You’ve tackled the first interview, aced the second interview and even provided the hiring manager with your references – and each one of them said they gave you a glowing review. Now it’s time. The phone rings, you pick it up and the job offer comes in. HOORAY!

When you hear the salary that’s been proposed, however, it’s a little lower than you expected. What you do next can make or break your earnings potential over your lifetime, which is why learning how to negotiate a salary effectively is so important.

According to a recent study, 41 percent of people didn’t negotiate the salary for their current job (and 67 percent of them regretted this). In another study, only 37 percent of millennials have ever asked for a raise, while older workers are far more likely to ask. This can be a real problem for overall earning potential: It can cost as much as $1 million over the course of a person’s lifetime. That’s a lot of money for just a brief chat with a hiring manager!

Luckily, by the time you embark on the negotiation process, the hiring manager (and the company) has already invested in you. However, there are still some things you should keep in mind when entering into a salary negotiation.

  • Be gracious. The offer might not be exactly what you wanted, but it’s a place to start. Be thankful and express your gratitude before you jump into discussing the details.
  • Take your time. You don’t have to accept or reject an offer right away. You can take time to mull your decision and weigh your options. But be respectful of the company’s time, as well.
  • Look at the big picture. Start with a look at the entire compensation package – for example, health, vision and dental insurance; vacation and sick time; signing bonuses; flexible work schedule; and other parts of the package. At times, overall compensation can make up for a lower starting salary, but you have to do your research.
  • Research, research, research. Typically, talking about salary will come up before you get to the negotiation, so you generally have an idea of what to expect. But if the offer comes in lower than what you originally discussed with the hiring manager, you should have some idea what it will take to get you to the level at which you need to be. The ASRT Radiologic Technologist Salary Estimator allows you to see how your salary stacks up against those of other R.T.s who have similar job titles, work settings and years of experience as you do. Use this as a starting point to your research.
  • Don’t just say it’s not enough money. It’s considered bad form to say, “That isn’t going to work for me.” Instead, outline the reasons you feel you deserve a higher starting salary, such as information about the company, the job title and responsibilities, or the skills and education that make you more desirable. Be prepared to explain yourself by saying something like, “As we discussed, based on my qualifications and work experience, I am looking for a starting salary in the $52,000 to $55,000 range. Can we explore the possibility of raising the salary offer from $50,000 to $53,500?”    
  • Be reasonable. If you’re offered $50,000 and you counter with $60,000, that’s the equivalent of a 20 percent raise, when most yearly raises are between 2 and 3 percent. That’s not a typically reasonable request. Be ambitious, but realistic.
  • Accept or decline. At some point, you’re going to have to accept or decline the offer. If they meet your salary request and you accept, make sure you have everything in writing and that you’re gracious. If you decide to walk away, be polite and turn down the offer gracefully. You might decide to apply for another job with the company later.

Salary negotiations can cause a great deal of fear for job seekers, but remaining confident, reasonable and knowledgeable throughout the process will set you up for success.