Whether we’re starting a new job or gunning for a promotion at our current one, we all know that we should be negotiating the salary.
Or do we?
A survey by Salary.com revealed that only 37% of people always negotiate their salaries—while an astonishing 18% never do. Even worse, 44% of respondents claim to have never brought up the subject of a raise during their performance reviews.
The biggest reason for not asking for more? Fear.
And we get it: Salary negotiation can be scary. The hiring process is chock full of potentially awkward moments. But no subject causes more dread and anxiety than salary negotiations. But what’s even scarier is not doing it. Most of us aren’t used to talking about money, let alone negotiating. Combine that with discussion of our professional expertise and work experience, and the whole thing can feel intimidating.
But, preparation can make a huge difference.
When to negotiate your salary
Typically, it’s best to negotiate your salary after you receive an offer rather than during earlier stages of the interview process. You have the most leverage after you’ve proven that you’re the best candidate for the job and you fully understand the employer’s expectations. Negotiating early on might also harm your chances of securing a job offer.
It's important to only counter the offer once or twice at the most. You should also avoid revisiting a compensation package that you've already agreed upon. Doing so shows you respect the employer's time and have boundaries around what you will and won't accept.
If your initial offer is presented on the phone, it’s okay to ask for some time to process the information. If necessary, let the employer know you appreciate their offer and are excited about the opportunity. Then, ask if you can take time to review it and get back to them within a set time frame—ideally no more than 48 hours. If you decide to negotiate, it’s best to do it over the phone so there’s less room for miscommunication. It’s also appropriate to email your negotiation requests if that feels more comfortable.
The question becomes: How do you go about negotiating your next salary with confidence?
1. Believe in yourself & be confident
Building confidence takes time and practice. While you may feel less confident if you have been out of work and need a job to keep a roof over your family's head, remember that you have power in the salary negotiation process. You are bringing value to the company and it never hurts to refine your technique. You have some amazing skills, have contributed to the success of the company and embody the company’s core values; you are worth every penny, and maybe even a few more.
Of course, there’s a fine line between being confident and cocky. Don’t be demanding or rude. However, do be direct. Don’t skirt around the issue by trying to imply that you want a higher salary. Be direct and just ask.
Listen to a confidence-boosting playlist, practice self-affirmation, get your best friend to give you a pep talk, dress in your nicest clothes or do whatever else makes you feel confident and puts a pep into your step.
2. Do Your Research
Find out what other companies pay employees with your skillset and experience.
Are you being paid on the low end or the high end of the typical salary range? You can use this information as a benchmark to assure yourself that what you are asking for is reasonable.
Note that average salaries will also depend on where you live. There will be not only a national average for your profession, but also an average for your state or region. Your state’s average may be higher than the national average, but take into consideration your state’s cost of living as well. In other words, pinpoint the average salary for someone not only in your profession, but also in your state or possibly even your city.
3. Choose the right time for salary negotiations
If you’re interviewing for a new job, always wait for the potential employer to raise the topic of salary negotiation first. You are in the ideal position to negotiate salary when the employer has offered you the role, is hopeful of employing you and has suggested a figure first.
If you are asked about your salary expectations, tell the interviewer you would like to know more about the role first. Avoid divulging your last salary; instead, tell them what you believe you are realistically worth based on your research, skills and experience. This may be a different figure to what you were earning in your last job.
When negotiating a new salary in a current role, it’s a good idea to set up a meeting to discuss pay when your manager has plenty of time to focus on the matter on hand – so avoid his or her busiest times of the week, and also give yourself plenty of time to prepare and practice.
4. Consider non-monetary job incentives
Good negotiators will enter a meeting with a range of options in mind. Think about non-pay alternatives that would be valuable to you if the opportunity to negotiate salary is limited. Support for education and training, alternative working arrangements or flexible hours are potential alternatives to financial incentives that could help you achieve the work-life balance you want and/or long-term career progression in lieu of immediate financial satisfaction.
For example, the job might offer a clear promotion path or the opportunity to review pay in three to six months, so make sure you consider as well as ask about these possible alternatives as part of your salary negotiation.
Above all, the most critical step is to practice ahead of time. Be prepared for tough questions, know your material, and practice until you feel confident in your strategy. Your negotiation partner will likely be experienced, and they have a less personal stake in the outcome, so it will be easier for them to hold their ground.
Run through your strategy ahead of time and think of answers to questions that make you uncomfortable so that you are less likely to get nervous during the negotiation. Confidence will take you halfway there, and your preparation will take you over the finish line.
6. Demonstrate Flexibility
Remembering that It’s a negotiation requires that you also become flexible.
As much as both parties want the best for themselves, negotiations must end as a win-win situation. No-one should feel coerced into the agreement. In case you decide to join the company, you will be working with the person who interviewed you. There will also be more opportunities later for further negotiations, raises and promotions.
Also, you expect them to consider your arguments and make changes to the offer in your favor. In a similar way, be ready to make changes to your stand and counter offer.
This will encourage them and help both you and them come to an amicable agreement.
Questions to ask when negotiating a job offer
Here are some questions you can ask when you're in the middle of job offer negotiations to further understand where an employer is coming from and see if there is room to improve what they are offering you as a new employee:
1. Is this salary open to negotiations?
2. How did you calculate this salary offer?
3. Are there any opportunities to increase my salary in other ways?
4. How do you determine salary increases?
Negotiating a salary can be intimidating, but if you know your market value and the benefits you add to your employer, then you’ve won half the battle.
Doing research and practicing your arguments ahead of time will help you stay poised, and keeping a positive attitude will help you achieve your goals.