them offer a figure to you. Assume the organization is offering you less than they can afford.
  2. Ask for a specific salary: According to a Columbia Business School study, people “making an offer using a precise dollar amount … versus a rounded-off dollar amount … were perceived to be more informed about the true value of the offer being negotiated.” That means, asking for $92,650 is a better tactic than asking for a flat $92,000 or $93,000.
  3. State a salary range: Your salary range should be based on research of similar jobs in the area and your professional worth.

Negotiating Salary and Benefits
Although it’s fine to inquire about a position’s salary range by the second (or later) interview, you negotiate salary and benefits after receiving a job offer. During this critical stage, it’s important to understand everything about the position – responsibilities, schedule, number of direct reports (if any), and so on. Ask probing questions rather than make demands, and don’t bring emotions into negotiations.

If you have any flexibility with your current finances, don’t immediately accept the first job offer. Most employers expect you to negotiate, and they typically hold back on some income or benefits in the initial offer. Don’t lose money by taking the first offer without even asking if the salary is negotiable.

If the salary is lower than advertised or less than what you expected, counter with a higher figure. For example, “I’m genuinely excited at the thought of working for XYZ but expected the salary to be in the range of $XXK to $XXXK, based on .”

Then, explain why you’re worth the bump in salary. That is, describe what can you bring to the organization to justify the higher income. If you have other offers but prefer to work for XYZ (the organization with which you’re negotiating), mention that as well, and explain that XYZ is your top choice and why.

If the organization can’t meet your salary request due to a stringent budget or salary cap, ask about benefits, a flexible schedule, work at home opportunities, stock options, or paid training. Let’s say you have a cloud security risk management graduate certificate and want to pursue an MBA or MSIS; does the organization pay (fully or partially) for higher education for employees? What are the eligibility details?

Finally, ask for 24 to 48 hours to consider the offer. This gives you time to mull over all aspects of the offer, and to reach out your mentor for their opinion.

Evaluate the Package
Salary shouldn’t be your only consideration during negotiations. Consider everything in the job offer package – salary, sign-on bonus, hours, commute time, amount of travel, benefits, opportunity for employer-paid training or certification, government clearances – before making a decision.

Opportunity for advancement is another important factor. An SMB, nonprofit, or government agency might have a smaller compensation budget than a large corporation, but it’s possible to make a more immediate and noticeable impact. You could then be considered for positions with more responsibility, whether with your current employer or at a different organization.

After weighing all pros and cons and getting advice from a mentor, get back to the person who made the job offer within the agreed upon time and continue the negotiation process, if necessary.