Negotiating your salary can be like going to the dentist – you don’t know what to expect once you get there, but you almost always assume that the process will be painful and unpleasant. Salary negotiation, however, shouldn’t be stressful, provided that you’re well-prepared to talk compensation with your potential employer.
While there is no perfect way to negotiate your salary, here are ten key things you should pay close attention to and become very familiar with to make sure that you are prepared to negotiate your best salary:
10. Don’t Blink
Listen to how the offer is presented. When the interviewer or prospective new boss states a salary figure, nod your head to signify you’re considering it, but keep quiet. If they’re low-balling you, the figure could make a quick jump in those few moments of consideration.
9. Be Reasonable
From your research, you know the offer is low. What do you counter at? If you choose 10%, you may have to accept a saw-off at 5%. Don’t be confrontational. It’s a calculated risk to walk away from a job offer. They might call you back with a revised starting salary or they might just close your file and hire someone else if they feel you’ve been greedy, arrogant or overly demanding.
8. Be Flexible
If you want this job, consider agreeing to start at the salary level they’re offering, so long as they offer additional bonuses for specific accomplishments. Be prepared to define them. Money is important, but consider the complete compensation package. Negotiate other perks and benefits and get them in writing. Ask about the frequency of potential salary increases. As with any negotiation, your goal is to create a win-win situation.
7. Do Your Homework
Whether you’re starting from scratch or looking for a raise, you need to do some legwork before discussing dollars and cents with your employer. Any research you do on your industry, company or current position can be used as leverage when building a case for your bigger paycheck. Learn as much as you can about the pay scale of the company that wants to hire you. Find out the industry average, and any differences based on location, experience, education, etc. There are plenty of tools for this available for free on the net.
Your research will especially come in handy if your employer asks you the loaded question, “How much do you want to make?” Your answer should be to balance the onus back to the employer to determine your salary, so respond by suggesting a figure based on what you’ve found to be fair market value for someone in a position similar to yours. This shows that you’ve done your homework and you’re serious about managing your career. Do the math in advance and decide what your deal-breaker point is. There’s no point wasting your time, and the company’s, interviewing for a role that may not offer the wages you need.
6. Prioritize Properly
Salary negotiation basically comes down to not losing sight of what’s really important to you. This means you have to be truthful to yourself and think about how your compensation not only supports your lifestyle, but also supports your personal and professional objectives.
Some people may take a more practical approach to salary negotiation and think about what they’re willing to accept in exchange for a smaller paycheck. Perhaps it’s not important for these individuals to be the highest paid, but it is essential for them to get an extra week of vacation time or a certain title on their business card to improve their resume. Again, it comes down to you figuring out your priorities and whether your salary demands are oriented towards building your career, balancing your lifestyle or simply making the big bucks.
5. It’s Business – Not Personal
Remember that salary negotiation isn’t a game of Survivor. Your goal is not to outwit, outplay and outmatch your employer. While it’s your prerogative to negotiate for as much money as you can, you need to respect that it’s also your employer’s prerogative to keep their human capital costs low. It’s nothing personal; it’s just the nature of business.
Granted, when your livelihood is at stake it can be difficult to keep your salary from becoming a point of contention between you and your employer. But it’s wrong to look at salary negotiation as an adversarial game of “me versus my company.” Demands automatically put people on the defensive, and this won’t bode well for a good salary result in the short term or good relations with your employer in the long term.
4. Emphasize the benefits of your skills
When you talk about your last job, describe your accomplishments. Quantify your successes in terms of cost savings, increased productivity and overall contribution to the company. This will help the interviewers recognize the benefits of having you join their team, and will help boost the salary offer. If you earned performance bonuses or incentive awards, mention those so that you’ll be viewed as an achiever, well worth top dollar.
3. Know Your Worth
Thorough research will also enable you to estimate how much you’re worth to your workplace. This is important because to be a good negotiator, you need to know when you’re presented with a good deal. Consult online salary calculators, job boards and government websites to get a sense of what other people make doing comparable work. One caveat: salary surveys can tend to be slanted towards the higher end of your position’s pay scale and this can set you up for disappointment during your salary negotiation.
Accordingly, recruiters can help you pinpoint a more realistic compensation range because they know the supply and demand dynamic of your specific job market. Networking is also a good way to get “insider” salary information from professionals working in similar fields.
2. Be Realistic
No matter what you bring to the negotiating table, it’s naive to assume you’ll always get what you want. Negotiating isn’t a win-lose proposition; it’s a compromise, and you should expect this going into discussions. While this doesn’t mean you should settle for any offer that comes your way, it does suggest that you should carefully consider the offer and examine its fairness.
1. Believe In Yourself
Sometimes the only way you can get a higher starting salary is by being actively sought for your position. Other times, you may have to demonstrate that you have the exact skills the company needs and, if you play your cards right, you may land the job you want at a salary level beyond your dreams.
In all cases, being well prepared, using a little psychology and practicing your marketing and negotiation skills will help you maximize the salary offer.