If you don’t know how to negotiate salary, you could be missing out on a fortune. According to Business Insider, failing to negotiate a higher salary when you start your job — or ask for periodic raises — could mean you’re losing more than $1 million in earnings over the course of your career.
But even if you know that negotiating salary is important, it’s hard to know how to do so effectively. If you want to make sure your request for a higher salary will be granted, these 17 tips on how to negotiate salary could help.
According to personal career coach and CEO at WorkLifeLeader Julie Cohen, the biggest mistake workers can make is not negotiating.
“Even if you don’t have other options and would take the job at the salary offered, you’re likely leaving money on the table if you don’t ask,” Cohen said.
Here are 17 tips based on how Cohen and other career experts suggest approaching this important conversation:
1. Know the market rate
2. Connect with recruiters
3. Bring up salary at the right time
4. Request a meeting to negotiate salary
5. Figure out your (specific) number
6. Go for the gold
7. Practice what you’ll say
8. Anticipate objections
9. Show you’ll add value to the organization
10. Highlight your accomplishments
11. Leverage other offers
12. Don’t forget your other benefits
13. Strike a power pose
14. Try exercise or breathing techniques
15. Don’t talk about personal needs
16. Understand the other person’s needs
17. Remember it’s a conversation, not a confrontation
● Plus: Why learning how to negotiate salary is so important
Before you begin salary negotiations, you’ll need to have a clear understanding of what’s realistic.
“Know what the approximate market rate is for the position you’re applying for in the specific field, function and geography,” Cohen said. Going in with research — not anecdotal evidence about what your friends make — shows you’re serious about getting the money you’re worth and that you have evidence to back up your salary ask.
“Let them know that you have researched the field and the typical salary range for this job is ‘X’ amount,” Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach, suggested. Crawford recommended using Glassdoor to research the prevailing wage for the job you’re under consideration for. PayScale and the Bureau of Labor Statistics also have comprehensive information on earnings for various professions.
You might also be better off referencing a researched number for your desired wage than going off what you’ve earned in the past.
“Unless you feel your current salary is especially impressive and you’re trying to get them to offer you more to lure you away from your employer, your answer should really be based on what the job at hand is worth — not what some previous hiring manager thought the job was worth,” Rita Friedman, a certified job and transition coach at Philly Career Coach, said.
Besides researching online to understand the market rate for your position, it could also be worth connecting with recruiters for their take. Maybe you’ve had recruiters contacting you via LinkedIn, or you could reach out to staffing agencies.
A recruiter should have insight into the market rate for someone in your industry with your level of experience. Along with helping you figure out an appropriate salary request, the recruiter might also be able to connect you with job opportunities in your field.
When hiring managers can’t base their offer on your past salary because they’re banned from asking about it, as they are in several states, they may be especially eager to find out what you think constitutes fair pay. But just because a hiring manager asks about your salary requirements doesn’t mean you have to disclose immediately.
“If the hiring manager asks what your salary requirements are, don’t be too quick to answer, especially if they bring it up early in the interview process,” Crawford advised. If salary issues are raised during the first phone interview, for example, it may be too soon to throw out a number.
So, how should you respond?
“Let them know you need time to consider it,” said Crawford. You can say, ‘I’d like to ask about benefits. I’m sure that you are offering a competitive salary for this industry.’ This lets them know you are expecting a fair offer.”
Friedman also suggested another possible response to put the ball back in the employer’s court:
“My salary requirements depend on the details of the position and the total package — I’d want to know more about your expectations for this role before slapping a hard number on it,” she suggested. “Can you give me an idea of what the position is budgeted for?”
Delaying negotiations often pays off because you have a better chance to make yourself a must-hire candidate the further you go into the interview process.
“After you get the job offer and have shown your prospective employer how valuable you are, then you can negotiate,” Cohen said. “Don’t bring up salary before you sell yourself. They need to know you’re the right, best candidate. You are setting the stage for negotiation by showing that you are the best person for the position.”
If you’re negotiating for a raise in a job you already have, it’s important to set up a specific meeting to discuss compensation. A salary negotiation is an important conversation, so start off on the right foot by arranging a meeting with your manager or whoever the appropriate contact person is. You don’t want to bring up salary in passing or during a meeting that has been designated for a different topic.
Instead, email your boss and let them know you’d like to reserve some time to talk about compensation. If possible, have this conversation in person (or over video if you’re remote). It’s easy for an employer to turn down an email, but you’ll probably have better luck if you can negotiate face to face.
When figuring out how to negotiate salary, should you ask for a salary range or a specific figure? According to researchers at Columbia University, you might be more successful if you ask for a specific figure. And a particular figure like $54,750 might do better than a rounded figure like $55,000, because it conveys the sense that you did a good amount of research to come up with that figure.
According to the study, “Precise first offers were seen as more informed, prompting smaller adjustments.”
Once you have your salary range in mind, ask for a number at the upper end of the range. Don’t ask for an unrealistically high number, but don’t shortchange yourself either. Your employer will likely negotiate you down, so by starting high, you can hopefully meet somewhere in the middle.
Negotiating salary can be intimidating, which is why many employees don’t negotiate at all. But it’s worth trying to raise your salary, no matter the outcome. One way to conquer your nerves is to practice exactly what you’ll say.
Write down what you want to communicate, and spend time rehearsing it, whether with a friend or even to yourself in a mirror. If you really want to hone your negotiating skills, try recording yourself on video and watching it back to identify any areas of improvement.
While you can’t predict how your employer will respond, you can make an educated guess. Chances are, they’re not going to say yes right away, but don’t worry — that’s what makes it a negotiation. However, you can boost your chances of success if you anticipate their objections and figure out how you’ll respond to them.
Maybe you need to share your research on market rates, leverage another job offer or highlight all the accomplishments you’ve made in the role so far. By anticipating your boss’s objections — and preparing how you’ll respond to them — you can ensure your negotiation goes smoothly and prevent yourself from feeling flustered or at a loss for words.
If you’re asking for more money than you were initially offered, be prepared to explain why you believe you deserve higher pay.
“It’s generally a more effective strategy and a better platform to advocate for yourself if you link your value to what you are offering the prospective employer than it is to expect your value to be based on some unrelated factors, like what you feel you need to live on, or what you feel you deserve because you are a certain age or what a salary calculator website estimates is an average for the type of position you’re targeting,” Friedman said.
This should be something you focus on throughout the interview process so your employer is more likely to consider you a top hire. Jacqueline Twillie, a negotiation trainer and author of “Navigating the Career Jungle: A Guide for Young Professionals,” advised in FastCompany that candidates who want more leverage in salary negotiations should consider the STAR method during interviews to show how they’ll add value.
The STAR method stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. When asked a question, think of a situation or task that allows you to illustrate your skills, explain the action and detail the positive results.
By demonstrating you’re a strong hire throughout the interview process, you’ll maximize your chances of getting the salary you’re looking for.
Before you start talking numbers, take some time to discuss your job performance, focusing on your accomplishments and the value you could bring (or have already brought) to the company. A salary negotiation is not the time to be humble; feel free to toot your own horn here. To keep your thoughts organized, you might prepare a “brag sheet,” or a written summary of your achievements, including any awards.
You might even get some testimonials from coworkers or nice emails from happy customers. Your employer will likely only approve a salary increase if they feel it’s appropriate compensation for your role, so make sure to emphasize all the value you bring to the job.
While some locales ban employers from asking about your past salary, this doesn’t mean you can’t disclose what another company has offered you.
“The best way to maximize salary negotiation is by having multiple job offers to leverage,” Cohen said. “You will want to keep as many irons in the fire as you search for your next opportunity.”
While it’s common for people to stop the job search when they’ve been on a few promising interviews and believe they’re on a path to being hired, Cohen recommends that you keep your search going. “You should aim to approach the job search with parallel opportunities.”
During the negotiation process, don’t limit yourself to just asking for a higher wage.
“Aside from your salary, find out what benefits the job offers,” Crawford said. “This could be vacation time, health insurance, daycare or education. You may find that it’s worth it to accept a lower salary amount if you also will get additional benefits.”
Other crucial benefits that can become part of your salary negotiations include medical coverage, disability and life insurance policies, student loan repayment assistance and retirement contributions. You might also consider paid vacation and benefits that impact your work/life balance, such as flex time.
If you can’t get your employer to give more ground on salary, they may be much more willing to meet you in the middle on these other valuable benefits if you know how to negotiate a salary effectively.
If you’ve watched social psychologist Amy Cuddy’s viral TedTalk on power posing, you know that your body language can have a big impact on your confidence. Specifically, Cuddy recommends striking a power pose before your conversation, or standing tall with your chin and chest raised and your hands on your hips.
By taking a few minutes to yourself to power pose, you could go into your negotiation with less stress and more confidence.
Along with power posing, you could also try other physical exercises to reduce stress and boost your confidence. Exercise is shown to help you relax, decrease anxiety and improve self-confidence. You might also try meditation or breathing exercises to ease your anxiety and feel more calm.
Taking the time to clear your mind and work out your body can help you clear the mental and emotional obstacles you might have around asking for more money from your employer.
Whether or not you think your employer cares about you, talking about your personal reasons for wanting a raise probably aren’t going to help you succeed in your salary negotiation. Don’t talk about how you want a raise because your rent has increased or your student loan bills are overwhelming.
In the end, your employer wants to compensate you for the value you bring to the organization. So focus on your professional contributions, rather than your personal needs.
Along with preparing what you’ll say, make sure you’re ready to listen to the other party. Active listening is a key part of the negotiation process, as it shows your employer that you understand where they’re coming from and are open to meeting in the middle. Plus, you can gain a deeper understanding of their needs and work together to find a solution that’s satisfying for both of you.
Finally, being an active listener will help the other person feel heard and understood, which could make them more amenable to your requests.
Negotiating salary can feel intimidating to people if they perceive it as a confrontation, rather than as a conversation. But remember that negotiating salary is a normal — and usually expected — part of the hiring process. It’s also not unusual if you’ve been working at your job for a while.
What’s more, expect to receive some pushback from the employer. If they granted your request right away, then it wouldn’t be a negotiation. But instead of viewing the employer as an opponent, consider that you’re both working together to come up with a fair compensation package that you both feel good about.
Even if your salary negotiations only result in a small pay bump, that increase could make a big difference over time. Consider the following chart, which shows what happens if you negotiate an extra $5,000 at the start of your job (and earn annual raises of 1%):
|Starting Salary of $40,000||Starting Salary of $45,000|
|Salary after 1 year||$40,400.00||$45,450.00|
|Salary after 5 years||$42,040.40||$47,295.54|
|Salary after 10 years||$44,184.89||$49,708.00|
|Salary after 15 years||$46,438.76||$52,243.60|
|Salary after 20 years||$48,807.60||$54,908.55|
|Salary after 25 years||$51,297.28||$57,709.44|
If you didn’t negotiate, your career earnings would total $1,181,025.26 over 25 years — but if you started with that higher salary, you’d have earned $1,328,653.42 during that same time period. The difference is $147,628 — and that’s if you never negotiated a raise above 1%.
Don’t miss out on your chance to get the best base salary possible when you start a new job. “This is the time you have the most leverage — before you’ve accepted an offer,” Cohen said.
Of course, you also need to consider the big picture when considering how to negotiate salary.
“Remember that it’s important to be flexible in a negotiation,” Crawford said. “Determine the lowest salary you could pay your bills with, and then ask yourself how much you really want the job. You may not get your ideal salary amount, but if you love the job opportunity enough, it may be worth it to you to accept the lower salary.”
Just make sure you’re earning enough to pay off your student loans, pay your other essential bills, save for retirement and accomplish your financial goals. If you’re looking to boost your salary by switching to a new job, these career service providers can help.
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