Three Keys for Salary Negotiations


Congratulations - you got a job offer! Now comes the hard part: salary negotiations. We all know (I hope) how important salary negotiations are. Since future salary offers are often based on past salaries, the impact of your first salary negotiation can follow you for years to come. What’s more, the competing advice can sound like a lose-lose situation. Women, for example, are less likely to ask for a higher salary but are also more likely to be perceived negatively when they do ask. If you are unsure about the process, know that you are not alone. Here are 4 tools you can us to confidently ask for what you’re worth during this process.

1) Ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it. When a company gives you its first offer, it is expected that you will follow up with a return offer. When crafting a follow up ask, avoid ultimatums. Don’t follow up with a demand that you get paid $3,492 more with 2.5 more days of vacation. Give a salary range, often $10,000, and allow them the chance to be creative in how they will compensate you. Maybe they offer one-time hiring bonuses. Maybe they can do an extra week of vacation “off the books”. But don’t fall into the trap of accepting a part time paycheck but end up working full time hours.

2) Have Data. In negotiations, knowledge is power. Present the HR manager with your salary range by basing your argument off of comparable data. If at all possible, know what other people in the company and/or industry at your experience level are making. When looking for salary data, we recommend these resources:

-Go online. Are there industry websites or conversation threads where people have left salary information? What do salary.com and glassdoor.com list as competitive prices? Look at US Department of Labor statistics for the average salary of your profession. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has done your work for you, keeping track of average wages for most jobs and industries.

- Ask. Do you have friends in the industry willing to share general salary ranges? Do you know a recruiter who might be willing to? While asking directly about someone’s salary, especially in the workplace, is taboo, there are ways to get that information without losing your job.

-Look up your school’s data. Does the university placement office have data on what graduates are making 5 years out? Do they have a sense of the market?

3) Remember: Don’t make it personal. You’ve done your research. You know you should be getting paid x, but they’re only paying you y. You’re confused, even insulted. Pause. If you say, “This isn’t fair” or “You don’t value me,” even if it’s true, you won’t win this game.Instead, if you feel they are undervaluing you, ask again. “What’s missing in my background? Why am I at 50 instead of 60?” Maybe there is an internal policy you are not aware of, for example degree requirements. Now you know. Maybe there is no policy. In that case, now is the time to reevaluate how much you want this job. Are there growth opportunities or other benefits that make this position worthwhile? Are you in a position to wait for another job offer, with no guarantee of when that will be?

At its core, salary negotiations are a conversation setting up the expectations for the relationship between you and your employer. This is the rose-colored glasses part of your relationship- it’s not supposed to be hard! They’ve already shown that they want you. This is not a win-lose relationship, and if it is- that is a big red flag. You have the most power now, before you accept the offer.

Go into negotiations knowing your worth. Ask for what you deserve, have the data to back you up, and don’t make it personal if their counteroffer is too low. In the end, you have to know when you are willing to walk.

You’ve got this. Good luck. Share your negotiating stories in the comments and if you want more negotiating advice from hand-picked mentors, sign up at The Mentor Method here.

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