Fail-proof strategies to negotiate your new salary
Negotiating your salary is much like negotiating anything else in life…except the other person holds your future in their hands. They might be your next boss, or at the very least a co-worker/HR professional you’ll need to work with down the line. Which means the last thing you want to do is turn the conversation into an argument.
There are two main reasons people dread negotiating – they ‘hate confrontation’ and/or they don’t know what they’re worth. Both reasons can be addressed and mitigated with a little preparation. Next time you receive a job offer, make sure you’re equipped to make a convincing case. Here are our fail-proof strategies to reduce stress and increase your chances of success:
1. Don’t go in blind
Knowledge is power. The more you know about the market, the company, and the role, the better you’ll be able to make a convincing – non-confrontational! – argument.
How much are people with your skills and years of experience earning in the wider market? How in demand are you? How low is unemployment, and how difficult is it currently for companies to hire?
Most of this information can be found at payscale.com or salary.com. Search your job title and years of experience, narrow the search by location if you won’t be working remotely, and jot down the salary brackets. Check both websites to get a better idea of what you’re worth and lean on these objective figures when negotiating.
Add to that the state of the wider market – if unemployment is low; if companies are struggling to hire – and any out-of-the-ordinary skills or accomplishments you bring to the job. Equipped with this information, you should be confident in your ask.
P.S. If you’re still unsure about your market worth, ask a recruiter! Just message back any of those recruiters flooding your LinkedIn inbox and ask about the pay range for the job they’re pitching. They’ll be happy to share this free information on the off-chance you might work with them, though you shouldn’t feel obligated to follow through with a job search unless you’re legitimately interested.
2. Time the conversation // Don’t reveal everything right away
From your very first conversation – even if it’s just a quick 10 minute intro call with a recruiter – you should be asking about compensation.
It’s not awkward or inappropriate to ask “and what is the salary range for this position?” in an initial call. In reality it’s pretty basic job etiquette, especially since you don’t want to waste the company’s time if the range is well below your threshold. And if you’re lucky enough to live in California, the company will have to by law provide a salary range when asked.
*Tip: If you are at any time asked “what are you targeting for salary?” – do not provide a number. Simply say “I’ll need to learn more about the entire compensation package, including benefits, vacation, 401k, stock options, etc., before I can offer an accurate number. But we can discuss that later.” If they continue to push, know that it won’t help your case to provide a range. One of you has to fold – let it be them!
3. Keep an open mind
We often get caught up in the desire to make the most money, to get the best title, to work at the most note-worthy institutions. And those can be honorable goals! But keeping things in perspective is an important part of the process.
If the job will help you get a foot in the door, then maybe you’re willing to compromise on pay, even if your research shows you can earn more elsewhere. Maybe the job is at a startup and will teach you tons of new skills, so you will compromise on the title. Or maybe remote flexibility is your priority, so you’d be willing to consider something outside of your ideal career trajectory.
So much of our jobs are up for negotiation, not just salary. Having a strong sense of what’s important to you will help focus your negotiating efforts where they have the most impact on life satisfaction and overall well-being.
4. Prepare for objections
Again, this conversation is not a fight. You are not gearing up for an argument. You are simply preparing yourself with the right tools and facts so that you can successfully navigate a sometimes sensitive topic.
To be clear, companies expect you to negotiate. They will be surprised – maybe even disappointed, depending on the manager – if you don’t negotiate. So don’t be overly hesitant. Objections are just another part of the negotiation ‘dance;’ they don’t mean you’ve crossed a line.
Start by preparing for the following objections –
- “We are only allocated a certain budget for each job” → “I understand you’re working within limits and you have the whole team and company to think about. I’m basing my number on what I’ve found to be the market rate for this position – do you have different information?”
- “This is above what we’re paying people with the same experience who are already on the team.” → “I completely understand how sensitive internal equity can be. It’s up to you of course, if you want to/are able to pay market rates. I’m sharing what I’ve found to be the market rate for this position – it’s what most people with my level of experience and skills will expect to be paid in today’s hiring market.”
- “That’s not how we do things here.” → “I understand that this isn’t how you’ve usually done things, but I don’t think what I’m asking for is out of whack with the market. Have you found different salary brackets in your research, so I can compare?”
While you don’t want to immediately compromise, you do want to be cognizant of the business constraints. You will be dealing with leaders making decisions which may, at times, have wide-reaching consequences. Choosing to give you a higher salary than existing employees will cost them more than just dollars. Show that you recognize and empathize with the difficult decision and are willing to make it work – together.
5. Be a fan
Finally, always be excited. At no point in the discussion should it appear that you are not 100% invested in the role, the team, and the mission of the company. Disinterest is a surefire way to not get what you want.
Get the offer you want, then make a decision. Not the other way around.
What it comes down to is three factors – what are you worth, how badly do you want the job, and how badly does the company want you? Understanding where you land on these metrics will give you the confidence you need to hold firm in negotiations. Plus, knowing that negotiating is not just tolerated, but a highly anticipated part of the process, should help calm your nerves.
It’s very difficult for a company to say “no, we are not willing to pay market rates” when you center your request on that fact. So go on – negotiate for what you’re really worth. There’s never been a better time than now!
And if you have any more follow-up questions, we’re always happy to provide more details. Give us a shout at email@example.com