How to Negotiate Salary with Confidence

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Originally Posted On: https://www.sigconsult.com/blog/2019/02/getting-out-of-interview-robot-mode-part-one

Receiving a job offer or promotion can be very exciting. Perhaps it’s for a position you’ve worked hard toward for years or a career change into a new field entirely. Whichever the situation, the prospect of a new role, team, and benefits may be just the advancement your career needs. Maybe you’re trying to buy a house, pay off student debt, or have a family. A new role can be instrumental in achieving those goals.

That is, of course, unless the salary isn’t right.

When Payscale surveyed 31,000 employees, they discovered that only 43 percent of respondents have ever asked for a raise. Furthermore, 28 percent stated that they hadn’t done so because they were uncomfortable negotiating.

In this article, learn 10 tips for salary negotiation that will raise your confidence levels and help you get a higher salary. We’ll cover:

  • How to negotiate salary after receiving a job offer
  • What not to do when negotiating salary
  • How to avoid costly common mistakes made during salary negotiations

10 Tips for Negotiating Salary

1. Keep Track of Your Accomplishments 

Whenever you’ve demonstrated success, hit a milestone, earned a certification, or received a positive review, keep track of it. Having a categorized list of your accomplishments, be it in an excel spreadsheet, a notebook, or a presentation, is key for illustrating your abilities to a hiring manager.

Before entering a salary negotiation, review your accomplishments and select a few that are most relevant for the new job or company you received an offer for. Which accomplishments demonstrate your worth the best? Have you boosted revenue? Attracted new partners? Lead innovative projects? Gather numbers and examples and prepare to present them when you ask for a higher salary or begin negotiations.

Examples of accomplishments to track:
  • Revenue increased for your current or previous company
  • Money or time you saved for your current or previous company
  • Ideas or innovations you introduced or led
  • Procedures you implemented
  • Special projects you contributed to

2. Do Your Research

Often, candidates accept the first offer given or the standard raise because they don’t know the value of their skills and accomplishments. Yet, knowing the value of your skills is important if you want to be paid at or above your industry rate.

Use salary estimation tools, employment websites, recruiters, and professional resources to learn the salary of others in a similar position and at a similar level and location. What is their starting salary? What is the highest salary for that position? The lowest? Presenting this information before negotiating your salary demonstrates that you’ve done your homework.

Hiring managers often don’t enjoy the salary negotiation conversation any more than candidates do, so communicate your position in a kind and relaxed way.

3. Point Out Unique Ways You Can Help the Business

If you’ve communicated your accomplishments and presented your research, but the salary offer still isn’t high enough, consider offering your support in an area outside of your role. Is there something you know the company needs help with? Do you have separate skills or previous leadership roles that you can use to lend additional support?

For example, maybe the job offered is account management, but you have special knowledge of web design, and you know that the company’s website needs some updating. Offer your expertise and say, “I also have special skills with web design and can see myself helping with the website for a salary of X.” This will add value to your case and help the hiring manager see your worth to the company.

4. Don’t Undervalue Your Worth, But Be Real About It

We all want to be the Ferrari of candidates. And maybe you are a Ferrari. Or maybe you’re a Honda Accord. Be honest and humble as you assess your worth. Understand where you fall in comparison with other candidates in similar positions. Have others in the same role accomplished more than you? Less?

If you’re an A-player employee, consider how you have excelled in your roles, past and present. Are there things you have done that others of the same level don’t seem to do? Examine how you go above and beyond. This has value in a salary negotiation. After taking an honest self-assessment, provide a counter-offer to your hiring manager that is exact and realistic. For instance, if they’ve offered $80,000, counter with $87,675.

5. Be Willing to Make Concessions

If the salary is low, but the job offer contains other attractive points, like health insurance coverage, unlimited PTO, or a flexible schedule, consider it. Employers will often offer these in lieu of a higher salary. Of course, a higher salary is always desirable, but sometimes these added benefits can bolster an offer to make it fair, especially if an employer can’t pay more for your position.

If they don’t reinforce the offer, however, then you can counter with trade-offs. For example, if the salary and other attractive points still don’t meet your requirements, you can ask to have every other Friday off to pull in more income through freelance work. Or perhaps several days per week where you can work from home.

In these instances, it’s important to remember to remain flexible. It’s unfair to expect your employer to make concessions if you’re not willing to do the same. After all, it’s a negotiation, not a one-sided transaction. Remain open and transparent about what you need, and be ready to work with your employer to come to a resolution that works for everyone.

6. Practice Negotiating 

Talking about money is naturally uncomfortable. Most of us tense up at the very mention of it. So practicing your salary negotiation talking points with a friend or trusted colleague in advance is vital. It will help you become more comfortable and confident with the topic and allow any nerves behind it to fade away.

Questions and points to practice hitting on:
  • Why is my value worth more?
  • What do I bring to the table that others don’t?
  • How can I uniquely contribute to the company?
  • What are my past achievements?

The more practice you have responding to these questions, the more confidently you’ll present the information, and the stronger your case will be.

7. Avoid Committing Until After You’ve Received an Offer

It can be easy to inadvertently fall into a salary commitment before a formal offer is extended, particularly if the interviewers pinned you down by asking you for a salary range first. Interviewers like requesting the candidate to name the range first because doing so allows them to determine if interviewing you further is a waste of their time or not. Tempting as it might be to indulge them and share a range, especially if you’ve done your homework, try and avoid being the first to name a number or range. 

Once you’ve said a range during an interview, it won’t be easy to negotiate a different salary if you receive a formal offer. This is why it is important to avoid the salary question during the interview process or, if it must come up, wait for the interviewer to state the number first.

You can avoid stating a salary when asked by saying:
  • “I’d like to learn more about the company and culture before discussing salary.”
  • “I feel as though it’s a little early in the process to talk about salary requirements.”
  • “Let’s revisit the salary question later. I want to make sure we both feel like I’m a great fit for the organization first.”

Hopefully, after you’ve politely declined to answer the salary question, the interview process will continue to progress. Only after you’ve received a formal offer do you want to begin discussing salary expectations.

8. Meet to Discuss Salary Expectations

If you’ve passed through the interview process and received a formal offer—congratulations! Now is the appropriate time to begin discussing your salary expectations.

Here are a few preparation tips for the salary conversation:
  • Raise your confidence and reduce your stress: Take a moment to stand tall, hands-on-hips, chin and chest raised, and your feet firmly planted. Doing so will get you into the right physical space.
  • Have some coffee: Studies show a little caffeine will make you more resistant to persuasion.
  • Enter the room with positivity: Keep your head high and your smile wide. It will set the tone.
  • Begin by asking diagnostic questions: This will help you gauge your employer’s needs and priorities, allowing you to position yourself accordingly.
  • Present your skills and achievements: Mention any notable accomplishments you’ve had. Provide details and share any metrics, numbers, or visuals you may have that demonstrate the value you add to the company.
  • Consider your interviewer: Keeping their needs and priorities in mind during the salary conversation will help you offer agreeable solutions and find common ground.

Once you have this discussion, you are free to formally accept or decline an offer.

9. Don’t Settle for an Offer You’re Unhappy With

Settling for a salary that doesn’t meet your needs can create resentment and ultimately tempt you to return to the job search, creating work gaps in your resume. This situation is particularly true for millennials in the workplace. Avoid this by being willing to walk away from offers that don’t meet your needs. 

If this happens, consider the trade-offs compared to your current position and determine if the job is still worth it, even with a lower salary. Maybe the work schedule would afford you more time with your family, or the commute would be shorter. Or maybe your passion project isn’t gaining as much traction as you hoped. Entrepreneurship isn’t for everyone. Sometimes there are indirect benefits that outweigh the numbers. When there isn’t, be willing to decline the offer politely.

Tips for politely declining an offer:
  1. Once you’ve decided to decline, do so right away. Don’t delay.
  2. Send a message that is straightforward and professional without being emotional.
  3. Thank the hiring manager for their time and consideration.
  4. Provide a professional but non-specific reason, such as, “The position wasn’t the right fit.”
  5. Offer to stay in touch if you see the potential for an opportunity down the line.

10. Finalize Great Offers with an Acceptance Letter

If the job and salary are a fit and you’d like to accept, give yourself a day to fully review the offer and ask any questions. It can be tempting to accept right away, especially if you’re excited about the opportunity, but asking for some time to consider it (usually 24 hours) will give you a chance to make sure their offer and your expectations are in full alignment. Doing so can help avoid some uncomfortable conversations later on.

Once you’ve reviewed the offer, it’s time to formally accept with an acceptance letter (even if you’ve already accepted verbally). An acceptance letter provides what your employer needs in writing and also allows you the opportunity to make another good impression, express gratitude and excitement, and demonstrate your professionalism. All of these are great reflections on you, their new employee.

An acceptance letter should include:
  • Employment start date
  • Terms and conditions (benefits, health insurance, salary, title, and schedule)
  • Written acceptance of the offer
  • Written appreciation for the opportunity
An Example Acceptance Email:

Subject line: John Pattie — Job Offer Acceptance

Dear Mrs. O’Connor, 

It was wonderful to speak with you on the phone yesterday about the creative director position at XYZ Agency. I’m thrilled to formally accept this job offer. I’m looking forward to working with you and the rest of the senior creative team at XYZ.

As we discussed, my start date will be May 21, 2022, with an annual salary of $110,000, health insurance coverage, and three weeks of annual PTO. 

I’m looking forward to seeing you next Monday. Please let me know if there is any additional information you need from me beforehand or something I should bring along on my first day.

I’m always available by email, but feel free to call if that’s more convenient (555-555-5555). 

Again, thank you so much for this opportunity. 

Best regards, 

John

Salary Negotiation: What Not To Do

Humility isn’t denying your strengths; it’s being honest about your weaknesses.

RICK WARREN

When Katherine’s coworker took a position at a competing agency for a 30 percent increase in salary, she realized just how underpaid she was at her current job. She approached her boss, stating what she had learned and that she would go to the competing agency unless he was willing to raise her salary. Her boss’s response? “Go ahead.”

This is one example of how not to initiate a salary negotiation. Approaching the conversation as a threat, ultimatum, or with a sense of entitlement is definitely not going to get you the higher salary you desire. Here are some other examples of what not to do when negotiating a salary offer:

Common salary negotiation mistakes:
  • Settling for the first offer and not negotiating at all
  • Accepting the offer without first asking for time to consider it
  • Not asking for an offer in writing (if one isn’t naturally provided)
  • Treating the negotiation as more of an ultimatum than a compromise
  • Requesting the salary you need instead of the salary the position merits
  • Raising negotiation points one after another instead of consolidating them
  • Demonstrating a lack of humility or appearing entitled
  • Playing hard to get or haggling for more

Instead, commit the eight simple points above to memory and practice each part. This way, when the opportunity to negotiate your salary presents itself, you’ll be humble, confident, and prepared.

Do you have an upcoming job interview? Set yourself up for success by preparing to answer these common job interview questions.

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